The Most Surprising Novelty at NYFW? Clothes You Can Actually Wear.

Attending shows at New York Fashion Week in the age of social media can feel a lot like staring into the sun. The majority of designers present an effulgent array of things like rhinestone headpieces, iridescent tent gowns, velvet unitards, dramatic props, and other sartorial novelties, to the extent that when you finally look away and confront the contents of your own wardrobe at the end of the day, everything seems a bit distorted. Your eyes struggle to adjust to the comparative dimness of normalcy, to clothes that are actually wearable.

Tory Burch Spring/Summer 2020

Wearable! It’s a descriptor that has strangely become something of a novelty in the current context of New York Fashion Week. That’s why the collections it applies to stand out so vividly in my mind. Yesterday, my schedule was stacked with them, starting with Tory Burch, a show that not only inspired me to strive for “put-togetherness” but also offered up tangible lessons in how to achieve that quality with each model who walked past. I can’t wait to wear a ruffled white button down untucked over billowing trousers with a striped cardigan, for example, or a gingham top pinned with a corsage and paired with a pleated skirt and neon yellow shoes. I departed feeling distinctly full of baby quiche, which were stacked in a neat pyramid amidst other eye-catching confections on a table near the exit, but also of immediately viable styling ideas that could be executed with items I either already own or want to purchase in order to realize them.

Staud Spring/Summer 2020

After that, there was Staud, a brand that’s well aware of the importance of appealing to social media, but still places a premium on making clothes that people can and certainly will wear. The brand’s online cachet is not derived from like-bait moments that will disappear with the Instagram Stories in which they were captured, but rather from carefully chosen silhouettes and solid colorways with inherent photographic appeal. This distinction is what allows Staud to capture attention with its clothes without sacrificing their functionality, as they did with a classic blazer rendered in lime green silk, a flowing maxi dress in the ideal shade of olive khaki, and a crescent-shaped bag perfectly sized for an iPhone, wallet, and keys that just so happened to be festooned with feathers.

Mansur Gavriel Fall 2019 Ready-to-Wear

I headed to Mansur Gavriel next, where, on the eve of true autumn, the preponderance of juicy sweaters, beautifully tailored trousers, and statement coats served as a reminder of why the rare but obvious “see now, buy now” model makes so much sense. I routinely marvel at how gracefully the brand has evolved from bucket bag fame, all the while maintaining a keen sense of precisely what it is trying to put out into the world: quality classics embedded with a sense of delight—a cumulus cloud-dotted sweater, a lollipop red overcoat, a camel blazer and trousers married with a yellow button down and a leather accordion bag that somehow looked timeless and of the moment all at once.

At Tibi shortly thereafter, I reveled in the comfort of observing a collection that didn’t stray too far from its predecessors, that wasn’t trying to reinvent the wheel but was instead a sartorial manifestation of the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Indeed, Tibi’s brand identity is crystal clear, and that’s what makes it such a reliable source of inspiration season after season. It can always be counted on to play the hits—seriously good blazers, poplin tops with subtle balloon sleeves, pleated trousers, and fitted crew neck sweaters—peppered with jolts of appeal for its more adventuresome customers, like cantaloupe-colored parachute cargos and platform ankle boots. No matter where you fall on the Tibi spectrum, you’ll always end up with something that proves easy to wear and aesthetically pleasing are not mutually exclusive.

Tibi Spring/Summer 2020

None of these shows transformed how I want to get dressed, but all of them made me noticeably excited to get dressed. The power of that incitation shouldn’t be underestimated, because it is cultivated by clothes that reflect reality instead of warping it. Clothes that will stay with you longer than the few minutes you saw them on the runway. Clothes that aren’t created for the sole purpose of sparking a reaction, or a “moment,” or a headline. Clothes you can not only wear, but want to wear. If the sum of New York Fashion Week feels like staring into the sun, brands like Tory Burch, Staud, Mansur Gavriel, and Tibi are here to level our eyes back to earth, to remind us that even when our chins are tilted up at something momentarily dazzling, there’s nothing more affirming than a return to solid ground.

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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