The great fashion circus somersaulted its way through 2015, its merry-go-round spinning ever faster and its social media feeds ever more elastic. We tell you what stood out amid this year’s silk-draped, star-spangled carnival!
Gucci achieved total front-row domination. When Alessandro Michele took the reins at the house the horse-bit loafer built in January, Gucci was widely regarded as having lost its oomph, creatively and commercially. Jump ahead one season, and the newly renovated store in Milan was being pillaged by rampaging editors, and seemingly half of the front row was turned out in looks from Michele’s debut collection, from his kangaroo-fur-lined house slipper loafers to his green and burgundy floral suits. The month of January also saw the catwalk comeback of John Galliano who staged his first show for Margiela in London, where the only scandal was the late arrival of Kate Moss.
Caitlyn Jenner and Taraji P. Henson raised the celebrity style stakes. With Caitlyn Jenner’s Zac Posen bustiers and her Versace gown, her emergence as a fashion figure and her embrace of old-school glamour spurred a new debate about what it means to be “feminine.” At the same time, dominating the small screen and the red carpet was Taraji P. Henson, whose breakthrough character, Cookie Lyon of “Empire,” unabashedly embraced hi-bling (Moschino, Versace and Tom Ford), while the actress portraying her strutted her own brand of understated, streetwise cool.
Age did not affect influence. One of the fastest movers of product turned out to be Princess Charlotte. The latest addition to the British royal family proved she was as much a fashion influencer as her mother and older brother, causing a sellout in smocked floral dresses by the Spanish label M & H when her latest pictures appeared, much as Prince George did for Rachel Riley smocked rompers and Petit Bateau overalls. Malia Obama was a close runner-up, proving it’s not just Disney stars who set the tone for the younger set. Can Saint West be far behind?
Gender nonconformity went from reality to runway. The divide between menswear and womenswear is seeming ever more pointless, as labels like Vetements, Telfar and Public School mix boys and girls on the runway and in the wardrobe. Fashion reflects society, after all, and we are in a gender-nonconformist age. Why shouldn’t all consumers be able to dress the part? And this is no fad: Pantone’s color of 2016 is a duo – rose quartz and serenity – where pink fades into blue and vice versa.
There was an earthquake in French fashion. Alexander Wang and Balenciaga agreed to part ways after three years, Wang to concentrate on his own brand, and Balenciaga to hire Demna Gvasalia, the frontman of the in-your-face upstart collaborative Vetements, known for its gritty Margiela-influenced deconstructed streetwear. In October, the fashion industry was rocked by the news that Raf Simons was bowing out at Dior as artistic director after three and a half years for “personal reasons”, leaving the in-house design team to hold the fort, a tactic that is now quite familiar within the industry. And there were varying degrees of hysteria when the perennially affable designer Alber Elbaz left Lanvin under a cloud in the same month.
Generational change hit New York. The big three that defined and dominated New York fashion for decades (Donna, Ralph and Calvin) are down to one – or maybe even 0.75. This was the year Donna Karan joined Calvin Klein in jumping off the hamster wheel, although unlike Klein, Karan was not replaced, and her namesake main line is no more. Instead, LVMH, the owner of Donna Karan International, has doubled down on DKNY, appointing Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow, the buzzy designers of Public School, to the label.
Fast fashion became a hot mess. It was an annus horribilis for the old American standbys Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch and J. Crew, with falling sales and what seemed like a disappearing consumer base. The bright spot was Target, which broke the Internet with its Lilly Pulitzer limited edition, as did H&M with its Alexander Wang and Balmain collaborations.
Nudity was the new black (tie). From the Met Gala to the Grammys, the newsmaking looks on the red carpet looked awfully see-through. Beyoncé, J. Lo, Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus duked it out in the barely-dressed stakes, suggesting that when it came to statement-making entrances, less was more.
It’s a Darwinian fashion world out there, and not every brand survives. This was the year we said farewell to Band of Outsiders, as well as the namesake labels of Reed Krakoff, Kris von Assche and Jonathan Saunders. Marc by Marc Jacobs was absorbed into Marc Jacobs, and Burberry London, Burberry Brit and Burberry Prorsum are being merged into Burberry.
Finally special mention goes to Rihanna, whose services to fashion reached a high watermark in May of this year when she wore that brilliantly memorable omelette dress by Chinese designer Guo Pei to the Met Ball and became the first black woman to be the face of Dior. Both historic moments that 2015 should be thankful for.