During Fashion Month of February-March 2017, I composed in the region of 200 reviews. Here are some snippets, most of them are recaps of shows by designers that I have obsessively charted since the Style.com review days. After years spent pinning looks to various Pinterest boards and memorizing names of Creative Directors; it was an incredible experience to write my own opinions for the official app of NYFW.
You can read all of my reviews in their entirety on the HEED Fashion app.
It all started with a photo. Nicky Zimmermann sought inspiration from photographs dating back to the era post-World War I. More specifically, the woman depicted in these images. The resulting collection was named ‘The Maples’ in honor of the building which housed female students during this time. Zimmermann and her team were taken with these women, who played sports in oversized men’s clothes yet still seemed entirely in command of their destiny. That attitude was channeled into a powerful collection, comprised of strong yet feminine dresses, suits, coats and thigh high leather boots. Tiered floaty fabrics, florals and lace galore is de rigueur for this Australian brand. It was therefore refreshing to see some more simplistic winter staples like a striped double breasted blazer and a knit dress with cocoon sleeves over a turtleneck. For Zimmermann’s fans who don’t live in fair weather climates, there were also cozy shearling and aviator jackets in the lineup. That’s the haute bohemian’s winter woes taken care of.
Jonathan Saunders has the fashion world eating from the palm of his hand. Not only have his two previous collection received unanimously positive reviews from editors, but several styles showcased at his Spring Summer collection have sold out entirely. This offering seemed even more daring and adventurous, yet still paid homage to the house’s eponymous designer and her vision for women’s wardrobes. Saunders delivered a riot of prints, color combinations, interesting fabric pairings and novel styling ideas. A red and white disc dress had looked ready to take on any dress code when worn nonchalantly with an oversized wool coat, a silk scarf skirt with a lamé leotard and a sherbert hued chubby fur jackets with a mesh mini were other notable looks that seemed fresh and unique. Meanwhile the bags deserved a presentation all of their own: foldover clutches, satchels and crossbodies in various lengths, patterns and textures. These gave new lease of life to the overused term, ‘It Bag’.
Ulla Johnson (NYFW)
Ooh la Ulla. In just three years, Ulla Johnson has become a major player in the NYFW schedule and the go-to brand for grown up bohemians seeking a bit more polish (her brand was actually founded in 2000 but showing collections is a relatively new foray for the designer.) Fall Winter read like the chic nomad’s starter pack: shearling, dungarees, poncho and bell sleeve knits aplenty, with more than one prarie dress thrown in the mix for good measure. Johnson wasn’t resting on her laurels though. There is no doubt that velvet is set to be a major trend this season, but this designer shook it up a bit with the addition of a lettuce-edge collar and power shoulders on some looks. The same can be said for her treatment of leather: lace up culottes look destined to be a hit.
Jonathan Simkhai (NYFW)
Former CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winner Jonathan Simkhai knows what women want. This has allowed him to turn his brand into a major commercial success in just a few short seasons, and it made it all the more meaningful that he left a ‘Feminist AF’ t shirt on the seats of every member of the audience. Watching his beautiful, feminine designs and knowing that $5 for every person in attendance was being donated to Planned Parenthood resulted in a powerful impact. Back to the clothes: Simkhai was inspired by old-world Spain, hence the glamorous take on matadors and Spanish queens – the regal reference resulting in some admirable high collars and flounce sleeves. Grommets made several appearances, on crochet knit crop tops, chiffon peasant dresses and a zipped up coat dresses. Expanding on his new love affair with denim, Simkhai offered distressed jeans with exposed glittering threads, delicate rhinestones and embellished patches. Female empowerment never looked so good.
Mary Katrantzou (LFW)
Mary Katrantzou is putting the fantasy back into fashion. The Greek designer paid homage to Walt Disney’s Fantasia, the surreal cartoon from the 1940s, and other film noir from the era. The 40s references were evident in the rounded shoulders on leg of mutton sleeves, houndstooth pencil skirts, fur stoles and Crombie coats. Showcasing at the Tate Modern to the dramatic sounds of a live Philharmonic Orchestra, Katrantzou delivered on her eclectic and vibrant aesthetic but seemed to stray away from her signature digital prints on this occasion. Katrantzou was arguably the first designer in fashion to elevate digital prints to the wearable art form that they have become, so it makes sense that she is keen to explore a new avenue. This time, whimsical prints were executed on jacquard trophy jackets and in watercolor-style Alice in Wonderland or The Little Mermaid backdrops on wool coats and silk and velvet dresses. She also dabbled with ditsy floral appliqué on impressive checkered coats with multicolored fur collars, and impressive sequined and beaded fringed dresses. Now these were looks that any modern-day Disney princess would delight in.
Peter Pilotto (LFW)
There is print, and then there’s a Peter Pilotto print. The successful British brand, helmed by Pilotto himself and his partner Christopher de Vos, helped put vibrant digital prints on the map. This season, they gave equal prominence to texture and truly experimented with outerwear for the first time. Following on from the success of their feminine printed puffer jackets from seasons past, the design duo played around with tweed and quilted parkas with their fine embroidery, asymmetric sleeves and cozy Mongolian wool collars. There was also a lust worthy blanket coat embellished with multicolored fringe and jewel colored beading. All of the aforementioned looks were worn with riding boots which featured Incan embroidery; a nod to de Vos’ Peruvian heritage. Then came the artsy, feminine dresses for which the label is known: sheer numbers with glittering panels, a watermelon-hued velvet frock and a hot pink one sleeved creation with chenille stem piping. It was a collection which showed their full range of ability, and that their customer can look just as good on the hiking trail as she would at a red carpet event.
Alice Temperley (LFW)
Alice Temperley is taking us back in time. For Fall/Winter, she sought inspiration from Victorian times but remained true to her whimsical, English countryside bohemian aesthetic. Opening the show, Arizona Muse wore a look that fused together the two ideals together seamlessly: a high, ruffled collar white blouse with a ribbon tie, a coat cropped at the front which featured antique style floral embroidery which was also executed on the tea-length skirt worn below. Later looks that followed also featured the same intricate embroidery, sometimes paired with embellished appliqué chokers, bibs or ruffled swan neck collars. Prairie and peasant blouse were given a lot of attention, with folk-style embroidery, lace up details and voluminous puff sleeves. These she paired with corduroy trousers which were worn with braces and very wearable leather slides. As for the party frocks, which English roses depend on Temperley for, there was plenty on offer. Kaleidoscope prints, quilted prom skirts, a disco-style sequin halter and plunging jumpsuits.
There is a certain irony that Alessandro Michele chose to name his latest collection ‘The Alchemist’s Garden: An Anti-Modern Laboratory’. Herein lies the contradiction: that Gucci garments and accessories (you know the ones: fur lined loafers, tiger and rose motifs, leather belts with interlocking logos) have become so de rigueur in modern social media and pop culture that the brand has become one of the most name checked amongst a new, modern generation. It is no doubt that Michele’s turnaround of the Gucci image has become an industry example for all, and many storied fashion houses are keen to emulate his critical and commercial success. But anyway, back to the show at hand. The ‘Anti Modern Laboratory’ was staged in just that: an eery, enclosed maze of glass corridors which some 120 male and female models shuffled through in quick succession. To pinpoint a theme or singular aesthetic would be near impossible, and perhaps that’s what Michele wanted – a collection that could not be confined by the restraints of a lone idea, reference of indeed, gender. This collection had it all from a Gucci bride to a mourning widow who wore a stark all black look, which stood out in what was otherwise a riot of color. From glittering chevron suits decorated with jaguars on the sleeves to embellished plaid shirts, parasols and pussybow prom dresses that looked like they had been plucked from your nearest vintage store, it was a collection that offered a little fashion escapism for everyone. When you dissect each look from the smorgasbord of a collection you can see the actual wearability of individual items, and you just know the logo-centric fanny packs, embroidered ballet flats and knuckleduster rings are coming to an influencer’s feed near you. And that is the modern power of Michele’s Gucci.
Jeremy Scott is not in Kansas anymore. But that’s not to say that he has abandoned his humble roots. On the cusp of his 20th anniversary in business, Scott seemed to be reflecting on simpler times when fashion to him consisted of ripping editorials from magazines for inspiration and repurposing found items as clothing. Scott has a knack for bringing humor to the runway, which has garnered him a cult following. Here is hoping that one of his high-profile fans (say Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus or Rihanna) would be self-deprecating enough to pull off the trash bag and trashcan lid look come awards season. For this Moschino offering, Scott reveled in tongue-in-cheek accessories, like a toilet paper roll chain bag, PVC boots made to look like shopping bags and his go-to: the candelabra headpiece. You couldn’t help but feel nostalgic with many of the ‘recycled’ looks, reminiscent of simpler times spent repurposing cardboard and plastic refuse into clothes for your dolls during your own childhood. Scott took his finale bow in a t shirt which read ‘Couture is an Attitude,’ the perfect summary of his design trajectory, which challenges the perception of high octane Italian glamor. In Scott’s book, fashion isn’t a price tag but a state of mind. A rule that’s true whether you’re a Kansas City teenager, a
Milanese socialite or a L.A. rule breaker.
Welcome to Miuccia Prada’s Teenage Wasteland. The celebrated Italian designer created a show space inspired by what a fashion obsessed adolescent’s bedroom would look like. Early, modest looks were perfect for that ingénue; cozy duffle coats over crochet bra tops; corduroy trousers with furry belts and seashell necklaces. It was akin to vintage castaways a teenager may have picked up in her favorite thrift store but styled in an inimitably youthful and quirky way. Fun and unexpected texture is integral to the Prada brand. This season it came in the form of ostrich feathers, beaded angora wool, patchwork leather and python jackets and knitted clutch bags. Prada has long been regarded by the fashion industry as an ardent feminist. On this occasion, she did not opt for the slogan t shirt route. Instead, she investigated gender politics and examined the intrinsic connection between certain fashion items – feathers, lingerie, leather – and seduction. Prada’s calling card is that she designs first and foremost for women, without conforming to previously defined notions of what is and isn’t seductive or sexy. As a result, she has created one of the most covetable brands for powerful females all over the globe. Now that’s a good message for all teenage girls.
In the story of Alice in Wonderland, the protagonist maintained that she sometimes believes in as many as six impossible things before breakfast. Chloe’s Clare Waight Keller was at the house for six years, and she certainly turned more than six things into global trends that are now impossible to forget. The British designer can be credited for the revival of bohemian dresses paired nonchalantly with biker jackets and combat boots, and the resurgence of the It Bag. These were all inspired by Chloe’s founder Gaby Aghion, the fearless fashion adventurer who is credited with inventing the concept of ready to wear clothes. Just like Aghion, Waight Keller championed looks that women wanted to wear for every facet of their modern lives. For her swan song collection, she was adamant that she would not present a greatest hits offering. That would have been too easy. Instead, she looked to Alice in Wonderland and went down the rabbit hole for her inspiration. This reference led to pretty mini dresses with lettuce edges, scallop hems and psychedelic prints that would have gone down a treat at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Plaid cardigans in angora wool, a cognac-hued leather jacket and a caterpillar-green fur coat looked perfect for keeping warm should you find yourself taking a wrong turn in the woods. There was no prize for guessing who the muse behind the dainty red velvet dress with a heart shaped cutout was, although it didn’t look threatening enough for the menacing Queen of Hearts. Waight Keller’s whimsical aesthetic will be missed, but the future surely holds great things for her. All things considered, this was a collection that appeared just as good in the flesh as It would through the looking glass.
Alexander McQueen (PFW)
Maybe we all need a little healing; Sarah Burton at least seems to think so. For Fall Winter at Alexander McQueen, the British designer drew inspiration from the Celtic Cloughtie Tree tradition, in which practitioners tie scraps of fabric around branches or trunks as a way of making wishes, seeking solace and connecting with an otherworldly spirit. While Burton consistently cites nature as inspiration, this season was a softer variant, reminiscent of the particular tree that inspired her in Cornwall, an area with its fair share of flora and fauna, medieval ruins and ancient stone circles. There was still plenty of tough leather, sharp tailoring and biker elements among the clothes, but the romantic, ethereal looks were the ones that made the biggest impact. Elegant dresses in lace, tulle, brocade and jacquard were embroidered with feather stitching, intricate embellishment and whip stitch lacing. Plaids and tweeds were decorated with glass beads and jet-black stones in the shape of thistles. From the shearling-lined jackets to the bewitching gowns, these were items that transported us to worlds and spirits beyond.
Saint Laurent (PFW)
Truman Capote once said that “disco is the best floor show in town.” Following Hedi Slimane’s prevailing rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic, Creative Director Anthony Vaccarello stepped into the disco era for his sophomore collection. As with Slimane, Vaccarello delved into the YSL archives as a starting point. His springboard came in the form of a ‘80s haute couture gown with balloon sleeves. Vaccarello’s take on it was evident in the leg of mutton arms on dresses, which sometimes came deconstructed and lined in shearling. Likewise in the colossal, ruched bell sleeves that hung down over models’ fingertips. Jackets, routinely a top seller for the brand, came in pony skin, moleskin and blazers with bedazzled power shoulders. Leather was an integral thread in this collection’s narrative— Vaccarello experimented with it in origami-like folds and ruffles on skirts. Those elements were also executed on extravagant corsages on chokers, ankle straps and shoulders of dresses. His greatest ‘hit’ was the finale walk itself. Models took to the floor in sultry party looks; shimmering rhinestones, slouchy velvet and sparkling boots that projected light like miniature disco balls themselves. In all, Vaccarello proved he has the set list to keep this show going all night long.
At Dior, it was something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. Something old and borrowed, was a quote from Christian Dior about his fondness for the cobalt hue. Then, Maria Grazia Chiuri turned this into something with a Fall/Winter collection rendered entirely in inky shades of midnight blue, navy and black. There was an unmistakable air of French elegance, even in looks with denim and fishnet—friend of street style stars for a few seasons now. The same mavens that will likely be sporting Grazia Chiuri’s leather berets and embellished bag straps come September. On the opposite spectrum were the kind of fairytale gowns that the house is synonymous with. Ombre tulle tutus, semi-sheer dresses embroidered with the solar system and lace bustiers are sure to be at the top of Hollywood stylists’ lists. Some aspects of the collection may have been a generous nod to pieces from the archives, but under the house’s first female Creative Director, it feels like the second coming of Christian Dior’s iconic “New Look”.
When Valentino’s designs are this dreamy, there’s no need to wake up from the fantasy. For his second independent collection, Pierpaolo Piccioli stays true to his vision— a distinctly fairytale meets Victoriana vibe. For Fall/Winter he offered several of his signature high necked, long sleeved, lace and embellished gowns. He also sought inspiration from the Memphis Group, an iconic Italian design and architecture collective that became a phenomenon in the 1980s with their kitschy, colorful style. That influence was evident in coats that came in the saccharine pink hue of Neapolitan ice cream, plastic laminate detailing and a quirky patchwork halter dress. Among the many red carpet worthy creations, a fur coat which showed patterns of pomegranates and pointed hands was the kind of aspirational fashion piece that most of us will only ever see when we close our eyes.
(All images via Instagram)