Dispatch from LFW: Great Clothes, Strange Vibes

New York and London have more in common now than ever. Together but separately, we’re in the throes of a revolution being provoked by the kind of political tension that lights a fire under the asses of anyone with access to a microphone and a stage. Maybe it is for this reason that I can’t help but compare us. When it comes to Milan and Paris, I don’t bother — barely even think of it. But as I sat through shows in London this week, I constantly wondered, how will this be different from what happens in New York?

I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth. I can see how frustrating that must be for a designer, to have an uninformed third party impose their biases on the creative process. But then I wonder if the reason I want to compare London to New York is because we are the same. Because the sentiment from all of the editors, in spite of even-handed, generally “good” clothes, is the same (a whole lot of “meh”). And furthermore, is the “meh” simply because the designer is confused? Caught between a rock (pursuing creative instinct) and a hard place (addressing their politics)?

Christopher Kane Fall/Winter ’17

They say stress is caused by uncertainty, and maybe that’s why posing these questions gives me anxiety. Before I can answer, I must first understand what the hell happens in New York. For the most part, I get it. We are at the center of an incredibly lucrative market called contemporary. It is our strongest suit as a fashion system — we take the intellectually stunning, profoundly complicated and dazzling ideas of Milan and Paris and then peel them back, slowly and delicately, with respect and honor as we attempt to make sense of them, simplify them, repackage them and ultimately sell them.

But the elephant on the runway gets bigger and louder with the passing seasons; what is our strategy? Will we show now, buy now, wear now? Does contemporary wear need to be previewed so far in advance? If we are, in fact, a contemporary town, do our headliners — the Calvins and Ralphs and Michaels et. al. — need to move? Does that mean supporting the disenfranchisement of New York shows? Do we really need to be here, go there, post this (not that!) or does it all miss the point?

Roksanda Fall/Winter ’17

London hasn’t had to consider these questions with the same gravity because of its novelty; there is a remarkable class of smart designers who have emerged from London and will, no doubt, go down in fashion’s history much the same way the Antwerp Six has.

I’m thinking specifically of J.W. Anderson and Roksanda and Christopher Kane and Simone Rocha. There are more. But with the political tension that beats down on our shoulders, on top of the question marks pervading the whole industry (Has Instagram destroyed fashion? Is retail dead? What about the runway show?), there is an awkward strain on the creative process. Are designers required to address their bewilderment or should they attempt to charge forward, business as usual?

Osman Fall/Winter ’17

Christopher Kane showed fantastic neon-brocade florals and huge sequins rendered entirely in gold; Mary Katrantzou, for her part, showed some of the best suits of the season (think various forms of check and esoteric landscape settings); Marques’Almeida continued its quest to obstruct and redefine the female form, this time with black-and-white stripes, oversized checkers and one painted polka-dot print I keep coming back to. I loved Roksanda. The bulk of the collection was furiously red. And what about Osman? The show read like a day in the life of a woman who respects herself.

It’s easy to ask the questions (designers are probably doing the same), but forming an intelligent opinion takes time. We are living inside history. On the brink of a revolution that will change everything. Perhaps this is just the calm before the storm.

Photos via Getty Images. Feature Photo is Marques Almeida Fall/Winter ’17.


Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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