Women's NYFW '18 | Staging the New York Fall 2018 Fashion Stories

by Long Nguyen

Calvin Klein 205W39NYC

Calvin Klein 205W39NYC

A popcorn laden barn was the backdrop for Raf Simons’ third runway show for Calvin Klein where he continued an evolution of his idea of what Calvin Klein and America mean since his first season in 2017.  The staging of fashion shows has become a crucial ingredient to the message and the soul of a collection as clothes now required meaning and an emotional connect here at Raf Simons’ Calvin Klein as it is elsewhere this season in New York.

Last season’s nightmare with car crash-printed jean jackets and leather skirts has now transformed into a more universal melting pot of old and new worlds.

Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence song added tumult to the emotionally charged show as models walked and waddled on the piles of popcorn that stuck to their boots and heels like sands in a moment of optimism as the clothes channel the uniting of narratives to form a vivid tableau of a new freedom and a new suggestion of dressing-- an orange firefighter coat over a brown wool plaid long coat, an EMT coat under a broad shoulder coat and slim pants, a yellow Road Runner motif knit, a sheer pink plaid prairie dress worn over brown orange skirt, and white large worker factory shirts paired with vinyl pants. 

Simons seems to be suggesting that if one looks carefully and avoids the “hearing without listening” there are great American fashion roots that are pertinent ingredients to remix into a great collection. Here all the garments we rarely notice were on full display albeit in another context fostering a different meaning. There was less reference to art than in the previous two collections where images from the Warhol ‘60s abound on jackets and pants. At the very least, Simons brought into the fashion conversation a process in integration through clothes that ought to have an impact on how the younger generation thought about the products they consume either digitally or at the stores. 

A few days earlier in the same building but with a radically different set of accouterments Bottega Veneta showed the BVxNY collection with a setting of a sumptuous and large apartment complete with dining room and living room sofas where the models hung out and relaxed as the show ended and the audience rushed onto the set for drinks and hors d’oeuvres.  The narrative for Bottega has embraced the chicness of New York’s elite society as a narrative that surrounded the clothes. To celebrate the opening of the Madison Avenue townhouse store, BV even published a small newspaper proclaiming “Bottega Veneta Shines Bright with Maison on Madison Avenue.”

Bottega Veneta

Bottega Veneta

The show’s opening sequence of a silk jumpsuit paired with wool coat set the tone for a lineup comprising of well-crafted clothes.  Bottega’s men’s offerings were more fashionable than when the collection was shown in Milan where the clothes reflected the brand ultra discreet luxury. Now more ostentatious tiger print coats or leather blousons, gold patent leather pea coat, a patchwork multicolor dinner jacket or an orange suit upped the fashion quotient usually not part of the vocabulary of Bottega Veneta but for this one occasion in NY, it was perhaps necessary to reach out to younger consumers who like their clothes to stand out more. 

Tom Ford

Tom Ford

The smell of incense of myrrh with notes of saffron and coriander from the collection of private blend perfume permeated the entire Park Avenue at Tom Ford’s bold show.

The disco music may have suggested an '80s sentiment, yet these clothes, which bear the designer’s trademark theme of excess –with his white and purple-strapped dress matched with leopard stockings. Ford’s vision has always been about unabashed female power through clothes and here, the power of the leggings have an infinite variety.

In terms of excess, no one can overtake Philipp Plein who constructed a snowy North Pole complete with a space ship visit that dropped off Irina Shayk in a black cat suit accompanied by a large robot at the Brooklyn Navy Yard just moments after Migos performed.  Plein had the clothes that perfectly match the atmosphere he created, namely, a bejeweled body corset, sleeveless black down jumpsuit, white spotted long furs with transparent overlay, and a range of silver sparkling cargo pants.

Stuart Vevers transformed the center stage of Basketball City near South Street Seaport into a dark cavernous midnight forest. The girls wore long dresses in patchwork of floral fabrics with ruffled hemlines. As the models walked randomly at the end of the show zig-zaging through the empty woods, their dresses and boots left trails of earth behind their fast pace walk leaving behind a feeling of a collection that is more well rounded and can stand alone rather than one to support Coach massive leather accessory business.

“It took more than six hours,” Prabal Gurung told me at a CFDA breakfast for their new book on American Runway penned by Booth Moore the day after his show at Spring Studios where he commissioned three Tibetan Buddhist sand paintings on the floor so that his models walked on them at the finale.  The purpose of sand painting is to learn a principle tenet of Buddhism – impermanence.  Once a sand painting is completed, it is erased and the process begins anew until the individual grasps transience. These paintings furnished the background for the designer childhood memories of women who brought him up and of the Sherpa women of his native Nepal who weave their own cloth to make clothes.  Now, he turned these memories into a collection that fused East and West cultural and artisanal crafts epitomized by the opening outfit an ivory cashmere turtleneck with fox fur trims, sarong skirts, and mandala strip wool scarf in an effortless manner.   

Another late evening at Spring Studio saw a group of gospel singers performing Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” for Kerby Jean-Raymond’s Pyer Moss show pervaded with political innuendos specifically a focus on the black cowboys who somehow never made it to the ubiquitous white history of the American West. The collection was full of wearable clothes –patchwork leather jackets, white shearlings, embroidered western shirts, leather bikers and large flare pants.  The finale included a segment of the current collaboration with Reebok illustrated by the big furry coats, track jackets and basketball shorts and the new iterations of the classic Reebok leather sneakers. It was a charming show where the designer’s past political activism was kept to a minimal while the clothes spoke for themselves. 

Brandon Maxwell

Brandon Maxwell

And in a studio at Time Warner Center, the open view onto Central Park at night only enhanced the experience of Brandon Maxwell’s wonderful clothes that seemed more relaxed this time than in previous season where they felt more like costumes. Karlie Kloss looked amazing in a simple spaghetti strap corset and wool flare pants as did Joan Smalls in a sleeveless flare ivory knit dress or Jourdan Dunn in a split front sparkling grey dress.  Marvelous clothes in a marvelous setting.

Elsewhere around the city, Tory Burch had her models walk around a man-made park full of blooming pink carnations sprouted on top of moist fresh grass and ferns at an empty space under the Queensboro Bridge that was once home to the Food Emporium supermarket. And what an appropriate and perfect setting for the series of light floral print dress worn with white furry coats, argyle sweaters on floral print skirts, or black paisley long tunic and ivory wool pants, clothes that are destined for the stores in the fall. Burch’s business is built on the understanding and the commercial execution that the runway and the stores are the same locale.

The same philosophy applied to the Michael Kors Collection show that took place at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center as a “Valentine to personal style” per the show booklet made to resemble a real theater program.  There were multiple posters at the entrance with the large size framed posters illustration of Kors jumping with his hands in the air. Models walked in the rotunda to a soundtrack remix the greatest hits of the ‘80s and ‘90s wearing red and gold tartans coats with floral dresses, chunky sweater and grey pants, black strapless dress and a series of classic menswear looks that included a fur coat and roll up jeans, an all grey suit ensemble and a yellow wool cape with red tartan pants. 

Later, in a simple studio at Pier 59, Rio Uribe paraded his models of all genders and sizes all wearing Gypsy Sport’s black and white combinations of tailored jacket with lace sleeve and cycling shorts, patchwork coats with running shorts, and a variety of micro dresses and asymmetrical white blouses. There is a more maturity in many of the jackets which isn’t a forte of the young brand yet this time the workmanship seemed more controlled. The cast included a 10-year-old drag star Desmond Is Amazing who wore a sort of corseted garments. At the Masonic Grand Lodge, Siriano celebrated his 10th anniversary with 72 outfits mostly his signatures over the years like grand ball gowns and sexy dresses and separates that proved his range of commercial clothes matching his diverse range of models. This time the fabrics are more luxurious than previous seasons like metallic jacquard and crystal velvets. 

And finally at the end of the long week, we returned to the Park Avenue Armory to find an atmosphere so radically different from the Tom Ford set the week prior.  The rusty smell of the wooden floor has replaced the soft floral smell of Vanille Fatale and two rows of overhead lights and two rows of seats with industrial numbers attached in lieu of the sumptuous lilac carpeting.  Yet, in this bare environment stripped of any kind of decorations fancy or otherwise, we witnessed the end of the New York show season with an incredible lesson in fashion as the model Arielle Murtagh entered the vast armory wearing a bright red wool felt coat with extremely large 2 button coat, a giant scarf wrapped around her neck revealing a purple bow blouse underneath and her face slightly hidden by a large dark navy brim hat by Stephen Jones. 

What followed was an unabashed vision of fashion as narrated by the explosion of colors and an exaggerated volume of clothing– coats, high waist pants, giant blouse with puff sleeves, giant bows and scarfs and for the most part a combination of all the above elements into one singular look.  In an era of fast fashion and instant gratification, a deep purple cropped fur coat with a black satin blouse wrapped with giant neck bow, a navy waist bow covering the mustard wool pants or a giant double-breasted coat that seemed to bury the model are the kind of fashion that required the audience’s knowledge and culture in order to appreciate this antithesis of the now. 

There was a whiff of the ‘80s blowing through the empty space at the Armory. Fashion does not happen in a vacuum but one designer’s work built upon another.  In a New York fall season, where few designers stood up for fashion creativity, that double yes meant perhaps an Olympic gold despite a somber mood of the show which was a one full point deduction.  

Written by Long Nguyen