It feels like fashion never sleeps; right as the fall 2016 menswear shows came to a close, womenswear kicked off without missing a beat. And while there’s a lot of discussion around the somewhat “broken” cycle of Fashion Month, this was a season just like any other, with major collections, designer switchups, and all the usual elements that keep us coming back for more.
Pop stars dominated New York this season, and we’re not talking about the front rows. Kanye West started off what felt like one of the coldest weeks ever with a disruptive bang. Sticking to his usually deconstructed, sporty take on similar aesthetics to those seen from labels like Helmut Lang and Margiela, the mostly neutral Yeezy Season 3 was bolstered by a major spectacle. Debuting his newest album, The Life of Pablo, West took over Madison Square Garden with his concert/party/fashion show that gave viewers a major dose of sensory overload (hey, is that Naomi Campbell?). And while the clothes might have gotten lost in all the hype, there’s no denying that they’re going to take off like the last couple seasons. Unlike the Yeezy extravaganza, which shook up the NYFW schedule, everyone looked forward to Rihanna’s design rendezvous for Puma well in advance. A big step up from her long-ago collaboration with River Island, the queen of style brought health goth back, tying a bit of Hood By Air in with Vetements, prominently stamped with her own personal allure.
A less hyped-up but equally exciting moment from New York was the Chromat show, where emerging designer Becca McCharen took her bold activewear, swimwear, and lingerie to the next level. Featuring bright LED appliqués, an impressively diverse cast (in terms of race, body type, gender identity, and more), the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund frontrunner proved her potential, reminding us of how fun fashion can be. The strongest message that came through was an undeniable sense of female empowerment; who doesn’t love when a designer perfectly marries feminism to fashion?
Another label in the running for the Fashion Fund, Baja East’s theme seemed to be “thriving.” Whether referring to the brand’s rapid growth or the wildly attractive design duo’s confidence, no better word could describe what was going on. Even a sweatshirt sleeve carried the term. And while Scott Studenberg and John Targon’s fall 2016 collection could have seemed a bit serious at first glance, look more closely and you can see odes to 90s hip-hop and even weed leaf motifs, two surefire things to propel this collection into commercial success in the massive market of young, clubby fashionistas. It’s only a matter of time before Mel Ottenberg puts Rihanna in one of these fun looks, which will – as shown in the case of Vetements – really make this label “thrive.”
Perhaps the most exciting things in New York right now are happening at the relatively newer, more buzzy brands. Take Delpozo for instance, where the fairytale fantasy and exaggerated shapes were just as present as ever before. Meanwhile, Eckhaus Latta’s austere luxury proved worth the snowy trek to Long Island City in Queens. And let’s not forget about Hood By Air, where designer Shayne Oliver keeps taking his label from “emerging” to “iconic.” This season, Oliver expanded on discussions surrounding gender and race, even touching on the current refugee crisis in the most poetic yet jarring fashion. Seemingly more extreme than ever before, HBA proves that fashion is even better when there’s some meaning behind it.
Even New York’s more established labels tend to be run by a somewhat younger crew than in many other cases. Maybe this fresh perspective is what made everyone fall so deeply in love with Joseph Altuzarra’s nomadic, gypsy dream. And maybe that’s what’s driven Alexander Wang into a new stratosphere of success. Fully committed to his own brand since leaving Balenciaga, Wang’s latest endeavor was the perfect level of cheeky, risqué, and provocative. Setting the show in a church, guests were expecting a little bit of a twisted edge, as proven by Barbara Kruger-meets-Supreme motifs like jeans that read “money maker” across the ass, “strict” printed details, stripper silhouettes, and ganja leaves galore. Is it totally authentic? That’s up for debate. But no one can deny that this collection might just get Wang even more sales and editorial coverage than ever before.
Regardless of the coolest brands of the moment, there are some hot tickets that will always remain New York staples. This season, Zac Posen reminded us why his label’s become so huge, showing an unexpected take on his go-to styles. Instead of the predictable glamor and massive ball gowns that he’s known for, Posen showed a more versatile sense of elegance, even featuring a multitude of day-appropriate looks. And the highlight of the show: it was probably the most diverse cast of the season. Inspired by Princess Elizabeth of Toro, the Ugandan model turned lawyer turned diplomat, close to 90% of the collection was worn by models of color. Now that’s more like it. And we couldn’t leave Calvin Klein out of the mix, where designer Francisco Costa expanded beyond his go-to minimalism into a more earthy vision. From fur prints on simple silhouettes to subtle stone embellishments, there was a certain grit to the collection, though it still remained as polished as ever.
What would New York Fashion Week be without Marc Jacobs, though? Sure, we saw some great things throughout the week, but Marc’s fantasy is what really restores everyone’s faith in the Big Apple’s fashion scene. Fun yet dark, whimsical yet goth, fall 2016 was like a macabre fairytale fantasy, complete with a nonchalant Lady Gaga cameo. From unbelievable outerwear to sky-high platforms, it was hard to tell whether MJ was saluting the city’s club kids or the Brothers Grimm. But one thing’s for sure: there couldn’t be a better way to close out the first week of the fall 2016 ready-to-wear circuit.
London is often known for its emerging talent, but this season felt a bit lackluster once the fashion pack crossed the pond. Still, we couldn’t deny a few major moments. As almost always, Burberry owned the week hands down. With an authentic element of English eclecticism, the fall 2016 collection juxtaposed 70s bohemia with military outerwear, even adding a touch of glam rock to salute the late David Bowie. Of course, the outerwear really stood out, noted by powerful details like massive hardware and colorful piping. Come September, Christopher Bailey plans to have collections available for purchase fresh off the runway. We bet a lot of people wish that would apply to this season’s garb.
While Christopher Bailey’s new retail structure aims to do something about the current state of the fashion industry, J.W. Anderson is living for the chaos. His fall 2016 collection was the perfect example of his stream of consciousness, featuring an abundance of embellished kitten heel boots, cloud-shaped patchwork skirts, and even rabbit fur hoodies. Every look seemed to be about statement pieces from head to toe, yet there was still a strong sense of wearability. That’s a hard thing to balance, but Anderson’s certainly the guy to do it.
The legacy of Alexander McQueen certainly wasn’t lost in Sarah Burton’s latest, easily one of her most stunning collections to date. The dreamlike collection took notes from Schiaparelli, exemplified through surrealist prints and cobweb knits. Verging on haute couture, some looks appeared as Erté work that had come to life, sprinkled with stardust. Duvet-like coats took things a bit more literally, though still maintaining the collections poetic notes, while puffs of tulle furthered the fantasy. Tender yet powerful, it was one of those collections that would make you question whether or not you were in reality. Sure, London is still teeming with new talent. But it’s work like this that really sets the bar even higher.
Whereas London felt less thrilling than we’re used to, this might have been the most exciting season in Milan in recent years. Leave it to the greats like Miuccia Prada, whose continuation of her nautical men’s endeavor was the perfect way to start off the week. Almost identical to the fall 2016 menswear range, her women’s attire was perhaps even more stunning. If there was ever a doubt about Prada’s status as the queen of accessories, then bite your tongue; handbags and shoes were even more on point than usual. And outerwear was no exception either, while Christophe Chemin prints made the perfect garnish for the rest of the looks. Another Milanese powerhouse, Bottega Veneta made classic staples feel fresh again through perfectly cut tailoring and subtle yet exciting details. And every fall collection is a hit from Fendi, this time feeling even more fun and whimsical than in the past. Over at Versace, Donatella brought sex appeal back to her woman, though still considering the other elements that make women so fantastic. And Jeremy Scott literally brought down the house at Moschino, showing chandelier dresses and flaming frocks in a destroyed mansion.
But regardless of all the captivating looks in Milan, Alessandro Michele’s Gucci still takes the cake. Easily one of the most exciting things happening in fashion, Michele’s took Catherine de Medici to Studio 54 for fall 2016, adding an extra dose of romanticism to his 70s aesthetic. It was glamorous, it was opulent, and it was fun, thanks to metallics and embellishments, killer coats, multicolored details, and monochrome looks that painted disco silhouettes bright shades of neon. Sure, minimalism will always be in. But every now and then, there’s a time to step out of the box and really go crazy. And that’s what Alessandro Michele is here for.
Everything always culminates in the City of Lights; while the other three major fashion capitals provided some pretty amazing moments, there’s no ignoring all that Paris had to offer. The crowd favorites stuck to their guns, like the off-kilter simplicity shown at Acne Studios or the dark romanticism at Givenchy. Balmainia was in full effect, with Olivier Rousteing’s supermodel cast wearing a softer version of his signatures for the house. Meanwhile, Rick Owens injected his staples with a deeper meaning, that being the topic of the climate crisis and our quickly deteriorating environment. On the bright side, Chitose Abe had an intellectual response to the dark times we’re living in, a single phrase, “love will save the day,” which was literally broken down letter by letter and woven throughout her street-friendly Sacai collection. Meanwhile, Yoshiyuki Miyamae’s bright pops of color at Issey Miyake injected jolts of life into the label’s standard pleats.
Speaking of labels like Sacai and Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto also reminded us of the immense creativity and strength of Japanese fashion. The former imagined punks in the 18th century, bringing up the idea of revolution through massive floral ensembles, abstract armor, and bondage straps in soft pinks. Perhaps Kawakubo was suggesting the need for a revolution in fashion, something many have been discussing throughout the industry. Regardless, there’s no denying her label’s status at the forefront of the avant-garde. Yohji’s line was far more minimal, even blurring the boundaries between masculine and feminine in the most poetic way possible. Yet despite the simplicity, there was still a sense of the couture-like craftsmanship that Mr. Yamamoto has mastered; leather and wool hybrid pieces and subtle hand-painted details proved that point.
And what would Paris be without its legendary maisons? At Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld took things back to basics, trading in a major spectacle for a straightforward show that appeared to reference the brand’s iconic 90s looks. All of the essential tweeds were there, along with an abundance of lace and accessories that alluded to a slightly equestrian theme. Over at Saint Laurent, Hedi Slimane traded his grungy ready-to-wear for an actual haute couture presentation, surprising viewers with an inspiring mesh of his own rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic with the codes of Yves Saint Laurent. Sure, there was the necessary element of glam rock, shown through the heavy makeup and glittering embellishments. But sharp tailoring and sumptuous fur truly took things to the next level. And while many were anticipating what was to come at Dior and Lanvin, both of which lost their creative directors immediately following last season’s shows, each house’s respective design team stuck to their quintessential concepts, proving that if something ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
But regardless of all the exciting happenings in Paris, it’s hard to avoid the fact that Demna Gvasalia might just have the city under his control. After his normcore on steroids aesthetic has taken the sartorial world by storm, his Vetements show was expected to be THE event of the season. To-die-for basics like hoodies, jeans, and baseball caps were heightened by cheeky motifs. “Justin 4ever,” read one sweatshirt, a piece guaranteed to be a major hit, with other items mentioning “Sexual Fantasies,” “May the Bridges I Burn Light the Way,” and “Big Daddy.” Okay, Gvasalia is kind of killing it. And let’s not forget about those boots, the floral dresses made so ubiquitous by the brand, and even one-sleeve flannels for the guys. There was so much to love about the collection, and Vetements definitely won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. It’s no surprise that everyone was going crazy in anticipation of the designer’s debut at Balenciaga later in the week. Of course, Gvasalia’s mark made for quite an interesting collection, with off-the-shoulder puffer jackets and uniquely shaped tailoring that perfectly meshed his own ideas with the codes of the house. His ability to make the ordinary extraordinary was certainly noticeable, providing practical garments with a luxurious, high fashion kicker.
It’s hard to live up to all of the hype surrounding Demna Gvasalia’s endeavors, but if there’s one person who could do it, it’s Nicolas Ghesquière. His Louis Vuitton show provided the perfect finale to Fashion Month, showing a relatively more wearable continuation of his sci-fi vibes. There was no shortage of desirable bags and shoes (this is LV, after all), while select outerwear pieces successfully brought outer space down to Earth. There were even some daytime appropriate looks, reminding us that Ghesquière can do more than just extraterrestrial statement pieces, rather full collections for every woman. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you design clothing.
We’ve seen a lot this season, some more groundbreaking than others, many living up to the hype and a few shrinking in the limelight. But what’s most noticeable is the constant discussion surrounding what to do about the currently “broken” fashion system. Should we rearrange the show schedule? Or are fashion shows becoming obsolete altogether? There has yet to be a solid solution to what’s going on, rather countless ideas – some good, others a bit questionable – thrown around. But regardless of what may be an imminent revolution, there’s still a lot to get excited about in fashion right now, making for a promising prediction of what’s to come.
All photos courtesy Vogue Runway.