Now that’s what I’m talking about.
That was retailers’ assessment of New York Fashion Week and bankable trends such as Western-influenced apparel, footwear and accessories; glam Hollywood gowns; puffed-up puffers; red and pink color pairings; femininity, with buttons, bows, brocade and lace; and statement jackets.
Emboldened designers offered messages of female empowerment, either overtly with girl-power slogans on clothing, or more subtly through tailored suiting with strong-shouldered blazers. Designers who mixed politics with fashion included Prabal Gurung, whose protest Ts carried statements such as “We Will Not Be Silenced” and “I Am a Coretta,” and Public School’s global fabrics and “Make America New York” baseball cap that subverted President Trump’s “Make America Great” slogan with a reference to New York as a sanctuary city.
A collective rallying cry for inclusion was apparent in the pronounced diversity of models on the runways. “We saw more diversity than ever on the runways with African-American, Asian, Indian, full-figure models and different ages,” said Roopal Patel, senior vice president and fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue. “The message was, ‘Fashion welcomes and embraces women of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and ages.’”
“Of the many messages that designers were putting on their runways, I was happy to see a variety of races, colors, creeds, nationalities and body types,” agreed Ken Downing. “When you see a girl who’s not a gamine walking the runway with girls that are gamines, and you see it again, your eye becomes used to it.”
Raf Simons’ inaugural collection for Calvin Klein was the hands-down favorite of the week, leaving retailers hopeful that a designer of Simons’ caliber could help New York strengthen its seat at the global fashion table while inspiring other designers to up their games.
For the first time in two seasons, the see-now-buy-now movement didn’t dominate the fashion week conversation. While a handful of designers — including Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Rebecca Minkoff — continue to believe in the model, some retailers are already disillusioned and have begun questioning its efficacy.
“I’m not a proponent of see-now-buy-now,” said Jeffrey Kalinsky, designer fashion director of Nordstrom and founder of Jeffrey New York. “We’ve been given no proof that it’s something someone like me needs to get behind. I feel now more than ever that it’s not a good idea. There are more constructive things we as an industry can do to improve retail sales.”
“There was a lot of hope and expectation that see-now-buy-now would deliver [more],” admitted Patel. “The reality is that the customer looking for newness and special products is going to buy them when they’re available to her. She’s willing to wait for them. There’s spectacular fashion out there that customers are looking to secure in advance and purchase and select items can be pre-ordered at Saks.com.”
“While we’re excited by the see-now-buy-now concept and the impact it has on demand, it’s still very small commercially with only a handful of the brands we work with embracing the format,” said Lisa Aiken, retail fashion director of Net-a-porter. “It will take a number of seasons to measure success and scalability.”
“I feel more positive about New York Fashion Week than I have in a while,” said Kalinsky. “I think it had a lot to do with Raf and Calvin Klein. It’s going to be a great thing for New York and New York Fashion Week. It got me off to such a positive start. There were a lot of very positive things about New York Fashion Week and newer things happening in New York that also made me feel very good.
“It was great to see the new younger talent like Monse and Brandon Maxwell. We’re very lucky to have Marc Jacobs, who’s supertalented,” Kalinsky said. “Oscar de la Renta had one of its best shows in a very long time. Monse’s Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia kept the spirit of the collection, but they did so with a very modern approach while still respecting the house. Customers who’ve loved Oscar for a very long time are going to be able to get excited about this collection, and very young women will also get excited about it.”
“I love that Raf Simons, one of the most influential designers in our industry, kicked off New York Fashion Week, setting the bar high with his much-anticipated debut at Calvin Klein,” said Suzanne Timmins, senior vice president and fashion director of Hudson’s Bay Co. “The week was full of designers showing their own strong visions, whether they were major brands or young upstarts. There’s so much excitement bubbling up from below.”
Timmins hailed the American West trend as “being extremely commercial. It will translate very well in denim commodities.”
Other items that will be necessary for looking au courant in the fall, according to Timmins, are a velvet dress, sartorial pantsuit, pointy-toe shoes or boots and leather pants, preferably from one of her favorite collections, which included The Row, Proenza Schouler, Calvin Klein, Gabriella Hearst and Thom Browne.
“It was interesting to see how the industry responded to these interesting times. There were thoughtful responses to a politically charged environment,” said Linda Fargo, senior vice president, fashion office and store presentation, Bergdorf Goodman.“The most anticipated shows really delivered. Raf Simons brought an exciting, fresh take on the icons of Calvin Klein, and we saw the beginning of new provocative codes. We’re also loving the modern silhouettes and daring glamour Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia brought to Oscar de la Renta, while deftly evolving their own personal signatures for Monse.”
Naeem Khan produced “couture-level red carpet stunners, while Derek Lam, Adam Lippes, Gabriela Hearst and The Row upheld the American sportswear mantle and Ryan Roche impressed with elegant simplicity,” Fargo said.
Retailers could hardly contain their enthusiasm about the return to suiting. “We haven’t seen that on the runway in a very long time,” said Patel. “We were excited to see the return of statement jackets and blazers on [Simons’] runway. The standout velvet coats and overlays showed his mastery of craftsmanship, while knit dressing pared back to a blazer will reinvent and move forward classic silhouettes for a modern woman.”
Patel also singled out Michael Kors, Joseph Altuzarra and The Row for their longer and leaner silhouettes and outerwear in luxe iterations. “The Monse team’s vision for Oscar de la Renta was incredibly powerful,” she said. “They’re moving the brand forward while bringing back the brand’s signature DNA. Our ladies are going to be very excited.”
“Overall, it was a strong season,” said Beth Buccini, owner of Kirna Zabet,” citing top collections such as Rosie Assoulin, Proenza Schouler, Monse, Brandon Maxwell, Altuzarra, Marc Jacobs, Sies Marjan and Sandy Liang. “There was a lot of vibrant color, which is a nice change for fall collections.” No wardrobe will be complete, she said, without a shearling or fur coat, track pants, suiting, something in crushed velvet and platform shoes.
“It wasn’t necessarily the most exciting week,” said Coco Chan, head of women’s ready-to-wear and accessories at Stylebop.com. “To be fair, New York has the reputation of delivering commercial collections. You don’t expect to see designers reinventing the wheel. From a retail perspective, there were options.”
Chan said that searching for newness is tougher and less obvious now that designers have recognized the need for trans-seasonal products, a double-edged sword. “Consumers can’t afford to change everything from one season to the next. There has to be some kind of continuity.”
Chan was pleased to see tailoring make a strong return to the runways. “It’s a good thing, especially when you’re talking about luxury products,” she said. “Customers can really see the value of investing in those types of pieces and they’re not so easy to imitate at a lower price,” she said, referring to fast-fashion brands copying looks from designer runways.
The emphasis on the waist rather than off-the-shoulder or the cold-shoulder was also welcome. “The Row emphasized the waist with wider corset-like belts or skinny belts wrapped around the waist,” she said.
“It was a great beginning with Calvin Klein, but not all shows lived up to that great start. Overall, it was a good week,” said Michael Kliger, president of mytheresa.com, who liked the puffer jackets, suits and bright colors in New York. “What we want to see are products that make a difference, that carry an attitude, that are fun.
Designers constantly exploring new creative ways to showcase their collections is refreshing, Kliger said. “We love to see how designers present their collections be it runway show or other [platform] as it gives a fuller context. However, in the end we decide on the merit of each product. Our business model is very product-focused since our edit what the customer loves to see.”
“New York fashion week was a great highlight with established brands presenting strong collections and new players who are starting to be key,” Le Bon Marche style director Jennifer Cuvillier. “I loved Rosie Assoulin and Gabriela Hearst. They’re great talents in terms of modern creativity. The novelty men’s suit is really interesting in the women’s wardrobe. Thom Browne had some great examples.”
“Raf Simons for Calvin Klein offered highly desirable pieces with strong, modern American narrative,” said Alix Morabito, fashion editor of Galeries Lafayette. “The show brought strength to New York Fashion Week, but the global level of the presentations was lower.”
That said, Morabito appreciated Paul Andrew, Public School, Rosie Assouline and Sies Marjan. As for trends, Morabito cited a mannish attitude for women’s wear and old man-inspired cardigans and pants in men’s wear fabrics; a military comeback with khaki, parkas, visible staples and zippers; longer jackets, and color combinations such as gray, navy and camel with flashes of Bordeaux and yellow.
Mary Chiam, senior vice president of merchandising at Moda Operandi, cheered the season-less styles offered by designers such as Victoria Beckham, Gabriella Hearst and Ralph Lauren. The e-commerce site is introducing Monse and Khaite and launching handbags by Rebecca de Ravanel. “If there’s one piece you’ll have to invest in, the coat gets my vote,” Chiam said. “It’s practically the first thing people see and a great way to make a statement. For myself, I’d choose a shearling or puffer coat from Proenza Schouler, Monse or Marc Jacobs.”
Chiam also liked feminine details such as bows at Tory Burch, Carolina Herrera and Marchesa, and new takes on feminine suiting from Rosie Assoulin and Monse. “I loved the continued use of velvet, especially for evening and colors of the season such as pink and burgundy paired with powder blues as Elizabeth Kennedy showed for the evening.”
“There was a new mood of sensuality and femininity at Sies Marjan, Western influence at Coach and free-spirited glamor at Anna Sui,” said Nicole Fischelis, group vice president, fashion direction and global forecasting at Macy’s. “I liked Thom Brown, Jeremy Scott’s fantasy with an undertone of rebellion and the reinvented men’s wear at Calvin Klein and Michael Kors.”
Fischelis cited the “exquisite modernism and new minimalism of CFDA Fashion Incubator participants Ji Oh and Haus Alkire, and Gypsy Sport’s gender-fluidity.
Brooke Jaffe, Bloomingdale’s operating vice president and fashion director of rtw, complemented Simons’ suiting “revitalized with color track-pant trousers and color mixtures only Raf could do, and one fabulous coat after the next in a funky mashup of decades at Marc Jacobs.”
Other must-haves for Jaffe included knitwear, fashion shirting and opulent textures such as velvet, satin and charmeuse.
A long furry coat; big hobo bags such as those by Alexander Wang and Proenza Schouler; tweed suiting; anything from Calvin Klein; crystals and sequins, and punk club glamour are on Barneys New York’s executive vice president and general merchandise manager Jennifer Sunwoo’s list. “The long coat looks very fresh and laid-back,” she said. “We love all the men’s wear tailoring, furry outerwear and shades of berry. We picked up three exclusive collections for fall: Llora, Area and Monograph.”
“For fall, there was beautiful outerwear and sumptuous knits paired back to lightweight dresses and skirts,” said Mario Grauso, president of Holt Renfrew. “The customer today is a global traveler. We’ll continue to create strong merchandising moments in the store that allow clients to build their wardrobes with these season-less styles.”
As a Canadian retailer, Holt Renfrew is always on the hunt for outerwear. “Shearling was an important trend with everything from shearling-trimmed bomber jackets to oversized cocoon coats, and variations of the parka in printed colors and mixed-media fabrications,” said Grauso, who also gave a nod to power dressing from The Row and Victoria Beckham and contemporary brands such as Tibi.
“We saw a lot of designers play with the idea of unconventional fashion shows,” Grauso said. “We went to dinner theater with Moncler and a rave with Alexander Wang. Other highlights were The Row’s intimate studio presentation and Thom Browne’s theatrical ice rink.”
“Fashion is always looking for a disruption,” said Kelly Golden, founder of Neapolitan Collection in Winnetka, Ill. “A few seasons ago, it was Gucci. Now it’s Raf. There’s still lots of confusion and uncertainty out there.”
Golden, whose favorite collections were Gabriella Hearst, The Row and Oscar de la Renta, said her clients don’t want to wear designers’ political messages on their sleeves. “Now, more than ever, clients want only beautiful and functional, clothing.”
Copy that, said Downing. “There were some glamorous, exceptionally beautiful clothes,” he said. “It’s always lovely to see. There’s no shame in pretty. We’re in very ironic times. As retailer, it’s not my place to make a political point or statement. In times of unrest or when people feel challenged or not included, it’s all the more important for retailers to bring beauty so they can escape. There was plenty pretty on the runways in New York, but with a nice bite and sense of relevancy about how things are looking now.”