Few have ever called New York Fashion Week underground, off-the-grid, or scrappy. From Halston and Geoffrey Beene on down through Calvin, Ralph, and Donna, New York built its global reputation on sleek, dependable sportswear. But a new generation has emerged—from the far reaches of Brooklyn and the Bronx, in some cases—and it’s upending old ideas about what our city is good at.
The new NYFW order is a function of many things. The rise of e-comm and the prophesied fall of retail—though the founders of Hudson Yards are out to disprove that. The mass migration of mid-career designers to Paris and the decision by others to swap the pressures of the runway, creative and monetary, for presentations or showroom appointments—a strategy that’s working, by the way, for the likes of Jason Wu and Derek Lam. Mostly, though, the change we’re witnessing comes down to the fact that the young people building brands today think differently than the establishment has for so long.
Inclusivity, concern for the environment, and a belief—shocking as it may seem—that bigger isn’t necessarily better are some of the factors shaping New York’s rising class. To paraphrase Raf Simons, whose absence at Calvin Klein was much discussed this week: “Scale is irrelevant. The size of something. The size of a company. Big or small.” Not to get treacly about it, but what matters to these young people is their truth.
New York is now leading the conversations around runway diversity (Rachel Comey gets high marks for this) and sustainability (kudos to Gabriela Hearst for alerting us to the work of Our Children’s Trust). As for the size question, consider Erin Beatty’s Rentrayage, Chris Peters’s CDLM, or Collina Strada, all of them upcycling and making out of the old things that look fresh and new. Keeping business at a human scale is built into their agendas.
All of this is reason for optimism in the face of adversity. That’s something Michael Kors surely endorses. He’s as establishment as it gets in New York these days, but he sure knows how to put on a party. Can you say Barry Manilow? Here are our top 10, with an emphasis on the new guard, a couple of menswear entries, and the magical Rodarte show out in California.
Emily Bode is something of an old soul, and her ability to follow her instincts is a testament to her creative maturity. In a relatively short time, she has taken her love of the handmade and the weather-worn and turned it into a thriving, CVFF award–winning business. In fact, you’ll be surprised to hear that, save for a few special pieces—the quilted jackets and deadstock denim, for example—the majority of her new clothes are being reproduced in quantities that will more than satisfy her 40-plus stockists, including checkerboard knits, adorable logo scarves and hats, and even the patchwork velvet suiting. Music to the ears of fashion collectors everywhere. —Chioma Nnadi
With nearly 15 years in the business, Telfar Clemens has weathered the storm where other young brands have failed, and that’s largely thanks to the support of his community. While others talk of building walls, Clemens is opening up the conversation around race, gender, and class. In that newly reclaimed safe space, a truly inclusive and forward-thinking identity for American fashion is taking shape. —C.N.
Maybe it’s the Brooklyn of it all, but something about the latest Eckhaus Latta show put one in mind of gentrification. Passing through Williamsburg and pressing on into Bushwick, all the way to the neighborhood’s Ridgewood edge—where, per usual, the Eckhaus Latta show was held—you see some strange abutments, derelict zones overlooked by gleaming cantilevered towers; folksy murals in conversation with airbrushed billboard ads; gussied-up brownstones with street vendors selling homemade empanadas a stone’s throw from their stoops. The new Eckhaus Latta collection was a bit like that: The homespun, improvisational Eckhaus Latta look was still there, but a sleeker version of the brand seemed to be taking over. You might say that Eckhaus Latta is gentrifying itself. —Maya Singer
If you thought the underwear-as-outerwear trend was beyond reinvention, then Rio Uribe’s Gypsy Sport collection will turn your expectations inside out and upside down. The Californian designer has made sustainability a No. 1 priority in recent seasons, and for Fall he sharpened his skill for upcycling once more, repurposing discarded Adidas tracksuits as sexy teddies and slinky slip dresses and camisoles with lace insets that alluded to the skin. (If the German sports giant hasn’t already considered an official Gypsy Sport collab, it absolutely should now.) —C.N.
At The Row, Fall starts and ends in the middle—specifically, its new, waist-focused silhouette, which threw into relief its continuing love of all-enveloping, blown-up volumes. Out came a series of coats and elongated jackets, mostly denuded of any detailing, which were gently inflated before nipping inward to the center then flaring out again, worn over diaphanous cowl-neck blouses and wide, tailored pants, which grazed the floor. Check out the standout version of this in curvaceous black, worn by Caroline Trentini, for further reference, though honorary shout-outs go to the strict gray coat over matching pants and another black coat-and-pants combo, this one etched with a gazillion black beads. —Mark Holgate
The line the Mulleavys continue to walk in all of their work—fashion, cinema, performance—between hard and soft, tacky and transcendent, erotic and innocent, horror films and heavenly visions, is compelling, challenging, and crazy fun to behold. To borrow from Beyoncé (herself no stranger to musicals and iconicity), Rodarte trades in both sweet dreams and beautiful nightmares. Why turn the lights on? —Sally Singer
Designers’ constant dilemma is the push and pull of the new and the dependable. In this time of chaos, it makes sense that Tom Ford would reexamine what he’s good at. (There’s plenty of evidence that the formula is working elsewhere—see Prada and Versace.) He hasn’t gone tame, per se, as much as he’s reworking the sleek ’90s codes he famously established. It’s hard to synthesize the zeitgeist twice, but certainly, that red velvet is going to be irresistible all over again. —Nicole Phelps
The philosophy of famed ’70s decorative arts guru Kaffe Fassett was a guiding principle for Stuart Vevers this season. After the melancholy mood of Spring, the mesmerizing painterly florals were a welcome dose of sunshine, enlivening everything from all-weather parkas to Lurex sweaters and lace-trim frocks. The creative director has a knack for making opposites attract, and this season the brand’s sweet and light chiffon dresses were toughened up with basketball-style shorts in hefty checks and plaid. That late-’90s approach to layering has been popping up all week, although nowhere have the proportions appeared quite as fresh and youthful as they did here. The woolen bomber jackets and cardigans played to a larger cultural shift that’s been percolating for the past six months; as of last October, Coach is officially fur-free, and these were the brand’s warm-and-fuzzy alternatives. —C.N.
Michael Kors Collection
Michael Kors isn’t the only designer who’s following the good times for Fall; the feathers and fake fur have really been flying at the New York shows. Kors had both, in the form of colorful boas and an intarsia chevron coat. The collection was informed by his West 50s stomping grounds, with Studio 54 playing the lead role. Kors secured the rights to the logo, and he made plentiful use of it, embroidering it on a sequin T-shirt dress, splashing it across a full-length puffer, and printing it on silk blouses for both guys and girls, worn unbuttoned to the navel in both cases. Andrea True was on the soundtrack singing “More, More, More”—of course she was. Kors knows all the oldies, and he isn’t one to shy away from camp. But there were also subtle cashmere knits in the mix—minimalist nods to Lincoln Center’s ballerinas that balanced the maximalism elsewhere. And he brought the lithe athleticism of those knits to dresses in sequined matte jersey. Dance-floor-ready, whatever the decade. —N.P.
The feeling the show conjured was one of tenderness. It was partly the intimate setup—just 180 seats—and partly the models’ slow procession through the spotlighted dark, but mostly it came down to that sense of the unfamiliar familiar, like déjà vu, but different. When Christy Turlington, who walked in Marc Jacobs’s seminal 1992 grunge show for Perry Ellis, glided out in an off-the-shoulder jet black frock embroidered all over with glossy feathers, murmurs of delight echoed down the rows. To see time pass is bittersweet. In hosting the Japanese designer Tomo Koizumi at his store, Jacobs made tacit acknowledgment of that. Last week, one of the many, many Instagrams that streamed through our feeds about Koizumi was an Oscars pitch. Call us old school. The better choice for that all-important red carpet would be one of Jacobs’s befeathered party dresses. —N.P.