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As we eagerly await the opening of the V&A’s Postmodernism exhibition, we celebrate emerald – this season’s most important colour – within the context of the cult sequel, Return to oZ.

As Dorothy arrives back over the rainbow, a postmodernist nightmare is realized – everything is in ruins – and is lower budget weird. If the utopian years of MGM’s Technicolor oZ hailed the arrival of modernist justice, then Return to oZ is the nightmare beyond. Indeed, it was actually Dorothy’s arrival that caused such disruption – she changed the influences of power. As author L. Edward Baume implies, her moral crusade may have been a case of meddling gone wrong.

Karl Lagerfeld is one designer who has tapped into our own destructive meddling via this same dystopian mood of “the end times.” As dry ice shrouded the graphite boulders – along Chanel’s RTW runway –  and models walked amongst a post-apocalyptic mise en scene, oZoniam shades of emerald cast a reminder of more decadent times. Indeed, as the murmured postmodernist beats of The Cure’s Forest punctuated the runway, the colour of The Cure’s dark green woods imagined a lost dream – and a confused horizon. Chanel’s exhausted tweeds trailed the runway, and Lagerfeld’s forgotten medieval kingdom reminded one of a reverie similar to Dorothy’s dream of oZ. Did the good times ever really exist? Or were they all make believe?

Paul Outerbridge: Technicolour

This interactive fashion story may start with the sequel, however it quickly switches to the modernism pre-post – where designers seem happy to be subliminally engaged with the upbeat magnificence of the main event – and the original movie. The result? Geometric emerald cuts that deliver decisively decadent clothes. Free of fussy decoration, emerald prints and colour blocking feel like an utterly modern way to do luxury. Uncluttered and directional, emerald is dynamic in its control and bold in its newness.

Jonathan Saunders’ stellar collection gave us emerald right angle diamonds, proudly emblazoned on chest, and wood -cut prints, which were sharp, exotic and graphic. Celebrating Paul Outerbridge’s groundbreaking work within 1930’s colour photography, the Wizard of oZ’s debut as first ever Technicolour film celebrates the same world.

Elsewhere on the runways, collections demonstrated the strength of modernist geometrics – only to give way to the post-modernist confusion of disorganization. Dries Van Noten teamed Russian Constructivist cuts with the chaos of abstract impressionist art’s Abex movement. Heady collages, which at once embraced law and order – and conceptual decoration – embrace the intellectual now.

At Christopher Kane’s Versus,  isosceles geometrics formed an orderly queue – upon a runway row of sparkly party dresses – to eventually self implode into Kane’s celebratory catastrophe, in the form of his self named “glitter firework” print.

Over at Proenza Schouler, not one of the boys’ prints didn’t go through a computer. This season’s folkloric trend took a techno turn, as Navajo blankets were embraced by the digital aesthetic of the oversized pixel.  The texture of geometric devores launched  sentimental eveningwear into the future.  Custom fabrics saw emerald blankets abstracted, and crochet skirts entwined with the great outdoors. Inspired by a recent roadtrip to Wyoming, Jack and Lazarro’s digitalized view of rustic farmyard living was only a short hurricane’s ride from oZ’s eponymous Kansas.

A/W ’11 Rodarte: Days of Heaven

Two states along and the Mulleavy sisters – the masterminds behind label Rodarte – were enchanted by Dorothy’s home turf: “We couldn’t go to Nebraska and Kansas and not do a wizard of oZ reference.”

The overt optimism of the Mulleavys’ red sequin Dorothy dress is tainted by the melancholic haze of their show’s lead narrative – the 1978 film, Days of Heaven. A tragic tale, the film tells a visual story of a world full of peaceful American plains caught in the trap of early 20th century industrialization – and shows the disturbing extremes which humans will go to, to survive.

Indeed – due to the murders, lies and personal torment of the film’s protagonist – the days of heaven never arrive to the film. And Rodarte’s Kansas narrative feels postmodern tragic. Alas, in Kansas, Rodarte’s dreams of the emerald city seem further away than ever.

Even Lady Gaga takes to the sinister side of neighbouring Nebraska this season, donning Wicked Witch of the West hair and the Tin Man antics of oil-can lubrication, in her latest music video, You and I.

It seems that reaching the wrong side of the rainbow is currently stuck in our creative sub-conscious – and the colour emerald is the dress code to get there.

Unlike most gemstones, the quality of an emerald is not just primarily graded by colour, but closely followed by clarity. Post-modernist emerald – as contextual fashion narrative – brings both clarity and confusion in equal measure.

This season, embrace both.

SHOP the Story

Pret-A-Rever editor Lucy Norris, and the V&A’s keeper of fashion Claire Wilcox, will be hosting a lecture on postmodern fashion, at the Victoria & Albert Museum. For booking details click here.