Fall 2012 fashion left hardly a stone unturned in its search for inspiration. Rare was it for a time or place, era or culture, to escape being pillaged for inspiration, but that’s no bad thing: it means that, as wearers of fashion, we have broader options when it comes to gleaning our own inspiration on how to wear the season’s trends.

And so we’re met with another influence shaping the collections of a number of designers: the Orient.

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Oriental fashion in fall 2012

Like all of the season’s trends, the love of the East is all about mixing it up – not stepping out of the house looking like you’re headed to a costume party dressed as a Geisha.

When we think of oriental fashion as a Western trend we might imagine figure-hugging silk dresses with mandarin collars and silk knot buttons (the cheongsam), since these were popular both in the 1920s and more recent times. But fall 2012 broadens out beyond this into interpretations of oriental style that marry the feminine and the androgynous, the opulent and the effortless.

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Mandarin gown at Jason Wu, F/W ’12

Beyond the kimono and mandarin gown, the key elements for fall 2012 can be broken down thus:

Oriental prints

Prints are the key to this trend in fall 2012. Rich brocades or simple printed cottons, it doesn’t matter as long as the mood is exotic and the theme is strong. Even better is taking prints and clashing them fearlessly.

Dries Van Noten’s elaborate dragons, flowers and cranes covered everything from pants to dresses to panels on coats. In London, Issa flirted with both bold, blockish florals on wrap-style robes and with iridescent high-shine Oriental print dresses. Jen Kao created dresses, cropped pants and robes in lotus prints. Marni’s oriental brocades were relatively simple repeating flowers, while Osman’s were clashing, domineering, vibrant, and strong.

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Oriental prints at Dries Van Noten F/W ’12

If you don’t want to go all-out on a print, also look to Osman for inspiration on subtly incorporating it: when they weren’t dominating the entire outfit, their Eastern brocades peeped out from the lining of skirts, inside shirt cuffs and across collars.

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Oriental inspired accents at Osman, F/W ’12

Mandarin collar jackets

If the mandarin dress isn’t the key to Oriental inspired fashion in fall 2012, then you can be sure that outerwear is the place to look. If you’re not rocking an embroidered satin bomber jacket (see below) then the runways would suggest a coat with luxurious fur trim and panels of Oriental embroidery. Or, a jacket or cape with a mandarin collar (a la Jason Wu) either embroidered or kept minimal.

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The embroidered bomber

Maybe it was the influence of Ryan Gosling’s scorpion bomber in Drive, but one of the most captivating interpretations of oriental fashion for fall is the embroidered bomber jacket. In this one piece you sweep the awards for sporty, tough, androgynous and cool – without compromising on femininity and softness.

Proenza Shouler’s colourful, quilted version was the starring piece on the runways.

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Proenza Schouler F/W ’12

Accessories

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Kabuki inspired shoes at Marni F/W ’12

  • Silk sash as belt. Though they certainly fit with an oriental-inspired look, it’s a little too soon to go back down the obi-belt path, unless your piece is particularly high quality or unique. Opt for the sash or a modern clip belt.
  • Orchids or blossoms as hair accessories.

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Josefine Ekman in a shoot for Elle Sweden

More pictures

For more pictures of oriental-inspired clothing on the fall 2012 runways, click on the thumbnails above and peruse the whole gallery.

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