New York Fashion Week AW17: A Recap

Calvin Klein AW17

Starting with a ferocious blizzard causing chaos, New York Fashion Week generated a lot of noise, cured restless anticipation, had moments of greatness such as Raf Simon’s Calvin Klein debut, but #NYFW ultimately lacked stimulating ideas and bustling creativity. The unfortunate conclusion from a jam-packed week was possibly the growing irrelevance of New York on the fashion calendar.

With Tommy Hilfiger having presented his spectacle in Los Angeles in “Tommy Land” and two of New York’s most lauded labels of the moment Proenza Schouler and Rodarte scheduled to show their collection in Paris next season at Couture week,  New York is continuously being drained from its brightest stars. Its audience has shifted too, with buyers and press regarded as less important than viral influencers. This power shift was most apparent at the Alexander Wang show.

To everyone’s surprise, what Wang delivered was an anticlimactic disappointment. With Wang no longer at Balenciaga, one would have assumed more thought would have been put into this collection. The result was a #WangGang rager with Bella and Kendall draped in the mint collection posing nonchalantly on Instagram leading to their outfits being sold out immediately – thanks to the Kardashian effect, Me- too culture, and the pressures of a material world.

In terms of sales, a huge Wang success but in terms of credibility – no stamp of approval was granted from the original fashion gate-keepers. This leads me to the daunting question of do we even need a stamp of approval from fashion commentators? Do experts’ words such as those from a Suzy Menkes, Cathy Horyn or Tim Blanks still matter? As someone in love with ‘fashion’ (not clothes) I would hope so, as their justified critique legitimises a simple garment into fashion but with the commercial plummeting “team creative” in an endless brawl, one begins to wonder.

While on the topic of sour notes, one can’t fail to mention the debut of Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia for their first show at the helm of Oscar de la Renta. With a back to back with their own brand Monse, the high hopes for the new direction of the house fell very short of expectation and proved how difficult it is to design two labels at once. The beloved timeless elegance which made Oscar de la Renta world famous was not celebrated in this collection, and felt more street style than red carpet, more trash than cash, more spring fling than romance of the ages.

However, New York did make two very important and visible statements appropriate for 2017. It embraced its platform offering a voice welcoming diversity and by creating political resistance.

The needed emphasis on increased diversity made the statement that fashion is a world of acceptance and inclusion. Today, with so much talk on immigration and painful separation it was important to feature models from all walks of life, all ethnicities, and all shapes and sizes. Labeled as “Plus-Size” the models Ashley Graham and Georgia Pratt worked the runway at Tome, with Graham again at Micheal Kors. Although plus size isn’t revolutionary on the runway, this season it felt as they were not seen as “Tokens” but could finally wear the same clothes that would also be worn by mainstream colleagues, such as a synched dress with a belt highlighting the waist.

Also walking for Tome was Jacky O’Shaughnessy, aged 65, who was striking. Why are there not more grey-market models? The over 50’s market is proportionally the largest in Western countries, with baby boomers also the biggest spenders. Also, J. Crew cast “real people” including Jenna Lyons own mother. The presentation itself was a delight and the clothes were refreshing – lets hope this will turn around the brand’s struggling sales decline in 10 of the last 11 quarters.

Obviously, chaotic, baffling, infuriating politics was the principal influence behind the AW17 collections (and this has been apparent in London, Milan, and surely Paris later this week). Throughout, the Business of Fashion started the Tied together movement – wearing a white bandana in solidarity for togetherness. Also, industry insiders wore giant pink Planned Parenthood badges to their winter coats including Anna Wintour.

Public School

Most blatant was Public School where designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne took Trump’s slogan of “Make America Great Again” and inverted it to “Make America New York” which was was stitched on red trucker hats and sweatshirts. Another obvious message was by Prabal Gurung, who made headlines with his set of statement t-shirts – identical to what Maria Grazia Chiuri did a season before at Dior. Gurung’s t-shirts included labels such as: “I am an immigrant”, “Our minds. Our bodies. Our power” “The future is Female” or “This is what a feminist looks like”. I’d like to compare this to that Facebook friend who posts everyday sharing pages from Occupy Democrats or viral videos from Trevor Noah from the Daily Show. Making noise but not contributing to solving  an apparent problem or healing wounds. For Gurung, although I am sure very well intended, at the end of the day it is a slogan tee – not solving anything apart from a viral entry level product for the brand and infinite likes on social media. Surely not a true protest. Not at all revolutionary.

The in your face political statements “made metropolitan liberals feel smug, and everyone else shrug”  put eloquently by   for the Financial Times.

Much more powerful were the less obvious revolts from the likes of The Row with discreetly embroidered messages stitched onto blazers and blouses, and at Calvin Klein with an American flag struggling underneath a coat drifting through the room with the soundtrack “This is not America” by David Bowie.

Marc Jacobs

One could argue the “It” fashion moment during New York Fashion week was ironically in Los Angeles, where Beyonce stole the show at the Grammy’s wearing Peter Dundas, launching his namesake label. Best in show was Calvin Klein with the debut of Raf Simons, however I really enjoyed the Marc Jacobs clever retrospect of Hip-hop. The extravaganza was cut to a minimum, almost as if Jacobs declined to take part in with all of the bells and whistles and just wanted a focus on the clothes. Perhaps waiting for New York fashion week to find its groove again is the right way to go.