It all started with Tom Ford’s return to NYFW, a millennial pink-saturated event that attracted A-listers and longtime patrons like Kim Kardashian and Julianne Moore to the front row like moths to a flame. His runway was awash in 1980s nostalgia – namely bralettes teamed with pointy-shouldered blazers and cigarette trousers – but he kept things tethered to the present with regal gown formulations that were glam but familiar. This time around, Ford refused to leave his comfort zone.
Ford’s larger-than-life occupation of day one meant a packed schedule for day two, which culminated in a much-anticipated Calvin Klein show. In “part two” of an Americana-laced trilogy, which started with Raf Simons’ first collection for the brand last season, the runway was tinged with elements from horror films, car wrecks, and Warholian ‘Death and Disaster’ imagery done in mid-century silhouettes and paired with colorful cowboy boots.
Simons’ intent was to take the stuff of American dreams and turn them into nightmares. Although gruesome, this aesthetic was startlingly effective, especially considering the models resembled bloodied horror heroines and crash victims. I do wonder, however, how commercially successful a collection based on such macabre details will be.
The big draw for day three was the Jeremy Scott show, which is always a star-studded, over-the-top affair. However, it was quieter moments from Monse and Jason Wu that stole the spotlight. Monse has quickly become an “It” girl favorite, dressing everyone from Amal Clooney and Kate Bosworth to Nicki Minaj. The brand’s Spring/Summer 2018 collection felt particularly self-assured as it teamed its signature reworked menswear with an array of sporty, slashed-fringe separates that moved gracefully down the basketball-themed catwalk.
Meanwhile, Wu wowed with a romantic collection that embodied many of spring’s emerging trends: stripes, twisted and knotted details, and gorgeous ruched-and-draped frocks. Utilitarian jumpsuits, millennial-pink separates, and painterly floral prints also captivated the audience in attendance.
While all of this was going on, suspense was mounting inside a warehouse in Brooklyn, where Queen of Cool Rihanna was poised to unleash her new Fenty Beauty line on adoring editors, fans, and family – including her three-year-old niece Majesty. When she arrived, sailing into the venue in a canary-yellow ensemble like a cargo ship filled with warm sunshine, she dropped the news: there were 40 shades of foundation in her new collection, enough to accommodate women of virtually every skin color.
She dazzled the reporters with her explanations of inclusivity, and then proceeded to apply the makeup on models herself with the expert hand of an industry veteran. At this point, we hadn’t even been given the chance to allow her stupendous Fenty x Puma collection to rev its way into our hearts – that happened on Sunday night. It didn’t matter. She had already won NYFW.
However, RiRi’s tenure at the top would prove to be short-lived as two other celebrities laid claim to viral buzz on day four. First, there was the gorgeous collection by Christian Siriano – his best ever, in fact – replete with a delighted Leslie Jones on the front row. Jones, a popular comedian and actor on SNL, has spoken openly about her struggles to find designers to dress her tall, curvy frame.
Yet, there she was, bursting with laughter and astonishment as each look walked past, declaring that Siriano’s inclusive fashion genius was fit for women of every shape and size. Instantly, Jones’ enthusiasm was transformed into memes that whipped through Twitter and Instagram at breakneck speed. The takeaway? It was totally refreshing to see someone actually enjoy fashion and not take it too seriously.
Meanwhile, Alexander Wang trucked everyone out to Bushwick in party buses, capitalizing once again on the comedic potential of his name by branding his Spring/Summer 2018 collection with a “Wangover” slogan and tying it all together with the #WangFest hashtag.
While Wang hasn’t really done a “fashion” collection since he left Balenciaga, he proved that he is still adept at retreading the deconstructed loungewear and streetwear that keeps the cool kids flocking to his label. He showcased a nontraditional outdoor show to insiders, and another more traditional version to editors.
While day four certainly offered some unexpected departures from the NYFW norm, it was back to business on day five, during which Victoria Beckham, Prabal Gurung, and Fenty x Puma were the highlights. Beckham’s show carried the thread of previous collections through to Spring/Summer 2018. Oversized, comfortable silhouettes were explored once again, this time in an enticing palette of pastels and candy colors punctuated by bright pops of siren red. Beckham also set about feminizing menswear by teaming longline plaid shirts with sheer skirts layered over the top.
Meanwhile, Gurung enjoyed the distinct honor of welcoming feminist icon Gloria Steinem to her first fashion show ever. The designer continues to entice women with his feminist messaging, which felt especially necessary given the current political climate in America. With a colorful collection filled with party frocks that accentuated curves, gorgeous floral-print gowns, high-waisted trousers finished with whipstitching, and bustier-topped sleeveless blouses, Gurung made femininity feel inviting and inclusive.
For many editors, the night culminated in a tremendous display at Fenty x Puma, where the collection’s sporty, motocross theme was actualized when real bikes – performing astonishing tricks over piles of glittering pink sand – closed the show. At the finale, out came Rihanna, screeching across the asphalt on the back of a motorcycle, blowing kisses to the adoring crowd and filling out every inch of her khaki-green ensemble from Fenty x Puma’s SS18 collection. What did we ever do to deserve her?
Day six contained many stunning collections, of which Carolina Herrera’s dream world of floaty tulle bears mentioning. Oscar de la Renta also had a stunning presentation that put the brand in new territory. Although this was only their second collection at the helm, Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim decided to rework the Oscar de la Renta insignia after the original designer’s signature, juxtaposing it against extravagant tulle gowns – a bold move, indeed. The effect was cool and youthful, but may result in lost patronage when it comes to the over-60 crowd, which unfortunately makes up a majority of the brand’s bread-and-butter buyers.
However, everyone at NYFW was really rushing through the day in order to reach the Helmut Lang show on time. The brand has struggled to create a lasting identity since its eponymous designer left a decade ago, but has finally landed on a winning formula. By naming 26-year-old fashion editor Isabella Burley to Creative Director, Lang has positioned itself as a brand for the cool kids once more. Burley has been exceptionally smart with how she has handled the position, especially since she’s not a designer. Instead, she has issued re-releases of Lang’s most coveted archival work and tapped Shayne Oliver of cult streetwear label Hood by Air to act as the designer.
As his first collection at the helm of Helmut Lang, Oliver’s show was the must-see event of NYFW. The young designer is open about his worship of Lang, and so the pairing felt natural. Oliver, however, focused his attention quite narrowly on the more fetishistic side of the Lang archives. Like the Helmut Lang Spring/Summer 2001 collection entitled “When Love Comes to Town”, Oliver toyed with notions of decency by stripping sections of bodices away or topping suit jackets with bras. While some of his looks were not practical for the everyday fashion girl, they carry a lot of interest for the fringe crowd. The issue with this show was one of fit, with some of the cuts seeming to be off. After all, when your predecessor was a master of tailoring, fit should be impeccable.
Day six held two sizable shows of interest: Coach 1941 and Ralph Lauren. Ever since Coach was reinvented by Stuart Vevers, its output has swiftly elevated in ranks to become one of the most anticipated releases from the New York set. For Spring/Summer 2018, Coach taps a familiar grunge vein, repurposing and reworking the kind of threads a 90s kid might have grabbed fistfuls of at the thrift store.
Instead of natty cardigans, shabby slipdresses, and studly leather jackets that long ago lost their James Dean swagger, Coach delivered shimmery silk slipdresses with embroidered details, jewel-tone varsity and moto jackets in leather, and patchworked denim.
Ralph Lauren’s collection, however, felt out of step with the current political landscape in America, especially the devastation brought about by climate change. The mining and processing of fossil fuels continues to harm the environment and the U.S. government is hellbent on deregulation, but a new clean-energy industry is rising up to replace traditional modes of transportation and give hope for a better future.
While Ralph Lauren’s two greatest loves are automobiles and fashion, the combination of the two resulted in aloof herringbone tweed looks that one might wear for a casual countryside drive in a $40 million 1938 Bugatti ‘Type 57SC Atlantic’ – an actual car from Lauren’s personal collection. The glorification of vehicles only highlighted the divide between the rich and the poor.
The privileged will undoubtedly find exceptional pieces in the Spring/Summer 2018 presentation, while the rest of the world – those struggling to get to work by bus, rail, or rickshaw – will be left to wonder exactly where one would possibly wear them. However, the sultry red dress that closed the show? It had timeless appeal, regardless of one’s economic background.
On the final day of NYFW, Michael Kors caught the travel bug. In his Spring/Summer 2018 collection, a sea of pastel, tropical prints came out in the form of floaty sarongs, one-piece bathing suits, and casual separates. This vacation-ready collection was made for mass appeal, and vacant of a strong sartorial position of any kind. Furthermore, the flip-flops paired with even the glamorous looks were hard to swallow, and took the vacation theme far too literally. In contrast, the model casting was strong, as was the styling.
Finally, Marc Jacobs – in what is rumored to be his final show at NYFW – capped the week with an homage to his own archives. If this was a swansong, he certainly hit the right notes. Jacobs’ longstanding obsession with party girls manifested in every stripe – from Studio 54 babes to 90s rave girls. However, he reworked these past hits like schlubby cardigans and parachute jumpsuits with surprisingly ladylike touches, like silky turbans and feathery footwear. Upper East Side houndstooth capelets were transformed into Williamsburg-appropriate looks with the pairing of Birkenstock-like sandals that were decorated with 3D floral appliqués.
It was all a touch eccentric, but still classically Jacobs. His prints and embellishments were especially gorgeous this time around, creating the kind of wardrobe details any woman would want to borrow for a glam night out. With the doors shuttered on five of his six Bleecker Street boutiques, the designer may be on his way to greener pastures – perhaps the Parisian variety – but this walk down memory lane serves as a reminder of just how intensely he invigorated the New York scene.