Amid sweltering heat and jitters over the Hollywood strike, New York launched its spring/summer 2024 Fashion Week on Friday.
Heavyweights Ralph Lauren and Helmut Lang returned to the industry's flagship event with new ideas. American luxury brand Coach unveiled its collection of sensual translucent dresses on Thursday, where the event was briefly disrupted by animal rights activists.
As Vogue editor Anna Wintour and Jennifer Lopez watched the show, two female protesters from the animal rights group Peta – one covered in body paint that mimicked animal flaying and another holding a poster that read “Coach: Leather Kills” – joined the models on the runway before security led them away.
At another unofficial launch event on Wednesday, featuring Naomi Campbell, Doja Cat, Naomi Osaka and Gigi Hadid, Victoria's Secret teased a film meant to showcase the brand's new and more inclusive identity after it was criticised for designing garments that objectify women.
The film, entitled The Victoria's Secret World Tour, to be released on Amazon Prime at the end of September, highlights the work of creators and artists from Lagos, London, Bogota and Tokyo.
This year, New York Fashion Week will feature young talents and emerging brands, along with established brands such as Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Altuzarra, Gabriela Hearst, Carolina Herrera, Tory Burch and Luar.
The city will then pass the baton to London, Milan and Paris.
“New York has always been a cornerstone of Fashion Week,” said Steven Kolb, chief executive of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. “It really underscores how strong it is, in terms of presenting creative thinking.”
Under the humid heat of the New York summer, the six-day marathon began on Friday afternoon in Manhattan with a show by Helmut Lang, who rose to fame in the 1990s and 2000s, thanks to the minimalist aesthetic of the Austrian artist.
Helmut Lang, the designer, left fashion in 2005 but Helmut Lang, the brand, lives on, bought by Prada and then by the Japanese group Fast Retailing, which owns Uniqlo.
The brand now returns to the runways of the Big Apple with a collection concocted by its new artistic director, Peter Do, widely considered a fashion prodigy.
The show had nostalgic undertones, a bow to the 1990s when it became the first fashion brand to advertise on New York yellow taxi signs.
Another brand that makes its return on Friday, albeit in Brooklyn where many of the fashion shows have migrated, is Ralph Lauren, the legendary brand that defined American elegance and embodied preppy US style with an annual turnover of more than $6 billion.
The brand, whose founder was born in the Bronx, has not held a show in New York since 2019. The show had an intimate atmosphere, with a rustic barn decor reminiscent of his Colorado ranch.
For Lauren denim is a trademark. This time, it was reinvented as "romantic evening wear," embellished with beads and embroidered feathers, or as a full skirt ending in a floral train.
With brightly coloured, elegant and sophisticated outfits, the Bronx-born designer wanted to celebrate "a woman who is timeless and modern, bold and romantic, sophisticated and vibrant," according to his collection note.
With model Christy Turlington on the catwalk and actresses Robin Wright and Amanda Seyfried looking on, the show ended with golden dresses, including one with fringing that took "over 800 hours of work by fifteen specialised embroiderers," according to Lauren.
This fashion season is marked by the double strike of Hollywood screenwriters and actors seeking better compensation, which has reduced the number of red carpet previews to a minimum, thus depriving brands of chance to dress stars and promote themselves in the process.
“Certainly, the red carpet is a way to speak to the audience,” said Kolb, adding that fashion shows were no less important.
The “content that they create for social channels will contribute to a very loud, very visible Fashion Week", he added.
For the Prabal Gurung show, visitors ventured to Roosevelt Island in the rain, to see a collection inspired by the designer's recent trip to India to visit family, including his grandmother.
"In the culture, there's so much conversation about East meeting West, but it's time the West meets the East," Gurung told Fashionista of the collection. "I've always loved the collaging of ideas, of continents, of gender. It started with that and with this idea of: How do you decolonise our taste, our eyes, what we love, what we think is cool, what we think?"
The colourful collection features flowing and draping fabrics, mixed with contemporary western pieces, including blazers and tailored trousers.
– AFP contributed to this report