“March Madness!”

Christian Dior Fall 2020 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: vogue.com

I cannot remember a more schizophrenic season. It is hardly surprising given the current state of affairs. Fashion is a reflection of our society, and the mixed metaphors and ambiguous messages on the runways echoed our crazy mixed-up world.

Throughout the fall collections, there was a continual push and pull on the runways between masculine and feminine, traditional and non-traditional, high/low, and fantasy versus reality. The Louis Vuitton show summed up many of these contradictions.

Nicholas Guesquiere’s ambitious collaboration with costume designer Milena Canonero resulted in a stunning backdrop of 200 choral singers, all of whom dressed in historical outfits dating from the 15th century to 1950. The clash of centuries and clothing styles provided a perfect metaphor for the eclectic mashup of styles seen on the runway.

Louis Vuitton Fall 2020 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: theimpression.com

Among other things, Nicholas combined mannish pinstriped jackets or sporty nylon bombers with full petticoat skirts and bead encrusted toreador jackets with graphic motor cross pants. There were no high heels shown. Only kitten-heeled cap-toe pumps, low heeled ankle boots, and heavy white sneakers with double Velcro closure

February is the second warmest on record, but you often wouldn’t know it from the runways. At Moncler, there were puffer coats so insulated, covered up, and protective, they could get you through an Antarctica winter. How crazy is that?

Balenciaga Fall 2020 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: Getty Images

Others like Balenciaga’s Demna Gvsalia addresses climate change and global warming head-on. His somber and austere collection used a water-filled runway. It was a study in contrasts and extremes — much like the weather. Demna proposed voluminous silhouettes along with designs so fitted, they were like a second skin. In addition to Demna’s signature hanger shouldered suits, there were suits with natural shoulders. While there was a smattering of intense color, the collection was predominantly black

Valentino Fall 2020 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: vogue.com

Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli made a strong case for mixing masculine and feminine, street and couture. He downplayed the elegance of a black wool bustier and long black gloves by adding slouchy mannish trousers and lug soled boots.

Marc Jacobs Fall 2020 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: vogue.com

Marc Jacob’s fall collection was a fantastic hodgepodge. There were “borrowed from the boys” pantsuits alongside dresses made of 3D rosettes.

Marc Jacobs Fall 2020 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: vogue.com

With its frumpy cardigans, prissy Peter Pan collars, classic pullover sweaters, and Bermuda shorts, it was, at times, prim and proper. But there was also subversive sexuality. Perfectly tailored classic coats and suits that Jackie Kennedy would have loved were sometimes taken apart and shown with nothing but bra tops and briefs.

Miuccia Prada is also no stranger to fashion’s bipolarity. It has long been her calling card. There were oversized blazers in sturdy menswear fabrics paired with fringed or car wash skirts. They are perfect for when you can’t decide if you want to head to the office or have a playful lunch. Or both?

Prada Fall 2020 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: vogue.com

Miuccia also layered embellished sheer chiffon dresses over thick knit cabled bras and tights in contrasting colors. She accessorized with flat Mary Janes or high heeled sandals finished off with athletic soles and straps with Velcro closures.

Saint Laurent Fall 2020 Read-to-Wear
Photo: vogue.com

All business on the top, party on the bottom, describes Anthony Vaccarello’s vision for Saint Laurent. Perfectly tailored, strong-shouldered double-breasted blazers softened with pussy-bow blouses. These were juxtaposed with jarringly skin-tight latex leggings and pointed toed stilettos.

Dries Van Noten Fall 2020 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: vogue.com

Dries Van Noten’s approach is always chic and elegant. For fall, the designer wanted to “casualize glamour” by mixing rudiments of glamorous evening wear (panne velvet, lurex, floral prints) with elements of grunge (plaid shirts, snakeskin).

Richard Quinn Fall 2020 & Collina Strada Fall 2020 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: vogue.com

Floral prints were all over the runways. They were fantastical, romantic, and pretty. But that was not always the case. Collina Strada’s designer Hillary Traymour is a realist. The 2019 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist’s show was called “Garden Ho.” It was presented in a basement dive in New York and included a diverse group of models ranging in age and body type. Many carried garden gear. They all had plenty of New York attitude.

The term female empowerment kept coming up this season. Designers have different opinions on how to translate that. One thing is for sure. It doesn’t happen by merely wearing a power suit. In the end, what is most empowering are clothes that help women get through the paces of their daily lives and make them look and feel like the best versions of themselves. It is not one size fits all proposition. Designers can only propose. It’s up to the customer to figure out what that means for her.

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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