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Hemlines may once have been a cute way of monitoring the state of the economy – rather aptly, they are all over the place these days – but nothing gives a snapshot of global hard-currency health better than a flick through the September issues of the world’s glossiest fashion magazines.

Landing on newsstands with a reassuringly weighty thud early this month, the current edition of US Vogue has more advertising than any other American fashion or lifestyle magazine, with a whopping 631 ad pages. Yet it is still down 4.5 per cent on last year’s Lady Gaga extravaganza of 665 pages – which in turn was down on the magazine’s peak of 727 pages of ads in 2007.

The luxury sector may not have turned an economic corner – yet. And in fashion terms the mood is not exactly upbeat, either: think brown and black set against brutalist concrete architecture (Prada); corseted women hanging around in a drab hotel suite (Dior); and models trapped in a surrealist crazy golf course from hell, wearing equally disturbing knitwear (Kenzo). Yes, advertising matters, not only as a barometer of the spending trends of the fashion world, but also as a tone-setting exercise. The following images are how fashion should look this autumn/winter, straight from the designer’s eye, so take note.

Stella McCartney

Who: Kate Moss, shot by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott.

What: Kate unzipped. The season may be awash with supermodels, but Ms Moss’s seventh time in front of the camera for Stella McCartney still seems like an event.

Where: A “funny turn” in the haberdashery department – supported by a surreal and shouty short film. “We’re all golden sunflowers inside,” says Kate. Of course we are, love.

Why: With friends like these? Why not.

stellamccartney.com

Alexander Wang

Who: Anna Ewers, Vanessa Moody, Katlin Aas, Kat Hessen and Lexi Boling, shot by Steven Klein.

What: You’re nicked – by the fashion police.

Where: Like the set of Orange Is the New Black, only less colourful.

Why: Wang’s “urban survival gear” takes a sinister twist. Unless Wang knows something we don’t about his customer profile.

alexanderwang.com

Moschino

Who: Models Linda Evangelista, Stella Tennant, Carolyn Murphy, Saskia de Braw, Karen Elson and Raquel Zimmermann, shot by photographer Steven Meisel.

What: Close your eyes, imagine Richard Avedon shooting a fast-food chain commercial in the early 1990s, and you are almost there.

Where: A studio set, just a stone’s throw away from a deep-fat fryer.

Why: Newly installed designer Jeremy Scott’s “Happy Meal” – inspired homage to a certain American burger restaurant has given the tired Italian label new cult status – and a lot of kitsch value to boot.

moschino.com

Louis Vuitton

Who: Danish-born model Freja Beha Erichsen, shot by photographer Juergen Teller.

What: Back-to-the-future, with new boy Nicolas Ghesquière hiring not one, but three big names (Teller, Annie Leibowitz and Bruce Weber) to shoot his late 1960s-/early 1970s- inspired collection.

Where: The subterranean lair of a James Bond villain. Roger Moore is waiting just offset to reclaim his car keys.

Why: After a year-and-a-half fashion “gardening leave” since leaving Balenciaga, Ghesquière obviously had a lot of fashion imagery to get out of his system with the help of stylist Marie-Amélie Sauvé, a starry model cast, three very expensive snappers and an ultra-cool car.

louisvuitton.com

Dior

Who: Model Julia Nobis (plus Helena Severin, Fei Fei Sun and Kasia Jujeczka), shot by photographer Willy Vanderperre.

What: Creative director Raf Simons airs his masculine-meets-feminine collection, styled by Olivier Rizzo.

Where: Waiting for room service to finally arrive; a charmless hotel suite somewhere, Manhattan.

Why: For all Simons’ skill reworking the Bar jacket, the bestselling Lady Dior bag and latest Fusion trainer heels take centre stage.

dior.com

Lanvin

Who: Model Edie Campbell, shot by photographer Tim Walker. Art directed by Ronnie Cooke Newhouse.

What: It’s a family affair. Edie is joined by various members of the Campbell clan, including mother Sophie Hicks, father Roddy, grandmother Joan, grandfather Jeremy, sister Olympia and even her horse, Dolly.

Where: A large, no doubt messy, studio in west London.

Why: Inspired by the French fashion house’s mother-and-daughter logo. Did Lanvin get a bulk deal by casting the whole family?

lanvin.com

Prada

Who: Models Mica Arganaraz and Karl Kolbitz, shot by Steven Meisel.

What: Miuccia Prada’s knitwear, inspired by Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972).

Where: Not some secret police headquarters in the Eastern Bloc but Bedford Hills, upstate New York.

Why: It taps in to the luxury shopper’s art-house side – with the requisite quota of covetable shoes and bags.

Prada.com

Dolce & Gabbana

Who: Models Claudia Schiffer, Bianca Balti, Kate Bogucharskaia, and Nastya Sten, shot by designer Domenico Dolce.

What: Would you Adam and Eve it? Claudia’s back, looking better than ever.

Where: A fairytale forest, wholly populated by Sicilian stereotypes.

Why: Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Italian designer duo – recently found guilty of tax evasion– have escaped in to a mythical fantasy past.

dolcegabbana.com

Kenzo

Who: Models Guinevere Van Seenus and Robert McKinnon, created in partnership with Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari, both of the art magazine Toilet Paper.

What: A smart/casual date turns nasty at a local all-night crazy golf course.

Where: A set designed by David Lynch, no less.

Why: Designers Carol Lim and Humberto Leon’s latest collection was their third inspired by film director Lynch’s off-kilter oeuvre – including Twin Peaks, of course. Unsettling? The knitwear sure is.

kenzo.com

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