New York Fashion Week Spring 2020: Musings on the Season

Tory Burch Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear
All photos

NYFW officially kicked off with the Couture Council of The Museum at FIT’s Artistry in Fashion Award ceremony and luncheon. This year’s honoree was Christian Louboutin. While Christian’s loafers, sneakers, and kitten heels are quite distinctive, his stiletto-heeled pumps put him on the map. It was evident that many attendees thought the best way to honor him was to wear them (ouch!)

There were dozens of women teetering on Louboutin’s heels so high and so skinny they literally could not walk without holding on to their companions. It was humorous, but at the same time, all I could think of was how unnecessary it is to suffer and how unmodern it is.

Modern is a word that is bantered continuously around in fashion. It’s hard to define, but as they say, you know it when you see it, and I saw it numerous times in the course of the 5 days of showings last week.

The essence of modern is ease and mobility, and it starts with the footwear. The embrace of comfortable footwear on the runways for spring 2020 is very much in keeping with the focus on real-life and the relaxed, easy mood that pervaded the collections.

Sneakers are now part of fashion’s vernacular. The first model at Tory Burch’s show at the Brooklyn Museum was Natalia Vodianova. She wore a delicate lace-trimmed two-piece maxi slip dress accessorized with classic sneakers. The breezy, effortless way she moved spoke volumes.

Pyer Moss Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear

Kerby Jean-Raymond is the creative director of Pyer Moss and Reebok’s artistic director. The chunky and graphic sneaker which is part of a new collaborative capsule collection, was unveiled at the Pyer Moss show held at the historic Kings Theatre in Brooklyn. It was a celebration of black history, music, and fashion, and was unquestionably THE highlight of NYFW: symbolic, meaningful, right on the money.

Eckhaus Latta Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear

Heavy, orthopedic shoes and sandals, once reserved for foot injuries, are now the height of fashion. Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta began collaborating with Uggs last season. For spring 2020, the duo accessorized many of their outfits, from Missoni inspired knitwear to minimalist sequins, with Ugg’s platform clogs which add about 3 inches to your height without wearing a heel. Who are you calling “Ugg”ly now? I loved the way Mike and Zoe took sequins and made them look hip, cool, sporty, and urbane. Now, that’s what I call modern!

Proenza Schouler Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear

Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez have just partnered with Birkenstock. The handsome, luxurious take on the company’s signature flat sandals made its debut on the runway. The terrific Proenza Schouler show was a study in construction and sharp tailoring, mixed with elements of draping. In that way, it had a touch of the ’80s (with a nod to Donna Karan).

By the way, earlier this week Vanessa Friedman jokingly suggested that this season’s muses are Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. But looking at all the draped jersey on the runways last week, I would say the inspiration is Mme. Alix Gres.

The Row Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear

At The Row’s morning presentation, models gracefully sauntered down the runway in Ashley and Mary-Kate’s minimal designs imbued with athletic and utilitarian touches. They looked effortlessly chic and comfortable in their crocheted flat slippers, barely-there clear plastic sandals and the duo’s version of a Teva sandal (with a sock for extra protection again the dirt of the city streets).

Gabriela Hearst Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear

Gabriela Hearst infused her quietly luxurious, exquisitely fabricated wardrobe basics with superb craftsmanship. Among the standouts were the black and ivory cotton trenches with macramé leather panels. Almost everything in the collection was shown with a flat sandal. By the way, Ms. Hearst pulled off the first-ever carbon-neutral fashion show. You can’t get more modern than that.

Jason Wu Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear
Photo courtesy Landon Nordeman The New York Times

Removing the stiffness from eveningwear and making the formal look informal is thoroughly modern. Newly refreshed from a trip to Italy and Majorca, Jason Wu was inspired to create a beautiful and succinct 33 piece collection using washed and crinkly silk fabrics. It looked feminine, elegant, luxurious, and lived in. Perfectly imperfect!

Collina Strada Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear

Casting non-models who represent different ages, sizes, ethnicities, and sexual identifies, is quintessentially modern. Fashion is not just about pretty faces. Since her launch in 2018, Collina Strada’s creative director Hillary Taymour is known to make social/political statements. She routinely casts friends, relatives, and neighbors in her formal runway shows. Hillary used a produce stand on the west side of Stuyvesant Square Park as the venue for her show, titled Thank You Very Much For Helping Me. On each seat, there was a reusable produce bag with a note explaining “Ways to Help Me”.

The celebration of individuality and showing respect for the past are both quintessentially modern. What is good is always right. This was at the heart of Marc Jacob’s eclectic 61 piece collection which closed fashion week.

Marc Jacobs Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear

Marc’s in depth knowledge of fashion history is reflected in all of his collections. His own enviable wardrobe is a checklist of fashion’s greatest hits (French, Japanese, Italian, American). Marc’s show was an unabashed ode to the joy of dressing up and the joy of fashion; a mix of colorful confections and sober suiting, accessorized to the hilt. Among the revered designers who were referenced: Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel and Norman Norell, known as the Dean of American Fashion.

Marc copied the Norell iconic gold sequined sheath line for line. He showed the gown on its own and beneath an orange wool maxi coat lined in gold sequins. This was an obvious homage to Norell’s famous ‘Subway Coat’. It was so named because one could wear the plain-looking camel coat on the subway and nobody would know that underneath there was a luxurious, shimmering dress.

Speaking of subways, Tom Ford held his show, in an abandoned Lower East Side subway. Punk and gritty was the order of the day. These two words one generally does not associate with a new Chairman of the CFDA. But, in my mind, it felt a bit forced and contrived.

Tom Ford Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear

If reality is what Tom was after, he should have used a real subway station. A few rats would have been good. He should have skipped the punkish hair, made sure his models looked as beautiful as possible and focused on what it is he does best.

In his program notes, Tom said, “I think that it’s a time for ease and in that way a return to the kind of luxurious sportswear that America has become known for all over the world.” The first outfit out, a slightly rumpled black t-shirt worn with a white satin ball skirt” certainly fit the bill, but I would hardly refer to Ford’s spring 2020 collection as “easy”, especially in the case of the uncomfortable looking molded bras made of plastic.

However, I would never refer to Tom Ford’s show as an example of luxurious American sportswear.

Matthew Adams Dolan Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear

Young Parsons grad Matthew Adams Dolan is inspired by the unfussy functionality of Claire McCardell’s practical, utilitarian designs. Claire, along with Bonnie Cashin, is widely considered to have invented American sportswear.

Matthew’s spring show was called “new American folk tale” and included unique takes on All-American staples such as denim, striped shirtings, rugby tops, cable-knit sweaters, and oversized rugby striped blazers. Some of the outfits were shown with classic pumps, but most were accessorized with a platform sandal that resembled a Teva, and ankle socks.

Coach 1941 Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear

Stuart Vevers is thoroughly in charge as creative director of Coach 1941. The spring collection was perhaps one of his best efforts. Vevers made a case for luxurious urbane American sportswear and he made effective use of color as seen in his terrific leather outerwear.

His shoe of choice was a flat black double strap sandal. There were also low heeled Mary Janes and a high top sneaker with three straps. The look was easy, believable, and wearable.

Michael Kors Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear

Michael Kors showed spring at the Brooklyn Navy Yards. He focused on American sportswear infused with a 40’s feel and a touch of the preppy. His collection redefined classic wardrobe staples. The slouchy trench, high waist pleated gray trousers, navy bucket hat, and luggage toned leather fisherman sandals on a 3-inch rope soles were all part of his interesting new collection.

Brandon Maxwell Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear

All-American wardrobe basics for real life are at the heart of Brandon Maxwell’s spring collection. Brandon’s focus is on tailored blazers, button-down shirts, leather pants, pullovers, shorts, and of course, denim. It sounds relatively simple, and it is. The magic is in the perfection of the cut, luxurious fabrication, and of course, the attitude!

Ralph Lauren Fall 2019 Ready-to-Wear

No designer is as synonymous with luxurious American sportswear as Ralph Lauren. He used ‘Le Smoking’ and Gigi Hadid as the jumping-off point for his fall 2019 collection.

The supermodel might have been unrecognizable at the Tom Ford show, but she looked sensational at “Ralph’s Club.” I believe that Ralph could have expanded on the black-tie concept and made it more interesting.

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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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