THR's senior fashion editor, Booth Moore, breaks down what you need to know from the four-city spring 2017 fashion month.
The spring 2017 runway shows started last month in New York with Tom Ford’s star-studded "see now, buy now" dinner-and-a-show, and ended Wednesday in Paris with Louis Vuitton’s futuristic disco. In between, there were designer debuts, editor feuds, headline making models and one hell of a jewel heist. Here are my takeaways.
It was the jewel heist heard around the world. When Kim Kardashian was robbed, bound and gagged at her hotel residence on Oct. 3 following high profile appearances at several Paris Fashion Week shows and a handful of social media posts in which she could have inadvertently tipped off thieves to her belongings and whereabouts, it signaled a potential tipping point in the fashion show celebrity media circus. (The incident followed just a week after Gigi Hadid was assaulted on the street outside the Max Mara show in Milan by celebrity prankster Vitalii Sediuk, who also attempted to kiss Kardashian’s butt in Paris, before being tackled by her bodyguard).
News of the robbery was met with skepticism by some. Kardashian and sister Kendall Jenner cut short their trip to Paris, returning to the U.S. before the end of fashion week, and French police are currently exploring a lead involving a limo that was spotted in the area the night of the incident.
But I have to wonder about the longer lasting impact on the Kardashians' attendance at fashion shows. Will they return? Other celebrities may also start to think twice about attending the crowd-swarmed fashion events in Paris and elsewhere, or at least how surrounding social media posts (their own or others') could endanger their personal safety.
Speaking of security, it was heightened in both Paris and Milan following the terrorist attacks in Europe over the past few months. Metal detector wands were in use at the entrances to most shows, and there were bag checks. At Chanel, held in the Grand Palais, there were airport-style X-ray machines for bags, and walk-through machines for guests. At Prada in Milan, security guards actually touched wands to guests’ stomachs, an invasion of personal space that left some in the fashion crowd feeling uneasy.
The most surprising lack of security was at the Louis Vuitton show, where metal detectors and bag checks were noticeably absent, despite the fact that the show was held in a building site at Place Vendome, smack in the middle of central Paris, with French billionaire and LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault, American ambassador to France Jane Hartley, and several celebrities in attendance.
It was bound to happen sooner or later that new media and old media stars would clash in a spectacular way during fashion week. That was the case at the tail end of the Milan shows, when Vogue.com ran an online feature skewering the street style scene outside fashion shows, in particular bloggers and Instagram stars paid by brands to wear head-to-toe designer outfits to garner snaps and Instagram likes.
In an online round table post, Vogue editors used the words "pathetic," "embarrassing "and "sad," to describe social media stars changing clothes in their car multiple times a day so they could use the sidewalk full of photographers as a personal runway.
The gist of the story? The men and women being held out as pantheons of personal style have actually killed it with for-hire practices designed to bait photographers.
Social media personalities Susie Bubble and Bryanboy fired back on social media, naturally, pointing out that old media magazine editors at Vogue and other publications are also beholden to brands who advertise with them, and that the street style runway is the same kind of cozy, pay-for-play relationship, only more immediate and in your face.
The spat was a topic of conversation online and IRL for a few days, and something tells me that as fashion brands continue to try to figure out how, and if, they can monetize their association with social media stars, we haven’t heard the end of it yet.
Designers took up the cause of feminism this season, from Prabal Gurung's collection set to the late Maya Angelou reciting her poem "Phenomenal Woman" in New York, to the "We Should All Be Feminists" T-shirt on the runway at Maria Grazia Chiuri’s debut runway show for Dior, which may very well have been the emblematic piece of the entire season. There were power suits aplenty on the runways, too, maybe not from Ralph Lauren, who has been making many of Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits, but at Balenciaga where strong shoulders ruled, and Givenchy where sexy suits came bedazzled with rock crystals.
Putting aside the Democratic presidential nominee, Lena Dunham's vocal support of women’s rights, Meryl Streep's Suffragette film and everything else in the political pop culture zeitgeist, there is a dollars-and-cents reason for luxury brands to be embracing feminism, too; women's wealth is growing over men's despite the wage gap. So women have more to spend potentially on luxury goods, and the Diors of the world want to make them feel good about doing it.
In recent fashion history, Karl Lagerfeld was the first to put the idea of feminism front and center when he staged a Chanel show as feminist protest for spring 2015. Of course, there is risk to mixing fashion and feminism; the possibility that women could come to reject the idea altogether of hanging their identities on expensive designer frocks.
Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner may be the new supes, but they’re not the only ones in the game. In fact, some of the most provocative models of the season weren’t traditional models at all.
From Christian Siriano’s runway show in New York featuring 6 larger-sized models, to Tomas Maier’s multi-generational casting of Lauren Hutton and Gigi Hadid on the runway at Bottega Veneta, to Kenzo’s street-cast nude living statues in all shapes and sizes in Paris, several designers used their runway shows as platforms to communicate messages of inclusiveness and body positivity. British Vogue also made news this month for releasing a model-free issue of the magazine.
With flagging sales, luxury brands continue to scramble to figure out how to draw in the next generation of high end fashion consumers. This season, they vied for their attention with casual accessible clothing, including jeans, T-shirts and swimwear (Dior, Louis Vuitton, Stella McCartney), sideways baseball caps (Chanel), and itsy bitsy entry point luxury item mini bags (Hermes, Valentino, Louis Vuitton).
Sneaker brands Adidas and Puma made a big splash on the runways, too, for better (Rihanna’s Marie Antoinette themed Fenty show in Paris, Alexander Wang’s surprise Adidas Originals collection in New York) and worse (Kanye’s Adidas debacle on Governor’s Island, which reportedly led to his entire 30-member design team being fired.) It makes me wonder how long until other athletic brands put a stake in fashion week. Nike, where are you?
Fashion month started with much fanfare around the new see-now, buy-now phenomenon of showing in-season clothes on the runway, and harnessing the social media attention around shows to actually sell clothes, not just share images of them.
Tommy Hilfiger’s Gigi Hadid-starring show, fall collection and open-to-the-public carnival was a slam dunk, generating an 154 percent increase in sales for the brand that week, year-over-year. And Tom Ford stirred up a lot of attention with his star-studded see-now, buy-now dinner-and-a-show, though it’s not clear if it generated sales because the company doesn’t share figures.
But Paris houses were resistant to the move, pointing to the role anticipation and aspiration plays in selling luxury product. Vivienne Westwood and Paco Rabanne experimented with the format, introducing a few pieces in Paris that were on sale immediately, but the majority of houses did not.
And there’s still the issue of the retail seasonal calendar not syncing with the weather, fall coats landing in stores in August when it’s still beastly hot, for example, and swimwear in February when it’s frigid and cold.
So, it’s no wonder that many designers seem to be giving their collections a trans seasonal appeal, most notably Miu Miu, where Miuccia Prada showed swimwear alongside mink coats. How’s that for covering all your bases?
This season was marked by several high profile designer debuts (Anthony Vaccarello at Saint Laurent, Bouchra Jarrar at Lanvin, Maria Chiuri Grazia at Dior), and one ghost collection, with Raf Simons too newly appointed to Calvin Klein to show.
Coupled with the surprise announcement on Wednesday that Justin O’Shea would be leaving his post as creative director of the traditional Italian men’s wear tailoring house Brioni, where he had been for just six months, during which he launched an ad campaign with Metallica, it was a reminder that the industry is still very much in flux.
As brands try to figure out how to plot a future in a changing global economic and demographic landscape, and balance artisanal tradition with a new high tech reality driven by immediacy, the designer revolving door isn’t likely to stop turning anytime soon.