As the dust began to settle around New York Fashion Week, its audience began to question whether or not this was the most innovative NYFW in recent history. New York is renowned for its emphasis on urban chic - luxe sportswear and high-end separates are usually the order of the day, leaving the melodrama for Paris. This season, however, things were markedly different thanks to a number of young designers ignoring traditional runway presentations in favour of something a little more interesting. Opening Ceremony, for example, cast stars such as Dakota Fanning and Rashida Jones to create a Fashion Week satire; one which raised eyebrows among the industry for its exaggerated depictions of fashion clichés. Elsewhere, Gareth Pugh moved his show from its usual Parisian setting to the Big Apple and Thom Browne created a typically fantastical setting for his S/S15 garden party. This season was packed with truly memorable shows and indicated that some designers are looking to move away from the 'trade show' mentality that has recently plagued the industry. We already have pre-collections, resort collections and diffusion lines to provide the commercial basics that keep the industry thriving - the runway is a platform for spectacle and it seems that, for the first time in a while, designers are ready to embrace it.
Paganism seemed to the theme of Pugh's SS15 collection, one that presented its audience with questions about the current runway formula. Hoardes of fashion press were literally pressed together in a vast performance space, clamouring for a peek at the newest presentation from Rick Owens protegé. What they finally did see was acres of shredded chiffon; typically loose, ethereal silhouettes in a monochrome colourpalette, often emblazoned with harlequin checks and teamed with animal horns. Meanwhile, half-naked men danced ritualistically around the room, mimicking the moves of the dancers on the screens behind them. Adjectives frequently used to describe this show were 'animalistic', 'menacing' and 'savage', and it is true that Pugh did rely heavily on fashion's favourite juxtaposition of light and dark. Angels of serenity and menacing beasts competed for airtime on the show's screens, but the real talking point of the show was the lack of seating chart. In an industry strictly ranked by hierarchy, the element of 'first come first served' was one of the most interesting, meaning that respected fashion editors had to fight for the best view. It seems ironic that a collection based around ritual was one of the first to question the ritual of the runway show - each season, an audience enters in single-file to be shown to a seat to watch a precession of models serve as walking hangers. Pugh brought things back to a basic, almost animalistic level - for once in fashion, photographers had to fight for their shot and journalists were left desperately trying to take in enough to write show reviews. For this reason alone, Pugh deserves to be named as the one true highlight of New York Fashion Week.
It comes as no real surprise that Thom Browne delivered a routinely flawless show for SS15. For years the designer has slowly been building his reputation as both a designer and a showman, and this spectacular 'Garden Party' served as evidence that nobody in the industry can execute a spectacle as well as Browne. Loosely based around a narrative of six sisters, the designer's fairytale saw the runway crowded by 10-foot stilt walkers dressed in the show's technicolour tailoring. As for the clothes themselves, Browe used every technique and every fabric imaginable - from patterned tweed to appliqué feathers, the collection was a dazzling display of the designer's abilities. Elsewhere, quirky tennis racket motifs adorned the fabrics and models lay on sunbeds in all-white outfits which had bikinis applied on top in multicolour sequins. Feathered lashes, net veils and towering headwear finished off a magical collection that immersed its audience in the psychadelic world of a true visionary.
HOOD BY AIR
Moving away from its signature aesthetic is last season's most talked about brand, Hood by Air. Since being endorsed by everyone from A$AP Rocky to Miley Cyrus, the brand has seen its long T-shirts and oversized cargo shorts become ubiquitous on the high street. However, this season, designer Shane Oliver sought to cement his brand identity with a collection on the 'business of commerce', based largely around a sexed-up new version of traditional male tailoring. Jackets were slashed open at the abdomen, shorts were ripped to the thigh and street-cast models wore perspex shackles to represent the restrictions of formalwear. The message of the collection was a rebellion against cultural homogeneity; the individual looks on the runway were encouragement for the new generation to sartorially shape their own identity. By creating a brand identity as opposed to a trend-driven collection, Walker has established that he understands longevity and the need for young designers to think deeper than their aesthetic.