Has New York fashion week lost its luster? As the Fall 2019 shows began last week, that was the question on everyone’s lips, with so many boldfaced brands like Calvin Klein (and its former creative director Raf Simons), Rodarte (who showed in L.A.), and Altuzarra (now a PFW person) falling off the schedule in recent seasons. “What’s left to see?” many wondered. And while the concern is not totally misplaced, the Fall 2019 shows proved that New York is still a city worth watching. The calendar’s open spots have been filled by promising and forward-thinking young talents including breakout star Tomo Koizumi and Parsons grad Caroline Hu; joyful, exuberant clothes lifted our spirits, defying doom-and-gloom headlines; and an influx of overtly ladylike looks signaled a new era of feminine strength. Plus, Christy Turlington made her return to the runway at Marc Jacobs, closing the standout show in a black-feathered gown. If that’s not deserving of the fashion flock’s attention, what is? Here, we round up five of the biggest takeaways from New York fashion week.
Courtesy of Getty
Newcomers Take Center Stage
Sure, a number of New York’s biggest names were missing from the Fall 2019 schedule, but their absence allowed emerging talents to grab some much-deserved attention. Take, for instance, Tomo Koizumi. Thanks to a hot tip from Giles Deacon, super stylist and editor Katie Grand discovered Koizumi, a Japanese costume designer, on Instagram just a month ago. She was so taken by his explosive, rainbow-hued tulle confections that she helped the 30-year-old organize a star-studded NYFW debut at Marc Jacobs’ uptown store. Insiders and editors descended upon the standing-room-only event, where the likes of Karen Elson, Bella Hadid, Joan Smalls, and actress Gwendoline Chrystie paraded Koizumi’s vibrant blooms, as well as his collaboration with Jacobs—ruffle-sleeved Statue of Liberty-print tees. The excitement was palpable, with one editor remarking that she hadn’t heard so many gasps and cheers during a NYFW show in her entire career. Only time will tell if Koizumi can parlay this major moment into commercial longevity or viability, but the energy surrounding his inaugural NYFW effort was infectious, and signaled that New York is still a place where young creatives can make their fashion dreams come true.
Speaking of young creatives, Parsons MFA graduate Caroline Hu, a Tory Burch and Jason Wu alum, quietly presented her first solo collection, which was painstakingly crafted from custom textiles. Ethereal and feminine, her stunning Fall 2019 outing was inspired by Henri Matisse’s 1894 painting, Woman Reading. Khaite, designed by Catherine Holstein, has been around for a few years now, but Fall marked its first turn on the runway and, given the overwhelmingly positive reviews, it won’t be its last. Another notable first? Erin Beatty, formerly of now-shuttered brand Suno, debuted her new line, Rentrayage, which is made entirely out of upcycled vintage garments.
Last year, Batsheva took the fashion world by storm with its modest, prairie-esque dresses. That obsession still stands—the designer’s Fall 2019 show, which boasted appearances from Courtney Love and Christina Ricci, was one of the most talked about of the week. But the “Batsheva” manner of dressing is about more than just ruffles and high necklines—it indicates a shift in how “femininity” is viewed, understood, and regarded. Designers took note of this for Fall 2019, and both Victorian and medieval-inspired garments popped up on the runways at Brock Collection, Ulla Johnson, Khaite, Vaquera, and more. Zac Posen, too, embraced the look, featuring a flat-front corseted gown among his Fall 2019 lineup of high-volume glamour-wear. This new turn toward traditionally feminine looks (corset tops, ruffles, romantic sleeves, big skirts, and the like) comes at a time when women are taking ownership of their femininity, and sends the message that a woman can be equally strong in a dress or a suit.
In her memoir, A Shocking Life, surrealist designer Elsa Schiaparelli wrote, “In difficult times, fashion is always outrageous.” This statement rang true on the Fall 2019 NYFW runways. While we are indeed living in turbulent times, designers including Sies Marjan’s Sander Lak, Prabal Gurung, Anna Sui, Rachel Comey, Christian Cowan, and more seemed to combat the pervading doom and gloom with sartorial exclamation points, proffering vivid palettes and crystals galore. At Area, Beckett Fog and Piotrek Panszczyk took a tongue-in-cheek approach, showing shocking electric colors, crystal everything, and party-ready looks alongside belts that read “Apocalypse Soon.” And Michael Kors channeled the decadence of the 1970s, hosting a Studio 54-themed show replete with sequins, Barry Manilow, disco balls, and ‘70s supermodel Patti Hansen, encouraging us all to party on.
Courtesy of Get
Courtesy of Getty
Return to Form
This season, some of the biggest designers on the schedule were in a reflective mood. So often we see powerhouses trying to chase a trend, but for Fall 2019, many heavy-hitters cast that notion aside and went back to their roots. This was immediately apparent at Tom Ford, who kicked off NYFW with a knockout collection of sensual gowns, louche silk separates, and slick suiting that nodded to the 1990s Gucci collections that helped put him on the map. Helmut Lang staged its first runway show in a year and a half and, under the direction of Mark Thomas and Thomas Cawson, the brand channeled the subversive minimalism that made its founder and namesake such a revolutionary. Ralph Lauren’s intimate show, held at the company’s Madison Avenue flagship, marked a return to the clean, classic, American elegance that its loyal clients so love. Brandon Maxwell, an emerging powerhouse on the New York scene, revisited the codes he introduced in his debut Spring 2016 collection: wearable-yet-high-impact black and white looks and sculptural tailoring. The most notable throwback, however, came courtesy of Marc Jacobs. The designer, who closed NYFW with a profound and exclusive show at the Park Avenue Armory, evolved house signatures like devilishly girlish flourishes, playful prints, coats and suits in menswear fabrics, and party-ready looks, at once modernizing and exaggerating them. He also tapped Christy Turlington, who hasn’t stomped a catwalk in over two decades, to wear his black feather finale gown. If you’ll remember, she walked his career defining Spring 1993 Perry Ellis grunge-inspired show, which got him fired from that house, but also made him famous.
Courtesy of Getty
Courtesy of Getty
Size Diversity Update
It’s no secret that the fashion industry struggles with diversity on every level—from corporate leadership to the runway. In recent years, insiders and consumers have become more vocal about a need for better representation, and while the industry is taking steps forward, it still has a long way to go. This New York Fashion Week, it was promising to see racial diversity on some of the biggest runways. It didn’t feel like brands were trying to fill a quota—it felt natural and authentic. That’s encouraging, but when it comes to size diversity, there was much to be desired. Glamour counted 94 instances of size diversity on the runway, and that’s great—it really is. But the brands featured in that list—Gypsy Sport, Christian Siriano, Chromat, Prabal Gurung, Eckhaus Latta, et. al—have long made diversity in all its forms part of their MO. What they’re doing is absolutely impactful, but it needs to be more widespread. It would be nice to see other influential and beloved brands like Proenza Schouler, Marc Jacobs, and Oscar de la Renta be more mindful of size diversity. Oftentimes, when a curvy model was included in a big-name show, it seemed like an afterthought—also, one curvy woman in a 70-something look lineup does not a diverse cast make. The women buying these brands’ clothes aren’t all a size two or four—the models chosen to present them should only be those sizes, either.