15 Pivotal Fashion Lessons We Learned In 2015

Photo: John Sciulli/Getty Images.
Fashion's big conversations of 2015 really spanned the gamut, and as the year winds down, we're taking a moment to recount the stuff we couldn't stop ranting and raving about in the past 12 months.

How many seasons is too many? What constitutes "too young" in this industry? (And while we're on the topic of age, is there such a thing as too old?) Do plus-size shoppers have access to the retail experiences they want and deserve? From "inappropriate" dress codes and genderless clothing to the #BalmainArmy, there was a lot to ponder in 2015. Here are 15 major fashion news happenings that dominated our dialogues this year — and the lessons we learned along the way.
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Photo: WWD/REX Shutterstock.
1. Fashion has gotten way too fast and everyone's stressed about burning out.
Raf Simons' abrupt departure from his post as creative director at Dior in October after his critically acclaimed three-and-a-half year run shocked the fashion crowd. Many theorized that his farewell was due in large part to the industry's breakneck pace and excess of seasons (six and counting!). Just days after Simons' breakup with Dior went public, Alber Elbaz unexpectedly decamped from Lanvin after a successful 14-year run.

Let's not forget Alexander Wang ending things with Balenciaga, two-and-a-half years after scoring the big gig. The breakup was speculated to stem from Wang's desire to focus on his eponymous line and to take a much-needed breather from divvying his time between Paris and New York to juggle both brands. "Designers — by their nature sensitive, emotional, and artistic people — are being asked to take on so much. Too much," esteemed critic Suzy Menkes wrote on British Vogue following Simons' farewell. What will it take for the industry to chill out and slow down?
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Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images.
2. Shopping for plus-size clothes can (and should) be absolutely the same as buying straight-size threads.
Melissa McCarthy's eagerly anticipated clothing line debuted this summer, with sizes spanning from 4 to 28. The actress (and fashion-school dropout) brought light to the frankly embarrassing retail practice of tucking away the larger sizes: “I don’t like the segregated plus section. You’re saying: ‘You don’t get what everybody else gets. You have to go shop up by the tire section," McCarthy told Refinery29. She also made a case for the problem with the term "plus-size" itself. "I just think, if you’re going to make women’s clothing, make women’s clothing. Designers that put everyone in categories are over-complicating something that should be easy," she told us.

Lane Bryant's groundbreaking #PlusIsEqual campaign, which dropped this fall, put that sentiment in no uncertain (and quite hashtag-friendly) terms. Sleek, chic, minimalist plus-size lines like Universal Standard cropped up in 2015, too. There's still lots of room for improvement in the plus-size market (and in the fashion industry's lack of true body positivity), but these are promising inroads. Because let's be real, no one's shopping experience should be perpetually relegated to the worst real estate in the store.
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Photo: Geoff Moore/REX Shutterstock.
3. Working retail is becoming slightly less hellish than it's been in the past.
On-call scheduling, a pretty shady reality of working retail, got scrutinized — and even dismantled — this year. The controversial practice requires employees to be readily available for certain shifts, with no guarantee of being paid for those hours if there isn't a staffing need. In April, New York's attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, sent letters to 13 major retailers, bringing light to the dubious legality of extremely short notice for shift scheduling.

So far, the list of brands that have outlawed the inconvenient practice include Victoria’s Secret (the first to nix the practice, in response to an employee lawsuit), Abercrombie & Fitch, Urban Outfitters, Gap Inc. (which includes Banana Republic, Gap, and Old Navy), and J.Crew (including Madewell). Which big brands will be next to scrap the practice?
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Photo: Miguel Medina/Getty Images.
4. You can — and should — have a sense of humor (even if you’re a serious, high-end Italian house).
Case in point: Valentino trotting out Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller to officially announce that Zoolander 2 was really happening. Sure, it was basically just a very savvy PR stunt, but it was also one of the most epic, Instagrammed moments of the fall 2015 season. Funny and fashion don't always mingle, but they should; this is an industry filled with colorful characters. You know, exactly the kind that Zoolander (and surely Zoolander 2) skewer so brilliantly.
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Photo: Courtesy of Carbon38.
5. If you aren’t wearing leggings on the regular yet (like, maybe even right now), you inevitably will be soon.
Ah, athleisure: you've been hearing about it for a couple years now, but in 2015, the term became dictionary-official. The retail success of athleisure wear, a.k.a. sporty garb to don at the gym (...or anywhere and everywhere, really) is apparently giving the typically solid denim industry a run for its money. Case in point: jeans sales dipped 6%, according to research firm NPD Group. If you've caved and decided to embrace the stretch, here are some fresh ways to style it all.
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Photo: Courtesy of Apple.
6. Fashion and tech are taking their relationship to the next level, and we're not complaining.
The Apple Watch finally arrived in April, and promptly garnered plenty of fashion-y fans (like Karl Lagerfeld and his very-VIP, custom-made gold iteration). The Hermès version, which debuted in October, truly underscored that harmonious fashion/tech interplay. There were all sorts of interesting, mostly attractive wearables making the rounds this year, as well as some runway (and red carpet) numbers that looked and sounded like total sci-fi in the best way possible. If you needed any further validation that the two fields are getting on really well these days, look no further than the reveal a few months ago of next year's Met Ball theme, "Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology."
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Photo: Laura Lezza/Getty Images.
7. Designer collabs certainly aren't going anywhere.
This year's Balmain for H&M was perhaps the biggest shitshow of a collaboration in recent memory, and we mean that in a nice way. Olivier Rousteing's loyal cadre of fangirls and fanboys were chomping at the bit for any and every morsel of intel about the collab for months before its debut. Those that braved the brick-and-mortar shopping experience on the November 5 drop date contended with utter pandemonium. Some people were even reselling the maximalist, spangly pieces for real Balmain prices. No word yet on who H&M will pair up with next year, but the high-low designer collab formula seems to be alive and well.
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Photo: Victor Virgile/Getty Images.
8. Uniforms and dress codes are more of a hot topic than ever — for better and for worse.
Let's start with the bad news: There's been a pretty ridiculous array of (often bafflingly) "inappropriate" fashion incidents this year. Various teens across the country were banned from their proms (and even from their classes) because of their getups. A 5-year-old's bare shoulders were deemed uncouth by her school. This gymnast's leotard stoked controversy in the Muslim community. Plus, a JCPenney employee was sent home because of her outfit, which had been purchased in the retailer's own career section.

On the bright side, the uniform policy in Puerto Rico's school system is about to become much more LGBT-friendly. Middle and high schoolers in Charleston, NC, donned scarlet letters in protest of their (very standard) school dress code being unfairly enforced for female students versus male ones. Meanwhile, on the runway, Hood By Air's Shayne Oliver played around with school uniforms for spring 2016 (...as well as gender norms and the perfection-obsessed practice of makeup contouring).

Hopefully, uniform-related news in 2016 will be more of the progressive, boundary-pushing variety, and much less of the illogical and somewhat sexist bans that arose this year.

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Photo: Courtesy of Annie Leibovitz/Pirelli.
9. Sex may sell, but modesty can be even more head-turning.
To wit: the unveiling of the 2016 Pirelli calendar back in September, comprised of an eclectic cast of smart, accomplished women like Patti Smith, Amy Schumer, Yoko Ono, Tavi Gevinson, and Serena Williams. Compare that to the model-dominated, soft-core aesthetic of past Pirelli calendars (although the 2015 iteration did feature the calendar's inaugural plus-size model). What if this varied, body-positive, way less naked approach has a repeat performance in future Pirelli calendars, instead of a one-off occurrence? That would be really progressive.
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Photo: Jeff Vespa/Getty Images.
10. Some things we once loved died (or are dying) slow, painful deaths.
This year saw the drawn-out demise of beloved shopping bible Lucky; other fashion media casualties of 2015 included Details, which folded last month.

Beyond the newsstand, American Apparel, the beleaguered body-con hipster basics retailer that you probably wore at every themed college and/or Halloween party filed for bankruptcy this fall. Just days ago, editor fave and Jonathan Saunders announced that he was calling it quits on his eponymous line.

And in "Will they or won't they?" news, mid-aughts favorite Band of Outsiders was slated to shutter as of May. But the indie brand had a big Black Friday liquidation through the now e-comm-only Filene's Basement. Now, it sounds like the brand is poised to be resurrected by the Luxembourg-based firm that acquired it over the summer. The next collection will roll out in 2017.
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Photo: Courtesy of Saint Laurent.
11. Septuagenarians and octogenarians are gorgeous (obviously) — and can still land major fashion campaigns.
Cher for Marc Jacobs, Joan Didion for Céline, Joni Mitchell for Saint Laurent: these women were featured in some of the toniest fashion house's fashion campaigns this year. We also met Baddie Winkle in 2015 and we're seeing more of Iris Apfel than ever since the Albert Mayles documentary about her life, Iris, was released last year. Women past the age of, oh, 25 seem to have a better shot at career longevity than ever before in an industry that’s notorious for being aggressively obsessed with youth.
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Photo: Victor Virgile/Getty Images.
12. ...Yet the catwalk is still veering too young (and too thin).
Youth has always been prized in this industry, but it seemed like teens were constantly in the conversation this year. Whether on the runway (like Israeli first-time model Sofia Mechetner's Cinderella moment at Dior's Haute Couture show in July) or in glossies (Cindy Crawford's equally genetically blessed offspring, Kaia Gerber, for example), there are concerns about the best interests and vulnerability of such young talent, more so with those that aren't the spawn of famous folks.

Legislation to protect underage models is still in the works, but appears to be moving along. Last month, New York Congresswoman Grace Meng introduced a federal bill to guard the rights and wellbeing of talent under age 16 in fashion and beyond.
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Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images.
13. The reviews might be pretty awful, but if you’re Kanye: A) your fashion shows will be endlessly discussed and B) you just DGAF what people think.
Maybe you loved it. Maybe you absolutely loathed it. Or perhaps you just couldn't really understand how layering glorified compression garments could be called a "collection." But everyone had an opinion about Yeezy Seasons 1 and 2, which were total conversation-dominators for fall 2015 and spring 2016, respectively. Ah, the power of celebrity. Can Rihanna garner the same level of buzz when she presents her Puma by Rihanna collection in February?
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Photo: MediaPunch/REX Shutterstock.
14. Transgender individuals — and genderless design concepts — have never been more relevant or accepted.
In July, major modeling agency IMG/WME signed, Hari Nef, its first trans model in the U.S.; she's starred in campaigns like & Other Stories and walked in shows like Adam Selman. Meanwhile, an entirely transgender modeling agency opened in L.A. over the summer. Beyond the fashion orbit, trans individuals were more prominent and vocal in pop culture than ever in 2015 (Caitlyn Jenner being just one example).

Simultaneously, Gucci's very intriguing, very under-the-radar creative director appointment in January of Alessandro Michele has resulted in some of this year's most exciting, contentious, and gender-bending runway moments of 2015. J.W. Anderson and Hood By Air's Shayne Oliver have also contributed to the lively, ever-evolving dialogue on agendered clothing. Here's to lots more of that in 2016.
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Photo: Misha Nonoo.
15. Enjoy those traditional catwalk shows while you still can.
Because the fashion show (and week) as we know it may soon go extinct. Designer Misha Nonoo skipped an IRL showing at NYFW entirely for her spring 2016 collection, instead opting for an "Insta-show" on Instagram.

And though Givenchy's spring 2016 show did involve a traditional runway set up, the location (New York instead of Paris) and level of accessibility (over 1,000 tickets were given away to local residents, fashion school students, and the public, with most doled out via social media) were quite radical.
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