New York Fashion Week

Fall/Winter 2018

The most ironic thing about this New York Fashion Week was designers’ wistful thirst for haute couture on a commercial show schedule that seemed all about survival. Wherever you go in this industry the concerns persist: fashion isn’t selling like it used to, and everyone’s trying to crack the code. New York has always represented commerce rather than creation, so the current industry climate isn’t exactly helping creativity. Except, of course, for those who can’t help themselves. Ringing out the city’s autumn/winter 2018 shows, Marc Jacobs amplified his ongoing romance with the sculptural drama of savoir faire in a ceremonious collection that pushed all the polygonal tangents, bending exaggerated sizes in and out of shape on the body. This was basically haute couture on a ready-to-wear runway, and a huge middle finger to the marketeers and their dismal forewarnings. Thank god for designers like Jacobs, who still believe that the fantasy of fashion is what will save us all in the end.

The glamour British Vevers finds in the American heartland is observed by the Flemish Raf Simons. In his most accomplished Calvin Klein collection, he zoned in on the allure of the frontier dress, adding a sense of design to his work for the brand that went beyond the kind of ‘designer merchandise’ of past seasons.

In Simons’ show notes the word “couture” appeared alongside “pioneer, Western, heroes, Hollywood, Civil War, cotillion,” and “New World.” His show radiated the mood of defiance against the current American establishment you feel all over New York. The word “safe,” Simons said of the collection, “was an important reference for the feeling.” You could interpret that literally in the colossal volumes that framed it: huge torn knits, armour-like knitted breastplates, oversized men’s coats, orange reflector suits, and protective utilitarian gloves and wellies. Or, you could take it as an acute desire for some sanity at the top of the political pyramid. You could certainly detect in the New York shows a longing for a more civilised and polite mentality.

Handing over the reins of her house to Wes Gordon as she retires, Carolina Herrera finished her farewell show with a finale full of the crisp shirts styled with full taffeta skirts that have come to define both her legacy and the image of practical American glamour. It harked on those no-nonsense values of a time when people behaved a little bit better than they do now, at least in the public forum.

Since she conquered the world with the Spice Girls in the 1990s, Victoria Beckham has been synonymous with Girl Power. Her collection drew on all those values, albeit for a slightly different audience, in modernist coats and dresses that have a profound sense of realness to them. “When I first started it was about the empowerment of a woman and her silhouette,” Beckham said.

“It feels like an evolution of where I started with certain pieces: a nice neat shoulder, a nipped-in waist, and lots of layering.” In its intricacy, her collection also nodded to the appreciation of the artisanal that sieved through New York despite fashion’s challenge to break with declining retail figures. It was something Michael Kors may have found the solution to, in a show that mixed that sense of Park Avenue dressing with New York streetwear and all the positive messages that echoed through New York. “I’ve always believed it was my job to take someone who feels confident and make them more confident. And if you’re not as confident, how do I let you feel confident? Now more than ever we need the power of the right things in our closet to get on with this complicated life and juggle a lot of things, quite frankly,” the designer said. His solution was to create the definitive wardrobe for women: the every-wardrobe, if you will, for the everywoman. “I believe that fashion can make you feel better, so we’re gonna have a love letter to people who love fashion, who aren’t down on fashion, who have fun with it.”