This year’s Fall season was anything but predictable. Raf Simons left Calvin Klein and was immediately followed by the brand’s decision not to show a collection in February. Nearly two months later, the fashion sphere was overshadowed by the untimely death of glorified king of fashion, Karl Lagerfeld. He was the creative director of Chanel since 1983, as well as the creative director of Fendi and founder of his own eponymous label; the weight of Lagerfeld’s death was felt heavily across the entire fashion industry. However, no matter what fireballs may be thrown at the headstrong fashion industry, the show must always go on.
Some consistent trends to have emerged from Fall 2019 Fashion Month were a continuation of ruffled blouses and peasant dresses, decorative feathers and cozy fleece, and bucket hats just as oversized as the ones you wore as a kid. Colours ranged from neutrals in beige to the yellow of an egg yolk and power suits are as conquering as ever. Taking the lens a little closer, let’s have a look at what Toronto, New York, London, Milan, and Paris brought us…
First, we saw David Dixon collaborate with Osteoporosis Canada for his collection Bübl in an effort to raise awareness for the disease. The garments were made using bubble wrap, recognized as a symbol for protection, bringing the question into his creative process: how do we protect ourselves? His collection was unique with its incorporation of the unusual material and showed us styles that were boxy and bone-coloured.
Rising star Lesley Hampton presented an inspiring collection to commemorate her Indigenous roots and pay homage to the missing and murdered Indigenous women. All the models were of Indigenous descent and the show even opened with a performance by Indigenous singer Iskwe. The collection’s title “Eighteen Seventy Six” is the year that the Indian Act was implemented in Canada. Hampton’s message was clear and her collection was as beautiful as her devotion to her heritage. One of her most striking designs was the use of a red dot pattern, in which each red dot symbolized a missing woman.
Yet the greatest calamity from the few days of Toronto’s Fashion Week would be the backlash from the Mikhael Kale’s show. Models strutted down the runway in polka dots and bright pastels. While the collection itself was fun with polka dots and pastels, the controversy lies in Kale’s casting choices and hairstyle decisions. With a legion of white models and one black model, all wearing their hair in cornrows, it’s a shameful case of cultural appropriation, proving that the tell old tale of diversity in the fashion industry takes one step forward, and disappointingly, two steps back.
Gabriela Hearst aimed to bring awareness to Our Children’s Trust, an organization enabling youth to take legal action against the government’s infringement on their rights to fight for climate change related matters. The collection itself carried articles with recycled cashmere, sustainable alternatives to fur, while maintaining the elegant sophistication of her usual style. Similarly, 3.1 Phillip Lim unleashed a capsule collection on the premise that we could all use a Marie Kondo-esque decluttering. He also drew from inspiration from the environmental work of Yvon Chouinard and decided to make the collection free from fur and exotic animal skin. Both of these designers presented classic, workplace appropriate collections, thus refuting the stigma that environmentally conscious clothes can only be of a bohemian style.
Meanwhile, Michael Kors threw it way back with a 70’s extravaganza, even having Barry Manilow (!!!) performing Copacabana, stirring at the heartstrings of any 70’s nostalgists in the audience. The entire collection was disco inspired, with wildly permed hair, funky prints and patches, and a generosity of sparkles. The collection was said to have been inspired by 70’s supermodel Patti Hansen who closed the show, beaming in an eye-catching gold power suit. Michael Kors has always been somewhat autonomous to most people’s ideas of “American fashion brands” so this vintage inspired collection was very refreshing.
One of the most buzzworthy NYC debuts this season was Japanese designer Tomo Koizumi’s collection. Not to namedrop but… that’s exactly what he did when casting his runway, with high profile models and actresses strutting down in his extravagant flower bomb designs. He was inspired by a plethora of sources, such as performance artist Leigh Bowery and hanawa, a Japanese bouquet of flowers typically used for funerals, but one of his greatest muses was beloved character and symbol for women who are both cute and strong, Sailor Moon. While impossible to imagine anyone wearing the garments on a day-to-day basis, his gargantuan, colourful dresses commanded attention as they swallowed the models wearing them like cute little monsters.
As Canadians we feel we have part ownership over Erdem and his beloved talent. His collection this fall made us swell with pride, full of his usual artistry and cultural homage. His work this season came from learning about Princess Orietta Doria Pamphilj and visiting her 1000 room palazzo from 1960’s Rome. He presented a palette of florals, silks, lace, his usual embroidery, and a slightly funereal tone, perhaps paying homage to the tragedy in the Princess’ life. Altogether, the collection was like stepping into the most captivating history museum and never wanting to leave.
Ex-spice girl and fashion entrepreneur, Victoria Beckham had one of the most plausible collections for the modern working woman. With elegant suits, the tasteful use of red, and 70’s inspired knitwear, her clothes were designed for the everyday wonder woman. Meanwhile, Simone Rocha presented a collection devoted to female empowerment across all generations. She casted women, not just models, of varying ages, skin colours, body types, and toyed with the idea of intimacy and privacy by bringing undergarments into outerwear.
Young London designer, Grace Wales Bonner, continued with her signature style of un-defining gender in her clothes. Her Fall RTW collection was driven by writers Ishmael Reed and Ben Okri, both invited to be part of the show, who evoked a sense of African spirituality and magic that she tied into her designs. She also drew from influences of black university attire, claiming old photos from Howard University, the first black university, to have been her inspiration. The collection is full of team spirit, with varsity jackets, young professional blazers, and plaid/tweed trench coats.
Curiosity swarmed the Fendi show this year as it was Karl Lagerfeld’s last collection for the brand before his death. The series was nothing short of amazing and with the big bows, high collars, and the double-F logo, it was a signature send-off for the late director.
Versace’s collection this fall shows us grunge and rebellion in all its 90’s glory, spurred by Donatella’s sudden realization that we need a little imperfection in our lives. The label, recently acquired by conglomerate Capri Holdings Limited, had been the victim of much trepidation from Versace fans, naturally worried as to how the brand might change. With their sights set on growth and their future consumers, Versace displayed a very youth-oriented collection and what better way to target than making your collection look like every outfit of Jawbreakers.
Wrapping up the month of shows, we’ve been graced with the collections from the haute couture capital of Paris.
Valentino, as the name suggests, played on the theme of love for Fall 2019, with director Pierpaolo Piccioli expressing the emotional connection that fashion can have. With motifs of roses and Romantic Era sculptures, materials of silk, and warm colours of various shades of red, the audience couldn’t help but fall in love. The show ended with a beautiful passage by poet Robert Montgomery:
“The people you love become ghosts inside of you and like this you keep them alive.”
Meanwhile, Lanvin showcased their collection under the new direction of Bruno Sialelli, and needless to say, it was a revitalization. With striking shades of colours in the most luxurious silk, tartan and signature logo prints, sheer layers of mesh, the collection was divine, and precisely the breath of life that the ancient fashion brand needed.
Finally, in pure catharsis, was the legendary Chanel show. Much like the Fendi show, it was highly emotional, but arguably was an even greater tribute to late creative director Karl Lagerfeld. With one of the most phenomenal fashion stages to date, the show took place in a fabricated ski resort high in the hypothetical mountains, with fake snow and chalets from which the models entered the runway. Decadent in houndstooth, tweed, wide-leg trouser suits, the collection represented the quintessential Chanel woman: elegant and worldly. This was fundamentally everything that Karl Lagerfeld had defined in the brand. With a moment of silence and audio recording of the late designer, I can’t think of a more memorable way to say Adieu Karl!