It’s back and as big as ever.
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Though fashion week returned, in theory, a year ago, the lingering effects of Covid meant that a handful of designers continued to stay away, either because of the quarantine rules in their home countries or because they weren’t psychically ready for The Return. Most restrictions are now gone, and a full in-person season starts on Sept. 9 with a four-week schedule as jam-packed with IRL shows as it was prepandemic — maybe even more jam-packed. In other words, fashion month may have been back, but now it’s back back.
So get ready for your social feeds to once again be clogged with catwalk shots, front row celebrity sightings and street style; the roads (and restaurants and bars) of New York, London, Milan and Paris to be stuffed with members of the traveling fashion circus and their black cars; and propositions for how we will dress next — in this world and the possibly the virtual one — to be flooding in.
What do you need to know to make sense of it all? Read on.
All those pent-up travel urges that overwhelmed airports and sent prices skyrocketing this summer are also being felt by fashion brands. Blame it on boredom or itchy feet or the need to meet their (international) customers where they live, literally, but multiple companies are hopscotching around the circuit. Fendi kicks it all off on Day 1 of New York Fashion Week with its “ode to the Baguette” — a whole show and collection in honor of the 25th anniversary of an original It bag. (Fendi will also have having a spring show in Milan, because if one show is good, two is … well, what? More opportunity for content!)
Marni follows the next day, bringing its patented creative chaos to Manhattan. Filling Marni’s spot in Milan will be the British knit wit Matty Bovan, who is swapping London for Italy thanks to sponsorship from Dolce & Gabbana. Also saying sayonara to London: Victoria Beckham, who is heading to Paris for her first show since February 2020. And because there’s now space in London — and also, a vibe shift — Raf Simons, who has been showing his dual-gender line in Paris, is crossing the Chunnel to Britain. But speaking of Paris …
After two years of being unable to travel because of quarantine precautions, Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, Junya Watanabe and Kei Ninomiya of Noir are back on the Paris schedule. So is Dries Van Noten, who has held his shows digitally or via a presentation since the pandemic began. And so is Thom Browne, who chose to show in New York for the last year to support his partner, Andrew Bolton, the curator in charge of the Costume Institute at the Met, and his two-part American fashion extravaganza. Since all five designers are among fashion’s greatest conceptualists, expect visual fireworks to ensue.
In London, Burberry will also be returning to the main schedule, after holding off-piste shows for the last few seasons, bringing its financial and celebrity ballast to the week. And in New York, Tommy Hilfiger is bringing his see now, buy now carnival back home for the first time in three years, complete with a contemporaneous metaverse show.
Still, there are a few names for whom there seems to be no going back, including Ralph Lauren and Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen, both of whom will be unveiling their collections after the official circus is over, in California and London respectively. Likewise sitting this one out: Oscar de la Renta, where going direct to customers rather than worrying about production of a catwalk show had become the norm; and Marc Jacobs (though rumor has it that he is collaborating on the Fendi Baguette show).
This means more room for new brands, especially in New York, so stay tuned for potential agents of change to emerge. Designers to watch include Raul Lopez of Luar, Elena Velez, Edvin Thompson of Theophilio and Everard Best and Téla D’Amore of Who Decides War.
Three of them in Milan, in fact. Maximilian Davis, the 27-year-old Brit who introduced his namesake label only in 2020, is taking the top job at Ferragamo, tasked with injecting a dose of modern oompf into the storied, and recently staid, Italian brand. Rhuigi Villaseñor, only a few years older, will show his first collection for Bally, bringing the Swiss brand to the catwalk. And the fashion high colorist Marco de Vincenzo will become the first nonfamily member to design an Etro collection since the brand was founded in 1968.
And speaking of firsts, the next week, the team at Off-White will unveil its first show since Ib Kamara took on the mantle of art and image director after the death of Virgil Abloh in December 2021 and a March tribute show.
Fashion’s love affair with technology has not abated, but it has evolved, and most brands now have their sights firmly set on the metaverse, crypto currency and the potential of NFTs to act not as collectibles but as passwords and signifiers of community. That theory is being tested this season, with Jason Wu (who partnered with DressX), Prada, Markarian, Rebecca Minkoff and Kim Shui all connecting NFT purchases with opportunities for buyers to win seats at their shows.
Or potentially, his own seat: New York Mayor Eric Adams, who is opening the season with a cocktail party at Gracie Mansion, the better to affirm his commitment to the fashion industry (and the financial investment it makes in the city).
He won’t be the only political presence at the shows. Last season, Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine just as the Milan shows were getting underway, and the extreme disjunction of war and wardrobe frivolity was both impossible to ignore and hard to reconcile. This season that disjunction may continue, along with more talk about sustainability and carbon neutral show pledges, while the midterm elections in the United States and the focus on Roe v. Wade and women’s rights over their own bodies will likely also come to the catwalk.
After all, women’s wear (and it is still the women’s season, despite the continuing presence of dual-gender shows) is supposed to be a reflection of women’s lives and needs, not to mention armor for daily life. Orly Color Labs has already teamed up with a women's rights lawyer to create You Don’t Control Me red nail polish. And “1973” merch has trended. The runway is just another theater of operations. Get ready.