Brilliant showman that he is, Alexander McQueen understands the power of high contrast and visual metaphor. By showing his ultrahaute, ultraglam fall collection against the backdrop of a giant— albeit highly stylized— junk heap, he determined, in typical style, to use his runway to make bold pronouncements rooted in spectacular fashion but with a deeper essence. The topics thus covered with silent bravado to provocative effect: the value of history, recycling materials and ideas, self-acceptance and toughing it out in hard times (not to mention an almost surely deliberate swipe at his former employer LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton via flamboyant retro Dior references). McQueen most likely did not intend, however, to offer a stark, somber snapshot of the season as a whole, one like no other in memory. Yet he did, his fabulously high-style red, white and black peplumed, houndstoothed, bustled, feathered, New Looked extravagance set against— and competing for attention with— that ominous pile of junk. Love among the ruins. Such was the season as a whole, a season of wonderful fashion juxtaposed against, and fighting for relevance within, a worldwide economy in shambles.
The shows approached amidst much conjecture: Would designers stare down the doldrums with defiant fashion or play it safe? From the start, the former proved true. The earliest, most overt expression of that force came via Marc Jacobs’ riotous, vibrantly hued ode to New York in the Eighties. By the time the season closed a long four-plus weeks later with a beauty of a Miu Miu collection, it could boast countless dazzlers, including a wistfully romantic Ralph Lauren, an exotic Christian Dior, a girly military hybrid from Comme des Garçons and, from Prada, a Forties-inspired affair that put coats, suits and itchy wool short shorts with thigh-high waders in a perfect marriage of not-so-subtle perversity and chic.
Few designers saw this as a moment to hedge. The younger, smaller types came out swinging as well, and not just the Rodartes, Taos and Thakoons of the world. Especially in New York, a surprising— make that shocking— number of newcomers showed for the very first time, many wowing their audiences with beautiful work. But why now? Prabal Gurung said his launch was the culmination of a long-in-the-works business plan; Bensoni’s Sonia Yoon explained that she and partner Benjamin Channing Clyburn felt pushed toward major fashion since “people only want to buy special pieces now.”
Yet for all the beautiful clothes, one couldn’t avoid twinges of deck-of-the-Titanic futility, but with that proverbial fashion twist. Here, passengers weren’t dancing blithely unaware, but in defiance, because what else could one do?
Day after day, week after week (we’ll touch on that one in a moment) came the onslaught of sobering news, some pragmatic— responsible people downsizing their venues or canceling fun-but-unnecessary parties; some devastating— the Dow diving to a nearly 12-year low with retail stocks slammed, some stores closing and others slashing budgets. Anecdotally, retailers acknowledged flying coach and downgrading hotels; numerous editors went home between Milan and Paris. As the weeks turned into a month and counting, Americans spending most of that on the road, virtually everyone started grousing about the money being spent, and eventually, the work piling up back at the home office. Milan’s chief budgetary culprit: the price of the hotels— close to thievery. In Paris it was the let-them-eat-cake schedule, which saw at least two days with one major show in the morning and the next not until four or five in the afternoon. Nor was New York sans indulgence. God bless the young designers. But they must grow up and realize that by insisting on individual shows in whichever dingy corner of the city they can finagle their location deals with no regard to the rest of the day’s schedule, they are frustrating, and yes, irritating the industry grown-ups who’d love to see their wares but can’t. In so doing, they are hurting themselves. The square root: This season could have, and should have, been shorter (and ultimately cheaper) by at least three days. Thus, toward the end, even as Paris fashion soared, the mood of its audience bore all the joy of a protracted funeral.
In a way, outrage over the cost of a hotel breakfast provided diversion of sorts from the more oppressive gloom that clouded the season and hasn’t lifted an inch: What’s next? With retailers on record about slashing inventories and dropping non-core resources, how much of what was shown will find a home at retail? Of that, what will lure women, still able and willing, to buy? Are fashion houses doing all they can to deal with the crisis?
Creatively at least, that last question got a resounding “yes.” Whether in spite of or prodded by an epic communal fear, designers made the fall 2009 collections splendid in their daring, their diversity and, ultimately, their hopefulness. Against the ruins, a labor of love and determination.
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews