All hands on deck — there’s a sea change afoot in fashion, more about as countless designers were apparently fixated on the ocean and its brimming ecosystem in creating their collections for the current season. The Spring/Summer ’12 runways were positively drenched with aquatic references, infection both indirect and literal, salve yet imbued with a fresh modernism that transcends mermaid silhouettes and Marinière stripes. Not only easy to wear, but fun to boot, this is a trend that we can’t wait to dive into.

viral fashion 2012 spring summer runway paris alexander mcqueen sarah burton dress gown trend underwaterFrom New York to Paris, catwalks in each of the major fashion capitals resembled Atlantis-esque waterworlds. Some of the lurid kaleidoscopic prints at Prabal Gurung could pass for a swarm of electrifying Portuguese Man o’ War, while at Alexander McQueen, creative director Sarah Burton delivered a stunning collection in which a series of dresses in tiers of delicate chiffon directly recalled the undulations of a jellyfish (other looks were inspired by barnacles, seaweed, coral and seashells). The result was at once exuberant, vaguely perverse — thanks to face-obscuring lace masks — and unquestionably breathtaking. At Givenchy, Riccardo Tisci cited mermaids and surfers viral fashion 2012 mary katrantzou runway london print spring summer trend shopping fish tropicalas his primary reference points; his sylphlike sirens stalked the runway in head-to-toe sequins, peplum jackets and skirts (a welcome alternative to a fin, no doubt) and sharply tailored pantsuits in a neutral palette of pale pinks and nudes. The digitized prints at Peter Pilotto and Mary Katrantzou depicted crashing waves, knotted ropes and schools of tropical fish, while Donatella Versace sent her models down the runway in feminine frocks printed with sea creatures such as starfish and seahorses. Giorgio Armani took a more abstract approach, working largely in hues of viral fashion 2012 womens fashion womenswear spring summer trend runway aquatic ocean sea water inspired giorgio armanisubdued silver-blue and mother-of-pearl, with the occasional addition of sparkling crystals for good measure. Then, of course, there’s Chanel, where the venue is often as much, if not more, of a spectacle than the actual clothes. Once again, Uncle Karl pulled out all the stops, and the backdrop to his aquatic-viral fashion 2012 womens fashion womenswear spring summer trend runway aquatic ocean sea water inspired chanel karl lagerfeld conch clutch bag florence welchinspired collection included massive statues of fish, corals, sea horses and shells…one of which served as a stage for singer Florence Welch, as she performed her song “What the Water Gave Me” (in case you haven’t already gotten the point, the theme here was THE SEA). The fashion on display, although perhaps unfortunately an afterthought, happened to be refreshingly light and modern, if not at times tongue-in-cheek (conch-shaped clutches, anyone?). Either way, it was certainly one of the most memorable and dazzling Chanel collections in recent memory.

The beauty of this trend lies in the notion that there are plenty of ways to wear it, as evidenced by the SS12 collections. It can be as subtle as a cutout in the hem of a dress that resembles viral fashion 2012 womens fashion womenswear spring summer trend runway aquatic ocean sea water inspired theyskens theory iridescent trimmed blazerthe crest of a tidal wave (as seen on several of the shifts at Stella McCartney), or iridescent accents strategically placed on an otherwise classic piece, like a cropped tweed blazer (see: Theyskens’ Theory). On the other end of the spectrum, it can be as straightforward as choosing a blouse with a print depicting starfish, seashells or viral fashion 2012 womens fashion womenswear spring summer trend runway aquatic ocean sea water inspired versace starfish printed silk top blousemermaids (hello, Versace). Should you decide to take the latter route, anchor your printed pieces with harder-edged or neutral counterparts — a studded belt, a fitted skirt, or a pair of leather shorts. Why stop at clothing, though, when you can elevate your ensemble with deep-sea-appropriate accessories? In this department, look no further than Givenchy for the Holy Grail of aquatic accoutrements: oversized shark-tooth necklaces in both viral fashion 2012 womens fashion womenswear spring summer trend runway aquatic ocean sea water inspired givenchy silver shark tooth necklaceresin and metal finishes. An inspired take on a trite gift shop staple, these trinkets convey a sinister allure as only Tisci himself could elicit. One thing holds true, as first imparted to us years ago by a wise animated crab by the name of Sebastian: “Darling, it’s better down where it’s wetter.” So jump right in — the water’s fine.

by Gianna Froccaro