Everything You Need to Know About This Fashion Season
The world is topsy-turvy — on this we all agree. But when down is up and up is down, and everyone is busy looking in all directions at once because so much is going on (Super Bowl! Grammys! Oscars! Trump!), what happens to hemlines? Flux, of course. Fashion is not exempt. Disruption is the overriding trend of the ready-to-wear season. Cities, separation of the sexes, and the very shape of a show are just some of the elements under scrutiny. As fashion month begins in New York on Thursday and continues through the last of the Paris shows on March 7, here is what you need to know to stay on top of it all:
Exodus From New York
If last season Paris was the city to watch, thanks to four new designers making debuts at four old houses, this time New York is where the action is, in part because it is in the midst of what may be a permanent reassessment of the city’s role in the system. It starts with an exodus. Three designers (count ’em) have momentarily decamped to Los Angeles: Tommy Hilfiger, Rachel Comey and Rebecca Minkoff. Another — Hood by Air — has jumped ship to Paris, a surprising move given that in New York, H.B.A. qualifies for super-establishment-challenging-brand-of-the-moment status, but in Paris, land of fashion fantasy, its experimentations may seem less must-see.
Still, it is not the only brand seduced by Paris. Vera Wang made a movie instead of having a runway show and is releasing it during the Paris collections (she is getting the Légion d’Honneur, so it makes some sense). Rodarte has decided to move its show to the Paris couture in July, so it’s sitting this season out. Proenza Schouler will be joining them too, but at least it’s having a New York swan song. DKNY, under new ownership, is reassessing, so it’s out entirely. Tom Ford is busy with his film so he’s — well, he hasn’t decided exactly what he’s doing, but a spokeswoman said whatever it is, it won’t be a normal show. Opening Ceremony opted to costume a New York City Ballet production last month in lieu of its show. This may sound like rats leaving a sinking ship, but there is another way to think of it: opportunity!
What Do You Mean, Opportunity?
We’ve been complaining about an overcrowded schedule for years; now there is a chance to breathe — and for some enterprising designers, a chance to grab the spotlight. Certainly, this is how Raf Simons, making his debut at Calvin Klein on Friday in what is hands-down the most anticipated moment of the week, is thinking (if he can make that brand relevant again, it will be a game-changer). He not only moved the show to the front of the week, instead of its usual closing slot, but he is also debuting his men’s and women’s wear together, on the same runway, the better to send a clear message about the newly unified aesthetic of the brand. Also his own arrival.
Carpe Diem! Likewise seizing the moment to make some news and jumping on the dual sexes bandwagon is Stuart Vevers at Coach. Then there are Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim, the new creative directors at Oscar de la Renta, who are introducing a different kind of combination, and merging their first outing for the brand with their own brand, Monse, by using the latter as something of an opening act for the former. It’s a one-two punch of complementary aesthetics (or so everyone hopes) that has never been done. Most designers who do two brands are worried about sowing confusion by co-mingling. But maybe this will create a new paradigm for partnership between old and new.
And speaking of new: Phillip Plein, the Swiss P. T. Barnum of fashion, is bringing his special brand of showmanship to New York for the first time (normally he shows in Milan). Expect superstars! Expect fire and brimstone! Expect social media meltdown! Expect him to out-Kanye Kanye — who is back from his mental-rest days and showing again, despite the rather irate reaction to his last show. Will he keep his hubris in check? Given his friend-of-Trump status, will Melania attend? Or she will show up at Ralph Lauren, to support the creator of her Inauguration Day suit? We’ll have to wait and see. But there is one politician who we know for sure is making a guest appearance during the week.
Hillary Clinton. The former Democratic nominee for president is going to close the week as a guest speaker at the United States Postal Service’s First-Day-of-Issue Stamp Dedication Ceremony for the Oscar de la Renta Forever stamp at Grand Central Terminal, in what may be the biggest celeb moment of the week. Though a few days before that, eagle eyes will be peeled at the Pamella Roland show for more potential Trump administration sightings, since its president and designer, Pamella DeVos, is the sister-in-law of Betsy DeVos, the beleaguered nominee for education secretary who was confirmed on Tuesday.
Does All This Uproar Concern New York?
Not according to Steven Kolb, chief executive of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. “It’s not a shrink, but a shuffle,” he said of the modified calendar. “Different cities serve different objectives for brands. I don’t worry about it. Maybe we’ll become the see now/buy now center. Maybe we’ll see a host of new brands coming up. I think it’s a plus.” Wishful thinking or #truth? The proof will be in the postshow landscape.
What About the Other Cities?
After all that chopping and changing, London, Milan and Paris can seem like something of an addendum. Still, things are not entirely status quo across the Atlantic (well — except in London). In Milan, Gucci will start things off with its first combined men’s and women’s show in its bang-up new headquarters. At Ferragamo, we’ll get a clear look at how the multiple creative director plan is going, when Fulvio Rigoni, design director women’s wear, makes his official ready-to-wear debut (he helmed the show last season, but it was as an interim measure; now he has the job permanently), and Paul Andrew, design director footwear, finishes things off with the shoes. Finally, Francesco Risso will take the helm at Marni, starting the brand on its new technicolor chapter after the departure of the founder Consuelo Castiglioni. Absent this time: Cavalli, which is between creative directors. Cue gossip about who will get the job.
And Speaking of Gossip
Paris is going to be like one giant game of telephone. Clare Waight Keller is having her final show for Chloé, complete with a big after-party to celebrate (her six-year tenure, not her leaving) — but her successor has not yet been announced. Who will it be? What job is Ms. Waight Keller going to take afterward? Maybe Givenchy, because Riccardo Tisci just announced he was leaving that brand amid rumors he is jumping to Versace. As a result, there will be even more time to speculate, because that show is off the schedule while Givenchy searches for a new designer. The only thing we know for sure is that another game of fashion musical chairs is about to begin. This is how the front row amuses itself while waiting for a show to start. Now you can do it too.
Correction: February 8, 2017
An earlier version of this article misstated the titles of two directors at Salvatore Ferragamo. Fulvio Rigoni and Paul Andrew are design directors, not creative directors.