It’s become very trendy to argue that fashion week is costly, wasteful and completely unnecessary. Its opponents claim that there’s no need for it in today’s digital landscape, where collections can be shared virtually all across the world. I beg to differ. If you’re in the business of arbitrating taste, whether through content creation or buying, the connections that are made in person with the clothes and the brand, could never compete with the download and open of a .zip file. Taking away fashion week would be like entering a long-distance relationship that reaches no culmination. We need to see fashion shows, where a brand presents the best of itself, much like we need a good dinner date once in a while.
It’s also become trendy to dump on New York Fashion Week, which I actually quite liked this season. London gets away with being “creative”, Milan is respected for its old-school luxury, and well, Paris is Paris, but I notice people reserve a bit of undue vitriol for New York. And yet, NYC’s seemingly random group of presenters represent the polish and ambition of the city balanced with the come-one, come-all philosophy of the new world in general. And while those welcoming values are becoming threatened at the moment, they’re still very much alive in the hearts of most Americans. From the Olsen twins, two Australian sisters, a young Texan, a second-generation Chinese-American, and a Brunei-born Dutchman, here are the top 5 collections from New York Fashion Week FW19.
When I start writing a review, I typically challenge myself to pinpoint why I connect with these clothes, and why other women might too. Sometimes the show notes and the inspiration revealed helps, and sometimes it does not. Zimmerman FW19 was inspired by Nancy Wake, a New Zealander who became a spy in Europe during World War II, who was known as the “White Mouse” because she was apparently so hard to catch. This, and generally anything war-related, I do not connect with. Perhaps designers feel pressured to include an erudite historical reference in their communications, over something more relatable.
What I did connect with however, was pretty much every look in this collection. Whether through ruching or frilling, Nicky Zimmerman just gets texture so well. Texture this rich is hard to come by, and it’s this tactile element that has elevated the brand from nice-to-have beachwear to year-round luxury essential. This collection was especially decadent - rich in colours, and rich in details. Rather than a spy from New Zealand during the war, I see this girl as simply an Australian in New York. Can we put that in next year’s show notes?
2. THE ROW
Mary Kate and Ashley don’t fix what isn’t broken. I’ve yet to hear a bad thing being said about The Row, save for the intern scandal, and sometimes, the prices. This season, the collection was reminiscent of the longed-for Old Celine fused with The Row’s signature modern minimalism.
The funnel necks, the cocoon coats, the tough yet streamlined boots, all seem to convey an untouchable-ness that very much resonates with the Olsens’ private nature and anti-branding. Unlike with other celebrities, we don’t know much about the twins’ lives. This elusiveness and mystery - which is actually highly seductive - is something we’re not very good at anymore with our IG stories and our many digitally led addictions. With their quiet yet palatable confidence and presence, The Row’s clothes make you feel like you just might be able to go cold turkey.
3. SIES MARJAN
I confess it took me a minute to get Sies Marjan. His name was everywhere, but upon looking at his collections, I couldn’t quite grasp what his thing actually was. This season, I finally did. Much like Seinfeld was a show about nothing, creative director Sander Lak’s collections just don’t center around a theme. Lak himself has said that he finds locking himself into one inspiration old-fashioned. He just makes what he wants to make - which is a kaleidoscope of feel-good looks. From the sequins to the crystals that adorned the runway, the presentation was very sparkly. Lak told vogue.com that the show was about love, and falling in love in particular. Looking at the color order of the looks, which started ultra-bright and got darker into the last quarter, it almost seems that the collection mimicked love’s typical trajectory. The good news? Lak is an optimist. The show ended with explosions of rainbow-hued tulle.
4. VERA WANG
There was a Celtic undercurrent (well, more than an undercurrent) there were many checked pieces at the Vera Wang presentation that perhaps didn’t quite gel with the designer’s poetic reputation. But also, there were some looks so beautifully styled, that they reveal the dark, neurotic glamour that doesn’t get to come out in Wang’s more commercial bridal pieces. I often see Wang at Rick Owens’s shows in Paris, which in a way informs us of where her design mind is at. Often called ‘the designer’s designer’, it’s known that you have to be a bit emotional to fully appreciate Rick (and quite likely, to design bridalwear as well). And these combinations - a shaggy faux fur coat with reversible sequins draped over the shoulders, and more sequins, as well as a dramatic monochrome ensemble with shorts and cape, had plenty of feeling.
5. BRANDON MAXWELL
Grace Elizabeth, arguably the industry’s current top model, always gets the best looks. She is refreshing. Not only for her hard to come by old-fashioned elegance, but also for her rise-to-fame story. Unlike the Hadids and Kendall Jenner, Grace, a Southern girl, came from a much more humble non-fashion beginnings. She told Porter: “My parents put everything they had into my modelling – put money on credit cards, remortgaged the house. We’d put too much effort in for it not to pan out.” The model version of the American Dream.
There’s also something something similarly aspirational about Brandon Maxwell’s clothes. They’re not trying to be cool. They’re polished, ambitious, and seem like they were made for the new-school Upper East Side gal who probably wasn’t always one. From the pristine white elevated safari looks to the gala dresses that closed the show, Maxwell’s FW19 collection represents the new society within this side of the pond.