Hits and Misses: A (Complete) Recap of New York Fashion Week

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After much hand-wringing, New York Fashion Week is finally returning to form. With the CFDA’s support of new brands and young designers with bold outlooks – Pyer Moss, Telfar, and Eckhaus Latta included – as well as the restoration of Proenza Schouler and Rodarte to their rightful place on the calendar, the biannual event is starting to firm up its new identity. It has had time to reassess its priorities and by embracing inclusivity, identity politics, and an attempt to weave the two into commercially viable rallying cries, NYFW has finally found its footing after two years of floundering.

So what launched this brave new season? First up was Tom Ford – also returning to form – blending codes from his days at Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci to create a noir, utterly seductive collection that offered some of his best designs in recent memory. After last season’s gauche-fest, it was wonderful to see him at full power. The first look exemplified the heavy-lidded mood of the show, walking out in a glossy, black-crocodile pencil skirt that was trimmed in lace and echoed the first look of the show. Leather and lace – two things that Tom Ford does so well.

Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

Next, Noon by Noor struck the right chord by being the first brand to show a look that would come to dominate the NYFW shows. It was oversized, slouchy, and luxuriously comfortable – oh, and it was everywhere. Roomy separates and suits in an ample supply of casual fabrics like linen and cotton toile made this collection feel like the perfect one to pack for a warm-weather vacation.

As if to prove our point, Tory Burch followed suit with oversized shirtdresses, tent-like kaftans, and safari-inspired separates – all suitable for a little soul-searching in tropical climes, perhaps at a posh ashram in India?

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The big draw on Day 2 – perhaps of the whole week, in fact – was the star-studded Ralph Lauren presentation celebrating the brand’s 50th anniversary. Not only did it have the best FROW of any show in New York, boasting the likes of Oprah and Hillary Clinton, but it also offered an emotional retrospective on Ralph Lauren’s many contributions to the American sportswear lexicon. From rugged rugby sweaters and cozy blanket-coats to handsome suiting and velvet gowns, the comprehensive 111-look runway collection had something for everyone – even babies.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

The next big to-do came by way of Rodarte’s homecoming show. After a stint in Paris, the Mulleavy sisters were back in New York with their unique mix of arthouse references, lavish romanticism, and a deeply desirable design aesthetic. Normally, the duo plant their collections in soil enriched by esoteric influences, but this time, it seemed to exist without any specific grounding.  

Instead, there were hugely frilled leather and lace dresses that mixed 80s maximalism with Victorian-era excess, tiered gowns imbued with flamenco flare, dreamy chiffon milkmaid dresses finished with frothy bows, and floral gowns that exploded with huge bursts of tulle fabric.

Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

On the opposite end of the design spectrum was Prabal Gurung. The Nepalese designer’s country of origin is a constant source of inspiration for his work, but no time has it been more literally present in his collection than for Spring/Summer 2019.

A naif palette of bold primary hues evoked the dress of Nepal’s Tharu people, but Gurung (who never uses such a significant amount of color in his work) struggled to find a proper balance when it came to telling his story through the use of saturated tones. At the very least, it made his athleisure outfits look childish, but he got a better handle of the situation by employing color through embroidery – rather than fabric-blocking – for his evening line-up.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

With Wes Gordon newly installed at the helm, Carolina Herrera headed in a fresh new direction, straight into the heart of happiness. Gordon’s aim was to make his fans happy, and he did indeed with nostalgic, candy-colored skirts, crocheted summertime separates, drawstring crop tops, delicate lace blouses, sweet polka dotted pieces, vivid mixed-floral frocks, and more.

The daywear selection felt very Instagram-ready, but eveningwear still showcased the brand’s signature sophistication. There were colorful, color-blocked lace gowns and voluminous dresses in Duchesse satin sent out at the end of the show, which we’re already picturing sweeping down the red carpet on radiant, fun-loving stars like Brie Larson or Emma Stone.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

After enduring miserable weather, the weary guests perked up at the 3.1 Phillip Lim collection, which opened with a rainproof silver bucket hat paired with a sumptuous cream coat and loose trousers. Lim’s knack for delivering what the fashion crowd wants before they know they want it was particularly evident for Spring/Summer 2019.

His collection proffered the perfect intersection of high-minded design and commercial desirability. Rustic, bohemian Berber textiles and mod 60s shapes made for an enticing pair on the runway, offering plenty of layering potential for the woman who can’t decide whether she wants to look futuristic or retro.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

While everyone rejoiced at the news that Proenza Schouler was returning to the New York Fashion Week schedule after two years of honing its craft in Paris, the results of its time away were lackluster. Instead of taking everything they learned about the haute couture realm to produce a fresh, cool collection reflective of their new skills, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez decided to dedicate their entire Spring/Summer 2019 collection to denim.

Unfortunately, this is such well-marked territory that the designs fell flat and felt derivative of the works of brands like Celine, Vetements, and Maison Martin Margiela. Acid-wash denim (done in heavy, tent-like tiers and starchy-stiff outerwear) felt distinctly out of step with both the brand’s cool-sporty DNA and the current fashion climate. Perhaps they need another season to acclimate.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

Speaking of acclimation, the young design duo behind Oscar de la Renta seemed to finally feel at home in their roles. The casting, the front row, the clothes – all were youthful, directional, and completely unlike the Oscar de la Renta designs of the past. The frou-frou and frippery were replaced by tribal inflections, bohemian craftsmanship, and raw materials. They were clothes that belong in the closet of the worldly and well-traveled.

But Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia did not forget their longstanding clientele base, providing feathery gowns, checkerboard cocktail dresses, and mini ballgowns with massive bow accents. The show also solidified the fact that fringe – which popped up in multiple collections throughout NYFW – is shaping up to be one of Spring/Summer 2019’s biggest trends.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

Under Stuart Vevers’ direction, Coach 1941 has become the American version of Gucci, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As with Alessandra Michele’s Gucci, there is plenty of hodge-podge to go around, and the eclectic mix at Coach 1941’s SS19 collection came from the American southwest – Santa Fe, New Mexico to exact.

There were thrift-store cartoon sweaters, iridescent prairie dresses, long leather jackets, fringed leather vests, and pirate ruffles that would have made Jerry Seinfeld run screaming. Of course, leather is the main draw here, as it always is for a Coach collection. When paired with fussy nightgowns and lace negligees, the distressed, patchworked, and varsity leather styles were a winning combination.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

For the past few seasons, Alexander Wang has come across as more of a stylist than a designer; the innovative aspect of his past work was practically erased from the Wangscape. But this season, like others at NYFW, Wang underwent a homecoming. However, his was more spiritual than literal. After reuniting his parents and talking to them about the trials and tribulations of immigrating to America – a hot-button issue in light of Donald Trump’s xenophobia – he awakened to a new narrative.

Wang’s collection was edgy and boundary-pushing. Take his twee angora crop tops paired with leather bikini tops and micro leather shorts as an example. The collection exuded tough-girl appeal, with nearly every skin-baring look finished by bandanas, face-obscuring paint, and lace and metal face masks. While his return to form offered a frisson of thrill, one can’t help but notice how decidedly undemocratic his designs are for anyone other than women built like supermodels. Two steps forward, one step back.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

While horror themes have been ubiquitous at Calvin Klein since Raf Simons took the reigns, they were less metaphorical this time around. With Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic Jaws as the centerpiece of the collection, it became a game of “count the sharks”. The Jaws poster was printed onto tees, ‘bites’ were taken out of the bottom of skirts to give them an undulating hem, and some looks appeared to be splashed with blood.

This toothsome parade soon gave way to another one of Simons’ film favorites, The Graduate. The movie that launched Dustin Hoffman’s career – which centered on a convoluted love triangle with an older woman and her daughter – became the bedrock for the designer’s collegiate pleated skirts, boxy jackets, and crumpled frocks. Yet, the collection never seemed to find a clear focus, and it was hard to tell who the clothes were ultimately being created for. Maybe it would have coalesced if he had chosen one film or the other as his reference point, but both created a rather chaotic array of looks.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Michael Kors, whose collections are so laser-focused that there is no mistaking who he is designing for. For Spring/Summer 2019, the designer was in a traveling mood. Michael Kors was bound for the tropics, and it was radiantly clear from the first look that this was a vacation-ready collection. Vividly colored tropical prints, woven Rasta-inspired pieces, gingham sundresses, and fringed miniskirts were all ready to be thrown into a suitcase and worn at a sunny locale like St. Tropez.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

A nasty rumor circulated on the final day of NYFW that Marc Jacobs was aiming to disrupt Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty presentation by purposefully delaying his show nearly two hours. Restless guests complained of the long wait, but they were soon silenced once his spectacular show began. The collection, although hard to imagine as truly belonging to the ready-to-wear category, was a buffet of beautiful clothes.

Massive ruffles, heaps of feathers, and yards of glittering fabrics were transformed into enormously proportioned gowns, outerwear, and even suits. It was campy and over-the-top, completely unwearable for anything other than the fanciest occasions – and absolutely fabulous. Let’s just hope those rumors were part of the gossip mill, and not rooted in truth, because Jacobs clearly doesn’t need the fashion establishment to play favorites.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree
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