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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.