Fashion Month Unwrapped: Autumn/Winter 2020

Words Alice May Stenson

Vel­vet cur­tains have closed on anoth­er fren­zied fash­ion month. From Coco Rocha’s flash­pose at Chris­t­ian Siri­ano, fig­ure skaters at Bat­she­va to Miley Cyrus walk­ing at a chore­o­graphed Marc Jacobs show, here are some of OVERDUE’s moments to remember: 

Begin­ning at New York Fash­ion Week, it’s warm wel­come to the sea­son is often met with elec­tric opti­mism and AW20 saw no dif­fer­ence. In Col­li­na Strada’s upbeat call to nature, singer Hay­ley Williams per­formed on flowerbeds as mod­els cel­e­brat­ed sus­tain­able, sun­ny- coloured style. Designs that cap­tured the rain­bow, through tie-dyed blous­es, and also cap­tured the eco zeit­geist of a new decade. Seen with glim­mer­ing water­ing cans to-hand, pitch­forks and dead­stock use of fab­ric – it’s clear that design­er Hillary Tay­mour is a refresh­ing, if play­ful, force for change. 

America’s fruit­ful hope and dreams didn’t stop there. The inno­va­tions of youth came from LaQuan Smith this sea­son with sheer body­suits, ruched miniskirts and com­i­cal over­sized bags – spelling, “I’m Mov­ing Out”. But he seems, rather, to be mov­ing into the high­er ech­e­lons of fash­ion, dress­ing stars like Rihan­na and Win­nie Har­low. Smith sets out to make women feel sen­sa­tion­al, and the riotous clap­ping that fol­lowed every mod­el onto the run­way cements his pop­u­lar­i­ty as a new face. Anoth­er shin­ing design­er, Christo­pher John Rogers, lit up the scene with bound­ary-defy­ing dress­es and all the glitz of Hol­ly­wood for his first show post-CFDA win. Crimped satin skirts and hor­i­zon­tal hair­styles became a dra­mat­ic car­i­ca­ture of red car­pet style. Forty looks ren­dered from rich cit­rus hues, with shapes emu­lat­ing Pier­rot French clowns – it was all very jol­ly. Upcom­ing award sea­sons are set to enthral. Vet­er­an in the depart­ment, Bran­don Maxwell, opt­ed for light organ­zas, fin­ished with pussy­bow necks for his take on for­mal dress. Just as artic­u­lat­ed drop waists and hal­ter tops erred a slight 2000s comeback. 

But weeks of cre­ative cel­e­bra­tion were met with a sense of urgency, as fash­ion month moved deep­er into Europe. Whilst coro­n­avirus spread and began to upend the indus­try, through show can­cel­la­tions at Gior­gio Armani and a ros­ter of design­er face masks on front rows, it was Balen­ci­a­ga who looked to this future of tur­moil on the cat­walk. Eeri­ly apoc­a­lyp­tic, its set saw mod­els ankle-high in a water­flood­ed are­na, furi­ous­ly storm­ing along to chop­py elec­tron­ic beats on the sound sys­tem. So loud that they vibrat­ed the hall to an unnerv­ing degree and caused almost as much dis­ori­en­ta­tion as the over­head pro­jec­tor did. It cast scenes of flame-engulfed skies, flock­ing birds, onto the waterbed below as mod­els in splashed along in stilet­tos and toe-sep­a­rat­ing sock-shoe hybrids. Dan­ger­ous dystopia, impend­ing doom. Front row seats were sub­merged in the makeshift sea and lights sunk into abysmal dark­ness. The show unearthed a des­o­late plan­et, where its inhab­i­tants wore foot­ball jer­seys, USB-cables as hair ties and shoul­der­pad blaz­ers that looked like extend­ed shrugs, all main­ly in black. Either a com­men­tary on petrol pol­lu­tion or, sim­ply, as Den­ma Gvasalia states how “black is the colour of Balen­ci­a­ga,” the show left a dark imprint in the mind. 

BALENCIAGA Autumn/Winter 2020

Dizzy­ing sen­sa­tions were also felt at Guc­ci, where Alessan­dro Michele pre­sent­ed a 360- degree view of fash­ion. Eccle­si­as­ti­cal ref­er­ences met aged bar­maid attire, all com­ing full cir­cle into a his­tor­i­cal parade. Mod­els stepped aboard a giant mer­ry-go-round where the back­stage team were also rotat­ing on-show to the audi­ence. Tech­nol­o­gy was clear­ly inter­twined, as evi­denced by show invi­ta­tions sent via What­sApp. What we saw was close to the­atre cos­tume, per­haps, but rel­e­vant in a world where social media is tak­ing cen­tre-stage. The col­lec­tion dilut­ed from bus­tles to prairie tops into bag­gy jeans, in a sped-up time­line of West­ern fash­ion. Some looked reli­gious, oth­ers aligned with the pinafores and aprons of child­hood. Michele’s set and ideas moved seam­less­ly, much like the lace-trimmed gowns that bil­lowed across the floor. 

Guc­ci Autumn/Winter 2020

On anoth­er Vic­to­ri­an note, Jere­my Scott let his mod­els have their cake, quite lit­er­al­ly, in a revival of eigh­teenth-cen­tu­ry pan­nier skirts at Moschi­no. Mary Antoinette met with bik­er leathers and den­im, as Baroque corsets meld­ed mod­ern fab­rics. Dress­es to resem­ble con­fec­tionary are as sick­ly-pret­ty as they sound, so too was the show invite that took the form of a stacked Vic­to­ria sponge – in pas­tel pink. Wed­ding cake struc­tures waltzed down the run­way, both faux-iced and tiered, no less. Not wear­able but cer­tain­ly able to fill one’s cre­ative appetite or stun the bridal party. 

Moschi­no Autumn/Winter 2020

Fic­ti­tious designs aside, the hum­ble blan­ket check is back once more. Seen at Alexan­der McQueen and Dries Van Noten, the pat­tern is her­ald­ed big for next sea­son. Sarah Bur­ton pulled from the McQueen archives for her tar­tan ver­sion while Van Noten played on blue tones. But embold­en the trend by wear­ing both. Andreas Kro­n­thaler for Vivi­enne West­wood best exhibits this in a medieval man­ner. The premise was good and bad, con­trast­ing and clash­ing. Boudi­ca dag­gers and lay­ered cot­tons splayed with dif­fer­ent prints were visu­al­ly arrest­ing. It revived the look of a Mid­dle Age bat­tle maid­en but with more colour, less gore. 

Vivi­enne West­wood Autumn/Winter 2020

Fash­ion month came to be con­cerned with shape. Whether be the shape of our plan­et or the rein­ven­tion of female form. Decon­struc­tion over casu­al was the mantra at Mai­son Margiela. It comes by way of cut-and-paste cloth­ing hop­ing to save the plan­et. John Gal­liano used off­cuts to craft his own DIY ren­di­tions of Edward Hop­per art­work, and the result is charm­ing. Like paper dolls that were pulled apart and hap­haz­ard­ly reformed. At the oth­er side of the shape spec­trum, Givenchy pre­sent­ed sharp tai­lor­ing, cocoon­ing capes, in the theme of old French cin­e­ma. Yield­ing ideas from Nou­velle Vague posters, colours of black, white and red were suc­cinct­ly dif­fer­ent to last season’s endeav­our into hip­pie flo­rals and jeans. Clare Waight Keller brought about feath­ers and fring­ing in the final looks, com­plete with opera gloves for max­i­mum ele­gance. It was demon­stra­tive of fem­i­nin­i­ty with a back­bone. Fen­di was not far behind, with Sil­via Ven­turi­ni Fen­di con­struct­ing a well-dart­ed leather trench, worn and praised by Bel­la Hadid. Seduc­tive­ly cut, and very Belle De Jour.

From sil­ver­screen to sala­cious, fash­ion month saw latex slith­er into AW20 as a key trend. Fetish fash­ion took a grasp of Bal­main and Saint Lau­rent with use of high-shine mate­r­i­al, worn fresh off the run­way in the case of Kim Kar­dashi­an West. London’s dar­ling, Richard Quinn, rein­tro­duced his latex jump­suits beneath clas­sic puff-sleeved flo­rals. They’ve turned out to be a pop­u­lar refrain, seen as part of his oeu­vre since show one. Valiant­ly uphold­ing patri­o­tism, the design­er looked to the Pearly Kings and Queens of Eng­land for this season’s mus­es, using iri­des­cent but­tons for appliqué on open­ing looks. Fit­ting, after receiv­ing a Queen Eliz­a­beth II design award back in 2018. It seems that Lon­don Fash­ion Week con­tin­ues to wear the crown in grad­u­ate fashion. 

BALMAIN Autumn/Winter 2020
SAINT LAURENT Autumn/Winter 2020

Quin­tes­sen­tial too, is all-Eng­lish JW Ander­son, who is one of many to show­case a bub­ble hem skirt this time around. Puffed and under-stitched, the dra­mat­ic trend is tak­ing sil­hou­ettes to bal­loon­like pro­por­tion. Halpern and Commes Des Garçons also played with spheres this sea­son, inflat­ing the abstract bound­aries of design. 

Fol­low­ing on from a bour­geois deco­rum, Hedi Slimane’s Celine defined the win­ter woman dress code: culottes, dusters and a 1970s mood. Officewear that’s stream­lined for the new decade. A strong under­tone of uni­sex pre­vailed, through slim suit­ing and ties for all. In the same vein, Burber­ry con­tin­ued to clench the wardrobe sta­ple with an influx of wear­able beiges. The col­lec­tion val­ues British design in an age of Brex­it, with Ric­car­do Tis­ci as a main­stay in the cal­en­dar. Time­less prints, mod­ernised mes­sage. A stronger mes­sage, one of com­mu­ni­ty, came from Chanel. Mod­els walked with inter­linked arms across mir­rored floor­ing, laugh­ing and chat­ter­ing as though can­did on the street. In an indus­try that is thought so staid­ly iso­lat­ed, gen­uine smiles are the best acces­so­ry for any white tweed din­ner jacket. 

Wrap­ping AW20, with more smiles, was North West’s debut per­for­mance for Yeezy. Watched on with dot­ing eyes by father, Kanye, she sung “what I do?” into a micro­phone, as we all sim­i­lar­ly won­der what to do until next season. 

CELINE Autumn/Winter 2020
Burber­ry Autumn/Winter 2020
Chanel Autumn/Winter 2020