The show must go on
Lily Aldridge, Alanna Arrington, Jourdan Dunn, Irina Shayk, (front row L-R) Gigi Hadid, Diane Von Furstenberg, Kendall Jenner, Karlie Kloss and Elsa Hosk pose wearing Diane Von Furstenberg Fall 2016 during New York Fashion Week on February 14, 2016
This year, the fashion industry has been in quite a state of flux. However, some designers held their own and strutted their stuff with their usual panache
The mad fashion tours are finally over; for the next six months at least. Twice a year, fashion editors, buyers and models spend over a month living out of a suitcase to view the "shows" for the next season. The fall/winter shows start in New York in February, then it's London, then Milan, and by the first few days of March, it's wrapping up in Paris. It is a practice that is decades old, but one that is now being questioned.
The idea of viewings a season ahead so merchandisers can chart out their buys, and editors can plan their issues - which, in turn, help brands understand which pieces in the collection will be their 'hot-sellers', and so can organise their production - seems rather outdated, especially with, you guessed it, social media. It used to be that only fashion's privileged would get to see the shows, but it's now open to practically everyone. Add to that, consumers don't want to wait six months, they want to "see now, buy now". They are also looking for "what's hot now", so two collections a year do not satisfy these "insta" consumers. To address this, fashion houses now also show cruise and pre-fall collections. The consequent pressure on creative directors has meant that they no longer feel creative, as they churn out collection after collection constantly. This pressure is cited as a major reason as to why, at the end of last year, three creative directors stepped down from their positions at major fashion houses - Alexander Wang at Balenciaga, Raf Simons at Dior and Alber Elbaz at Lanvin.
Vanessa Freidman of The New York Times referred to the recent autumn/winter shows as the "Ghost Season", amidst rumours that it could be Hedi Slimane's last show for Saint Laurent, and that Phoebe Philo was ready to exit Celine. There is no question that the industry is in flux and it may take a few seasons before there is a new fashion consensus, but as they say "the show must go on". And while these issues have taken focus away from the clothes, at the end of the day, it is the clothes that are the heroes (or heroines) of fashion shows. And there were collections that really stood out this year and made you forget about the unstable system of the industry. Here is a look at the top shows of each week:
It has been 14 years since there has been an Alexander McQueen show in the capital. Of course, then, it was a very different story. McQueen himself is no more, the brand is now available in over 50 countries around the world and it is an important part of the François Pinault-owned Kering group. But, of course, the Brits will always think of McQueen as their own brand, and its creative director, Sarah Burton, is as British as it gets. So, naturally, London celebrated the return of McQueen to their fashion week. (The reason for the city shift was Burton's pregnancy. Being in its late stage, Burton wanted to stay close to home and not cross the Channel to a showing in Paris, the fashion capital that is this fashion house's usual choice.) Living up to the euphoria around McQueen's return meant Burton had to put on a beautiful show and the heavily pregnant director delivered a collection that was surreal and stylish while being decadent, delicate and divine. Her theme was nocturnal, it was about a very stylish sleepwalk down the ramp. Models wore exquisitely embroidered quilted coats, precious pink ruffle cocktail dresses and sensuous sheer evening gowns. It had all the fantasy we expected from McQueen, yet full of new subtle femininity we had not seen from him before. It is no wonder that Cate Blanchett chose the brand for the British Academy Film Awards red carpet - these are the dresses made to make a statement.
There was a time when it was Paris that was fashion's darling - it was the show that mattered the most, whether it was by power brand Louis Vuitton, Dior's theatrical extravaganzas or Lanvin's easy, elegant take on fashion. But now with Dior and Lanvin being without a creative director, and Louis Vuitton not making a mark in the last few seasons, Milan has become fashion's firm favourite. And the city has Gucci's Alessandro Michele to thank. Michele has made us want to own everything Gucci, ever since he took over the creative helm last year. His Gucci girl is romantic, poetic and unashamedly eccentric. His more whimsical style has made every high street brand re-examine its approach to fashion. It seems Michele can do no wrong. While the fall/winter 2016 collection was more ladylike than his previous work, it was still full of the magical mix-and-match that fashion editors love about Michele. Be it sheer chiffon gowns or floral and Chinoiserie motifs or the GG logo, he added his own unique touch to everything.
Valentino & special mention: Rahul Mishra
Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli have been at the helm of Valentino for eight years now. And they have taken the brand from strength to strength, rarely receiving any criticism. Fashion loves to pair opposites together as the result is nearly always sensational. So when Chiuri and Piccioli decided to have punk ballet as their inspiration, the result was beyond sensational. These were clothes you wanted to dance the night away in, thanks to their sheer beauty, with just the right touch of edge and mystery. Blacks to nudes, luscious velvets and intricate embellishments, this collection is bound to be a favourite on magazine covers this September.
Indian designer Rahul Mishra definitely deserves a special mention. A newcomer, he has been showing at Paris for less than two years now and, in this short spell, he has proved that Indian fashion can understand the meaning of restraint and purity; it can be modern, yet rooted in tradition, and, most importantly, it can be international, yet never forget its heritage. A firm favourite with Parisian concept store Collette, he is one to watch for and am sure will soon be on the list of top shows of the season.
The Diane von Furstenberg experience
This may seem like a strange call for a city that is also home to The Row, Alexander Wang and Oscar de la Renta, but there is no question that Diane von Fürstenberg is fashion's original "it girl". As president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), she has commissioned the Boston Consulting Group to look into the future of fashion shows and see whether New York Fashion Week should look at changing into an "in season" fashion show. "Something is not right anymore, because of social media people are confused," the designer stated. And whether it's the wrap dress or reality television, Fürstenberg is always on pulse. Her decision to opt for an "experience" instead of a fashion show at her brand's headquarters - with real girls (which, for Fürstenberg, means Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Karlie Kloss) wearing the collection in staged scenarios - was a stroke of genius. Some of the pieces were available for sale immediately after the show. "For the first time, a few silhouettes were made available for immediate purchase, just in time for Oscar parties and glamorous events," she added. It seems this show is a sign that, like it not, the fashion system is changing. But then Fürstenberg has enough experience to know that, in fashion, the only constant is change. We also loved the show for those glittering sequinned long wrap dresses with thigh-high slits. Yes, glamour can never go out of style - and thank you, Diane, for the reminder!
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21: A model walks the runway at the Alexander McQueen Autumn Winter 2016 fashion show during London Fashion Week on February 21, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catwalking/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 08: A model walks the runway during the Valentino show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2016/2017 on March 8, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Thierry Orban/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 05: A model walks the runway during the Rahul Mishra show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2016/2017 on March 5, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Francois G. Durand/WireImage)