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Fall/Winter 2016 RTW Collections

The Big Picture
- Marilyn Kirschner

Prada Fall/Winter 2016/2017
All Photos:

The runway shows for Fall/Winter 2016/ 2017 have just ended after a marathon 4 city tour. As usual, the themes and trends that began in New York (on the runways of Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler, Joseph Altuzarra, Thom Browne, Hood by Air, Alexander Wang, etc.) and continued on through London and Milan, became firmly crystalized in Paris which (with few exceptions) offered us the true ‘fashion moments’.

Those other ‘fashion moments’ were Prada, which many felt was Miuccia’s strongest, most powerful collection to date, and Gucci where Alessandro Michele is continuing on with the quirky, eclectic, idiosyncratic vision that caught the fashion world by storm.Then again, nobody has ever staged a show quite like Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 3 fashion show and album (“The Life of Pablo”) debut. The bona fide spectacle and brilliant marketing ploy which took place at New York’s Madison Square Garden before a crowd of about 20,000 (mainly fans) was undeniably a first.

But the City of Lights is after all, the City of Fashion, where the Big Boys (and Girls) play and naturally, there is always much intrigue, excitement, and speculation leading up to Paris Fashion Week. Among the questions that preceded this season: What would Dior look like without Raf Simons, and under the temporary tutelage of design assistants Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux until a creative director is announced? (It was quite respectable actually. Good job!)

What would happen to Lanvin without Alber? (The collection shown was not in the least bit identifiable; and not in a good way). And now that Alexander Wang is gone from Balenciaga, what would this iconic French label look like under its new design director, Vetements’ co-founder Demna Gvaslia? (It was a perfect melding of Vetements’ rebellious, antiestablishment high street style with couture elements of Balenciaga). Will this or won’t this be Hedi Slimane’s last show as Creative Director of Saint Laurent? (He was nowhere in sight nor did he come out at the end of his strong, visually jarring 42 piece collection and that is still un answered).

It was an uneven season which was seemingly upstaged at times, by a number of things. Among them:

1. All the talk about “in season relevancy” which promises to result in a “seismic shift” in the way fashion will be presented in the future. I suppose you could say the implication of see now, buy now (which some designers experimented with on their runways), would give new meaning to the term, Ready-To-Wear. Of course, it has its pros and cons and needless to say, not everyone is on board with this CFDA driven initiative (the Paris contingent for one). Still, its obvious change is coming and there’s no question this will be challenging.

And while this may have been the Ready-To-Wear shows, there was an undeniable focus on haute couture this season. In New York, Ralph Rucci unveiled RR331, his latest made to order collection (along with his own artwork) at an art gallery in Manhattan; Delpozo was once again filled with Joseph Font’s amazing couture like silhouettes fabrics, details and embellishments; in Paris, Hedi Slimane showed 42 looks for Saint Laurent (which were are all made in the couture atelier) for Saint Laurent, while Karl Lagerfeld emphasized haute couture techniques at Chanel (a minaudiere in the shape of a spool of thread was meant to emphasis the point). Ah yes, man vs. machine. Just in time for “Manus X Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology” the Costume Institute’s spring 2016 exhibition which opens on May 5th.

2. The ongoing circus that has come to define the 2016 Presidential elections (the most contentious in American history). A bit of partisan politics was injected into NYFW when, during the Marc Jacobs show, both Marc and Anna Wintour sported the designers’ custom made Hillary Clinton t shirts (Anna subsequently wore one in Paris at a CFDA hosted event).

3. This year’s highly charged and controversial Academy Awards.

But while there might have been an uproar over the lack of diversity at this year’s Oscars (which were expertly hosted by Chris Rock), there was no lack of diversity on recent runways, or in the way the shows were presented for that matter (they were held in churches, art galleries, former bank buildings, a former post office, iconic museums, grand hotel rooms, loft spaces, and showrooms).

Quite frankly, of all the problems that might plague the fashion industry, diversity is not one of them. After all, fashion (much like all the other arts) traditionally embraces (and puts a high premium on) diversity (“Viva la Difference”!) Different cultures, religions, ethnicities, time periods, genders, life styles, are routinely referenced, glorified, and celebrated and many designers seek to challenge traditional notions of style and beauty by offering alternatives.

On the runways, things often went from one extreme to the other at breakneck speed (sometimes within the same collection). Everything (and anything goes) and fashion, like the weather, has become increasingly schizophrenic and all over the place.(FYI, as I am writing this, we are in the throes of a record breaking warm day and just about one week ago, there was snow on the ground). This is perfectly in sync with women’s split personalities and increasingly multi-tasking lives, and it’s echoed in the way many of us think about clothes and dress

Fabric innovation and technology have had a huge impact on the fashion landscape and there’s no question that there has been an emphasis on the reality based, streetwise, sporty and athletic (which has at times has been elevated to couture like levels or given a modern, futuristic slant). We are also at a moment when maximalism (and a quirky one at that) has, well, maxed out, and many designers have climbed on that A.M. (Alessandro Michele) bandwagon; some more successfully than others. But thankfully, there are enough other designers (Narciso Rodriguez, Ralph Rucci, Ashley and Mary- Kate Olsen for The Row, Rodolfo Paglialunga for Jil Sander, Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein among them) who are standing their ground as stalwart defendants of a spare, clean lined, pared down, minimalism which puts the emphasis on cut over surface decoration. And needless to say, after seeing so much that is ungapatchka, this could not look any better right now.

There are many ways to go and one is not necessarily better than the other. There is something for everyone, except that is, the financially strapped, because none of this will come cheap. While there are recurring themes that keep repeating themselves, there is always a proverbial flip side to the fashion coin Then were solids and there were florals, geometrics, stripes, polka dots, scarf prints, and cat prints. (There was an inexplicable fixation on cats this season and it also showed up as exaggerated cats’ eye makeup).

Celine & Alexander Wang

There were clothes that should be worn only by the very young (Alexander Wang) and clothes that seem to be especially well suited for a grown up woman who is comfortable in her own skin (Dries Van Noten, Celine, Ralph Rucci).

Courreges and Comme des Garcons

There was the supremely straightforward, understandable and wearable (J.Crew, Courreges); and then there was the highly experimental/ conceptual. The down to earth and the “what on earth”? (Comme des Garcons, Rick Owens, Junya Watanabe, Jacquemus).

Valentino & Yeezy Season 3

There were dreamy clothes for a rarified fairytale world (Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana); and reality based streetwear geared for the harsh, gritty, urban landscape. (Vetements, Hood by Air, Balenciaga).

RR331 & Saint Laurent

There were evening dresses that were short, taut, sparkly and hot (Saint Laurent); and evening dresses that were graceful, long and flowing (RR331, Derek Lam).

There were shows presented in elegant hotel rooms with chandeliers hanging from the ceilings (Saint Laurent); and clothes that were decorated with chandeliers (Moschino).

The Row & Balmain

There were runways filled with luxuriously understated clothes that could be considered to be the modicum of good taste (Ralph Lauren, The Row, Hermes) and others that were so over the top they could easily be described as the epitome of bad taste (the 80’s are baack!). (Moschino, Jeremy Scott, Balmain). For the record, I adhere to Diana Vreeland’s dictum that bad taste is better than no taste.

Ralph Lauren and Thom Browne

There was menswear that was off kilter and surreal (Thom Browne, Jacquemus), and menswear that was as real as it gets (Ralph Lauren). There was also menswear spiced up through the juxtaposition of adding something unexpectedly racy underneath, and letting it show (Bottega Veneta).

At times, one would think that jackets, coats, and pants could not get any bigger, wider, roomier, fuller, or more exaggeratedly overblown (Marc Jacobs) but while there was the oversized; and there was also the undersized. And all this did was to emphasize the fact that precise razor sharp tailoring never loses its appeal (Haider Ackermann).


There was the body obscuring and the body revealing. Even though the female form was often hidden and obscured under voluminous layers, it has not exactly been forgotten. There were pronounced hip molded jackets, hourglass shaped coats, cut outs, lacings, and bras and corsets worn on the outside. In the case of the latter, this looked best and most modern when done in a manner that was not overtly sexy or obvious in a ‘Kim Kardashian’ sort of way. (Hey Kim, don’t you understand that it’s far better to leave a little something to the imagination?) For example, at Loewe J.W. Anderson gave this an artistic slant, and at Louis Vuitton, Nicolas Guesquiere unexpectedly offset his pieces with heavy lace up combat boots. He even used knitted cashmere to create a few skeleton patterned bodysuits.

Perhaps nowhere were the extremes more marked, than in the category of coats. The wild fluctuations in weather have perfectly illustrated why coats, the ultimate armor and protective layer, continue to be key components in a woman’s wardrobe and one of the best investments one can make. Unsurprisingly, they were the stars both on and off the runways this season.

Gucci and Vetements

There were trenches decorated to the max, and classic and not so classic khaki cotton trenches.

Del Pozo & Louis Vuitton

There were eminently feminine coats and boyish coats.

There were bathrobe coats, dramatic capes and ponchos. There were coats made of soft buttery leather and those from sleek high shine patent (or vinyl). There were meltons, cashmeres, and shearlings, the latter of which looked particularly strong this season. There were enormous oversized shearlings and those that were cropped and shrunken.

Balenciaga and Acne

There were body obscuring quilted puffa coats that are guaranteed to keep you warm in subzero temperatures; and teeny tiny puffas that you could wear in Los Angeles. There were puffas in velvet and trimmed in feathers for the grandest of evenings. There were also quilted jackets layered over one another. Quilting was such a pronounced recurring trend, that at Chanel, where quilting has long been a signature, the models’ eye make-up was quilted.

Fendi & RR331 Sable

There were furs both faux and real (and not only was it often hard to tell the difference, who cares?) There were wild long haired furs (sometimes artfully collaged) and furs that were sheared to resemble fabric. Shaggy furs and flat furs. There were furs shown in their natural state, and furs that could not look any more artificial.

Dries Van Noten

Leopard, a perennial favorite for customers and designers alike, has been revived this season. Dries Van Noten mixed it with, among other things, traditional regimental stripes, piped crested schoolboy blazers, gold lame, snakeskin, and feathered chokers.

At Givenchy, a psychedelic Egyptian inspired print was added to the mix.

There were rugged flat boots, thick strapped flat sandals and soft ballerinas that looked so comfortable I wanted to sigh; and shoes and boots with platforms so unwieldly, and uncomfortable, I was tempted to say “ouch”. Oxfords (flat and heeled) complimented menswear styles. While footwear has generally speaking, gotten heavier and more clunky, there were also sightings of classic, elegant, single soled pointy toed pumps. But let’s face it; this season, it really is all about the boot (with every imaginable heel) for both day and for evening. Lace up boots, ankle boots, knee high boots, over the knee and thigh highs (some fit like second skins and others were as wide as waders).

What else stood out?

All the quirky, unique, and statement making accessories such as Miuccia Prada’s oversized charm necklaces (and belts) decorated with mini leather bound books and metal skeleton keys, J.W. Anderson’s oversized necklaces featuring primitive faces and cats, and his chokers fashioned from large gold rings.

Speaking of chokers, in case you haven’t noticed, it’s all about chokers as of late. There are chokers made from metal, Plexiglas, velvet, wool, beads, and feathers. They could be streetwise and sporty or quite fanciful. They came narrow or so wide they literally obscured the neck. Quite frankly, they’ve been so ubiquitous both on and off the runways, unless they’re really great, I’m almost sick of them at this point (isn’t that always the case?).

But in the end, what I take away from the runway goes far beyond the actual clothes and accessories being presented. It could be an overriding tone and mood, proportion, silhouette, or styling trick (like wearing boots for evening, or simply tying a long narrow scarf around your neck) that I can easily adapt and apply to my own wardrobe (because let’s face it, who goes out to buy a new wardrobe each season?).

One designer who is always fertile ground for inspiration is Dries Van Noten. Many of us have leopard coats and schoolboy blazers in our closets. But you might not have thought to combine them the way he did, adeptly playing masculine off feminine. (adding rep stripes, feathers, faux furs, snakeskin, pearls, and gold leather). He adeptly played masculine off feminine and made it all look womanly, sophisticated, and believable.

Miuccia Prada is always another great source, with her inventive layering and unexpected off the cuff mixes of high and low, practical and fanciful, day and night, masculine and feminine, ordinary and extraordinary, hard and soft. I also loved the way that similar mix played out on the runways of Valentino and Louis Vuitton. Another good idea was the way Phoebe Philo layered full trousers beneath dresses at Celine.

It’s been said that fashion is all about proportion, and boy were there ever interesting proportions being proposed on runways. While most of us generally want to look as toned and svelte as possible, it’s fun to change it up and experiment from time to time. It’s another option and it was all over the runways. So, why not just take pieces that are a bit too large (but which you never had tailored), and put them together in a new interesting way?

Or how about raiding your husband/boyfriend/significant other’s closets? My husband doesn’t know it yet, but I’m planning to ‘share’ his khaki Armani and Burberry trenches in the upcoming season.

Of course, nothing changes a silhouette as efficiently or as instantly as cinching the waist of a coat, jacket, dress, or sweater, with a belt. Statement making, sometimes corseted belts were all over recent runways. I will get plenty of mileage out of my amazing gold buckled Celine belt from pre-fall 2013. And considering what I paid for it, that’s a good thing lol.


Past articles:

Spring/Summer 2016 Report
Fall/Winter 2015 Report
Spring/Summer2015 Report
Fall/Winter 2014 Report
Spring/Summer2014 Report
Fall/Winter2013 Report
Spring/Summer2013 Report
Fall/Winter2012 Report
Spring/Summer2012 Report
Fall/Winter 2011 Report
Spring/Summer 2011 Report
Fall/Winter 2010 Report
Spring/Summer 2010 Report
Fall/Winter 2009 Report
Spring/Summer 2009 Report
Fall/Winter 2008 Report
Spring/Summer 2008 Report
Fall/Winter 2007 Report
Spring/Summer 2007 Report
Fall/Winter 2006 Report
Spring/Summer 2006 Report
Bernadine Morris "Ten Best Looks" of the Spring 2006 Season
Fall/Winter 2005 Report
Bernadine Morris's "10 Best Looks" of the Fall 2005 Season
Sprijng/Summer 2005 Report
Bernadine Morris's "10 Best Looks" of the Spring 2005 Season

Fall/Winter 2004 Report
Bernadine Morris's "10 Best Looks" of the Fall 2004 Season
Spring/Summer 2004 Report
Bernadine Morris's "10 Best Looks" of the Spring 2004 Season
Fall/Winter 2003 Report

Spring/Summer 2003 Report