Bedbugs, and Everything Else to Know About Fashion Month

Bedbugs, and Everything Else to Know About Fashion Month
  • PublishedOctober 6, 2023


The back-to-back fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan and Paris have ended. The bedbug infestation that consumed the French capital during Paris Fashion Week is seemingly ongoing.

Those who didn’t pay attention to the fashion on and off the runways, or at the dozens of parties that took place, might be wondering where to start. The following collection of articles is a guide to the most memorable shows, clothes and moments witnessed by Styles reporters, photographers and editors during so-called fashion month.

In more than 10 years of documenting fashion weeks, the photographer Simbarashe Cha has found that particular colors often dominate the runways and the crowds outside shows.

But during Paris Fashion Week, Simbarashe wrote, “instead of coalescing around a certain shade, designers and attendees seemed to embrace many of them.” Summery yellows and autumnal oranges were some of the shades he glimpsed on the streets, while vibrant greens and dusty fuchsias and pinks brightened up the runways.

In recent years, the runway shows by the behemoths Chanel and Louis Vuitton have seemed “increasingly niche,” wrote The Times’s chief fashion critic, Vanessa Friedman. “Not smaller physically, but speaking mostly to an echo chamber of their own (paid) celebrities and acolytes.”

At the same time, Miuccia Prada’s label Miu Miu (which she years ago started showing in Paris instead of Milan) “has quietly become one of the most influential in fashion,” she wrote. Miu Miu’s collections have not only influenced what people wear on the street, but also “what has appeared on other catwalks since this fashion month began,” wrote Vanessa, who called its latest show “fantastic” and described Mrs. Prada as “the muse of the season.”

Few designers are still as “engaged in the kind of world building that is the fashion equivalent of a Dickens epic serial that plays on, season after season,” as John Galliano, Vanessa Friedman wrote.

His latest show for Maison Margiela had the (loose) plot of a trans-Atlantic passage to the United States. “The mementos of that trip were contained in clothes,” Vanessa wrote, including “voluminous black and gray greatcoats with generous draping and trapeze backs, bias-cut gowns, full petticoats and little camisoles.”

Valentino’s latest collection offered a radical statement about female autonomy, Vanessa Friedman wrote, “because it separated nudity from sex.”

To Vanessa, the most revelatory clothes were “simple cotton and rough linen garments that pulled-on like T-shirts, except they were painstakingly pieced together from complex collages of shapes — doves, pineapples, butterflies — that lay like bas-reliefs, or the most elaborate embroidery, directly atop the skin, the better to incorporate the body beneath so it practically became a base layer, or part of the palette, unto itself.”

After years of using other means to promote the humane treatment of animals, PETA this season returned to an old tactic: runway crashing. Sign-waving protesters from the organization disrupted shows at all four fashion weeks: Coach in New York, Burberry in London, Gucci in Milan and Hermès in Paris.

Jessica Testa, a Times reporter of fashion news, got an inside look at how PETA pulled all of it off.

To separate “wearable stuff” and “fun, wacky stuff,” Vanessa Friedman wrote, “is to give up on the real value of fashion.” For Vanessa, the latest collections by Hermès and The Row lacked whimsy, even if the clothes looked perfectly nice. The collections by Comme des Garçons and Noir, while exciting to look at, seemed harder to wear.

Brands that better threaded the needle between wearable and wacky were Yohji Yamamoto, Y/Project and Balenciaga, she wrote. But perhaps the most successful was Loewe. Though its designer, Jonathan Anderson, sometimes makes clothes that veer gimmicky, he is adept at silhouettes, a skill most recently exemplified by some ultra-high-waist pants.

Two labels in Paris showcased some of the latest advancements in wearables, short for wearable technology, this season.

Coperni, the brand that last season had robot dogs roam its runway, accessorized models with the Ai Pin, a smart assistant created by two former Apple designers that attaches to clothing via a magnet. And at the Anrealage show, the designer Kunihiko Morinaga showed off his recently trademarked Anvisual photochromic technology, “in which clear PVC (polyvinyl chloride) garments are transformed via ultraviolet light into multicolored outfits, like a rainbow being exposed in real time,” Vanessa Friedman wrote.

Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen and Gabriela Hearst of Chloé presented their last collections for each brand at Paris Fashion Week. Ms. Burton — whose successor, Seán McGirr, was named three days after her farewell show — was “as close to a hero as fashion has had,” Vanessa Friedman wrote. Celebrities including Cate Blanchett, Elle Fanning and Jon Batiste sat in the front row at the show, which ended with Naomi Campbell walking the runway in a silver beaded dress.

Ms. Hearst’s final Chloé show also ended with a bang: Musicians from the Mangueira samba school of Brazil “appeared for the finale to play Ms. Hearst, prancing joyfully down the runway, and her models out,” Vanessa wrote.

Tired of so-called quiet luxury? Several designers in Paris seemed to be, wrote Vanessa Friedman. Balmain showed clothes covered in red-patent-leather roses; Marni offered a mishmash of stripes and plaids; Rabanne presented metallic dresses dripping in chain mail; and Schiaparelli showed a little black dress with a large gold-painted ceramic lobster at the neck.

Perhaps the strongest rebuke came from Rick Owens, whose collection included leather dresses that were crushed around the body like little mountains of meringue, Vanessa wrote, and oversize jumpsuits with silk capes that looked like deflated parachutes trailing behind. She described the designer’s approach as “monumentalism, or minimalism taken to maximum volume — simple lines, mega effects.”

Two of the most exciting shows in Paris this season came from Dries Van Noten and Undercover, the label by the Japanese designer Jun Takahashi. Vanessa Friedman wrote that both collections demonstrated how “confusing times make for great fashion.”

Dries Van Noten delivered delightfully twisted takes on rugby shirts (as mustard-and-red-striped drawstring trousers), khaki (tying the fabric up in knots to shape a day dress) and other building blocks of a preppy wardrobe, Vanessa wrote. And Undercover, to conclude its show, presented dresses with full plastic miniskirts illuminated from within to reveal whole gardens complete with live butterflies, she wrote.

Weeks after the designer Peter Do debuted his first collection for Helmut Lang at New York Fashion Week, Mr. Do held the latest show for his own line in Paris. There is a history of designers overseeing collections for multiple labels at once, but serving two masters, as Vanessa Friedman put it, can sometimes yield mixed results.

This was true for Mr. Do, who after receiving so-so reviews for his Helmut Lang collection, presented a strong show for his own line, Vanessa wrote. He did so partly by injecting it with the DNA that many had thought he would bring to Helmut Lang.

“Once upon a time,” Vanessa Friedman wrote, “Dior upended all ideas of what women should wear and caused a scandal in Paris; once upon a time Saint Laurent’s collections regularly sent editors into conniptions, they were so shocked out of their comfort zones by what they saw.”

But these times are not those. At their shows during Paris Fashion Week, both labels presented luxurious clothes with points of view. Those points of view, however, were familiar — and a little too safe, Vanessa wrote.

If there was a trend unifying the collections shown in Milan, it might have been short shorts, which appeared on almost every runway, Vanessa Friedman wrote. But otherwise, different approaches informed the clothes that represented the future of the brands.

Some labels, like Moschino and Versace, leaned heavily into their archives. Others, like Ferragamo and Jil Sander, experimented with silhouettes and fabrics in ways that expanded the bounds of what their brands can be, Vanessa wrote. A few went even further out on a limb, including Bottega Veneta, which showed pieces that she described as “plain old weird” and “eye-poppingly good,” and Diesel, whose clothes had “a chaotic, end-of-the-world energy” that made them seem like “couture for the climate apocalypse,” she wrote.

Heading into Milan Fashion Week, there were lots of eyes on Sabato De Sarno, the relatively unknown designer who took over at Gucci earlier this year. When a parade of A-list celebrities — Julia Roberts, Bad Bunny and Ryan Gosling among them — showed up to see his first collection for the label, it only added to the buzz.

The runway show, Vanessa Friedman wrote, was “not a major statement, but rather a cleansing interregnum after the overblown muchness” of Alessandro Michele, the Gucci designer who preceded Mr. De Sarno. “Think of it as a breeze, rather than a wind, of change,” she wrote.

During London Fashion Week, the streets outside shows became “a sort of laboratory for experiments in getting dressed,” wrote Simbarashe Cha.

“The style can be so ahead of the curve that trends happening elsewhere are already considered over,” he wrote. Some of the standout looks he saw incorporated sweaters tied around the body or worn in other unusual ways. Others featured neckties, often worn traditionally and by women.

The collections shown in Milan by Tom Ford and Prada were both inspired by the past. According to Vanessa Friedman, one label’s use of nostalgia felt fresher than the other’s. Prada’s collection, which referenced the ’20s, ’30s, ’80s and ’90s, seemed to remix history, rather than simply reproduce it, she wrote.

At Tom Ford, the first collection by Peter Hawkings, who earlier this year became creative director of the label after its eponymous designer stepped down, was a tour of Mr. Ford’s greatest, slinkiest and sexiest hits. But Vanessa said that the homage felt less potent than the clothes that inspired it.

Milan Fashion Week started on a high note: specifically, Fendi’s runway show, which Vanessa Friedman described as its best one since Kim Jones became the brand’s artistic director three years ago.

Why? Because Mr. Jones, for the first time, managed to create clothes that outshone the bags that for years have dominated the discourse about the brand. “They looked grown-up without looking stuffy; comfortable but also streamlined,” Vanessa wrote. “The same way you stuff your life into a handbag and feel pulled-together, you could stuff your self into these clothes and feel equipped to make some margin calls.”

After taking in the shows, events and gossip from London Fashion Week, the Styles reporter Elizabeth Paton compiled a list of the best moments this season. Red appeared to be the dominant color, with labels like 16Arlington, Chet Lo, JW Anderson, and Supriya Lele all incorporating it into their collections. Some of the best accessories came from Simone Rocha (platform Crocs encrusted with chunky crystals and pearls), and from Labrum, which, as part of a partnership with Adidas, showed Samba sneakers and rubber clogs printed with Nomoli figurines of Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The silliest drama was caused by Burberry’s takeover of the Bond Street tube station, where platform signs were changed to read “Burberry Street” during fashion week. The move, Elizabeth wrote, “baffled scores of tourists and foreigners, who missed their stops.”

For his second Burberry show, the British designer Daniel Lee shifted away from items that seemed to cater to Gen Z-ers and moved his attention to the grown-ups, Vanessa Friedman wrote.

Burberry’s classic trench featured prominently in the collection, she wrote, and “a print featuring the brand’s hardware — chains and locks and carabiners — snaked itself over silk shirts and scarf dresses, the backs of leather coats, and trousers.” The show was a strong showcase of branding, according to Vanessa, but the clothes lacked emotional depth.

Last September, Anna Wintour and a small army of Vogue staff members, models and celebrities staged a fashion spectacle in Manhattan’s meatpacking district. This year, Ms. Wintour — along with stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet and Sienna Miller, and British royals like the Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie — did it again, in London.

The Vogue World event was designed to support London’s performing arts and celebrate its heritage as a cultural powerhouse, Elizabeth Paton wrote. But it was also designed to generate revenue for Vogue and its parent company, Condé Nast. “Ms. Wintour is betting on events like this one to bring plenty of sponsors and patrons willing to pay for one-night-only access to the starry Vogue universe,” Elizabeth wrote.

The Turkish-British designer Dilara Findikoglu, whose show was one of the most anticipated at London Fashion Week this season, surprised many in the industry when she canceled it just days before it was set to take place.

“I love what I do, and I wouldn’t want to do anything else,” Ms. Findikoglu told Elizabeth Paton. “But I want people to know that it’s a backbreaking, soul-crushing struggle to be an independent designer in 2023. This is no fairy tale. Anyone who says otherwise is lying.”

While documenting the style outside the New York Fashion Week shows, Simbarashe Cha wondered if individuality was going out of fashion. There wasn’t an absence of stylish people, he wrote, but risk-takers seemed to be in shorter supply.

Among the more interesting clothes Simbarashe saw on the streets were women’s suit jackets with the shape of an inverted triangle and many items with fringe, which, he wrote, suggested “the dawn of a new era for urban cowboys.”

In the two years since the pandemic lockdowns ended, fashion has been all over the map. But this season, some designers in New York offered their clearest vision yet for post-pandemic dressing. Vanessa Friedman called it “a hybrid look for a hybrid world.” At Tory Burch, sleeves of no-nonsense suit jackets were sliced open to free forearms. Michael Kors showed empire-waist dresses with leotard tops and airy skirts.

Lightness also characterized the clothes at Gabriela Hearst (a cotton trench with chiffon inserts hidden between its pleats) and at Carolina Herrera (a lemon yellow skirt constructed from four layers of tulle but no crinolines). But, Vanessa wrote, “no designer did more to crystallize the way forward than Willy Chavarria, whose genderless suiting deserves to redefine New York fashion.”

The designers at New York Fashion Week reflect the diverse demographics of the city. There are titans and hustlers, stalwarts and upstarts, dreamers and pragmatists. And the clothes shown by many labels — Coach, Ralph Lauren, Collina Strada and Fforme among them — could be described as camouflage that nodded to those many identities, according to Vanessa Friedman.

Ekhaus Latta, Vanessa wrote, assembled a D.I.Y. army “in oily, touchable jeans, fuzzy knits and patchworks of transparent organza.” Proenza Schouler, she wrote, “focused on the essentials,” which included a jacket in duck-egg blue over low-slung trousers. Other collections, though they had a clear identity, were less original. “It was impossible to see the battering-ram shoulders of the leather jackets and trenches” on the runway at Khaite, Vanessa wrote, “and not think of Saint Laurent from last season.”

The 10th installment of New York Men’s Day, a showcase of men’s wear collections during New York Fashion Week, featured presentations from the labels Kent Anthony, which showed sharply outlined jackets with beaded hems; Raleigh Denim Workshop, which makes jeans that have been worn by Brad Pitt; and A. Potts and the Salting, both of which describe their clothes as genderless.

Guy Trebay, The Times’s men’s wear critic, said that the clothes didn’t exactly startle with breadth of vision or design chops. But the presentations did show promise, he wrote, by offering “a generalized sense that the juggernaut of consolidation, corporatized fashion and a diminishing bricks-and-mortar retail scene won’t be enough to deter designers.”

As New York Fashion Week has transformed from an industry trade show into a pop-cultural event, runways have been set up at all sorts of unusual venues. But few locations have been as unconventional as that of the brand Shao’s debut show, which was co-hosted by Anna Sorokin (a.k.a. Delvey), the fake German heiress, on the rooftop of the East Village building where she is under house arrest.

Vanessa Friedman said the theory behind the venue choice was simple: “The fashion world would come for the novelty of gawking at the co-host,” she wrote. “And if they came, they’d have to see the clothes.”

The designer Ralph Lauren has said he has never liked fashion. And yet for 56 years he has been a player in the industry. According to Jessica Testa, Mr. Lauren has maintained his influence on American fashion through a combination of familiarity and desire. His spring 2024 show and the dinner that followed were the latest examples of this formula.

Both took place at a venue made to recall Mr. Lauren’s Colorado ranch, with a familiar faux-worn wooden framework and intentionally mismatched white chairs. And both were attended by desirable guests, including Julianne Moore, Jennifer Lopez, Diane Keaton and Amanda Seyfried, who, Jessica wrote, were “seated shoulder to shoulder like the world’s most enviable group of girlfriends.”

For many, the most the most anticipated show of New York Fashion Week was Helmut Lang, where the designer Peter Do presented his first collection for the label beloved in the 1990s for its cool minimalism. (Ahead of the show, Jessica Testa profiled Mr. Do.)

Vanessa Friedman wrote that Mr. Do had clearly done his research to prepare for his debut. “That, it turned out, was the problem,” she wrote. While his collection had “Helmut Easter eggs” — like flat-front pants, Crombie coats and lacquered jeans — it didn’t exactly propel the label forward.

Among the first events at New York Fashion Week this season was a new version of an old spectacle: The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which had not been staged since 2018. Instead of parading models down a runway, the lingerie brand, which has moved away from making clothes to attract the male gaze, showed a trailer for “The Victoria’s Secret World Tour,” a feature-length film that debuted in September on Amazon Prime.

Vanessa Friedman gave a middling review.

Melissa Guerrero contributed research.


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