While New York Fashion Week was just over two weeks ago, it feels like I’m already far behind the times posting this review now. But such is the world of fashion, especially during fashion month. It’s an understatement to say things move quickly.
My lateness aside, I wanted to post this to review some pieces and collections that stood out to me, both to highlight clothes I might wear and those few designers that took interesting risks. I have to agree with the top fashion editors that not enough collections felt risky or new this season. I can respect that the world of fashion is undergoing significant changes at the moment — in the social media driven world, everyone wants to have the most Instagramable collection and consumers want what they’re seeing photos of now, which is why many designers are choosing to offer see-now buy-now collections.
A collection that is too risky, that introduces a too-new silhouette, that pushes consumers ideas about what beauty can look like too much is likely to sell less than something that meets existing expectations and comfort zones. And financial risk aside, we’ve seen so much fast change in fashion in the last half-century — from A-lines to miniskirts, from dramatic flares to tight cigarette pants — it can feel like we’ve seen it all already, and that everything new is simply a rehash. Strictly speaking, that is and isn’t true. All art is a reference to previous art; it has to be. In that view, nothing is new and yet, everything is.
This is a very substantial post as New York Fashion Week is an enormous topic. You can use the following links to jump ahead: Trends (90s, 70s, CelebrityCollections, Cutouts, Culottes, Fringe, Gradients, Knits, Lurex, Marijuana, Patches, Ruffles); Favorites (for aesthetic & for wearability).
Trends to Watch
While this is lengthy, it’s by no means comprehensive. These are the trends I have been watching because they’re interesting to me, and no doubt someone reading this will feel I’ve left out their favorite trend. If that’s the case, don’t be shy, comment and tell me about it.
To say the 90s are back is almost an understatement. 90s trends have dominated the runway for several seasons now, which should come as no surprise as we just finished an 80s revival. Similarly, the 90s trends we’re seeing are embellished with 70s qualities, much as the 80s fits from a few years ago had some very 60s elements (how could they not, we were all glued to Mad Men).
Key elements in the current 90s revival include bomber jackets, mom jeans, chokers, wide leg pants, and the meshing of counter culture with pop culture.
Following the rise of the underground punk scene in the 70s and 80s, the 90s saw the fashion of this movement come into the mainstream view in the form of grunge. Grunge mixed more familiar pieces like flannel shirts with the edgier styles of the punk scene, creating its own space to float between the two.
That edgy and punk-adjacent feeling has come back in as the fashion world re-designs the 90s for 2017. To the right, Rag & Bone use a moss green bomber lined with white shearling and pairs it with well-cut “mom jeans” for an easy and clean take on the 90s. On the left, Monse uses the relaxed and oversized fit that reigned over the decade and accessorizes with a similarly oversized silver chain choker. Chokers are a favorite 90s staple, and bulky chains have been popular since the late 2000s.
Below are two further examples of the rocker vibe that reared its head in the 90s and now takes a new form with flared pants. The looks merge the 90s and 00s take on the punk aesthetic using chokers, graphic tees, fur accented coats, and flared ripped jeans. It’s not a novel look, but it works well.
While moto jackets have dominated street style blogs for years now, the 90s was home to an almost blazer-like leather jacket. Anthony Thomas Melillo’s take on the brown lapelled leather jacket (right) is office appropriate and so cool.
Beaufille (below) uses the popular oxblood burgundy color to create the lapelled leather coat as a long trench, and used the same leather to create high waisted pants and a moto jacket.
Maybe it’s the Faith-like look of the model or the fact that Spike has forever claimed the floor length trench coat, but this type of lapelled leather jacket gives me major Buffy the Vampire Slayer vibes. In fact, in the early seasons, she wears a jacket very similar to the ATM one but in the color of the Beaufille leather pieces.
The 90s grunge look championed oversize clothing. Huge leather coats, enormous elephant pants, and thick flat soled boots. This season saw some grown-up takes on oversize clothing as well as some classic ones.
Sophisticated oversize menswear is most popularly taking the shape of lengthy sleeveless blazers. Last spring and summer the trend of oversized vests first started to appear on streetwear bloggers and celebrities in a more relaxed look, but this fall it has taken shape as a take on menswear.
In fall 2015, Balmain released an oversized menswear vest as part of their HM x Balmain line, but that piece reaches only to the thigh. The new pieces shown by Public School and M. Patmos this season stretch to mid-calf length for a more dramatic effect.
Vests are popular, but far from the only piece being created in oversized silhouettes. Colovos, pairing their entire collection in their lookbook with white pointed-toe Balenciaga flats, created some great mid-calf length pieces as well. The leather dress is reminiscent of a leather apron, but avoids the shapeless feeling of an apron by employing a wrap dress cut at the waist.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from “clean” and “office-appropriate” is Hood By Air. King of oversize silhouettes and risk taking, HBA pulled no punches this fall.
This season the most enormous oversize piece was not worn, but carried by radical Russian LGBT artist Slava Mogutin, who held HBA’s iconic sleeping bag coat above his head like a flag. Mogutin was exiled from Russia in 1995 for being gay (though that is, of course, not the state’s story). The juxtaposition of this displaced activist with the sleeping bag coat, originally designed to provide homeless people with two types of shelter, is an important one.
Slava has hinted that we’ll be seeing more collaborations between him and Shayne Oliver, the designer behind the Hood By Air line. HBA is regularly one of the most outrageous and spectacle-driven shows, but it the risks that Oliver takes are not random. He mixes futurism and fetish, couture and streetwear, gender bending and ghetto fabulousness. As Slava pointed out here, “Where else can you see tattooed homo thugs walking the runway in bright-red high heels and pretty androgynous boys wearing wigs and do-rags made of lacy panties?” And he’s right.
Any discussion of 90s fashion has to include DKNY, and in tandem with this season’s 90s revival trend, the label touched on their own 90s influence in a playfully ironic way. The 90s saw the rise of obvious (and sometimes extraneous) branding on clothing and accessories, and DKNY was a major part of that trend. Even kids who had no interest in fashion and had never been to New York found themselves sporting DKNY branded sweatshirts. This fall, DKNY pokes fun at themselves and their consumers by replacing the DKNY branding with “insert logo here” and “logo tee” stitching.
Logo irony aside, the DKNY collection succeed in bringing up nineties nostalgia for me without feeling like I had seen the pieces before. Crop tops, then known as belly shirts, slip dress tops to more unusually laced dresses, and plaid skirts. Paired with tough, heavy, black boots made for a winner in my book.
70s fashion was heavily print-focussed, and no to surprise, the queen of prints herself, Diane Von Furstenberg, delivered a 70s inspired collection. Complete with floor-length dresses and hot pants.
Another re-emerging 70s trend is long as hell wide leg pants which, when properly tailored and worn with tall heels, give the illusion of endless legs.
Nanette Lepore and Cynthia Rowley showed two of my favorite takes on the pant cut using bold 70s prints and including matching jackets. While I love these silhouettes, most 70s-style prints are too busy for me without a solid top to balance them.
These large, bright prints also made an appearance on a more billowy 90s pant cut in Clover Canyon’s show, in the form of a overlapping chevron pattern that almost makes a plaid.
In other print news, Zimmermann sent sets of bombers and flowy pants down the runway that, with their intense prints, hoop earrings, bombers, and loose leg pants, reminded me of a 70s and 90s take on the 00s Juicy Couture tracksuit.
Jeremy Scott, known for loud, contrasting colors, unsurprisingly had a bright take on 70s printed sets and short minidresses. Electric yellow with baby pink and cowprint make for playful takes on matching sets. More obvious in imagery, the minidresses featured an electric blue guitar and a print made of pink landline phones, complete with curled cord.
I’d be remiss if I did not mention the two big celebrity collections of this season — Kanye’s Yeezy Season 3 and Rihanna’s Fenty x Puma. Given their collaborations with Adidas and Puma, it should come as no surprise that both collections were heavily focussed on athleisure.
Puma’s Fenty line, lead by Rihanna, leans towards an edgy athletic look. Starting with the Creepers released last year, Rihanna has been rolling out solidly 90s influenced collection (see the snap up athletic pants).
The aesthetic reminds me of something you might find under the Instagram hashtag #healthgoth, which is a welcome break from the same old neon athleisure. Rihanna’s take on health goth is gangster and sexy.
It’s exciting to see an artist like Rihanna taking new risks. Having moved from Def Jam to Jay Z’s label in 2014, Rihanna has released FourFiveSeconds and ANTI, both of which are a big step from the club hits we’re used to hearing from Rihanna. It will be fun to watch her grown on both musical and design fronts in the coming years.
When it comes to Yeezy, we’re witnessing a very deliberate ramp up. Is this because Adidas agreed to start with sportswear and work up to a more complicated line? Is it Kanye pushing the limits with his Adidas contract as his success grows?
Kanye’s first season was relatively minimal. Season 1 saw the debut of the Yeezy sneaker and Kanye’s take on leggings, sweat shirts, and other athletic pieces. Season 2 gave us Yeezy boots and a wider range of pieces with more deliberate distressing. Season 3 takes a step further, and includes Yeezy heels as well as structured outwear pieces, more intense distressing to fabrics, and more detailed knit patterns.
Through all three seasons, Kanye has been known to color-coordinate how he styles his shows. Instead of the usual runway walk, Kanye has his models stand in formation organized by color and race by extension (as he often coordinates them). This season he moves away from exclusively earth or skin tones, now includes orange and oxblood.
I mentioned this in my last post on the smaller European fashion weeks that come before the major ones during fashion month, which you can see here, as I predicted the continuing trend of square shoulder cut outs has continued through New York Fashion Week, and through London, Milan, and Paris. I’ll post on those weeks as well soon.
This combination of off-the-shoulder hems and high necklines creates a square shape around the shoulder. Rounded shoulder cutouts were popular in the aughts, so in the more line-focussed teens a square take on the cut makes sense.
Shoulder cutouts made appearances featuring full length sleeves or a small band across the upper arm, and mostly seem to be turning up in black on very pale models for high contrast. If the trend continues to stick, it will be nice to see some in bright white for contrast with deeper skin tones.
Culottes are not new. That’s speaking broadly — culottes are not new this season, we’ve been seeing them on bloggers and runways for years, but they are also not new this decade. Culottes first became a term for these kinds of cropped pants during the Renaissance when it referred to the breeches worn by men. In the Victorian era, women wore culottes in place skirts when horseback riding, bicycling, or playing tennis. At the time, they were thought of as split skirts rather than pants.
Their rise to popularity in the 20th century can be attributed to Elisa Schiapelli putting them on the runway, while making no effort to disguise them as skirts. They were undeniably pants for women.
People were not happy about it. Culottes were called “manly, with hints of lesbianism” by the press. In the 1930s, there there was a law in Paris that forbid women from wearing pants unless using a bicycle or riding a horse. Women were arrested for publicly wearing culottes out in the city.
So how did these lesbian breeches become one of the most talked about new silhouettes of the last few seasons?
Going back to thinking of culottes as split skirts in stead of pants, we can now include skorts in a a broad definition of culottes.
Skorts (shorts from the back with a flap over the front to give the impression of a skirt) are functionally very similar. They are typically loose enough to be active in, but visually give the appearance of a skirt at first glance. And like culottes, they were also popular with tennis players. Skorts saw their heyday in the 90s. Is it possible for the functionality of a garment to be a trend in the way that silhouettes are?
Most modern complaints about culottes mention that they are not “sexy”. Historically they were mean to be functional, not they remain that in place of tighter pants on hot days. I would argue that whether or not they come across as sexy is subjective, and that maybe it’s ok that not every new look is centered around being sexy. Function and comfort are good too.
Fringe, a 70s staple, is showing up in familiar and unfamiliar ways this season. Designers like Ralph Lauren have been showing plenty of decorative fringe pieces for years. A newly popular way of styling fringe is in the form of of a long skirt or belt.
These are not the 20s flapper layered fringe skirts, they are skirts made entirely and exclusively in fringe. Typically styled over pants like in the adjacent Haney lookbook shot, but not if you’re Nicki Minaj. The same type of look can be achieved with an exaggerated fringe leather belt (see: Kylie Jenner).
Practically speaking, this may not evolve into a major trend the way culottes have. But we may continue to see them on celebrities and eccentric acquaintances for a few more years.
Waist emphasis is as old as Dior. In the time of ombre everything, it’s no surprise that the rebranded concept of gradient dyeing would make an appearance in waist emphasized dresses.
Chunky sweaters are an old favorite of anyone who likes comfort fashion. Similarly, sweater dresses are as cozy as it gets but are far from frumpy. And now we have the sweater gown to consider.
Christian Siriano based much of his collection around the concept of knits in eveningwear. He used large stitched knit pieces over dresses and wide leg pants, and used prints of the knit stitches in longer dresses and gowns. Nellie Partow aimed to imbue sexiness into Knits by creating open spaces in her sweaters and dresses.
Both Sallie La Pointe and Rosie Assoulin created floor length skirts with knit tops create what are essentially gowns. La Pointe’s is a more traditional use of the cable knit sweater. Her simple sleeveless turtleneck in contrast to Assoulin’s one-shoulder cable knit.
Knitting and gowns are an unlikely pair, but perhaps with some refinement we could start to see more of these on the red carpet.
First mass produced in the 1940s, Lurex’s big break was being used in Julie Newmar’s original catwoman costume in 1960. The stretchy, sparkly, 80s favorite Lurex is undergoing a somewhat unlikely resurgence in popularity.
Lurex is made using metallic fibers woven into other natural or synthetic fibers. Modern Lurex is produced with a thin plastic coating on the metal fibers themselves, making it more comfortable to wear.
I never thought I’d see the day when weed became cool outside of counter-culture, but with the recent legal advancements, I really should not be surprised. A few months ago, Vogue published this article on “ganja gifting”, and this season images of the leaf made multiple appearances.
Unfortunately, the way most designers used them this season felt almost immature. Pot leaf earrings are something I might have worn when I was sixteen. I am certainly not going to wear them to work.
I would love to see someone make use of the leaf in a larger print where the leaves overlap and make the observer go “is that . . . what I think it is?” Still, it’s a fun trend, and hopefully my wish will come true come Spring 2017 collections. Plant leaves have been used in prints for decades, perhaps most famously in the Beverly Hill Hotel banana leaf wall paper. And the cannabis plant has gorgeous five pronged leaves that could make for great prints.
Patches have been seen as fashionable (and not just functional) since the 1960s, when hippies would use patterned fabrics to add flare to their hemline and hand embroidered their clothes. Patch collecting is extremely popular in the concert-frequenting world of heavy metal where it’s not uncommon to have one jean jacket to add show patches to.
Alice + Olivia took a more 80s approach, with embroidered flares and skirts. Coach showed customizable letterman jackets. In a time when it feels like everyone is wearing and sharing pictures of the same things, a patch covered jacket offers a great avenue of personalization.
A 70s favorite that goes back far later to Victorian and Elizabethan fashion, ruffles hit their peak in size in the 15th and 16th centuries. Ruffled collars of this time reached such massive size that they were entirely separate garments from shirts and coats.
Ruffles are created by lightly pleating a long, thin piece of fabric or ribbon to create soft waves. This fall, Ralph Lauren chose to push ruffles towards a constructed modern view, using more sharply creased pleats to give a zig-zag affect instead of a wave. Typical soft wave ruffles also made an appearance, but the triangular sharp ruffles were used in collars, hems, and other details.
Ralph Lauren’s use of white pleats at the collar calls up the enormous mid- millennia ruffs, while the black ruffle cuffs and collars were more Victorian, almost reminiscent of mourning wear.
Not to be limited by ruffles, more old world details made 70s favorites like flared cuffs and puffy sleeves were on runways from Cinq à Sept to Tommy Hilfiger.
A challenge for anyone creating historically influenced fashion has to carefully tread the line between reference and costume. Too many ruffles and the look doesn’t read as a modern take, but as an out of place remake. Only Ralph Lauren could take something from Shakespeare’s time and make it fit in a modern and distinctly American sensibility.
I thought I’d finish this off with some favorite pieces and looks, a little about why I like them. You can see my interests tend towards the black-heavy collections, especially those that feature menswear.
Favorite for Presentation
Rather than using models and creating a traditional lookbook, Lisa Perry took polaroids of high-powered working women in her clothes. Her choice of presentation not only shows how the clothes will wear on the average woman, it also spotlights the women’s accomplishments. Included in the collection were Cecile Richards (President of Planned Parenthood), Dr. Orli Etingin (Directory of the Women’s Health Center at Weill Cornell), and Kimberly Drew (Online Community Manager for the Met).
Favorites for Aesthetic
Obviously one of the most talked about collections from New York Fashion Week this season was Marc Jacob’s dramatic collection. As many have noted, in a sea of collections that start to feel similar and unsurprising, Marc Jacob’s collection stood out for all this season as exciting and risky.
The bold statements in his collection are not for everyone, but in a sea of oversize neutrals it was incredibly refreshing to see such a risk taking collection. And while his model line up included two A-listers (Lady Gaga and Kendall Jenner), they were nearly unrecognizable and their celebrity did not outshine the clothes.
Much of the alternative feel came from 90s goth tropes like enormous soled high heeled boots that buckle up to the knee, black lipstick, heavy graphic black eye makeup, wide-leg “elephant” pants, and modified printed tee shirts and sweatshirts.
Goth fashion is typically defined by a clash of punky black leather and silver metal with dramatic Victorian mourning costumes. In his take, Marc Jacobs also included iridescent feathers, white beaded ballerinas, and lace detail. Some of the oversized sweatshirts had Greek letters like a fraternity shirt. The contrast makes for a great, unexpected effect.
The heavy masculine feel of the goth elements were further in contrast with the feminine 1920s finger waves, done in tight, slick curls.
There are plenty of individual pieces in this collection that could be worn without risking an unintentional Edward Scissorhands cosplay. But with a few paired together and enough black eyeliner you could look like the expensive Korn fan of your 90s dreams.
Even the bags are constructed with wide leather straps covered in grommets. So if you need your very own wearable piece of Marc Jacobs’ goth aesthetic, it’s available.
Overall the collection felt like a study of contrast. Not in terms of opposing colors, but masculine and feminine, old and new, pop culture and counter culture. It was an exciting and thought-provoking surprise.
ADEAM showed a wonderful collection based on precisely cut neutral fabrics and inspired by Japanese Samurai uniforms. The loose patchwork in the image furthest to the left is based on boro patchwork, where lower class workers would repurpose pieces from discarded kimonos. The woven top in the image second from the left is in a style of braiding used to make part of Samurai armor, and is known as kumihimo braiding. The collection was elegant and cohesive.
Staying on the theme of Japonisme in fashion this season, another favorite piece is from Public School. This and other pieces from the PS collection felt more Star Wars that pure Japonisme (for those that don’t know, the Jedi were loosely based on Samurais, and their costumes have a lot of Japanese influence).
Ryan Roche showed a deep red look that layered fishnets over a longer dress. I am really into monochrome looks that create interesting in contrast in texture, and as I mentioned in my last post on Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Kiev, on of my new favorite takes on this is layering fishnet over other pieces. Roche’s take is based in scarves and capes rather than tights, but I am still a fan of the texture of the layers.
My middle school self would have loved these witchy, dark looks from Wendy Nichol. And my present day self is a fan too. From a trend perspective, it makes sense. Teen witches were big in the 90s, from Sabrina to Charmed to Buffy, everyone could find an wiccan teen idol.
Much of Nichol’s witchy collection is based on the 90s gothic concept of witches — black lipstick and thick black boots, stuffed Victorian shoulders and floor length skirts, capes and chokers.
The witch-inspired gothic look is not new, and Nichol’s take on it while attractive, is also not particularly new. Some elements like the gauzy floor-length capes and wide-leg pants tucked into tall boots, which gives an almost culotte effect, offered hints at modernism.
While most of the pieces would be possible to style for every day (I’m thinking primarily of the excellent boots), I find I enjoy this collection for the commitment to a strict look.
Favorites for Wearability
Risk-taking aside, my favorite collections for wearability included Calvin Klein, Elie Tahari, McQ, Polo, Ralph Lauren, and Alice + Olivia. It’s obvious my style tends towards all blacks and neutrals, menswear, “edgy” details like chokers and o-orings, American sportswear and European heritage fashion.
Next up: posts on London, Milan, and Paris Fashion Weeks, and once I wrap up my thoughts on fashion month, I’ll post some larger trend posts like the one on Star Wars I mentioned. I am considering in the future breaking these fashion week posts into a series of smaller posts for each week, since they get long quickly because of all the images.