Designers put the “show” in fashion show at New York Fashion Week this season.
The unveiling of the Spring 2016 collections wrapped up Thursday night, with Marc Jacobs' staging his presentation as a premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater, beginning with the models walking the red carpet outside, in front of passersby who held their camera phones high to catch the edgy, Americana-inspired looks. Inside, guests watched the first few arrivals on a movie screen. And after the models wound their way up the escalators and into the theater, they walked the runway to the sounds of a rootin’, tootin’ live orchestra.
It was a reminder not only of the power of the red carpet but of how closely fashion has become tied to entertainment and performance.
This fashion week, the public was drawn into the action like never before, with ticket lotteries for some show seats, glimpses of the runways at outdoor venues and via screens broadcasting some of the action.
FULL COVERAGE: New York Fashion Week 2015
Social media put unprecedented importance on set and setting, as designers angled for the perfect photo op that would get millions of shares. So it was a week that took showgoers to the garden of the Frick Collection for Carolina Herrera’s rose parade, to a man-made tropical lagoon for Tommy Hilfiger’s island escape and to the new underground mall under what was once ground zero for DKNY.
The week marked a new beginning for DKNY without founder Donna Karan, who left her company earlier this year. The brand’s new designers, charged with carrying the torch for one of America’s largest sportswear labels, disrupted pinstripe suits for the new creative class. French luxury brand and Kardashian fave Givenchy touched down on Pier 26 for a blockbuster show choreographed with the help of performance artist Marina Abramovic, using the sun setting over the New York skyline as scrim. And Nepalese designer Prabal Gurung staged an emotional tribute to his homeland, in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck there in April.
Alexander Wang celebrated 10 years in business, and so did Phillip Lim. Kanye West presented his second Yeezy collection for Adidas. And American leather goods brand Coach held its first runway show.
But with all the hoopla over, here are the biggest takeaway trends:
There was a greening and om-ing of the runways for spring, so much so that I wondered if the fashion industry was having a Don Draper, Big Sur Esalen moment. Givenchy built a set of reclaimed wood on the banks of the Hudson, Prabal Gurung brought robed monks onto his runway to chant a blessing, Phillip Lim piled his runway high with organic soil and Coach built a greenhouse on the High Line, planting tall grasses and wildflowers. Natural-looking fabrications made an impression in the collections, and saffron, the sacred Hindu hue, was the color of the season.
Comfort is king
Lightweight, streety layers beat the heat at Public School. No-iron, creased and crinkled side-slit skirts and sleeveless dresses were summer-in-the-city sophisticated at Altuzarra. And fluid tailoring hit a high note at Michael Kors. L.A.'s Greg Lauren elevated sweatshirty fleece and fused it with denim, and BCBG’s Cal-inspired tie-dye knits were festival-ready.
Several designers suggested pajamas as outerwear. Public School and Alexander Wang showed PJ tops with contrast piping over striped shorts and wrap skirts. At Thakoon, crisp cotton skorts resembled boxers, and refined-looking terry cloth robes topped trousers. Romantic slips, camisoles and off-shoulder tops trailing satin ribbons were worn over fluid silk pajama pants for luxe lounging at Givenchy, and slip dresses were the stars of Calvin Klein’s glam grunge show.
The statement blouse was everywhere, both on the runway and in the seats, where off-shoulder and high neck styles competed for attention. But the bigger trend was a turn toward romance, both sweet and sexy, retro — as in 1990s — and really retro — as in 1890s Victoriana.
The garden setting at the Frick put a rosy outlook on Carolina Herrera’s pretty-in-pink collection, underscoring a new lightness and younger, fresher silhouettes that moved with the body. Lace was a through line at Tory Burch and Zimmerman. And designer Peter Copping tiptoed ever closer to making Oscar de la Renta his own, mixing prints with corsetry, fun furs and crystal-embroidered satin espadrilles.
But when it came to true innovation, Proenza Schouler soared with a radical vision of romanticism. The shoulders were a focal point on ribbon-tied tailored jackets that revealed what was beneath, and cotton lace dresses that slid suggestively. The collection was just bursting with creativity seen in tunics of linked feathers, sheer mesh skirts of spherical balls and more.
The street beat
Alexander Wang, Public School, Hood by Air and Rag & Bone are a few of the labels that looked to the street for inspiration, creating a wearable, unisexy, multi-culti, layered look. Key pieces included bomber jackets, paratrooper vests, cargo pants, tanks and long shorts. On the lighter side were airy anoraks, drapey duster coats and long tunics over full pants. (There’s such a fine art to layering this season, we’re all going to need our own stylists.) Shoes were made for walking. Even Ralph Lauren showed sneakers on his runway, saddle leather high-tops.
Refining, not reinventing
Fashion by its nature is fleeting, but as stores like Zara and H&M turn out clothes ever faster, establishing consistency and reliability becomes that much more important for brands that want to grow, develop a loyal following and set themselves apart from the noise.
Perhaps that’s why this season, so many designers chose to revisit and refine, rather than to reinvent. In many cases, they copied their own familiar best work, tweaking it enough to keep it interesting. We saw slow change and thoughtful evolution at Tory Burch, Narciso Rodriguez, Oscar de la Renta and more. And that was OK, because things don’t have to be overly complicated. And in an era of Snapchat and multi-screen multi-tasking, there is something comforting about things that stick around for a while.