29 Big (Fashion) Ideas
300+ shows, 4 cities, and just a few plane rides, these are the trends and headlines that dominated one of fashion's most relevant seasons.
In the political and cultural world of 2018, it’s hard to define the value of Fashion Month and its role in the "bigger picture." The idea that four weeks in New York, London, Milan, and Paris are supposed to influence the closets of those who have never even been to any of those cities feels disconnected, to say the least. Why should “non-fashion people” care about productions that flaunt wealth and exclusivity? Why are we looking at clothes that don't come out for another six months? What is the return on investment for designers and their hundred-thousand-dollar runway shows? Why is September still considered "the January of fashion?" But despite the fact that every month feels like Fashion Month with endless capsule collections, pop-ups, and other one-offs, the spring 2019 season ultimately proved to be rich with timely, resonant discussions and heady, much-needed escape.
What made this season such a standout was the context in which it took place — in the middle of a historic and ugly Supreme Court nomination, the month when Black women took the covers of fashion magazines by storm, and a year after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico as Trump’s America shrugged. The idea of prioritizing clothes over real world events felt as misanthropic as it sounds.
But designers leaned into and confronted today’s toughest issues. At Pyer Moss, racial tensions weren’t tense at all: the designer cast an all-black runway for his latest show, which reflected on the positive side of the modern African-American experience. For his contentious Celine debut, Hedi Slimane had us re-thinking what it means to dress sexy in the age of #MeToo. Sacai deconstructed conventions of feminism, while Carolina Herrera did the opposite. And Dries Van Noten provided the glamour that was missing from it all.
It’s safe to say, then, that there has been a fundamental shift: What happens during Fashion Month does matter. Women have always been ready for serious and cheerful clothes — clothes that are appropriate for real life and dream-like moments, be it on the dance floor or on the street marching in the resistance. And just because it costs more than an arm and a leg doesn’t mean it doesn’t have heart.
As we look back on the latest trends and headlines, we know there’s a lot to discuss. Below, we’re tackling 29 ideas that have captured the zeitgeist during one of fashion’s most relevant seasons.
Teva's vs. Dr. Martens: Divisive Footwear Faces Off
Why we ever spent money on shoes we couldn’t walk in is beyond us, but everyone’s been there. Gone are the days of wobbly heels and footwear you knew would give you blisters — in these trying times, we need shoes that can hit the pavement. Thus, the practical options of choice this season came in polar opposite silhouettes: Teva sandals and Dr. Martens boots. Both major proponents of fashion-crowd-favorite "ugly" footwear, these two brands were mainstays on the runway, paired with everything from sequin dresses at Sandy Liang to deconstructed suiting at Snow Xue Gao. Sure, they may be divisive, but isn't everything in 2018?
Are Bike Shorts On The Runway A Coincidence Or Just A Cheap Pull From Street Style?
Riddle us this: Aren’t designers supposed to debut trends first, with street style stars following close by with their own takes? Apparently, it’s the other way around — at least when it comes to bike shorts. That’s why we were admittedly surprised to see a trend basically pioneered by Kim Kardashian West popping up in collections by Karl Lagerfeld, among many, many others. From playful styles at Area and Jacquemus to Chanel and Fendi’s dialed-down versions, it’s clear we should just stop asking whether leggings are pants, because the answer is obviously yes. The people want comfort, and designers are here to damn well deliver.
It’s Time To Take Up Knitting
Alert your grandma and Pinterest-obsessed sister that you’re going to need one hand-sewn cardigan stat. Be it genuine knitwear or smaller embroidered details, the runways of Dior, Alberta Ferretti, and Jil Sander saw an influx of crochet that had us wanting to cuddle up. Maybe after a few seasons of a lot of not-so-comforting textiles (see: leather, latex) designers are taking a step back and focusing on craftsmanship that 1) involves actual craftspeople (Ulla Johnson’s beaded pieces were made by Maasai women in Nairobi), and 2) can be thrown in the wash without worry. Catch ya later, prairie dress — we’re moving on to a new frontier.
Somehow, The 2000s Have (Already) Made A Comeback
If the only constant is change, then, in fashion, the only guarantee is that every trend will come back around again. Despite our loud and proud love for the ‘80s and ‘90s, we've heard a lot of adults saying they don't need to re-live shoulder pads and denim mini skirts. Even millennials can now say they’ve already witnessed a resurgence of the high school items they’d rather forget. Relics of the early-aughts — low-rise pants, bandana tops, even flip flops — popped up at Ashish, Marta Jakubowski, Christian Cowan, LaQuan Smith, Vaquera, and beyond. Now someone call Paris Hilton.
Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?
Thai elephant pants are getting an upgrade (in case you aren’t familiar with the yogi staple, click here). While drawing inspiration from travels across the globe is nothing new for designers, spring 2019 had us wondering if they all spent the last three months on the same vacation. The flood of rope belts, artisanal prints, and safari hats seen at Anna Sui, Rejina Pyo, Rosetta Getty, and more had us reaching for our passports and aching to book a flight (or, for those balling on a budget, just read Eat, Pray, Love). But, on a serious note, this particular reference has us hoping that, for all the other motifs culled from across the globe (like batik fabrics), designers are incorporating the original artisans into their work, too.
The Ongoing Interpretations Of Menswear For Women
Some might say we’re living in a post-Pantsuit Nation world, but Hillary Clinton’s go-to enjoyed several iterations this season: In tailored silhouettes at Christian Dior, swishy fabrics at Dries van Noten, and oversized proportions at Tibi, you can now find a different pantsuit flavor for every day of the week. What this means? Designers are finally starting to get it. For spring, they proved that power suiting isn’t just a stuffy work uniform from the ‘80s tiresomely recycled — it can be liberating, too. Take Emilia Wickstead’s suits, for example – shown with pants and skirts – at an afternoon wedding, or the black suits at Akris at a cocktail party. And just about every suit works well with a comfy flat sandal or sneaker – the sensible footwear we’ll need in order to topple the patriarchy.
Colors So Ugly You Just Can't Look Away
We’ve seen a return to color over the past few years, with designers shunning black in favor of zingy pastel and primary hues. Where soft millennial pinks and playful electric blues once were, this season brings replacements of a more lurid palette, and brands are encouraging us to reach for pieces that should, in theory, turn us off.
Think of the nod to military uniforms seen at Marine Serre, Dior, Sies Marjan, and Ports 1961: head-to-toe khaki was seen throughout. Dull grays associated with brutalism were employed by Esteban Cortazar and Miu Miu, while turgid browns flooded the runways at Givenchy and Hermès. 2018 has seen ugly sneakers, ugly jewelry, and ugly sunglasses all reign supreme, but, as spring 2019 proves, the unsightly has officially reached the color spectrum. And we can’t look away.
The Unsexy Lady Bag
Last season, Staud may have made the barrel bag the most sought-after plus-one, and Simon Miller and Jacquemus may have given us the inconceivably tiny — and inarguably nonsensical — microbag, but spring 2019 (thankfully!) saw a return to practicality. Meet the Unsexy Lady Bag: a top-handled beauty, part doctor’s toolkit, part briefcase that’s made for a woman on a mission. At Valentino, leather in turquoise, red, pink, and black was contrasted with gold hardware, while croc finishes were given a bejeweled finish at Miu Miu. Jil Sander went even more minimal, with a concertina-style tan number. Gone are the days of trying to fit all of your possessions in a bag that carried more style than substance. Now, you can do both.
Who Needs Handbags When You Have Extra-Large Pockets?
Is anything more thrilling than trying on a dress and realizing it has pockets? Glorious, glorious pockets you can stuff with various paraphernalia, making for a heavenly purse-free existence? Carolina Herrera, A.W.A.K.E, and Fendi are just some of the labels offering gigantic pockets that can fit a pair of sensible flats, say, to make your commute less hellish. These pockets aren’t a demure surprise either – they’re puffy, three-dimensional, and unapologetic. They appeared on jackets, skirts, pants, dresses, coats, and even blouses, which means you’ll probably encounter them sooner or later. Adios, purse dust — we never knew what to call you anyway. (Hello, pocket dust.)
Silk, Satin, & Sequins Get Remixed
Conventionally feminine materials — like, the three S’s: silk, satin, and sequins — are now in total opposition to the typical. Thanks to designers like Sacai, Preen, Paco Rabanne, and others, what was once considered frilly (see also: dainty or feeble) is now devoid of any weakness, concealed by heavier matter, or is genderless. The thought of deconstructing the DNA of womenswear at a time when overtly feminine clothes are taking on new meaning may seem like a step backwards, but now more than ever, we could stand to be reminded that fashion has to evolve. Where would we be if it didn’t?
Fashion's Latest Tech Boom
Wasn’t it peculiar that, as Europe continues to soft-pedal their own tech boom, several European designers sent tech tools down the runway? A pair of headphones, for example, seemed AirDropped from one show to another; even the most practical of accessories, like belts and handbags, are now equipped to carry your every device. At Salvatore Ferragamo and Fendi, belts included pockets that were the exact shape of your iPhone, your iPods, and say, an e-reader. (There were iPads in the pockets of backpacks at Margiela, too.)
But this isn’t an advertising act. It’s not some millennial stratagem, nor is the quirk of clipping your iPhone to your thigh like a drop-leg holster some act of happy chance or contrivance. It is, however, a sign that designers are beefing up their accessories lines because, hey, that’s where the money is. Who cares if the government is always watching, and if this makes it even easier for them to do so? Fashion houses, too, know that practicality — at least these days — prevails. So, until the next system update, we say so long to fanny packs; the utility belt is back.
Time To Grin & Bare It All
Fashion no longer wants you to hide your underwear lines like they’re a bad family secret. From floral trenches at Dries Van Noten to polka dot dresses at Prada, articles of clothing have gone completely and shamelessly sheer — and with that comes some practical briefs. In place of thongs and other fancy, frilly undergarments, Calvin Klein 205W39NYC sent its infamous logo-ed underwear down the runway. On the not-so-practical side, Gucci offered up crystallized jock straps. But if designers want to dress our every nook and cranny, who are we to complain?
Things That Go Pouf
It’s a poof! It’s a loofah! It’s...a corsage? Eh, we can worry about this part later. As we watched the spring 2019 collections unfold, something stood out: rosette-style embellishments adorned to dresses, blazers, and necks made for one of the more obvious trends of the season. And they came in all shapes, sizes, and colors: At Marc Jacobs, Miu Miu, and Molly Goddard, those “the-bigger-the-bow-the-closer-to-God” vibes were less of a surprise than they were at Sacai, where designer Chitose Abe made them smaller (and more manageable), appearing more origami-like than some sort of used fashion sponge.
Nostalgia for ‘80s-style clothes is alive and well, so if that means more is more and less is…well, less...then so be it. Blending in is so last season.
Designers Bring True Inclusion To The Runway
Do clothes actually speak for themselves? The reality is a lot of them don’t. It’s why, at a time when originality is tested by Diet Prada on the daily, the conversation has expanded to casting, too. The industry may be split on whether or not the runway should reflect the real world, but with increasing diversity numbers each season, there’s no doubt designers have begun to make more space for the industry’s persona non grata, and for themselves: curvy, Black, transgender, differently abled — see also: “real” — models.
Kerby Jean Raymond of Pyer Moss, Claudia Li, Marco Marco, and Savage X Fenty by Rihanna, cast all-Black, all-Asian, all-transgender, and all-everything runways, respectively. That doesn’t mean tokenism is dead, but their impact permeated the web. Have designers finally found a way to speak to their customer? Only a long-term commitment will tell. But for now, repeat after us: Inclusion ≠ exclusion. Inclusion ≠ exclusion. Inclusion ≠ exclusion.
Everyone Is Wearing (& Collaborating With) Nike
Streetwear remains a huge influence on fashion, which means Nike was bound to pop up at Fashion Month sooner or later. Dozens of street style stars were photographed in Nike sneakers, and the brand’s logo was emblazoned on tops, dresses, and leggings in Virgil Abloh’s sporty-elegant Off-White show. At Comme des Garçons, models wore chunky Nike dad sneakers wrapped in gold and silver chains. The swoosh was everywhere.
But the brand isn’t just having a moment because athleisure is, nor are we copping this up to the blessed ongoing popularity of comfy shoes. Nike is one of the rare legacy brands that has managed to modernize and make a statement this year, thanks in large part to its iconic Colin Kaepernick campaign. And, after a few gender discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits were issued earlier this year, we’re not saying Nike’s presence throughout Fashion Month was an attempt to lure back women and remind us to Just Do It — but we’re not saying it wasn’t, either.
Accessories Ready For Combat
Last season’s Joan of Arc chainmail hoods were just the tip of the iceberg. The accessories needed to dress like a warrior are becoming less a commentary on the political climate and more like a survival necessity. Antonio Marras had camouflage headgear that lets you slip into a bush unnoticed. Courrèges had padded headgear (a.k.a. chic puffer helmets) and visors so large they could double as eye protection. Rick Owens had literal torches. Where do we go from here? Do we sense breastplates and luxury battle spears in our future?
Should We Really Be Styling Models In Durags?
For Black people, durags aren’t anything new. They’re a staple when it comes to haircare, laying down the friz to emphasize the person’s waves or curl pattern without messing up their growth. But in recent seasons, the head wrap has emerged on designer runways as a high-end trend sported by non-Black models. This season, thanks to Pyer Moss and LaQuan Smith — though they also appeared on Tom Ford, Max Mara, and Michael Kors runways — it was refreshing to see durags on Black models presented by Black designers. As Pyer Moss’ Kerby Jean-Raymond described his spring 2019 show: "What does a mundane Saturday look like when we’re just left alone? What is black leisure wear?" Well, it’s something as mundane as a durag. So much so that a version of one from Smith’s runway will be available with the designer’s first collection for ASOS.
The SCOTUS Moment
The day of the Kavanaugh hearings in Washington D.C., Rick Owens staged his fashion show around a flaming pyre in the Palais de Tokyo. Models walked the runway Lady Liberty-style, carrying burning torches or swathed in sullied American flags. Owens couldn’t have known when he created the collection that the hearing would overlap with his show, but his portrayal of a dystopian universe was surreal and spot-on.
People wondered if posting about Fashion Month during the hearing was insensitive. But sometimes, we learned, the show must literally go on. In that sense, it’s why sharing updates from the runways wasn’t a bad thing to do, even if fashion seemed particularly insignificant in the moment. It was a lesson in accepting the things we can’t change, mustering the courage to change the things we can, and having the wisdom to know the difference.
Former Designer Duos Break Free
We’d like to think that, back in 2011, designers Carly Cushnie and Chris Peters knew they’d be presenting their own solo collections at New York Fashion Week seven years later. The two, formerly of duos Cushnie et Ochs and Creatures of The Wind, respectively, competed in the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund together, and for spring 2019, they finally debuted their own labels: Cushnie and CDLM. The collections were strong and concise: both embraced themes of diversity and wearability in under 40 looks.
Another one of their classmates, Erin Beatty — who competed alongside them in the same year with her design partner Max Osterweis under Suno — also got back in the game. Beatty joined Nina Sarin Arias at her label Arias to lend her colorful, painterly eye to a line of sophisticated, contemporary separates. It’s more serendipitous, or golden, than it is timely that these three happened to join fashion, and then rejoin fashion, at the same time — but the fact that they did is just a really good thing.
The Fenty Effect
Leave it to Rihanna to close New York Fashion Week with a bang. The multi hyphenate creator cast the most curve models of the season, Slick Woods went into labor backstage, and the industry was there for it all. Editors made the trek to Brooklyn, some even leaving the Marc Jacobs show before it started (an hour and a half behind schedule, at that). We’ll skip the rumors that Jacobs wasn’t pleased with losing his coveted last-show-of-New-York-Fashion-Week spot, and instead focus on what matters: That Rihanna’s show celebrated women of all forms, body types, and cultures. That whole celebrities can’t be designers thing? Yeah, it’s been put to rest.
The Phoebe Philo Void
When it was confirmed that Phoebe Philo was leaving Celine after a decade at the helm, those both in and outside of fashion publicly mourned the sophisticated, ingenious kind of dressing that Philo celebrated. Just as much anticipation mounted when Hedi Slimane was announced as her successor. How could the man that brought his signature codes of the alt-youth — often unbearably thin models in precision-cut blazers — possibly mirror Philo’s female gaze?
As think-pieces and Instagram accounts dedicated to the old Celine circulated, there emerged a focus on what Philo herself represented. She wasn’t always fantastic when it came to diversity or representation (an argument put to Slimane after his debut collection, which featured just nine models of color), but she was forward-thinking in that she let women be whatever they wanted to. She made clothing for women that women wanted to wear, while Slimane’s debut felt like the opposite. Until Phoebe returns (please come back), we’re looking to designers like Stella McCartney, Claire Waight Keller, Victoria Beckham, and Sarah Burton to lead the way.
Hype In Overdrive
This season, there were a few designers whose runway shows felt more like events of the season than seasonal events. Take Ralph Lauren, for example, who fêted his 50 years in the industry with a spectacle that drew a glittery, feverishly devoted crowd that squeezed onto the the Bethesda Terrace in Central Park. Kerby Jean-Raymond commanded an audience for his Pyer Moss collection all the way to Weeksville, Brooklyn. Fenty shut down the Brooklyn Navy Yard. And, over in Paris, Hedi Slimane’s hellish Celine premiere was historic for all the wrong reasons. They were the shows everyone wanted into, for better or worse; they proved Fashion Month is (still) something of a popularity contest.
Illustration by Bijou Karman. Animation by Brent Clouse. Illustration by Bijou Karman. Animation by Brent Clouse.
The Endless Runway
Was it just us, or did Fashion Month feel a lot longer than four weeks this season? We’re talking about designers and their prioritizing of quantity over quality — and it wasn’t just Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana. The new Celine, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, and Gucci all dragged on, with each house sending more than 75 looks down the runway. What happened to editing? It could be inferred that pressure from the corporations that own them, like LVMH and Kering, think more is more. Maybe when you’re a headlining brand, it is.
Life's A Banquet, Literally
How about a side of calories with your clothing? It seemed as much of an impossibility as sneakers becoming the go-to shoe, and look how that turned out. Whether it was eaten or not, food was all over fashion week, and not just in the form of complementary Muscle Milk. Labels like Brock Collection, Mansur Gavriel, Gabriela Hearst, and Staud offered full brunch ‘scapes with their shows, where guests were actually seated around tables set with avocado toast and deconstructed macarons. The set-ups were almost too pretty to eat, but as anyone who’s ever worked in an office knows, who turns down free food? Not even fashion people.
The Subversity Of Beachwear
We’ve all heard the trope: “Florals for spring? Groundbreaking.” But what happens when you venture into paisley? Deep oceanic hues? What about designer surfboards, like at Etro? Baja tops at Michael Kors? A seashell bra at Thom Browne?
On that note, what does beach culture actually mean post-Beach Boys and Blue Crush? Are pricey bucket hats or Calvin Klein-stitched wetsuits worth the about-face when beneath the surface, an entire ecosystem, is dying in the background of our selfies? Fashion is still one of the largest contributors to ocean waste, and millions of plastic microfibers from our clothes find their way to the oceans every time we wash them. Think about that.
Surfing is cool — but aren’t most models skateboarders anyway?
Dolce & Gabbana, Pyer Moss, Eckhaus Latta, and Marine Serre incorporated families of models onto their runways this season; they were diverse in age, size, and race; a much-needed sense of community was felt. The message, no matter what side you’re on, was direct: Families (should) stick together. The fact that this theme occurred on all parts of the spectrum — from mega-brands to mid-tier contemporary labels to emerging designers — was no coincidence. Actually, it’s evidence that, when the rest of the world gets political, the fashion crowd leans in. It’s worth pointing out, too, that baby-spotting at Fashion Week is too darn cute.
Can Sex Still Sell Post-#MeToo?
This season, Balmain, Christian Cowan, Isabel Marant, or Saint Laurent pushed the idea that sexiness in a post-#MeToo world doesn’t always have to come in the form of a power suit — and it certainly doesn’t mean having to cover up. (Just don’t get us started on Hedi Slimane and Celine.) But what made these asymmetrical looks so daring wasn’t that they were shiny, tight, or short — it was that they were made of fabric that doesn’t breathe well on a summer night, in the club, or the morning after. Put simply: They’re clothes you can dance in, but not too hard. They’re clothes for standing there and….looking pretty — but is that really what women want right now?
Our Favorite Street Style Stars Are The Ones Who Have Been Here All Along
Anyone in the industry will tell you that street style has become an oversaturated zoo that blocks street corners and stops traffic. We’ve officially hit maximum tolerance for "who-even-is-she" pretenders. So this season, we looked beyond the staged photos and lingering peacocks and refocused on the women who made us actually care about street style in the first place: eternally stylish industry mainstays like Glamour Germany's Véronique Tristram and her bold, black-framed glasses, layering master Lucy Chadwick, Tamu McPherson and her eclectic, considered femininity, elevated-casual expert Natasha Goldberg, Irina Linovich and her perfectly draped lengths, and Christine Centenera, the OG (God, she nails it every time, doesn't she?). These women stay true to their own identity, rather than chasing the most-likely-to-be-photographed Balenciaga bag. And if you ask us, it’s that authenticity that makes the best outfits.
Mugler & Herrera: The Underdogs Who Came Out On Top
Ahead of his Carolina Herrera debut, designer Wes Gordon was certain he was going to nail it: “Get ready for the era of Herrera," the brand posted to their Instagram. And boy, did he ever. The same could be said for Casey Cadwallader, who recently took over the helm at Mugler. We could say so much more about the juicy color-blocking and oversized silhouettes at the former or the more muted tones and elusive, controlled shapes at the latter, but what’s even more inspiring is the unshakable inkling we got when watching both collections dominate Fashion Month. Gordon and Cadwallader are poised to be the future of the industry, and with all the uncertainty currently plaguing establishment fashion (creative director shifts, burnout, collections that just don’t sell), it’s refreshing to have something that gets us really, really excited about what’s to come.