Raf Simons is gone. Tom Ford slid comfortably into position as the new king of luxe classics. Prodigal child Proenza Schouler has returned with a phenomenal new collection. Alexander Wang is designing – instead of just styling – again, albeit off-schedule. And true to its original position as the first and most risk-taking of the fashion weeks, a crop of thrilling newcomers like Telfar and Tomo Koizumi have come along and disrupted the playing field.
New York Fashion Week is starting to feel like its old self once more.
After the racy, roaring looks that Ford sent down the runway during the past two seasons, his Fall/Winter 2019 presentation felt more subdued, but also more thoughtful. With an eye on his archival work during his Gucci heyday, the designer reworked some of his most iconic pieces for the modern woman, boosted by luxe touches of rich velvet and gleaming silk, deeply attractive jewel tones, the occasional touch of youthful cool by way of hoodies worn with maximal furs (naturally). Although the tone was more mellow this season, he didn’t stray far from his glamorous ethos, presenting an array of delectable drapey gowns with chain accents that clutched the décolletage.
Bahraini fashion brand Noon by Noor also took a more relaxed approach to the season through a collection filled with languid silhouettes, gently pleated separates, and cool cape-backed camel coats – simple, but substantive. Meanwhile, Ralph Lauren aimed his presentation straight at the heart of “experiential” fashion, a term that we’ve been hearing everywhere and seems inextricably linked to the modern consumer’s desire for authenticity in their products. Ralph Lauren reached them with a coffee-shop concept, dutifully branded Ralph Lauren Coffee, and imagined his caffeine addicts as a particularly posh breed of uptown cool girls.
While onlookers brunched on a menu of frittatas and bagels, a sophisticated display unfolded. There were pea coats and military jackets, swishy palazzo trousers in ivory, youthful lamé trousers in gold, effortlessly chic daisy-print gowns, and glittering slipdresses to round out his concept – which actually looked reasonable for its ability to speak to women from several crosswalks of life.
On the same day, emerging “It” brands like Ulla Johnson and Khaite showed their collections to plenty of fanfare, especially in the case of Johnson’s crafty coats and Khaite’s fetching mutton-sleeved dresses. The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) has been nurturing young talent more intensely in recent years, ever since NYFW started hemorrhaging flagship brands. The renewed focus on the city’s best and brightest has reinvigorated the line-up and given us more than the big names to look forward to.
Brock Collection is another younger brand bent on charming audiences with really beautiful designs that demonstrate a keen knack for reworked classics. A parade of asymmetrical tweed dresses and elegantly ruched boudoir frocks were evidence of Brock Collection’s feminine savvy. And speaking of feminine, Kate Spade New York has made a roaring comeback since the passing of its founder, becoming one of the bright spots on the calendar – both literally and figuratively. The collection’s candy hues leaned on sturdy staples like denim and velvet suits, with a 1970s jetsetter vibe working its way throughout. Cuteness and kitsch have taken a backseat to more serious designs, but a flash of heart-topped crossbody bags reminded us of the brand’s fun-loving DNA.
For Jason Wu, “less is more” is a mantra that worked in his favor. Simple shifts, easy-to-wear separates, slim-cut suits, and the occasional punch of patternwork and ruffles made his Fall/Winter 2019 collection an affable offering for the workwear crowd.
Brandon Maxwell – who first made a name for himself by dressing Lady Gaga once she began transitioning into a serious red carpet star – has made such a powerful impression on the fashion industry that he needs no more famous associations. As one of those rare designers who designs for women in a way that is both concrete and deeply appreciated by the wearer of his clothes, his work could be compared to that of Alber Elbaz during the halcyon days of Lanvin. His tailoring is flattering – with nipped, tied waists and bold shoulders – and bears traces of classic Hollywood styles woven with contemporary elegance.
If it seems like just about everyone was returning to the fundamentals of style with collections oriented towards the classics, a newcomer arrived just in time to completely upend the status quo. It is very rare for an unknown name to steal the show, but that is exactly what Tomo Koizumi did with his vibrant, over-the-top collection of massive, floofy, ruffled dresses. Downright Instagrammable, the collection was practically destined to go viral with its lusty punches of color, maximal silhouettes, and parade of cool-girl models like Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski, and Taylor Hill. Now that’s how you do a debut.
Where Tory Burch’s work is always underscored by a haute bohemian backstory, her new collection felt straight-up sophisticated. Save for a few crocheted pieces and daisy-shaped buttons, bohemia was all but gone from the line-up. In its place were ruffle-necked shirts, crisp color-blocked coats, lace dresses spliced with silk insets, striped suiting, and checkered trenches. If we didn’t know better, we’d think this collection came straight out of London Fashion Week, what with all those British heritage references.
Prabal Gurung owns a certain look, a silky dress that has been dismantled and then reassembled along tiny rows of buttons. When some of the sections of the dress are left strategically unbuttoned along the hips and across the stomach, it looks really sensual. For Fall/Winter 2019, he took this style and amplified it with a mix of paisley and ikat prints, and sent the rest of his collection on a globe-trotting adventure. Bold neon color combinations, oversized outerwear, velvet brocade suits, and beautiful multicolored feathered frocks added up to a complicated tapestry of looks – some of them simply clashed or were confusing to view.
One got the sense that the collection lacked direction or identity. Where is his girl going? Where did she come from? Who is she? While relying on plenty of his greatest hits, Gurung fell prey to some misses along the way unfortunately.
Meanwhile, Wes Gordon wasted no time asserting his point of view at Carolina Herrera, which happens to fall right in line with sophisticated ethos. But he is more playful and more willing to experiment – and his risks are paying off. Instead of fairytale diaphanous gowns to close the show, he showed enormous, generously cut versions that scraped the floor right off the bat.
He played around with street elements, but made them worthy of the Herrera label by hybridizing them with classics. Take his parachute parka/dress hybrids with drawstring hemlines, adorable minidresses with billowing bishop’s sleeves, or that sublime candy-pink coat cut asymmetrically from neoprene, for example. It felt really fresh and fun, but imbued with serious design codes that prove this guy’s got chops.
For as long as they were on the NYFW schedule, Proenza Schouler was a highlight, holding the promise of fashion like you’ve never seen it before (or at least fashion in a very different light than what you might be used to). Daring innovations and experimentation fused with menswear and streetwear were Proenza Schouler’s bread and butter – and then they up and left for Paris. While in the fashion capital, they did due diligence, honing their technique and craft and making the most of the opportunities afforded by the bastion of skill available in the city.
When they returned to New York to show last season, it was to a lot of fanfare before disappointment ensued. A collection of acid-washed denim didn’t exactly inspire, even with veteran Amber Valletta making a surprise appearance. But for Fall/Winter 2019, Proenza Schouler is back with one of its best collections yet. Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez achieved something new because of the risks they took in designing against expectations. There were weird dresses with cut-out armpits that made the neckline look like a yoke. They fused trenches with leather biker vests, swapped straps with belt buckles, and left scarf attachments draped to the front of garments. It was great, interesting to look at, and – most of all – completely Proenza Schouler. What a relief.
If you ever thought Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia weren’t the right picks to take over at Oscar de la Renta, their Fall/Winter 2019 presentation will put your doubts to rest – permanently. Not only did they demonstrate that they’re the definitive spiritual successors to one of the world’s most legendary designers, but they also took the iconic brand into astonishingly beautiful territory. There wasn’t a bad look in the bunch. So sit back, relax, don’t overthink it, and allow some of NYFW’s most gorgeous designs to take your mind off your troubles.
It starts off simply enough with a Prince of Wales check, a cropped jacket, and an elegant wool jumpsuit – a splendidly sophisticated workwear proposition. There were lots of these, in fact, from handsome herringbone dresses elegantly spliced with tobacco trim to patchwork tweed coats and cozy knit frocks. Then, Kim and Garcia debuted a lustworthy line-up of gowns. There were velvet column gowns, ivory gowns with scarfs wrapped around the throat, a forest-green quilted ballgown (yes, you read that right), and even more gowns embossed with fuzzy textured blossoms. It was all so regal, yet erred on the simpler side, which is fantastic for those of us who want to look like a million bucks, sans fuss.
Where there have been a lot of vivid colors, Americana craft, and a return to the fundamentals of fashion flooding the New York catwalks, many collections were devoid of clear themes or related eras. Michael Kors, however, made his references extremely clear, and they hail from a decade that took place almost 50 years ago.
The designer’s revival of 1970s glamour and sass felt especially effusive this season, especially when he resurrected looks that instantly reminded us of Diana Ross (see the sequined purple halterneck gown) and Penny Lane from Almost Famous (that fur-coat-and-violet-sunglasses look). There were also collegiate looks in the mix, as well as an array of unmistakable references to Studio 54. You can (finally) say goodbye to 80s and 90s nostalgia – disco’s back, baby.
There is a difference between structural volumes and an excess of fabric. Unfortunately, to our eye, most of massive Marc Jacobs silhouettes fell to the latter. While his clothes were certainly charming in a Victorian sort of way, there was little reason we could see to pair huge printed dresses with even bigger coats and capes. Volume is “in” right now, but some judicious editing would have given us a better idea of what was under all of those heavy wool coats.
Regardless, Jacobs’ Fall/Winter 2019 presentation was punctuated with beautiful moments, especially when Adut Akech came gliding down the catwalk in a canary-yellow gown so potent it made your eyes water. His feathered gowns and capes were sensational, but a little less sensational when employed as sleeves or encircling the neck – as was the case with one particularly suffocated look worn by Lineisy Montero.
Everyone on social media went mad for the collection and, when you see it in real time, it’s easy to understand why. The model’s slow walking pace, the lighting that created stunning silhouettes, and the ambience of the show all added up to something that felt very emotional. But the clothes failed to distinguish themselves from what else is being shown in places like Paris and Milan. That Christy Turlington comeback, though? Wow. She hasn’t set foot on a runway since Couture Fall/Winter 1994, but her serene appearance made it seem like she’d never left.