IS NEW YORK FASHION WEEK MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN?

NYFW in turmoil? Not if this lot have anything to say about it...
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IS NEW YORK FASHION WEEK MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN?

There was a lot of change afoot on the NYFW schedule for AW18: Rodarte and Proenza Schouler, Altuzarra, Tome and Thom Browne have all left the city for various slots in Paris already – whether for couture or RTW – while both Victoria Beckham and Alexander Wang quote this season as their last in the Big Apple. Fenty x Puma, one of the season’s hottest talking points, elected not to show too. For the still-present stalwarts (and newcomer Bottega Veneta which followed its NY-based Creative Director Thomas Maier to the city), the result was a visible rendering of these shifts in allegiance – with each collection offering a reflection on its place in the Land of the Free.

All that considered, it was a surprisingly apolitical season for the city that, in welcoming the slogan T-shirt with such abandon, typically uses the catwalk to wrestle with the societal shifts that have dominated both the United States and our social-media feeds of late. Moving on from such literal statement-making, what emerges here is a more tender exploration of what it means to be in America today: be it exploring innate fear, a search for safety, a sombre mood, a penchant for positivity, we see a city try to make sense of the tumult when the dust has settled but the future remains unclear.

CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC AW18

Belgian designer Raf Simons’ third collection for Calvin Klein 205W39NYC offers a continuation of his complete renovation of this all-American brand, as well as a continuation with his fascination with America. Riffing on the codes we saw last season – the swinging buckets and pom-poms from horror movie Carrie, Western-style shirts, Andy Warhol’s Factory, American Psycho-proof plastic coating and images from the brand’s SS18 campaign which were printed onto paper bags – and a combination of soft prairie dresses and a post-apocalyptic use of hazmat materials and foil blankets, Wile E. Coyotes and Road Runners knitted raggedly into sweaters, all of which explored the show notes’ idea of safety.

This repetition of motifs was an elaboration on his excitement at exploring his new home, but perhaps more integrally, a further commitment to his upending of seasonal obsolescence (when your purchases from last season are made redundant as soon as the new collection emerges), as we’ve seen Alessandro Michele pursuing at Gucci. With these big boys unpicking the system from within, and while production schedules split and splinter, a fashion revolution is already well underway.

Strains of American Gothic emerged from other designers too: Coach’s woman this season hailed from the prairie, this time via a local biker gang from whom she’d pilfered a fantastic array of black leathers and metal hardware. Stuart Vevers described them as “a gang, wearing all these mystical symbols that connect them.” Wang’s woman was gothic in the ’90s cult sense, storming straight out of The Matrix in her floor-length black coats and tiny sunglasses, at once exuding female strength and attitude – as well as sexiness – in today’s fourth-wave feminist world, while the overt nod to the film simultaneously tugged at our ideas of reality.

Marc Jacobs harnessed darkness with his overblown nods to ’80s design mavens Bill Blass, YSL and Claude Montana. His OTT homages – think power shoulders, wrap belts and Tina Turner hues – took this collection from merely referential to disturbingly cartoony, not least thanks to its sea of black, looming oversized hats and its film noir-ish silhouettes. A haunting soundtrack featuring the theme tune to horror classic Candyman further upped the shadiness.

Beside Raf’s obsession, Americana reigned supreme with rodeo touches at Coach and fashion collective Vaquera. 3.1 Phillip Lim presented a frontier-exploring female, nomadic in her swathes of patchwork and land-girl peasant dresses. As Lim explained backstage, snatches of fabrics formed “memories stitched together, time-worn and windfound” – a bid to appeal to diverse communities within the nation. “[It’s] my duty to reflect on what is happening in the world and give my opinion through the clothes I make,” he explained.

PRABAL GURUNG AW18

At Ralph Lauren, patriotism was laid out plain: a Stars and Stripes knit; sporty resortwear spun in red, white and blue. It was Americana too, but just part of a portrait of the women who buy his clothes and deck out their Hamptons homes in his rustic, nautical wares. Ladies who saunter down to the Caribbean come holiday season, ladies who lounge on yachts in navy and white. All perfect, clean-cut, archetypal visions of the American Dream.

Real American ladies stippled other designers’ dreams too: Oscar de la Renta celebrated the prom queen with utter panache in billowing taffeta; the Studio 54 girl spun at Bottega Veneta and Michael Kors, though at the latter so did many more: women from show business to Fifth Avenue shoppers, Courtney Love, plus “a little Holly and a little Blake and a little Zendaya… I can’t listen to the doom and gloom anymore,” Kors explained after the SATC theme tune soundtracked the show. There were Ladies Who Lunch (when they’re not riding their horses) at Derek Lam. Ladies who host at Carolina Herrera, who took her final bow at her eponymous brand before she hands over the reins to her No. 2, Wes Gordon. Strangely, in this brave new post-Weinsteinian world, a sense of nostalgia – for another America? Another woman? – seems to have hold over many of NYFW’s heavyweights.

Following Kors’ upbeat mood were Sies Marjan and Prabal Gurung, the latter being known for his portently political stands come showtime – his T-shirts exclaiming “I’m an Immigrant” after Trump’s election were widely regrammed. Gurung explained backstage that in Nepal, where he is from, “colour can be a show of strength, as well” – and what a celebratory show of strength it was in body-happy red dresses and flashes of fuschia. At Sies Marjan, Sander Lak’s palette was optimistic too, a place he eventually found after an intense six months “trying to figure out what life is about.”

On his fluid silhouettes and trademark luxurious textures, Lak continued: “There’s something about couture craftsmanship that is really relevant now.” He wasn’t wrong. The same could be seen in the louche, luxurious womenswear at both Victoria Beckham and The Row. At the former, a supremely comfortable woman emerged in felted wool hoodies and fluid silk dresses. At the latter, figures emerged in draped cashmere, billowing cotton and barefoot-like flats. Each brand was anchored to its own core tenets of luxurious, timeless pieces – finding comfort and tenderness in their own steadfast style.

In an often too-available, over-saturated contemporary world, it’s refreshing to see such a breadth of approaches, each wrangling its own way to understanding. In its nimble rewriting of its own codes, perhaps NYFW needn’t fear its ever-evolving schedule.

SECURITY IN LUXURY

SIES MARJAN AW18

VICTORIA BECKHAM AW18

VICTORIA BECKHAM AW18

AMERICANA

CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC AW18

RALPH LAUREN AW18

RALPH LAUREN AW18

POP POSITIVITY

SIES MARJAN AW18

SIES MARJAN AW18

PRABAL GURUNG AW18

LADIES WHO LUNCH

DEREK LAM AW18

TORY BURCH AW18

MICHAEL KORS COLLECTION AW18

AMERICAN GOTHIC

ALEXANDER WANG AW18

ALEXANDER WANG AW18

COACH AW18

Photos: Getty Images and supplied

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