A Fall Fête: A Review of My Favorite F/W 2016 Shows

For the Fall 2016 fashion shows there was three major standout trends I’ll refer to as the three “F’s”, which stand for Fur, Fringe, and Fearlessness. Fur (real or imaginary) being a longtime staple of this time of year, was used more as an accent on skirts or sleeves rather then its normal role as a full-blown coat. Fringe was used in surprising new ways, such as the rows of Rococo style braided tassels in several offerings from the Balmain show. Finally, fearlessness could be observed in variety of ways throughout the numerous fall shows. From the all-black model lineups and political statements at Zac Posen that caused such a stir, to Lady Gaga pounding the runway for Marc Jacobs ready-to-wear line, to the sheer diversity of looks presented across the board this Fall was without a doubt the beginnings of a new era for the fashion world. Building on that excitement and change, Sarah Burton put all three F’s on full display in her collection for Alexander McQueen’s runway show.
Alexander McQueen: There was quite a bit of juxtaposition in Burton’s latest collection between hard and soft. This delicate dance was more than appropriate for a time of year that normally boasts not only blistering winds and shivering bodies but also untouched blankets of pristine snow and silently breathtaking landscapes. Burton chose to open the show by showcasing some of the harder elements including oversized overcoats that were asymetrically lined with fur on the lapels, leather dresses with strong rounded shoulders, and short frilled looks that had bondage inspired necklines. All of these looks were outfitted with emoji-like embellishments or prints (such as butterflies, lips, and birds) that only Burton could give a classy and muted edge to. The racy boudoir theme only got more amplified as a smattering of sheer, lacy baby-doll dresses and gowns made their way down the catwalk as well as several pairs of seperates featuring simple lace bras, stark long overcoats, and dress pants that had buckles attached to the ankles and thighs furthering the S&M theme. Some of the dresses had ruffles, many had elements of leather which took a more interesting turn when applied to some very unique bustiers. Towards the end of the show, a set of entirely sheer gowns were shown the most successful of which had long flowing capes featuring space motifs, and the least flattering showing the models bare chests and panties with lots of overdone and cartoonish embellishments. The show closed out with a series of beaded and feathered floor-length gowns that were swallowed by coats that looked like the models had rolled out of bed with their comforters still wrapped around them. Overall, Burton’s collection provided us with the very dreamlike avant garde qualities that this storied house is known for all while maintining the much more wearable design aesthetic that Burton has been known for since she took the helm.

Balmain: Olivier Rousteing’s sensibilities have always been very modern and very French, so the concept of both starting and ending his fashion show with one of the daughters of the most famous families in the world played perfectly into both of these desires. Perhaps the most notable feature of this particular collection was the color palette which never strayed far from the soft baby pinks and serenity blues that actually are the colors of the year. The standard uniform of Balmain that Rousteing has created mostly consists of smoking jackets with intricate filigree work, braided tassels that hang from blouses and skirts in abundance, and overall a very French sense of what wearability truly means. While this colection was in no way revolutionary by Balmain’s standards it did offer up some unique distinctions such as the addition of fur to the sides of skirts or used as sleeves in one look. Ruffles, also a staple of the label under Olivier’s guidance, abounded as embellishments to the sides of sheer high-waisted pants or as Elizabethan inspired tops. Sheer patterned leggings, thigh-high heels, wide belts and chokers also ruled the day and made appearances throughout the 60 looks presented. The only real misses came when Rousteing side-tracked away from the established colors of the other looks and ventured into a camo-green for two outfits that looked blantantly out of place with the rest of the show. This small misstep aside, perhaps the most innovative departure in this particular show was the pink corset-cum-skirt that was paired with a robin’s egg blue shearling coat and turtleneck. This technique also showed up in looks worn by Jourdan Dunn as well as Kendall Jenner’s finale dress which were, you guessed it, as fearlessly chic as their designer.

Jonathan Simkhai: After celebrating the collections of two houses that have had both long and illustrious careers, I thought I would turn the spotlight on the fresh and untested face of Jonathan Simkhai’s new eponymous label. A recent participant of the Vogue Fashion Fund/CFDA Awards and (spoiler alert for Amazon watchers) cowinner of the $300,000 prize, Simkhai is best known for his overtly feminine cocktail dresses that often pair geometric designs with lacy exteriors. If his most recent offering coming off of this massive win (an honor that has been shared in the past by such legends as Alexander Wang and Joseph Altuzarra) is any indication of what’s to come then he may be in it for the long haul. Many of the silhouettes in this collection ranged from long and flared at the bottom to long and tightly gathered, and many were paired with some form of knitwear. The first few looks came in a crisp white, most with fur and in one case the hem of a dress was edged in lamb’s wool. This set the tone for a collection that had a wide range of different types of animal fur or at least what passed for it as one dresses fringe closely resembled mole-hair. Huge over-sized furs did seem a little bulky compared to the airiness of the rest of the collection, but one white fur paired nicely with a pair of fringed pants and saved them from becoming too cumbersome. Halfway through the show we got a taste of the geometric cut-outs that Simkhai is known for which showed up on several dresses and even a blazer, but which was best represented by a calf-length dress that was outlined by a woolen border. The finale looks were a steady stream of black, blue, and white lazer-cut dresses and separates that one can easily imagine could be worn to any awards show. Looking at the collection one can really tell that this young man was absolutely the right person for Vogue and the CFDA to put their trust in, and I sincerely look forward to seeing what Simkhai creates for us in the future because his at least is certainly bright.