When the curtain went up at the Louis Vuitton spring 2012 show last fall, the sangfroid typical of a fashion crowd melted into a swell of oohs and aahs. Instead of a conventional runway, a fully functioning carousel, twinkly and lacquered white, had been constructed, with models perching on their ponies until it came time to promenade around the raised circular stage.
The decadent clothes matched their sumptuous setting: LV designer Marc Jacobs offered up dreamy applications of lace: broderie anglaise topped with organza or silk cellophane, laser-cut into geometric floral motifs and paillette-embellished to form whimsical, textured flowers.
Such intricate detailing also appeared at Chanel (pearl trim, soft pleats, aquatic-inspired ruffles), Nina Ricci (scalloped edges, elaborate appliqués), Oscar De La Renta (tassels, handkerchief hems, yet again more lace) and Viktor & Rolf, where the designer duo created dresses based on dolls' clothes in duchess satin, silk gazar and tulle. As always, they introduced a twist: stitching details that had been magnified in addition to oversized buttons, eyelet and precisely cut openwork fabric. Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren described this effect as "macro couture" – a way of "enlarging this focus, like zooming in."
Zoom out beyond fashion and similar dressmaker details are also taking shape in home furnishings. At High Point Market, the North Carolina trade show considered among the largest in the world, there were button-tufted high-back chairs, headboards with contrast welting, linens with pin-tucked panels, tassel accessories and enough ruffling to convince anyone that the design world is in love with ladylike treatments. While it's true that fashion and home furnishings generously give and take from each other, there's typically a greater time lag; something that hits one realm will take a few seasons to reach the other.
But Fern Mallis, a New York-based fashion consultant and founder of New York Fashion Week, points out that designers – no matter their field – are increasingly drawing inspiration from the same sources.
"The major textile and fabric fairs are where most of the trends begin, and with product, interior and industrial designers visiting these fairs along with fashion designers, they all see the same trends and influences at the same time," she says, noting also how immediate access to what the majors are doing gives everyone else a chance to respond accordingly.
Rachel Newman, senior buyer for inVU Drapery, says she kept a close watch on the spring 2012 collections as she planned the company's new offerings – anywhere between 12 and 20 designs per season.
"Consumers are more fashion conscious than they've ever been and they've developed a certain taste level, which naturally extends to how [they]want to express themselves in their home," she explains.
Granted, it's not a big leap from fashion to drapery. Newman jokes that the final product can end up looking like a "gigantic ball gown" thanks to all the linings and layers. But for the first time, one of inVU's forthcoming styles will feature a laser-cut scalloped edge.
While bed linens have long been an ancillary category for fashion brands (see: Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger), Canadian designer Catherine Regehr has gone much further than transposing her aesthetic onto sheets and pillowcases. Exhibiting her home collection at the Maison et Objet trade show in Paris last month, she presented a new collection dedicated to the Yukon. In addition to quill work and beading applied by First Nations artisans, there were cushions in tufted caribou, textured silk quilts and traditional hand knits in qiviut yarns (from Arctic muskox) that were as beautifully executed as any dresses created by the petit mains of Parisian couture.
At Anthropologie, feminine flourishes are standard fare; but Shannon Dietzmann, the company's director of merchandising for home, shoes and accessories, says these details are extending increasingly beyond the "soft goods" category. She cites a series of ceramic pots that look like fabric with trompe l'oeil pleats and folds.
"It's about the unexpected," she says from Philadelphia. "People want things that feel one-off and not mass-produced."
In decor, as in fashion, an increased level of detail also allows brands to distance themselves from the mass market.
It's unlikely, for instance, that Edward van Vliet's cool homage to the cardigan, the Button Down Sofa for Moroso, will be appropriated by any big-box store.
"People want that quiet luxury in their homes right now and will hire people who can offer that certain amount of custom," says New York decorator Philip Gorrivan, listing a hand-done overstitch on curtains or custom-designed furniture as examples.
He admits that trends are much trickier in decor than fashion. "People want fresh and new, but they also want durability and endurance – something that will not be completely utterly out of style in a few years."
This is also why inVU's Newman believes dressmaker style is here to stay. "In a lot of ways, the look is timeless because the details are classic," she says. "They've been there forever, but there are moments," like right now, "when they are top of mind."