No Telfar, no Tom Ford, no Tommy Hilfiger (still) – and no Ralph Lauren, Pyer Moss, Jeremy Scott either. The New York Fashion Week calendar was eerily quiet for Fall/Winter 2020. However, some of those vacancies came with caveats. Tom Ford showed in Los Angeles because of the Oscars (and his star-studded guest list proved the wit of that decision), Kerby Jean-Raymond has reduced his output to one giant show a year, Jeremy Scott is showing in Paris, and Tommy Hilfiger is still globetrotting. What looks like negative space on the calendar is a trick of the eye.
While NYFW’s biggest names have been filtering out – and sometimes coming back as in the case of prodigal children Proenza Schouler and Rodarte – the gaps have actually made way for an emerging class of American designers who are carving their own path outside of the shadow of the giants who have come before. While some might lament the absence of the Tommys and the Toms, we’re actually excited by the prospect. If fashion is supposed to be concerned with the “new”, why not make room for some newcomers?
In five days, NYFW hosted 70 shows and, while some of them were reruns, there were a few that stood out from the crowd. One of them was Christopher John Rogers, whose collection was so effusive and glamorous that it became the collection of NYFW. With only three collections under his belt, Rogers won the coveted CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund prize in 2019. At the time, he was working out of his home studio.
Today, he has a proper studio in Soho, a small team, and enough capital to invest in a marvelous array of materials. The sumptuous sheen of his fabrics, the enormous palette of colors, and the enveloping silhouettes that saw a cast of black models doing the one thing they’re never allowed to – take up space – made this a collection of awe-inspiring moments.
Much like the sordid nightstalkers themselves, humanity’s fascination with vampires will never die. From Netflix’s new series Dracula and HBO’s cult classic True Blood to the Francis Ford Coppola film that inspired the new Rodarte collection for Fall/Winter 2020, vampires have proven to be great fashion fodder.
Our immortal counterparts exuded glamour on the Rodarte runway, somewhere between Edwardian-era temptresses and Southern belles. Giant leg-of-mutton sleeves and baroque fabrics brought bygone inspiration into the 2020s, while airy summer dresses pricked with embroidery and tulle were their opposite. Beautiful, threatening, and elegant, this gothic romance was anything but bloodless.
From Woody Allen films to Sex and the City – and thousands of points in between – New York City has been personified as a supporting character. Writer Joan Didion once touched on the passion with characteristic intimacy saying, “Quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean ‘love’ in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again.”
After two seasons where we felt our beloved Prabal Gurung had struggled in some ways with print and fit, it was his love of New York City that brought him back to fine form. With a collection of gorgeous silk suits and glamorous dresses touched with feathers and crystals, Prabal Gurung’s Fall/Winter 2020 was an absolute feast for the eyes.
Glamour was also top of mind for Brandon Maxwell who, thanks to celebrity patronage, has become one of the red carpet’s strongest designers as of late. For Fall/Winter 2020, his daywear selection really shined, especially if one needs convincing that glamour can be a daily “do”. The metallic lamé trousers, suede shirt dresses, Canadian tuxedos in solid indigo, and sumptuous outerwear were enough to give Michael Kors a run for his money.
When you picture a woman in power, is she wearing a suit? Most likely. However, with a new take on power dressing, Tory Burch challenged the conventional idea that women in power must adopt male sartorial codes in order to fit in. For fall, her clothes were upholstered in vibrant floral prints created by feminist artist Francesca DiMattio, but were assertive enough to work in the boardroom. There were Edwardian riding jackets with articulated shoulders, nubby knits with sheer sleeves, floral dresses edged along the bias in noir appliqués. Burch’s take on feminine power, combined with DiMattio’s desirable prints, made for one of the brand’s most accomplished collections to date.
At this point, we might sound like a broken record, but after two years at Carolina Herrera, we’re still over the moon for Wes Gordon’s sublime designs. His sense of elegance, refined silhouettes, drama, and fun have made the Carolina Herrera show one that we always look forward to. For Fall/Winter 2020, he embraced vivid colors, asymmetrical ruffles, floor-sweeping lengths, and amplified volumes. What might seem like lighthearted garb fit for galas and red carpets was actually the stuff of serious design acumen.
The classic Caroline Herrera white shirt, for instance, was reimagined with a corset bodice and sash of cobalt blue, a hot-pink minidress with crimson roses was ballooned to ultra-wide volumes and outfitted with even bigger sleeves, while one of the closing looks was a tangerine-printed triple-tiered frock frosted with blue. Like a sugar rush after a fast, these charming looks will have us breaking our ascetic commitment to minimalist fashion come fall.
The wanderlust of Oscar de la Renta’s co-creative directors Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia have led them to exotic origin stories and travel-inspired wardrobes since taking over, but it has also been the quality that has unmoored the brand from its previous tenancy as America’s house of glamour. Their work has been youthful, with lots of arts and crafts elements, turning the label into a treasure-seekers’ paradise.
However, with Truman Capote’s legendary Black and White Ball as the inspiration behind Fall/Winter 2020, Kim and Garcia returned the house to to its former glory through tulle ballgowns, feathered columns, sequined pantsuits, and one seriously spectacular “fireworks gown” worn by Bella Hadid. Meanwhile, draped tinsel fringe and velvet kept things young and exciting, exemplified by a silver version worn by Scarlett Johansson to the Oscars just the night before.
And finally, as always, there’s Marc Jacobs. As the final slot on the NYFW calendar, his show is always highly anticipated and, this season, his presentation was calibrated to go viral. With guests seated at small café tables at Park Avenue Armory, a large-scale performance unfolded. Choreographed by “punk ballerina” Karole Armitage, dancers bent, gestured, and writhed as models streamed past in looks from the FW20 collection. It was absurd and beautiful, a crazy juxtaposition of serenity and anxiety that captured the unpredictable feeling of New York City itself. The clothes featured many pristine surfaces, with smooth monochrome sets, elegant outerwear, and twee babydoll dresses forming the baseline of the first looks.
Embellishment and prints crept in, taking the form of plaid co-ords and sequined dresses, while some of the lovelier eveningwear was comprised of rows of conjoined rosettes. Being so maximal in past collections, this one practically felt minimal – at least as minimal as Marc Jacobs can allow himself to be. In scrutinizing how today’s women would apply these looks to their wardrobes, it was surprising to find just how wearable most of it was, how much it made sense for dozens of different moments, needs, and outings. Wrapped up in a fantastic presentation, this felt like fashion that was more substance than mere style.