For the first time in a long time, fashion is confusing. Any decent pair of working retinas would discern the pop cultural — and political — cues: the proliferation of teeny alt labels producing sophisticated looks indistinguishable from thrift-store finds (translation: cool AF); the advent of $200 declarative T-shirts; teensy handbags you can’t actually fit anything into. And feminism — yep, straight out of the Women’s Studies 101 canon — influenced pretty much everything. Girls wore boys’ clothes. Boys wore girls’ clothes. And sometimes, people who didn’t look identifiably like boys or girls wore clothes that you’d be hard-pressed to say with certainty were designed for humans (see: the double-ended boots at HBA).
Something’s happened recently that’s finally flipped convention on its head, and with it, the stereotypical notion that Fashion (capital F intended) should be pretty; that the people who wear Fashion should be white, skinny, and traditionally “good-looking”; that Fashion is the playground for the very rich and well connected. That’s not to say that Fashion hasn’t been artful, boundary-pushing, weird, and wonderful all along — because it has. But let’s face it: In the past two decades, fashion has very clearly been for the few. And now, things are starting to get weird. Wonderfully weird.
Because nothing happens in a void, we can ascribe some of this to the strange new world we all find ourselves in: The world is reeling, and the fashion capitals in America and Europe look remarkably different today than they did five years ago. Attending shows in grand palaces in Paris requires stepping past the displaced, human consequences of war along the way. In New York, where one of the country’s presidential candidates judges successful, effective women on their looks — it means something to see runway models who look more like your best friend, your mother, and your neighbor than a mannequin. And in London, where an immigration-influenced Brexit still reverberates through a shaken U.K., how could current affairs not provide context for designers and the women modeling their looks, who themselves represented every shade of brown, yellow, and black?
Change always represents opportunity. Those opportunities were worked out on the runway in some truly compelling ways. Some of them were just plain fun — beautiful distractions that make us want to pull out our credits cards. Others are the byproduct of an industry that’s, finally, opening its mind, rethinking tradition, and confronting the future. And so, after five weeks on the road and thousands of collective hours logged attending and ‘gramming hundreds of shows, our editors highlight the breakthrough moments, sure to influence the world one closet at a time.
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