The brands that sent their collections down the runway during New York Fashion Week were seriously into burgundy, had a soft spot for velvet, jumped on the jumpsuit silhouette and widely embraced the wide-leg trouser. And they sewed the whole thing up with acres of intricate embroidery, loads of lace and a platoon’s worth of paillettes and other shiny, eye-catching adornments and embellishments.
Taken together, it makes the fall/winter 2017 collections sound thoroughly feminine and romantic. And, while they certainly were that, there was also something else going on — a subtle shift involving powerful women, identity and the state of the world today (a topic related to but slightly different from the outright political messaging on the fashion week runways, which we explore in detail here).
Designer Joseph Altuzarra, who cited Renaissance-era portraits as the starting point for his collection, hinted at the forces (but let Shakespeare do the talking) with a “Macbeth” quote in his show notes, “Look like th’ innocent flower, But be the serpent under ’t.”
Prabal Gurung, in his show notes, asked the question, “What does it mean to say a woman should ‘dress like a woman?’” Thom Browne answered it (at least, we think he did) as only he could — sending his women skating across the thin ice of modern life (apologies to Pink Floyd) in playful penguin patterned outerwear, ice-skate footwear and outsize puffer jackets, one of which was emblazoned with the phrase, “It’s too cold to wear a dress.” Commentary, perhaps, that a woman should wear whatever she deems weather-appropriate — thank you very much — and it’s hardly lost on us that male penguins and female penguins are notoriously hard to distinguish by external characteristics.
But, thankfully, fashion week is about trend-spotting and not penguin-sexing, and regardless of the circuitous inspirational route, it’s hard not to see some similarities across the collections shown here during fashion week’s nine days. Among them were:
The deep pour of burgundy started on Day 1 of the shows, with Erin Fetherston’s “In Pursuit of Rhapsody” collection serving up burgundy-hued velvet blazers and jumpsuits and flowed nonstop right through Marc Jacobs’ week-ending show on Thursday afternoon, a hip-hop- and streetwear-flavored collection (inspired by a documentary the designer had seen called “Hip-Hop Evolution”) that included side-striped luxe track pants in the shade as well as turtlenecks, wide-legged corduroy trousers and fleece-trimmed corduroy jackets in burgundy.
A bumper crop of burgundy (as well as its color-wheel cousin, maroon) could be seen on the catwalk collections of Tadashi Shoji, Bibhu Mohapatra and Public School, the last of which had a deep bench of the deep red, including draw-cord dresses, silk skirts, nylon bombers, rib-knit tops and blazers.
There seemed to be a collective crush on velvet at this round of shows, both in traditional color (burgundy and black) and garment (dresses and blazers) combinations as well as some memorable outliers on both fronts. Those piling on the soft-pile fabric in the latter categories included Christian Siriano (a body-hugging, floor-length gown and a shoulder-baring cocktail dress in shades of orange were among the standouts); Dion Lee, whose soft parade included roomy track pants and a zip-front puffer coat in a bright-blue hue; and Altuzarra, whose runway collection included a saffron-colored fluid velvet flounce sleeve dress and a blue velvet jacket and trouser ensemble.
And who but Jeremy Scott could send a guy down the runway (he was one of the designers who presented men’s and women’s looks) in a pair of purple crushed velvet pants and have it go nearly unnoticed thanks to an over-the-top collection that included images of Jesus, a cartoon Michael Jackson and Gigi Hadid going full Elvis?
The wide-leg look
Scott’s Hadid-as-Elvis referenced the singer’s studded Las Vegas look with a cropped white jacket and white, flare-legged trousers, one of several Scott pieces that flared, belled or blossomed below the knee (one pair of black pants billowed about at the ankles with such force that each step sent paillettes flying like drops of motor oil onto the thick, white-carpeted runway). While the wide trouser leg isn’t new for fall/winter 2017, it certainly has caught its stride this season, cropping up on the catwalk at Ulla Johnson (slouchy white, wide-legged corduroys); Stacey Bendet’s Alice + Olivia presentation (sequined wide leg pants paired with a matching shawl-collar blazer layered over a “Be the change you wish to see in the world” slogan T-shirt); and Marc Jacobs, where the models showing the hip-hop-influenced collection either wore dresses that ended mid-thigh or floor-scraping, super-roomy track-pant-style trousers in navy, khaki and the aforementioned burgundy.
The jumpsuit silhouette was another trend that kept coming down the catwalk, the utilitarian one-piece kicking things up a notch style-wise thanks to the use of velvet (at Erin Fetherston and Ulla Johnson) or crystals (Jonathan Simkhai’s crystal-encrusted, long-sleeve jumpsuit). Even Ralph Lauren’s see-now, buy-now collection, shown at his Madison Avenue flagship, had a couple of entrants in the jumpsuit derby, including a stretchy black zip-front number with biker-jacket lapels and moto-inspired padding at the knees and a more relaxed taupe-colored version with a subtle floral pattern, drawstring waist and cargo pockets.
But two of fashion week’s most memorable one-pieces came courtesy of Naeem Khan, one a black, threadwork-embroidered jumpsuit with sleeve ruffles and flared legs and a multicolored embroidered jumpsuit with exposed shoulders.
Khan was one of several designers who went deep in the embroidery and embellishment department this season, putting him in the company of Jonathan Simkhai and his matador-inspired pieces (including metallic threading, grommets and customized lace designed to resemble vaulted cathedrals); Jeremy Scott (if you buy one statement cape this fall, make it the one with a regal-looking eagle embroidered across the back); Tadashi Shoji (bold florals embroidered across the bodice of dresses); Bibhu Mohapatra, whose jewel-studded, feather-festooned confections seemed to quiver and sway with each step; and Calvin Klein, where Raf Simons’ debut collection included military-inspired side-stripe embellishments and dresses that layered clear plastic over a tickle of feathers.
But it was Khan’s final runway look — a Spanish-inspired embroidered ball gown with an embroidered veil and crown-like gold floral headpiece that was fashion week’s ne plus ultra of exquisitely intricate threadwork. With the runway lights dimmed, the model walked — glided, really — while a recording of Maya Angelou’s poem “Human Family” played.
“I note the obvious differences in the human family,” Angelou says in the poem. “Some of us are serious, some thrive on comedy.” From there, her poem touches on skin tones (“brown and pink and beige and purple, tan and blue and white”) before ending with the observation, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”
No matter what the trend of the moment is, we’d like to think that kind of sentiment will always be in fashion.
For more musings on all things fashion and style, follow me at @ARTschorn.