It was about nine seconds into New York Fashion Week on Thursday when we heard the first remix of David Bowie songs as a runway soundtrack. That was to be expected, for the late singer’s style was a touchstone for so many designers, though perhaps less so as an influence on women’s fashion for Fall 2016. “Our muse is a performer whose individualistic style reveals her artistic ingenuity through her onstage presence and offstage persona,” said the show notes there at BCBG Max Azria.
But what was on the runway actually made a strong argument for keeping the current runway system as it is, even as many designers plan to upend the traditional order in the coming months by turning their runways into marketing events and showing clothes only once they are available to purchase. BCBG has long excelled at distilling ideas that were once a bit outré for most customers into sensible, wearable trends, and in this season’s remix, there were hints of influences from seasons past of New York’s avant garde: Prabal’s mixed-up sweaters, Thakoon’s loose trousers in ethnic textiles, Alex Wang’s quilted leather jackets, Rodarte’s shredded lurex body stockings. But here they looked fresh and accessible, even a little edgy and pushing forward that sense of style eclecticism that has been raging across the runways since the spring collections.
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It also seems likely that only the big players will be able to produce enough clothing in advance of their runway shows to keep stores, magazines, and customers happy, and also create that special moment when the show actually happens that will spark an impulse to buy.
So what becomes of the little guy? As it happens, in the first two days of Fashion Week, there were several examples of great talents who are just now coming into their own thanks to the buzz they built from their first runway shows. Monse, the latest editorial and celebrity darling, by Oscar de la Renta ex-pats Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim, had a stellar sophomore show on Friday that picked up on their original concept of quirky eveningwear rooted in the construction of dress shirts. This time, the finished pieces were exquisitely crafted, and with enormous variety, like a blouse with wraparound sleeves that topped a smart pair of trousers that unbuttoned in all manner of directions, or a series of ball gown separates in what looked like waste-bag fabrics.
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Conceptual, yes, but you’ll see it in many stores this fall (and on celebrities for weeks to come) thanks to the tried-and-true process that translates the excitement of the runways into magazine profiles, retail exclusives, and actual sales. Sophie Theallet, too, just keeps getting stronger, especially since she made the courageous decision to trust her instincts and push herself to make couture-like concepts in a city better known for edgy streetwear. Her dramatic show, filled with incense and an almost giddy embrace of model diversity (bless her!), was another highlight, with superb evening dresses, gray checked daywear made of spliced strips, and lots of entrance-making pieces that she played to the hilt. About midway through, a door opened in the middle of the oak-paneled room – it was in a bankish building in the Financial District – and out came Veronica Webb in a dazzling black halter.
Adam Selman is yet another example. His formerly truant-schoolgirl look has matured a bit with dresses for both day (prairie innocence meets goth-dotted black) and night (mounds of streaming sequins or scarlet disco lamé). You’ll know Selman, of course, from his previous work with Rihanna, but now she’s a competitor, as the creative director for women’s at Puma.
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And she had her say about fashion on Friday night with her Fenty Puma by Rihanna collection. This was shown in a bleak venue that paradoxically exists on Wall Street for no apparent reason other than to torture the fashion industry. Who doesn’t want to spend an hour in traffic, then walk two blocks in the cold, then get body-checked by a security guard, then pry open a vacuum-sealed door that instantly turns into an arctic wind tunnel, then watch a 10-minute runway show? But that’s no fault of Rihanna, whose collection was a perfectly digestible effort of graphic-street-athleisure wear, but also a fairly standard exercise in celebrity branding. The oversize fur jackets, more like fur sweatshirts extended into dresses, and some big backpack-coats were the hits, and I’ll probably order those men’s sweatpants with the peek-a-boo panels at the knees for myself.