New York Fashion Week SS17(?): An Informal Commentary

As many of you may know, this fashion month is becoming quite a whirlwind for me as I have officially moved to London and have embarked on my MA at the London College of Fashion. Moving from a small town to the big city is a challenge for anyone, filled with countless tasks likened some would say to the Labours of Hercules. Combined with the workload of a MA student, my traditional show by show #MelangexFashionWeek reviews have simply not been made possible… but I think you have been left in the very capable hands of the true industry veterans: Tim Blanks, Suzy Menkes, and Vanessa Friedman amongst others (and the Instagram live feed of every fashionista!) 😊😊

However, my “two cents” from the peanut gallery will of course be shared with you, thus recapping Week 1 of fashion month. *Cue Frank Sinatra*

Upon the week’s conclusion, there was an Instagram post which really impacted me. It was shared by the “Insta” Truman Capote Derek Blasberg who I think perfectly summed up overall feeling of #NYFW.

“Was it just me or was fashion the last thing anyone was thinking about at New York Fashion Week?” – Derek Blasberg

Looking back, fashion played only a minor role compared to the politics on centre stage and the lingering uncertainty tainting the air. The week boasted various fundraising galas for Clinton, one co-hosted by Anna Wintour the other hosted by Barbra Streisand. There were also numerous other events on the schedule, including a fundraiser to end elephant poaching hosted by Doutzen Kroes who notably began the initiative #knotonmyplanet – to find out more, please click here

But with this new “see now buy now”, is this the beginning of the end of the fashion show? Has fashion as we know it been paralysed by commerce?

Apart from real world “PESTLE” factors, causing emotional and physical turmoil worldwide, the fashion industry itself is undergoing a full grown growth spurt/ Puberty/ awkward phase/ whatever term you’d prefer. Questions remain unanswered: Are you a Spring Summer or an Autumn Winter? Can you buy in 6 months or immediately? Many fashion scholars would argue that fashion is supposed to follow a linear direction suggesting as early as next year all shows could have converted from preview to retail. But with this new “see now buy now”, is this the beginning of the end of the fashion show? Has fashion as we know it been paralysed by commerce? A full investigation is very much needed in finding out the consequences of such a disruption.

Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren, and Tommy Hilfiger have all pioneered the new model, with Ford presenting the most impressive of offerings, but only time will tell on this new model’s success. Speaking of Hilfiger – I must say it was almost surreal seeing a TommyxGigi bus pass me buy in London promoting the collection which debuted only the evening before.

Aesthetically one could also make the argument that the collections reflected a rather stifling environment through the use of a constricting silhouette – literally tying up the body with straps as seen by Alexander Wang and Victoria Beckham or in the case of Tome a corset accentuating the waist.

Then of course there was the controversy surrounding Marc Jacob’s Ari Up inspired collection (which was fresh, young, fun, and contemporary), which featured models sporting multi-coloured dreadlocks. Some felt Jacobs “appropriated black culture” which he later commented on stating: Cultural appropriation backlash ‘erodes freedom of speech’

Also facing extreme backlash on social media was non other than Kanye West, who held a casting call for his Yeezy 4 collection…  multi-racial women only

Aesthetically one could also make the argument that the collections reflected a rather stifling environment through the use of a constricting silhouette – literally tying up the body with straps as seen by Alexander Wang and Victoria Beckham or in the case of Tome a corset accentuating the waist. Coco Chanel made it her legacy banishing restriction and fighting for freedom of movement thus propelling the fight towards gender equality. What does it say now that constraint is now en vogue? Are we caged by the full transparency of our actions on social media? Caged by “political correctness” in constant fear not to offend or provoke at the cost of healthy debate? Caged by unrealistic expectations suppressing authenticity and ambition? Or maybe it is just as simple as George Simmel proclaims, fashion comes in waves and with years of fluidity, a hint of structure might be a welcome element in our wardrobes.

New York fashion Week saw lots of velvet – again most notably at Victoria Beckham who strayed from her usual interpretations but presented a collection just as elegant with lots of “trend” pieces such as a “bag shirt.” Why must a bag be an accessory if you can wear it! Other key features included statement bras – no shirt over them (don’t worry! No abs – no problem!), major volume featuring loud and proud mutton sleeves, dreamy ruffles, and origami like silhouettes perfected by Josep Font at Delpozo, and thigh high slits thus guaranteeing eyebrow raises when worn.

A final point to be made is that we saw two narratives being told. First: pure americana – the all american if you will – with cowboy hats and raw leather tassled jackets by Ralph Lauren and with rah rah skirts and Florida souvenir t-shirts by Anna Sui (who also featured a cowboy hat by the way). Second: Cheap Chic – early 90’s bombastic, colourful, mismatched prints a la mid western country girl with the perfect amount of kitsch at Altuzarra, the raw surfer girl grunge at Wang and literally everything about Marc Jacobs: the dazzle, the punk, the techno-rave and the candy-striped thigh-highs.

What does it all mean? How will New York compare to the rest of the fashion capitals? Only in time we shall find out – as for now… London calling!

PS. The soundtrack from Marc Jacobs was Underworld’s Born Slippy – a classic for anyone craving a good ole 90’s rave.