The Season of Magical Thinking

Christian Dior Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear
Photos &

The shows for spring 2020 have finally ended. This is a season of high contrasts, contradictions, mixed metaphors, and extremes. It is more about individuality and less about trends. In fact, just talking about trends is boring and passe. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been able to make some observations.

The application of couture techniques and artisanal handwork was one of the hallmarks of the season, and it resulted in some of the greatest moments. At times over the past month, the runways looked more like haute couture than ready-to-wear.

The application of couture techniques and artisanal handwork was one of the hallmarks of the season, and it resulted in some of the greatest moments. At times over the past month, the runways looked more like haute couture than ready-to-wear.

Hermes Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear

Pragmatism has been the driving force behind some of the best designs, and the best accessories this season. Fantasy is great, but we are living in the real world. Capacious bags that hold everything have replaced mini bags that might look darn good but are completely useless. Heavy eyeglass chains, like those at Gucci, not only make a fashion statement but ensure that you will never lose your glasses.

It may not be a sneaker season, but their replacements: flat or chunky heeled loafers, clogs, and boots, are equally grounded and are made for pounding the pavement. Some are admittedly orthopedic looking. Flat or flat-formed sandals were shown in every iteration.

Roman sandals looked especially modern when paired with evening wear. It’s not too early to start getting your feet into tip-top shape.

Gucci Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear

The fashion world is divided into two camps: the minimalists and the maximalists. It seems the minimalists have a slight edge. Even Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing exercised restraint this season.

And you know something is up when Alessandro Michele does an about-face from his usual over the top escapades. While I would hardly call the spring Gucci collection minimal, it was Alessandro’s most pared down. And it was his sexiest. But of course, Michele does minimal and sexy in his own idiosyncratic way.

Prada Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear

Miuccia Prada rejected her usual utilitarianism, streetwear, and athletic wear in favor of quirky yet rather simplistic femininity inspired by the ’30s ’40s and ’70s. One problem was, at times, the proportions made the models look dowdy.

I can only imagine how these clothes will look on real women over a certain age. That being said, even though Miuccia was more streamlined than in the past, the designer has not lost all of the magic that happens when she combines disparate elements to create something totally original.

The magic is officially gone from Chanel. Virginie Viard’s first solo ready-to-wear collection since the passing of Karl Lagerfeld had some perfectly lovely pieces, but overall, it was strangely bland, the proportions were off, the prints were puzzling, and there were too many unnecessary frilly details (flounces). It didn’t look expensive or luxurious, and it often didn’t look like Chanel.


Magical moments on the runways are few and far between, but they do happen. When designers think out of the box, they can turn the common into the uncommon, the ordinary into the extraordinary, and allow us to see fashion and beauty in a new light.

Dries Van Noten Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear

Dries van Noten clearly does not need any help in creating magical moments. He is a master colorist who brilliantly combines prints and patterns in a wholly unique way. But Dries’s unexpected and inspired collaboration with Christian Lacroix provided one of the highlights of fashion month. It was a match made in heaven.

Pairing a simple white cotton tank or gray cashmere sweatshirt with something more formal on the bottom, and layering trousers beneath ball skirts, are some examples of the way Dries mixed the masculine with the feminine, downplayed the luxurious and elevated the banal.

Everything in the collection was grounded with a platform sandal or boot, often in a marvelous contrasting shade, or animal pattern. Even with the trailing ribbons, embroidery, rich brocades, and tall feathered plumes, the collection had unforced ease, and the overall effect was couture-like without the stiffness and formality. It was the epitome of modern.

Balenciaga Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear

Demna Gvasalia’s experimentation with Balenciaga’s voluminous outsized shapes is his calling card. The broad-shouldered coats and jackets and enormous ball gowns are striking, but not easy to pull off. Demna had a brilliant solution. He fashioned a removable piece of corsetry boning.

When taken out, the exaggerated shoulder of the jacket will fall into a natural, softly draped arc. For the enormous ball gowns, Demna made a removable bell-shaped crinoline. When detached, they will morph into an A-linee neo-Gothic dress. Brilliant! You get two looks for each one.

Rick Owens Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear

Rick Owens’ sculptural, post-apocalyptic glamorous grunge designs always have their own unique magic. They are in a class of their own. The designer paid homage to his Mexican roots by referencing the Aztec culture. He mixed fabrics like cotton canvas, silk crepe, and duchess satin, and made effective use of bold geometric patterns, sequins, and shots of intense color.

It wasn’t just the clothes that were magical but the entire presentation. Rick invited bubble artists, clad in black robes, to add a sense of joy and lightness to the show, which was held at the Palais de Tokyo.

Mary Katrantzou Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear

Not all the magical moments happened in Paris. On Thursday evening Mary Katrantzou held her spring 2020 show among the ruins of the historic Temple of Poseidon in Athens. Beginning with a sequined and fringed column embroidered with a quote from Socrates, each of the 30 spectacular dresses had a different reference to Greece.

Junya Watanabe Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear

Junya Watanabe worked his magic on the classic tan trench; the ultimate year round, day to evening wardrobe workhorse. In Junya’s hands, the trench can not only be a double breasted unisex staple, but a ball gown, a ball skirt, a pinafore dress, a cape, or a kilt. And tan can be the perfect foil for fluorescent neon or a splashy print. Fabulous!

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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.

  1. Love reading you fashion perspective. As someone with years of fashion history, I truly respect your opinions. Fashion is more than the latest model, the biggest show extravaganza or the celeb designers or Hollywood celebs. For me it’s always been about the clothes and the craft.
    Francesca Sterlacci/University of Fashion

  2. Great article Marilyn! The designers you chose to write about are amongst the best and the photos are a feast for my eyes (huge Dries Van Noten fan here). Interesting how designers have taken a spin on the sculptural quality of some Japanese fashion designers but with very vibrant colors. I truly enjoyed reading this.

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