Don’t try counting the number of suits that walked down the Fall 2018 runways. You might miss one or two, you’ll probably stop halfway and realise that you need to redefine the criteria of ‘suit,’ and you’ll almost definitely end up wasting valuable time. Suffice to say the suit served as mascot to the Fall 2018 collections shown over the last month in New York, London, Milan and Paris. The message was conveyed a million different ways: a contemporary woman must stay strong in the face of adversary, is powerful beyond recognition, and can use her style as a way to further emphasise her power. How do you get all that with a simple outfit? The answers are plentiful.
Up-and-coming design team Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta combined couture shapes with a ready-to-wear sensibility in a way that celebrated a plus size figure. At Rio Uribe’s Gypsy Sport ramp, body confidence was just one of the many tools used to own and celebrate identity. The Alexander Wang girl has always been the life of the party, but this season it was clear she was also a high-power executive.
Marc Jacobs’ immersive 80s story rendered women statuesque and larger than life – there was power both in the presence of his clothes and the anonymity provided by the wide-brim hats. Raf Simmons’ latest Calvin Klein collection mixed art-centric beauty with a utilitarian sense of practicality: his women ranged from firefighters to thermal warriors – ready for absolutely anything life can throw at them.
Fashion week kicked off with Christopher Bailey’s Burberry swan song, a love letter to queer culture. Erdem challenged Hollywood’s male-dominated history books, designing his collection with Adele Astaire (Fred’s less-known but more talented older sister) as muse. Christopher Kane tackled the subject of sex in a frank and mature way. Simone Rocha served more of what is arguably the most beautiful intelligently feminist clothing in its balance of old-world feminine beauty and classic masculinity.
Donatella Versace preached strength in numbers and beauty in diversity. Her collection ranged from daring vampish dresses to colourful check suits, all cinched with corsets and many featuring the now officially trending head wrap. Marni’s Francesco Risso delivered a collection in tune with contemporary styles seen elsewhere, also highlighting issues around sustainability.
Miuccia Prada designed armour for a modern woman, suitable to keep her safe until such a time when her dream of a society in which women can leave the house and not be afraid of a violent outside world is realised. Echoing Versace in a way, Alessandro Michele’s much-hyped Gucci was an investigation of modern female identity and a woman’s ability to construct and reconstruct this however she wishes.
Paris Fashion Week kicked off with Maria Grazia Chiuri’s feminist protest at Dior. Anthony Vaccarello’s Saint Laurent eveningwear channelled a vintage sense of beauty – and proved there’s strength there. At Maison Margiela, John Galliano elaborated on the conversation around protection – Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia had lots to say on the subject too, as did Chitose Abe at Sacai. Chloé’s Natacha Ramsay-Levi was feeling nostalgic, but her balance of masculine and feminine dress codes made for some very modern winter layering ideas. It takes (perhaps more than) a touch of brilliance to bring together Sex and the City with equestrian references for a streetwear brand, but Off-White’s Virgil Abloh succeeded.
JW Anderson’s mix of art and interior references at Loewe delivered an innerwear as outerwear dress that celebrates femininity in an overt yet approachable way. Bravery was mixed in with a large helping of sparkle at Rei Kawakubo camp Comme des Garçons. Joseph Altuzarra made one of the strongest cases of the season for a skirt suit. Givenchy’s Clare Waight Keller came into her own at her new gig with a don’t-mess-with-me faux fur coat. Coats were the highlight at Chanel where Karl Lagerfeld turned the Grand Palais into an autumn park. The softer side of femininity was celebrated by Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli (who showed quite a few strong modest options) as well as Stella McCartney and Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen.
Thom Browne designed his latest couture-level collection with Vigée Le Brun, Marie Antoinette’s official portraitist, as muse. Miucca Prada’s Miu Miu girls were a crew of 60s rebels. Nicolas Ghesquière wrapped up the collections with a Louis Vuitton show that struck a rare balance between a bold idea and a sense of wearability. In Ghesquière’s mind, women will flourish in the ever-imminent space age. Who are we to argue?
Images: Getty images / Design: Jano Strydom