There’s so much out there in terms of fashion, and it’s up to today’s designers to provide women with choices, whether it’s a character she could become via a brand’s propositions or a message that a collection presents. Sure, sometimes the clothes are left to speak for themselves. But in that case, the pieces should carry the strength of re-presenting typical garb.
But taking into account everything going on in 2016, are these just clothes we’re looking at, or does fashion still have the potential to carry a stronger meaning?
The U.S. is in the midst of one of the most bizarre, disturbing elections in history, a refugee crisis is shaking up the entire world, natural disasters are ravaging Haiti, racism and xenophobia are plaguing mankind, and so much more is happening outside of just the sphere of fashion. Sure, this is a superficial industry we’re in. But there’s always room to use this platform to dig a little deeper.
Some designers chose to respond to the weight of the world with a lighthearted, positive attitude. Sure, there’s plenty going on to get stressed about, but sometimes that extra dose of optimism is the best message possible. At Michael Kors, a 40s-meets-80s look was bolstered by flirty, fun details, and even a subtle nod to presidential nominee Hillary Clinton from the show’s performer, Rufus Wainwright. Meanwhile, Joseph Altuzarra echoed similar sentiments, pairing ruffled slips with cherry pins and eccentric python-prints with sequined lemons (when life gives you lemons…). Perhaps a more youthful take on all the positivity came at Gypsy Sport’s show, where designer Rio Uribe’s looks were introduced by a dynamic duo of what felt like vogue ball MCs. The label’s signature lace, fringe, and sporty touches felt fresh and new when met with the overall energy of the event. Even the typically dark Rick Owens evoked a sense of positivity, where there was an abundance of confection, tons of tulle, and uplifting shades like lavender and yellow. While Owens might have been thinking about the fall of humanity over the past few seasons, this time he asked, “what if the whirlpool is just a portal, instead of a finality?”
The battle for women’s rights still wages on across the globe, with major events taking place as of late. So it should come as no surprise that womenswear labels – especially those with women at the helm – are addressing these issues, whether more directly or subtly. Maria Grazia Chiuri took her role as the first female creative director ever for Christian Dior this season, boldly proclaiming “We Should All Be Feminists” on one t-shirt while proving that only good things can come by allowing women in fashion these leadership roles. Meanwhile, Donatella Versace continued her streak of female empowerment, presenting an athletic collection with an element of sisterhood boosted by Violet and Photonz’s soundtrack that urged women to “take the leap.” Stella McCartney didn’t shy away from positive female representation, either, with a simple “Thanks Girls” logo and a fun dance party to close her show. And Becca McCharen-Tran continued her staple message of girl power at Chromat, featuring a diverse cast of women of different ages, races, body types, and gender identities. We can’t forget about Phoebe Philo’s latest for Céline, either, where the designer proved there’s no one “right” way to be a woman and get down to business. There may still be some backwards thinkers claiming that it’s a “man’s world,” but there’s no stopping these creators from giving women the power they deserve.
For the fashion that isn’t explicitly advocating for anything specific, it all comes down to pure creative genius; some collections were just straight-up amazing. There was Hood By Air, where reworked suiting was highlighted by the label’s signature gender fluidity. Younger, hip brands like Eckhaus Latta in New York and Koché and Y/Project in Paris lived up to all the hype, presenting gimmick-free, authentically impressive work. Demna Gvasalia’s latest for Balenciaga caused quite a stir, too, introducing spandex as a wardrobe staple to the storied maison while continuing to pay homage to Cristobal’s codes. Meanwhile, Marques’Almeida merged their trademark denim looks with an additional dose of punk and street. And then there was Gucci, where Alessandro Michele continued to dominate Milan Fashion Week while providing the fantasy we often need to escape the world around us.
It wouldn’t be Fashion Month without some other major moments. Take, for example, the return of Olivier Theyskens, with his own namesake show in Paris. Or how about the supermodel cast that wore Bouchra Jarrar’s first official, undeniably elegant collection for Lanvin? There was also Anthony Vaccarello’s debut at Saint Laurent, bringing back some of the house’s staples from Yves’ days like, le smoking, denim, and an abundance of sex appeal.
There’s so much possibility when it comes to fashion: the possibility to empower, to inspire, to spark conversation. These days, it seems increasingly important to use the platform for some meaning, or at least to give us an escape to look forward to.
See some of the top looks from the spring 2017 ready-to-wear collections below:
All photos courtesy Vogue Runway.
Feature photo courtesy Catwalking/Getty Images.