The 20 best moments in fashion this season
Oct 4, 2019
The international catwalk season finished this week, bringing to a close a marathon of some 400 shows and major presentations in the industry’s four great capitals: London, Milan, New York and Paris.
It was a season marked by the key themes of sustainability, feminism, frontiers and inclusion – whether racial, sexual or physical. Here’s our take on the 20 key moments of the season, which each said something fashionable, political and polemical about today’s world.
Stripped back to the essential McQueen with high gothic tailoring, priestess chic and Celtic panache, this was the most powerful fashion statement of the month. Plus, right when everyone is bandying the word inclusion about, the house’s designer Sarah Burton acted on it. She led her entire backroom team of some 60 artisans out to take a bow, in the longest ovation of any catwalk show.
Surely the most impressive staging of all this season's shows. A vast cathedral-meets-Copa Cabana space in sapphire velvet; a giant savage, dystopian cast; a stellar "New Fashion Uniforms" collection of voluminous, oversized, yet sexy clothes combined with lush logomania, all from Demna Gvasalia.
The applause meter registered the highest note at Valentino, with Pierpaolo Piccioli’s collection of graceful grisaille – meaning working with multiple variations of gray, ecru and white. To older aficionados, it was a clear reference to founder Valentino Garavani’s legendary 1968 “White Collection,” from which Jackie Kennedy chose the dress to wed Aristotle Onassis. The younger audience just loved its romantic elan.
Miuccia Prada was yet another Italian creator showing in Paris, but the exact opposite in terms of attitude. Raw, instinctual, even visceral, a series of ladylike but punchy looks, where everything was artfully distorted by shards of ruffles, chiffon scraps and eccentric embroidery stitched on at odd angles. And, just judging from the bold way the cast marched, the model community’s favorite collection.
Rihanna in Brooklyn
Definitely the standout moment of the NYC season from Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty lingerie opus. A game changing, 40-minute, off-beat hip hop on Broadway extravaganza, financed by and debuting on Amazon Prime and staged in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. With Victoria's Secret so out of sync with our era – from its of objectification of women, to its use of disgraced Jeffrey Epstein as its financial consultant – there’s a huge opening in the global lingerie market. Rihanna, with this great steamy show, will eat a huge chunk of it. And talk about uber inclusive – every shape and size marched around slim catwalk stars like Gigi and Bella Hadid, including a young lady with prosthetic legs.
Fauvist fantasy meets Brazilian Tropicalismo – the 1960s art and music movement against the military dictatorship in Brazil. Couture-worthy cutting for blazers and cardigans, all finished with hand-painted South Sea Island flowers, rampant plant life and slurred floral abstraction. More a work of art than a collection of clothes, and the most surprising ideas seen on any runway.
Dries Van Noten
Provence met Antwerp in the rather unlikely marriage of Monsieur Uber Opulence, Christian Lacroix, and Belgium’s dark glory expert, Dries Van Noten. These delightfully over-the-top, but also minimally finished combinations were key highlights of the season – actually, make that the year.
The biggest Internet moment was without doubt J.Lo celebrating the 20th anniversary of Donatella Versace’s single most famous dress – the deep gorge, barely-there jungle-print silken goddess dress that Lopez wore to the Grammys. Staged underneath an exact mock-up of the roof of the ancient Pantheon in Rome, this was Versace tropical fantasy at its best. Grazie Donatella.
Simone referenced wrenboys, an ancient Celtic tradition of bringing in the new year by hunting wrens, since they are last birds to sing in winter. Wrenboys still appear at the end of each year in Dublin, dressed in straw and vintage gear, as wacky Dublin rocker druids. The result was quite possibly Rocha’s most beautiful show – asymmetrical dresses and trench coats made in Delft blue, endless ruffles and multiple strands of pearls. Think an elegy in Alexandra Palace.
Few designers in America have won as many fans among people of color as Tommy Hilfiger, who has dressed the hip hop movement for decades. And whose latest brand ambassador and collaborative partner is Zendaya, an African-American with German and Scottish ancestry. The pair took their Tommy x Zendaya collection to the temple of black American music, the Apollo Theater in Harlem, and the result was a great quirky retro take on 70s soul chic and blaxploitation movies. Staged with live music before a fine brownstone set with models in classic convertibles, this was the kind of all-encompassing Americana that one can only admire.
No designer has been more at the forefront of feminism than Maria Grazia Chiuri, whose latest magnum opus was themed around Catherine Dior, Christian’s baby sister. A Resistance fighter and a professional gardener, Catherine helped inspire a great collection of knit bodices and corsets embroidered in raffia and raw silk with delicate embroidery, and board-strip jackets in savage silk and raffia jacquard. Staged before a sylvan wood inside Longchamp racecourse, Dior was eco-committed too – all 164 trees were taken away immediately after the show to be planted in four Paris gardens.
Without question, the season’s best presentation. A mix of Spanish mythology, artisan flair and performance art staged below marvelous Spanish oil paintings by masters ranging from Velázquez to Goya inside the Spanish Embassy in Paris. Using artisans and artists working with rope, knots, ceramics, basketry, knits and embroidery to create a surrealist meditation on Spain: from phantasmagorical rust-red witch’s gowns to saintly rope shrine dresses. Cunning, cool, quirky and very Cano.
The third show by Virginie Viard for Chanel, since the parting of the late great Karl Lagerfeld, and the first where one really felt her truly taking control. Feminine and gamine, with a youthful Parisian spirit, all staged on a giant set of Paris rooftops. So upbeat, even a gatecrasher – French comedienne Marie s’infiltre – didn’t spoil the moment.
The only designer to win two entries on our Top 20 is Jonathan Anderson, whose blown-up take on Marie Antoinette goes to Swinging Sixties London was the most inventive show in the UK capital. Staged around works by Canadian artist Liz Magor – old dolls, rope, toys or reliquaries all contained in transparent boxes – this was “ephemeral fashion” at its best.
Some 10 days later, Ulster-born Anderson staged his most beguiling collection for Loewe. Velázquez goes to Ibiza: arty deconstructed crinolines for the 21st century and suggestive princess gowns for haute vacationing. Plus the season’s most influential selection of accessories. No bad going for your evening job.
The Queen’s award winner Richard Quinn is proving to have plenty of staying power. He staged the most fun bash on the global calendar. A 40-piece orchestra and 80-piece choir standing on the wrought iron balcony of an obscure Edwardian ballroom in funky Bethnal Green. Exotic debutante gowns for an infinite number of naughty soirées – most worn with black latex legging-boots.
This was a tad too much of an in-joke for our taste, but by Jove it was very clever, and often very gorgeous. From Kennedy Camelot glamour and 60s rock goddesses to Doris Day naivety and Carnaby Street cool. Covering My Fair Lady racecourse dresses, Saint Laurent power pantsuits, Janis Joplin velvet redingotes and Park Avenue hostesses’ golden gowns. Few designers have a broader range than Jacobs, and know and love fashion more.
The White Shirt Project
A homage by scores of artists, editors, influencers and pals to Karl Lagerfeld, The White Shirt Project only served to remind us all how much he will always be missed. A touching selection of ideas based around Karl’s own personal fetish garment – the crisp white shirt – presented in his brand’s headquarters in St Germain. Most of them alluring and witty and fresh – no wonder the whole thing has sold out so quickly.
Donald Trump has spent the past half-decade lambasting Mexicans and Central Americans and attempting to build an ugly wall against them. Rick, instead, embraced his Mexican mother’s culture, and the result was a fantastic show and collection of Montezuma mode staged outside the Palais de Tokyo. Aztec royal headgear worn over knit dresses, slashed and buckled, all dramatically geometric. Sleeveless coats were cut with power-mad shoulders, knit dresses appeared interlocking and overlapping. A Luis Barragán color palette in a collection named "Tecuatl" after his grandmother’s Mixtec name. In a word, a fashion epic.
A great poetic statement from the Japanese master, who took his bow with "No Future" written on his back. It was a comment on his concern for his grandkids' bleak future due to climate change. But his post-apocalyptic Elizas, draped in beautiful twisted and scrunched waif-worthy dresses, were a sight to behold. It was the latest master class in cool conceptualism with a lyrical finish from Yohji. Greta Thunberg, these are the clothes for you.
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