Yet another Fashion Month has flown by, leaving us with a lot to think about. Sure, there were tons of shows between New York, London, Milan, and Paris. But only a few truly stood out, and even less were exceptionally spellbinding; in some respects, this season feels a bit more commercial and sales-driven than ever before. However, there is always the necessary creativity and artistry that sparks our passion and keeps our interest in fashion alive. So, let’s break it down by city, highlighting the most impressive, noteworthy, and interesting moments of the spring 2016 runway season.
We can’t talk about New York Fashion Week without mentioning Givenchy, arguably the show of the season. Designer Riccardo Tisci celebrated his tenth year at the Parisian house, moving the show from the City of Lights to the Big Apple for the most major event of the season. Featuring live music from different religions, performance art commissioned in collaboration with Marina Abramovic, a slew of celebrity attendees, and approximately 800 members of the public who were lucky enough to score an invite to the show, the spectacle aimed to express a sense of unity and solidarity on the most solemn day in modern American history, September 11. The end result was a tasteful, moving affair, as the lights from the World Trade Center beamed up towards the heavens, clearly visible from the venue at Hudson River Park’s Pier 26. And let’s not forget about the clothes. The beautiful ambiance and inspiring message was supported with an equally noteworthy collection, featuring ultra-luxurious silk separates, lingerie-inspired lace details, and a somber palette of predominantly black and white. There was a series of sleek menswear looks, as well, relatively minimal ensembles in comparison to Tisci’s usual repertoire. And no one could forget the recreations of some of the designer’s most famous couture looks; embellished gowns, feather and fringe detailed garments, and voluminous black dresses appeared in the lineup, many looks accessorized with hauntingly beautiful, hand-beaded masks by master makeup artist Pat McGrath. Just a couple days into the season, it already felt like nothing could top Givenchy.
But despite the iconic Parisian house’s cameo show, New York still showed that it has a lot to offer within its own ranks. There’s always sort of a divide in New York’s fashion scene, that being the underground youth, driven by street and performance wear, and an opposing sense of mature, refined luxury. But this season, these two notions seemed to merge, almost in conversation with one another, leading to a slew of shows as multifaceted as they city they were in. For a major label like Michael Kors, it never hurts to adjust the vibes a bit. Opting for sleek, simple sophistication instead of the typically sunny aesthetic, Kors’ collection felt a bit more serious than usual, potentially aiming to be taken more seriously. DKNY also got a facelift, thanks to the brand’s new designers, Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne of Public School. Though less street influenced than their own brand, the pinstripe-heavy collection presented a newer, sharper take on Donna Karan’s legacy, perfectly merging the straightforward, professional spirit of New York with the city’s coinciding element of urban energy.
Francisco Costa reverted to the minimalist codes of Calvin Klein in his latest endeavor for the brand, while also revisiting 90s nostalgia with a new spin on the iconic slip dress. Paired with sleek sneakers and an impressively compelling cast, the range felt fresh, an optimistic proposition for the season that followed. Over at Marc Jacobs, the designer got a little nostalgic, designing a love note to the crazy, cool, and all but dead New York of yesteryear. An ode to the nonstop parties, theater extravaganzas, Americana, and excessive glamor, his over-the-top show at the Ziegfeld Theater featured a slew of top models (um, hi, Alek Wek!) and singer Beth Ditto stomping down a red carpet style setup. There was glitter, there was color, and there were embellishments, but most importantly, there was the energy and vibrance that New York’s fashion scene – and that of the rest of the world – so desperately needs right now.
But despite New York Fashion Week being bookended by spectacles from Givenchy and Marc Jacobs, it’s the city’s fresh and (relatively) new talent that really keeps things going. Brands like Eckhaus Latta, Telfar, and Hood By Air may occasionally straddle the line between “of-the-moment coolness” and disinteresting pretentiousness. However, these brands’ unique, individual messages each speak volumes about our society today. This is where we see the dismantling of gender binaries that’s so buzzed about, this is where different people come together, from club kids to New York’s modern day starving artists, and this is where the diversity, liveliness, and intrinsically experimental nature of the city are effectively manifested through fashion.
Like the aforementioned New York brands, London’s often been the city known for promoting fresh new talent, often atypical and eccentric. Yet this season, the city seems to have lost a bit of its spark, with only a few names that really made waves. One of those would certainly be Simone Rocha, who finally seems to be coming into her own as of this season. Rocha drew inspiration photographer Nobuyoshi Araki’s work while in Japan, much of which focused on specialist bondage techniques. This translated into the black straps and braids that garnished diaphanous pink dresses, presenting an interesting juxtaposition of prettiness and sexuality. Similar elements popped up at Marques’Almeida, where Marta and Paulo also touched on pretty, sheer fabrics. But this came with a great deal of subversion; the typically girly ruffles were in contrast with the label’s signature shredded denim and other street staples. At the intersection of romanticism and grunge, the latest Marques’Almeida collection showed a deepening of the brand’s codes, an exciting indication of what’s to come for the design duo.
As far as London’s more established labels go, it’s unlikely that Mary Katrantzou wouldn’t inspire or spark interest. This time, the designer juxtaposed gypsy dressing with stargazing, presenting something of a bohemian alien. And while the notion may sound tacky, it showed Katrantzou’s ability to take a step back from digital prints and transform her go-to into handcrafted embellishments. Overall, it seems like Mary Katrantzou is continuously challenging herself, a probable explanation for her quick rise to success and acclaim. Meanwhile, we couldn’t talk about London Fashion Week without mentioning Burberry Prorsum. Always forward-thinking, Christopher Bailey aimed to transcend seasonal dressing. As a result, the collection was a simple one in general, though the details really took it to the next level. Handmade lace from the U.K. reappeared after this summer’s menswear show, while military style coats alluded to the brand’s history. But perhaps the star show of London this season was J.W. Anderson, where “a woman’s odyssey” translated into 90s prints, metallic chokers, futuristic knit suits, and plenty of other overwhelming elements. Yet somehow, the collection seemed a bit more wearable than anything Anderson’s ever presented for his namesake. Even when eccentrically styled, there was no shortage of desirable separates at this show. But despite some inspiring moments throughout London Fashion Week, it’s unfortunate to say that this season felt a bit less exciting than usual.
Whereas London is often seen as the most over-the-top, eccentric week during Fashion Month and Milan the most sterile, it seems like the tables have turned this time around. Let’s start with Prada, where Miuccia’s atypical aesthetic was in full form. Reimagining classic pieces like skirt suits and coats, the designer injected bold vertical stripes to bring pieces to life. And if there’s anything Prada can do perfectly, it’s quirky accessories, like the fishnet details adorning almost every model’s look and massive, ornamental earrings. Mixing knitwear with plaids and tweeds, snakeskin with suede, and other contrasting materials and motifs, this season’s Prada was just as intellectual and bold as ever before. Meanwhile at Gucci, creative director Alessandro Michele solidified his revision of the house. The 60s and 70s vibes were still present, though this season felt even more whimsical and fantastical than Michele’s previous endeavors. Flower embroidery on chiffon and vibrantly hued satin made the retro feel new, while pearl-studded loafers and Mary Janes embellished with bullet cases showed that the magic is in the details. Now this is where Milan gets exciting again.
It seems like almost every season brings along a new designer appointment, and in Milan, that was the one of Peter Dundas at Roberto Cavalli. The former designer for Emilio Pucci stamped his aesthetic all over the brand, adding an 80s touch to brightly colored, revealing body-con dresses and high-waisted animal print bottoms. Pouffy bows and massive ruffles took things over the edge; to many, Dundas could’ve toned it down a little bit. But one thing’s for sure: this new, nightlife-focused vision at Roberto Cavalli is anything but boring. Ironically, the sexy nightclub elements that typically note Versace were pared back in exchange for a slew of daywear options. But this wasn’t just a casual walk in the park. Donatella’s latest project sought to empower women, emphasized through everything from the cast of models like Raquel Zimmermann and Liya Kebede to the soundtrack, “Transition” by Violet and Friends. And the clothes helped, too. Sure, there was the signature Versace sex appeal courtesy of thigh-high slits and chiffon details. But there was also a fair amount of powerful suiting and tailored shirting, as well as military-inspired outerwear that proved that this season, the Versace women means business. There’s never a bad time for feminism, and although fashion sometimes falls short in its attempt to empower women, the notion will always be more than welcome.
The final leg of Fashion Month, Paris Fashion Week is always jam-packed with tons of incredible feats, almost overwhelming us with beauty. Where do we begin? We could start by talking about Balmain, where Olivier Rousteing experimented with relatively neutral tones amongst the requisite pops of color. Though the collection itself wasn’t much of a stretch from the designer’s go-to elements, the casting was what really sold us. Maria Borges, Riley Montana, Joan Smalls, Alessandra Ambrosio, Doutzen Kroes, Gigi and Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Jourdan Dunn, Tami Williams, Issa Lish, and so many more made for a diverse cast that reminded us that a show is always better when it features such striking women. Other designers in Paris embraced diversity more than before, too. Though there’s always room for improvement in this department, labels like Jacquemus stepped it up this time around, giving an additional layer of beauty to an avant-garde collection. Speaking of avant-garde, the atypical designs are what really fuel Paris’ fire. That was true in collections from designers like Yohji Yamamoto, whose dark yet beautiful range brought an extra sense of emotion to the show circuit, as well as Rick Owens, who paraded models down the runway with other models strapped to their bodies, alluding to the concept of female support and unity.
Paris is also home to Spanish labels like Paco Rabanne and Loewe, both of which are having quite a moment. At the former, designer Julien Dossena meshed techno sport with casual sexiness, making for a wearable yet exciting line. There was a necessary inclusion of the space-age chainmail made popular in the 60s by Paco Rabanne himself, reinvented in a way that would be perfect for a modern day rockstar. At Loewe, Jonathan Anderson went sci-fi, electrifying natural materials like leather and providing an entire range of desirable accessories.
Another originally Spanish label worth mentioning, Balenciaga was in for quite the shakeup this season. Alexander Wang presented his final collection for the house, an all-white display of boudoir-inspired ensembles, lace slippers, and resourceful bags. Meanwhile, Demna Gvasalia – the designer set to replace Wang at Balenciaga – showed us exactly why he his label Vetements is having such a moment. The grungy, street vibe was heightened by thigh-high boots and vibrantly hued details, adding a sense of ease to the Berlin club kid notes.
The major fashion houses in Paris weren’t to be forgotten. Nicolas Ghesquière seems to be inching back towards the futuristic, sci-fi elements that he popularized during his tenure at Balenciaga, adding tons of metallic details to the Anime-inspired collection. Meanwhile, Hedi Slimane seemed to polish his grungy vision at Saint Laurent, sending a slew of simple yet elegant slip dresses and gowns down the runway alongside his leather jackets and skinny silhouettes. And John Galliano further reminded us of his exceptional skill at Maison Margiela, where 60s ensembles were reinvented in an alienesque, eccentric way. Still holding down many of the house’s codes, Galliano’s latest collection still had his name written all over it, with costumey details and wild hair and makeup. Boxy neoprene tees went perfectly with laminated and embellished skirts, while the outerwear was truly out of this world.
Paris never fails to prove itself as the pinnacle of the fashion realm, and this season was no exception. From the original labels that could be credited with starting this whole fashion business to the cutting-edge visionaries who hail from all across the globe, there is really no better way to close out Fashion Month.
Though this season was teeming with beautiful visions, many designers, editors, and other image-makers are left yearning for something more. Is this hectic, monthlong marathon of chaos really all we can do? Is there something more out there? To many, the fashion show circuit is growing less and less interesting, heightened only by celebrity sightings and designer musical chairs. Meanwhile, the industry itself is starting to feel a bit overcrowded and confused. We can all wonder what’s next in the future of fashion. But until then, we’ve got a whole new selection of designers’ collections to take in.
So, which collections were your favorites? Let us know by commenting below!
All photos courtesy Vogue Runway