2018: The Year That Was in Fashion

When looking back over this year from a fashion standpoint it sometimes seemed like one big beach, or one Big Ugly “Dad” Sneaker lol (of course, ugly is in the eye of the beholder). In reality, it is now somewhat of a blur of people, fashion shows, fashion events, and fashion items but there were some moments and images that remain indelible in my mind.The year has almost come to an end and what a year it was. Of course, the most pressing events were of a political/socio economic nature, but there was also a lot going on in terms of fashion. While one cannot equate anything as frippery as fashion with the more serious issues of the day, nowadays it’s impossible to take politics out of fashion and vice versa. Case in point: Nancy Pelosi became an internet sensation and was hailed as a fashion icon when she exited the White House with Chuck Schumer following that now famous meeting with President Trump, wearing her Max Mara burnt orange funnel neck Fire Coat. Max Mara turned this into a brilliant marketing ploy saying the coat, originally from 2013 represented “lasting values and projected personal strength and glamour” and described it as a “year on year companion designed to last a lifetime”. They will reissue the coat in 2019 in different colors due to popular demand.

The Dress and The Wedding

Meghan Markle’s Givenchy wedding dress

If you are wondering which ones I’m referring to, you must be living under a rock! Didn’t we all get up at 5 a.m. to watch all the pomp and circumstance and view this historic event attended by real royalty and Hollywood and sports royalty? After months of speculation about THE DRESS, Meghan Markle stepped out of her burgundy Rolls Royce on Saturday morning, May 24th, wearing a custom design by Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy (refer to opening shot). It was a surprising but assuredly interesting choice. It was not only a dress with an important label, but Meghan is a feminist who specifically wanted a woman designer to have the honors. Also, Clare is British, and the first woman to have the title of creative director for the fabled French house, so there is some added symbolism there.

Doria Ragland and Meghan Markle arriving at the wedding

Oh, and by the way, Meghan paid for the dress herself. It lived up to the hype and more than met its expectations if not more so regarding diversity (Meghan’s American and black heritage were imprinted throughout the ceremony and just watching the expression on mom Doria Ragland’s face was priceless). It broke with tradition without being disrespectful and defined ‘modern’ fairy tale. When is the last time a black Reverend preached to British royalty about the resilience of faith during slavery? The only thing that could have made it more diverse and inclusive is if they had a Rabbi — lol!

The Catsuit and The Tutu

Serena Williams wearing her Wakanda inspired catsuit

Serena Williams wore a slimming black Nike bodysuit with a red band around the waist when she defeated Kristyna Pliskova in the French Open this past May. It was her first Grand Slam victory since giving birth this past fall. She tweeted at the time, “For all the moms out there who had a tough recovery from pregnancy – here you go. If I can do it, so can you. Love you all!!” The daring ensemble was chosen not only because it made her feel like a “warrior princess” but for its practicality. Serena had serious complications related to a pulmonary embolism after she gave birth to her daughter Alexis Olympia on September 1st and she said she had been wearing pants in general to keep the blood circulation going. In any event, the outfit was subsequently banned by the French Tennis Federation with its president stating, “Serena’s outfit this year, for example, would no longer be accepted. You have to respect the game and the place”. FYI, the Women’s Tennis Association have just recently changed the rules surrounding female players’ wardrobes including the compression piece worn by Williams.

Serena Williams wearing Virgil Abloh x Nike black tutu during the U.S. Open

Taking it all in stride, the 37 year old Grand Slam winner switched gears for the U.S. Open in August and enlisted the help of Off-White founder and creative director of menswear for Louis Vuitton Virgil Abloh to design an alternative wardrobe for her in collaboration with Nike. The result was as rule breaking and highly controversial: a one-shoulder illusion top and black tulle skirt paired with fishnet tights and customized NikeCourt Flare sneakers. You go girl!

The White Suit and The White Hat

First Lady Melania Trump

On April 24th, when President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump greeted French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron at the White House, Melania opted for a white off- the- runway, asymmetrical Michael Kors Collection double crepe jacket with a matching skirt and a customized wide brim hat. It was a departure for Mrs. Trump as she normally wears her hair in her signature middle part and layered waves. I personally thought she stole the show and so did many others, but social media exploded with adverse reactions and many were quick to compare her to, among other things, Don Fanucci, The Black Hand from my favorite move, “The Godfather”.

The Jacket 

Melania Trump wearing Zara

There were no defenders of the First Lady when she made an unannounced visit to see the conditions of migrant families and children being detailed at the U.S.-Mexico border. Boarding her plane to Texas, she was photographed inexplicably wearing a jacket from Zara that read, “I really don’t care. Do U?” While she was not wearing the jacket when she landed in McAllen, Texas, the First Lady’s choice of attire struck many as insensitive. Her communication director Stephanie Grisham made a statement saying that “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message. I hope the media isn’t going to choose to focus on her wardrobe”.  Huh?

Is the Pope Catholic? No, He’s Rihanna!

Rihanna dressed as the Pope

It was obvious that this year’s Party of the Year red carpet, in celebration of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” exhibition, was going to look like no other and it didn’t. But who could have predicted that it would be such an eyeful? Leading the pack, as always, was Rihanna, one of the co-chairs of the gala. She arrived wearing an ornate beaded white Margiela corset dress, matching coat, clutch, and mitre, completely replicating the one worn by the Pope. Oh what campy heresy! I can only imagine what Katy Perry et al. will have up their sleeves in May with this year’s theme, “Camp: Notes on Fashion”!

Rick Owens Spring 2019

Rick Owens Spring 2019 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: The Impression

The powerful Rick Owens spring 2019 show in Paris featured militant, warrior like models clad in neutral hued Brutalist/sculptural designs encircling a pyramid shaped tower that menacingly caught on fire. At the same time that it was getting under way, a groundbreaking, historic day was playing out in Washington D.C. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, his first public accuser, were set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Each of their accounts, given under penalty of perjury, would be at odds, conflicting, and diametrically opposed. Talk about fortuitous timing.

 The Ralph Lauren Golden Anniversary Collection 

Ralph Lauren’s fall 2018 Golden Anniversary Show
Photo: Vogue.com

Ralph Lauren’s Golden Anniversary Collection for fall 2018, held in Central Park, was one for the ages and a true highlight of New York Fashion Week this past September. Much of the fashion, shown on 100 or so ethnically diverse, multi-generational models (toddlers, seniors and everything in between) was almost entirely interchangeable. In attendance at the designing icon’s eclectic presentation was a similarly eclectic group of icons representing the worlds of fashion, film, publishing, news, music, and politics and included the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Robert de Niro, Graydon Carter, Anna Wintour, Anderson Cooper, and Kanye West. As usual, Ralph once again proved that he is a master of the mix, which is what makes it all modern and relevant.

CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC fall 2018 

CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC  Fall 2018 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: The Impression

Raf Simons celebrated his one year anniversary as head of design for Calvin Klein by completely transforming the American Stock Exchange for his fall 2018 show. It was recreated as a post-apocalyptic barnyard/art gallery complete with gallons of popcorn, Andy Warhol photographs, and Sterling Ruby sculptures hanging from the scaffolding. It was an unapologetically dark vision of America, loaded with symbolism in terms of how he sees American society and democracy, but memorable for its creativity, strong oversized tailoring, fabulous sweaters, leopard pieces, and particularly, his riffs on American quilts.

Life is a Beach (or is it?) 

Chanel Spring 2019 Collection
Photo: Vogue.com

In reality, modern life may be anything but easy and breezy but spring 2019 will go down as a season in which beaches seemed to be on many designers’ minds. Karl Lagerfeld transformed Paris’s Grand Palais into Chanel by the Sea complete with models walking barefoot on a sandy beach, mini boardwalk, tiki hut, on-duty lifeguard and ocean in full view.

Thom Browne Spring 2019 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: Vogue.com

Thom Browne’s spring 2019 runway in Paris also had sand, cabanas, and lifeguards on duty, but his vision of beach life was controversial, quite different than Karl’s, and there was a storm of criticism over what some perceived as disquietly misogynist. Models’ faces were masked, their lips were stitched, their arms were tied to the body, and they wore unwieldy vertiginous platform shoes. Thom is known to push the envelope and take creative liberties and this is hardly the first time he has employed these styling tricks on a runway. But this vision of a parade of women who are unable to speak, to move, or to walk struck many as disturbing and insensitive especially given the moment we’re in with women coming forward with their stories of sexual assault.

Raf Simons is another designer who had a somewhat dark vision of the beach. For his spring 2019 collection he cited inspiration from the iconic 70’s movie “Jaws” which was set in Cape Cod (included were pleated skirts with shark- bite cut- outs and Jaws/”CK” logo tees). In an unfortunate twist of fate, just days after his show on September 11th, a man was bitten by a shark in the water off a Cape Cod beach and died later at a hospital, becoming the state’s first shark attack fatality in more than 80 years.

Marc Jacobs Fall 2018

Marc Jacobs Fall 2018 Ready-To-Wear
Photo: The New York Times

Marc Jacobs’ fall 2018 ready to wear collection provided one of the only major fashion moments of New York Fashion Week in September. He looked like nobody else that season although he did look like his hero, Yves Saint Laurent circa 80’s but on steroids; far more exaggerated and over-the-top. Where Calvin Klein was all about Americana, for Marc Jacobs, it was quite couture like and Parisian. It had nothing to do with streetwear/sportswear but rather, a sophisticated, dressed up approach to sportswear. The attention to detail, choice of fabrics and accessories, and the way it was all put together was meticulous. In a season of color and stellar coats, he had some of the best. Was it commercial? No, this was unapologetic runway fashion, but not everything was impossibly voluminous and oversized, and there were some wearable pieces. More importantly, it was inspirational; about the joy of fashion, and the joy of dressing up. Of course, for Marc now, it’s all about the joy of dressing down as he is fully embracing “Grunge”, the landmark 1993 collection that got him fired but finally put him on the fashion map permanently..

The Hostess with the Mostess

Tracee Ellis Ross wearing a Dapper Dan for Gucci cape and black sequined bodysuit by Nicolas Jebran
Photo: Getty Images

Tracee Ellis Ross drew raves reprieving her role as host of the 2018 American Music Awards and rightly so. The 34 year old “Blackish” star said it was all about having fun and boy, did she ever (and did we ever, watching her!) Clad in a black sequined catsuit, she kicked things off channeling her inner Beyoncé with a rousing sing and dance number complete with 20 back up dancers. Like last year, she had multiple wardrobe changes (10 in all) and once again, she wore only black designers in support and as homage to her culture. Each look was completely different down to the hair styling and she owned them all. Among the standouts were the Pyer Moss pale pink tuxedo and Jacob diamond choker which she wore on the red carpet; the black sequined Nicolas Jebran bodysuit and the Dapper Dan for Gucci floor length cape accessorized with white trainers; the frothy pale pink tulle gown by Off White; the boldly printed fishtail gown with dramatic bell sleeves by LAVIE by CK; the Sergio Hudson leopard-print catsuit worn with matching gloves, beret and sunglasses;  the black sequined Balmain double breasted floor length tuxedo gown. It will be fun to see how she can top this in 2019!

“Who’s Your Daddy?”

Louis Vuitton Archlight Sneaker Spring/Summer 2018 Release
Photo: Footwear News

Remember when a woman could only be considered well-dressed if she were wearing an elegant pump? Nope, neither do I! There’s been a change ‘underfoot’ (pardon the pun) when it comes to aesthetics and what was once considered to be ugly and unfashionable is now the height of fashion. It’s all about footwear, specifically “Dad” sneakers, that are heavy, clunky, and orthopedic looking; so much so that no one would have ever worn them unless they had a foot injury (and maybe not even then). This is exemplified by the Louis Vuitton Archlight sneaker, originally shown during Nicolas Guesquiere’s spring 2018 runway show. Inspired by the vintage 90’s basketball look and futuristic trends, the Archlight uses a mix of technical fabrics and features an oversize springy rubber sole and prominent tongue. The sneaker may have had its preview in 2017 but there was a wider release with more colorways earlier this year and that is when it really caught fire.

The Cavs + Thom Browne= Perfect Together 

LeBron James and the Cavaliers wearing Thom Browne

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ former teammate Dwayne Wade and designer Thom Browne were sitting at Cipriani’s before the Fashion Group International’s “Night of Stars” 2017 when Thom had the idea to create custom, matching suits for the Cavaliers to wear during the NBA playoffs in the spring. Star player LeBron James, who was also a loyal client, loved the idea of the team presenting a unified front and he thoughtfully purchased the fabulous threads (the cost was approximately $5,000 per suit) for his fellow teammates. (As if at their hefty salaries, they couldn’t afford them themselves lol). Who could forget when 33-year-old James showed up wearing Thom’s cropped shorts, striped socks, and an alligator bag that cost $41,000 right before the NBA championship finals on Sunday, June 6th? His picture was literally all over the internet, in the newspapers, and even made the evening news

Phoebe’s Final Bow

Phoebe Philo

Phoebe Philo’s final collection for Celine was on May 2nd, 2018. Photographed by Juergen Teller, the German photographer responsible for the company’s brilliant advertising campaigns, it was filled with all the ultra-modern elements that put the revered designer on the fashion map and made her faithful followers swoon beginning with her first collection back in 2010. There is a reason she has been a favorite of smart, strong, independent women who have no desire to jump on the trend bandwagon. They see her strangely beautiful, experimental, re interpreted wardrobe basics, statement making bold jewelry, iconic sculptural bags, standout knitwear, and art to wear designs as instruments of personal, individual self-expression rather than elements used to attract the male gaze, or win the approval of society for that matter. Her woman is confident of her own style and not someone who needs traditional status symbols, such as an Hermes Birkin bag, for validation.

Ms. Philo’s replacement was Hedi Slimane. It was a controversial choice and nobody knew where he would take this highly influential label. His Celine debut for the spring 2019 collection in Paris this past September, proved that once again, regardless of the name of the house he designs for, his designs always look like, well, Hedi.

Among the questions as we head into 2019:

Is this the year we will we see Phoebe resurface?

Will her protégé and supposed ‘heir apparent’ Daniel Lee (he was director of ready to wear at Celine and has taken over the design helm at Bottega Veneta), really remake Bottega Veneta into Celine?

Will PVH and Raf Simons renew their Calvin Klein contract when it expires in August 2019? There have been rumors of a crumbling relationship between Calvin Klein and Raf Simons. WWD recently reported that Emanuel Chirico, chairman and chief executive officer of PVH Corp., parent company of Calvin Klein, admitted that the “reimagined Calvin Klein isn’t “clicking”.

What other magazines will follow in the footsteps of Glamour, who shuttered their print edition this year?

The year is not yet over and who knows what will happen in the coming days. At the rate things are going, I have no doubt that as soon as this article is posted, something noteworthy will transpire. Stay tuned and Happy New Year!

– Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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