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Top 10 Shows of Autumn/Winter 2015

BoF brings you our Top 10 Shows of the Season.
  • BoF Team

LONDON, United Kingdom — At the end of another marathon season of shows, we were left with the feeling that something was holding designers back. Was it the on-going economic stagnation in Europe? Or the wider landscape of geopolitical uncertainty? In truth, it could have been any number of factors, but, overall, it made for an uninspiring season.

Interestingly, Milan delivered significantly more visual stimulation this time around. Having suffered consistent criticism for the scarcity of new talent and creative innovation on its runways, Italy's fashion capital put on its strongest fashion week in years, thanks, in no small part, to the winds of change at Gucci; strong collections from Fendi, Prada and Tod's; and a growing number of initiatives created to nurture the next generation of designers. While Milan's pool of young fashion talent may not be as deep as London's or New York's, change is clearly afoot.

As usual, the month reached a creative crescendo in Paris, where Japanese designers remained the creative leaders and Riccardo Tisci’s show, marking his tenth year at the helm of Givenchy, was not only the highlight of the week, but tops our list of the Top 10 Shows of Autumn/Winter 2015.

1. Givenchy designed by Riccardo Tisci, PFW

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Now revered as one of the industry's most influential designers, it is easy to forget that Riccardo Tisci's first efforts at Givenchy were not well received. Indeed, Tisci's trajectory provides strong evidence that fashion houses must be patient and allow new designers time in their roles, before pronouncing judgement on them. At Givenchy, Tisci has had the opportunity to establish his own creative language, informed by tectonic shifts in the fashion landscape — such as the rise of streetwear — as much as his own Italian heritage. Tisci described his muse this season as a "Victorian-chola girl" and the brand's army of models had plenty of 'chola-back' girl attitude thanks, in part, to Luigi Murenu-gelled hair and braids and face jewellery and septum rings crafted by Pat McGrath. At times, the strength of the styling at Givenchy risks overpowering the clothes, but, this season, it augmented the dark Victoriana of velvet dévoré dresses, crimson fox and peacock motifs. It was a Tisci tour de force.

2. Fendi designed by Karl Lagerfeld, MFW

Every single look was beautifully executed at Karl Lagerfeld and Silvia Venturini Fendi's presentation, in which Doutzen Kroes, the Dutch Victoria's Secret 'angel,' made her return to the Milan runway following a 12-year absence. The collection's vibrant hues were played out in fur with oversized pockets and full body aprons crafted from leather. The collection was rigorously linear in its silhouettes, which Lagerfeld attributed to the influence of the imposing fascist architecture of the new Fendi headquarters in Rome's Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana. The walls of the show space displayed abstract paintings by the early 20th century Swiss artist Sophie Taeuber-Arp, punctuating what was a polished and modern outing with colourful geometric shapes. The collection's elegance was lent a playful touch with origami-esque Bird of Paradise flowers, peeking out of colourful accessories, which captured the style and joie de vivre of Taeuber-Arp's work.

3. Gucci – designed by Alessandro Michele, MFW

This season, the newly appointed Alessandro Michele was charged with the Herculean task of reinvigorating the ailing Gucci brand, following Kering boss François Henri Pinault's call for a new direction at the group's largest label. Michele's vintage-inspired magpies — a gender-bending mix of louche Seventies librarians and painterly types — were certainly new. Critics raised the fact that much of the show's aesthetic was a result of reworking pieces mined from the past, rather than drawing on genuinely new ideas. And while Hedi Slimane's Saint Laurent has doubled the brand's revenues with a similar approach, questions hang over the commercial viability of Michele's gender-bending aesthetic. But, despite the throng of well-wishers and journalists that rushed back stage, many of whom were meeting Michele for the first time, the designer was accessible and accommodating after the show and willing to discuss his vision for Gucci's next chapter. And for the first time since the Tom Ford era, he had the entire industry talking about Gucci. Mission accomplished.

4. Sacai – designed by Chitose Abe, PFW

Chitose Abe’s Sacai has become an unmissable part of the Paris schedule. This season, the Japanese designer developed her brand beyond her trademark multi-perspectival clothes that change in appearance based on a viewer’s position. Abe does not shy away from extravagant shapes and textures, but her refined taste level ensured that, as well as casting unusual silhouettes, her collection remained desirable to a broad audience. Outerwear, which has been a consistent highlight at Sacai, was strong again this season and a braided, fringed coat was particularly buzzed about after the show. Other notable moments included brightly coloured geometrically printed dresses and coats, some of which were slashed to reveal contrasting prints underneath.

5. Alexander McQueen designed by Sarah Burton, PFW

Sarah Burton’s latest collection for Alexander McQueen tapped into a lesser-referenced facet of the late, great Lee McQueen’s legacy. In a show inspired by the lifecycle of a rose, it was the romantic softness, not the savage beauty, of McQueen that took centrestage this season. Staged in the Conciergerie, a former prison on the banks of the Seine that once housed Marie Antoinette, the collection’s fragile beauty was given a haunting, tragic air. The prison’s off-white walls became the canvas for a colour palette that was, at times, almost impossibly delicate. Petal-like ruffles of organza were cast in a shade of pink that perfectly captured a rose’s dying days, while other blood-red looks showed the flower’s vibrant passion — each created with the sublime technical skill of the McQueen atelier.

6. Junya Watanabe designed by Junya Watanabe, PFW

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Each season, Junya Watanabe’s meditation on form focuses on a single theme. This season, it was a honeycomb construction, which played out through neck-brace like accessories, capes, skirts, jackets and dresses, creating Escher-like optical effects around the body. Underneath the sculptural drama of the honeycomb, however, monochrome school uniform staples provided a very saleable story. Neat white shirts, cropped black trousers and studded brogues were all eminently wearable. Although the eccentric headpieces may have attracted derisive comments from some, in the context of Watanabe’s tightly focused aesthetic message, they made sense and lent the collection a strange kind of grandeur.

7. Undercover – designed by Jun Takahashi, PFW

Following last season’s fairytale show, Jun Takahashi’s aesthetic took a more subversive turn. Transparent masks, usually used by patients during recovery after facial plastic surgery, covered models’ faces, forcing them into maniacal grimaces. In contrast to the stiff tulle and volume of his angelic creations of last season, this season, the designer showed a collection of elongated lines, taken to the extreme in the tails of some of the coats, which trailed metres behind the models. The show took place on what must be one of the narrowest runways ever seen in Paris, which enhanced the fluidity of the lines and, along with the masks, gave the impression that the models were in a precarious state. Highlights included photographic prints of contemporary faces rendered in renaissance colours and elegant riffs on a men’s dinner suit, with slouched evening pants and matching jackets. The shards of broken glass that decorated the collection’s final looks were a fitting final image for a show that was injected with emotion, if not a comforting kind.

8. Erdem designed by Erdem Moralioğlu, LFW

Inspired by the fictional interior of a 1950s-style apartment, brought to life on set by production designer Robin Brown, the rich fabrication and embroidery of Erdem's collection had a lurid edge this season. Metallic pink patterned silks, reversed jacquards and oversized flowers stitched together recalled the opulent upholstery of the furniture and wallpaper of the set; sheer dresses conjured net curtains. Seams of tweeds coats and suits were purposefully distressed, suggestive of the frayed finances of an elegant lady trying to keep up appearances. Though still undeniably beautiful, the Erdem muse, in her Nicholas Kirkwood-designed riding boots, was imbued with a new sense of purpose — perhaps even practicality.

9. Proenza Schoulerdesigned by Jack McCollough & Lazaro Hernandez, NYFW

Proenza Schouler's show took place in the Marcel Breuer building on Madison Avenue, previously home to The Whitney Museum, one of New York's most important contemporary art institutions. Secured through "friends of friends" the grand location indicated the standing of the designers in their home city and was a fitting setting for a collection inspired by Abstract Expressionist painter Helen Frankenthaler and the late works of minimalist sculptor Robert Morris. From eveningwear that left impractical amounts of skin exposed to the New York winter, chicaning ribbon-like down the body, to dresses that were given structure by a bandage-like overlay — it was in garment construction that McCollough and Hernandez took risks. Detractors pointed out where these risks sometimes failed to pay off — with some looks overly indebted to Phoebe Philo's Céline in terms of silhouette — but, that willingness to take risks, set the brand head and shoulders above their contemporaries in New York.

10. J.W Anderson – designed by Jonathan Anderson, LFW

Jonathan Anderson's aesthetic has always been divisive, but his commitment to taking creative risks continues to mark him as one of the most assured young designers in the industry. The outré ensembles worn by East Germans, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, inspired this season's late-1980s spectacular. As a consequence, the looks were not immediately easy on the eye — verging at times on the tacky and the vulgar — but the intrinsic freedom of choice they represented evoked the rush of liberty experienced by those who inspired the show. Lurid metallics, voluminous calf boots and abstract belts may not find too many willing consumers, but as runways statements go, the impact was immediate. The brand has become the must-see de facto opener of London Fashion Week and has effectively added a day to the week's calendar — no small feat given that the label debuted just four years ago.

Honourable Mention. Philosophy– designed by Lorenzo Sarafini, MFW

Pale blue obsession for #philosophyofficial #myphilosophy #mfw #milano #fashionweek

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An honourable mentions goes to Lorenzo Serafini's accomplished debut for the Alberta Ferretti sister line, which combined whimsical lightness with a well-conceived palette of prints and pops of colour — promising the possibility of greater things to come from the label.

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