2016 was a year of chaos. January kicked off with the loss of one of history’s most brilliant creative minds, David Bowie, followed by Prince and Leonard Cohen later this year. We had the shock of Brexit, Donald Trump’s nauseating election victory, and uncountable other events that have shaken social and political equilibrium everywhere. Then we’ve had a year of massive change for one of the biggest, and fastest shifting industries in the world – fashion.
In a fight against boredom and a reflection of what’s going on in the world, the changing attitudes of designers and fashion houses towards the traditional schedule has seen a year of pioneering moves, speculative chatter, and the inception of direct to consumer purchasing. With the pressure of delivering more product on a shorter timeframe, we have seen scheduling changes (with some major players adopting a new way of showing altogether), merged men’s and women’s collections, and designer moves like musical chairs.
So with everything that happened in fashion this year, what were the key moments?
Christopher Bailey at Burberry was the first to kick-start the radical schedule change earlier this year, by slimming down his collections to just two a year. In September, the brand combined their men’s and women’s collections at London Fashion Week, as Bailey inaugurated his first ‘seasonless’ collection, available to buy immediately.
The Sibling SS17 show – a sun-drenched and dreamy nod to summer –saw Sid Bryon Cozette and McCreery shake up the fashion system and challenge the status quo, as they embraced the strength of both sexes with a playful mix of girls and guys. It was a brave move from the design duo, and their first-ever combined men’s and women’s collection.
Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, the New York designers behind the leather and monochromatic stylings of Public School, also took part in this year’s shake-up, announcing in April they would be showing their men’s and women’s collections together, off-schedule. Tapped by DKNY in early 2015, the move saw the duo embrace new territories of design – and then bow out of their role at the NY-centric label 2nd December after less than a year. Following the announcement, they shared they would be returning Public School to the New York Fashion Week schedule, come February.
Meanwhile in London in June, menswear designers used their collections to express their concern over the issue of Brexit – with the most literal from Daniel W. Fletcher, who staged an impromptu off-schedule rally outside the BFC show space. The rising South London designer, who has previously centred his collections around issues like the NHS and the UK’s housing crisis, stood with a group of boys and girls holding placards and banners that read ‘STAY’.
Lately, the designer merry-go-round has been jammed on top speed. To summarise the past 18 months or so (deep breath): Raf Simons left Dior; Alber Elbaz left Lanvin; Hedi Slimane left Saint Laurent; Donna Karan left DKNY; Stephano Pilati left Ermenegildo Zegna; Brendan Mullane left Brioni, Alessandro Sartori left Berluti and Massimiliano Giornetti left Salvatore Ferragamo.
Raf Simons’ move to Calvin Klein was one of fashion’s worst-kept secrets (industry whispers began as soon as he left Dior October in 2015). The appointment of this iconic designer marks the implementation of Klein’s new creative strategy; to unify all Calvin Klein brands under one vision. “I am confident that this decision will drive the Calvin Klein brand and have a significant impact on its future,” explained Steve Shiffman, CEO of Calvin Klein.
Less than a year after Donna Karan stepped down as creative director of DKNY, LVMH sold off the brand in yet another industry shake-up. Due to “seven months of disappointing performance” from its new Public School directors, the company sold the brand to G-III Apparel Group in the hope they may revision the brand with new strategic actions. In December this year, it was announced designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne (of Public School) would be stepping down from their roles as creative directors for DKNY.
After many months of speculation, this year saw Jonathan Saunders named as the Chief Creative of Diane Von Furstenberg. The designer’s silk-screening techniques, bold and ever-playful experimentations serve as a complement to the house of DVF. “I could have not found another cooler, more intelligent designer,” said Von Furstenberg. Another move, another industry surprise.
With whispers of an impending departure swirling for quite some time before his exit, this year saw Hedi Slimane’s four-year tenure at Saint Laurent come to an end. Replaced by Anthony Vaccarello, the exit comes at “the end of a four-year mission, which has led to the complete repositioning of the brand,” according to a statement.
Saint Laurent FW16 look 48
After just three seasons at Roberto Cavalli, October saw Peter Dundas depart the Italian luxury house, as well as 200 positions eliminated. The Norwegian designer’s rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic, feminine silhouettes, animal prints, and goddess-inspired collections were well-received during his nineteen months at the helm, but according to a statement in line with the announcement, “The fashion industry is facing uniquely challenging times, with changing consumer demands, significant contraction in various key markets and fundamental transformation in the industry’s dynamics,” explained CEO Gian Giacomo Ferraris.
Valentino were the next brand with a designer shake-up. Maria Grazia Chiuri left her seventeen-year tenure and collaboration with Pierpaolo Piccioli to head up the creative direction of Dior, where she was appointed in early July. “I am ready to embark on a new professional challenge,” she said upon the eve of her departure. “My decision of bringing forward the creative guide of this Maison is driven by the strong passion that triggers my work and by the desire of continuing to express here my stylistic vision.” Grazia Chiuri embraced her own interpretation for her inaugural ready-to-wear show for Dior, making a statement with “WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS” emblazoned on white tees, and tulle dresses worn with leather.
Dior SS17. Look 35
The strategic and potent moves of fashion brands like Balenciaga, Vetements, Gucci, Roberto Cavalli, Burberry, Public School, Paul Smith, Tom Ford and most recently Vivienne Westwood, combine the strengths of their men’s and women’s collections, unifying them into one killer line. Back in February, Paul Smith shone light on the ever-unattainable demands of creating more than just a manageable handful of individual fashion lines: “I think at one point I counted twenty seven or twenty eight lines,” declared Smith. With the expansion of department mega stores, big brands and fast-fashion chains, designers have found satisfying that ‘see now, buy now, wear now’ fetish a difficult one to rival with (after all, people don’t want to wait six months for a garment). It’s a brave move for brands if they want to exist in the modern day market.
Gucci SS17. Look 39
The evolution of the runway meant 2016 was a year of brands evolving, of shop-able shows, and sped-up seasonal cycles as designers formed tightly-edited capsule collections, combined mens and womenswear under just one creative vision, and introduced seasonless pieces. September saw brands including Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren, Burberry, and Tommy Hilfiger turn their runway shows into direct-to-consumer models and shake up fashion’s delivery schedule, in and amongst a number of creative direction switch ups outlined above.
There’s no doubt that 2017 will witness a continued push towards virtual runways, and the see-now-buy-now model. Between 20 and 30 percent of all runway pieces go into production, so for designers to keep up with buyers’ instant gratification in the digital age, having to reduce the looks presented could be a promising option in keeping abreast of it all.
2016 was a mess of interesting political results, global chaos, the loss of legends, and evolving fashion systems. What will next year bring? More moves? 3D shows? We can only wonder.
Stay tuned to HERO in the coming weeks for our coverage of the FW17 menswear shows from London, Milan, Paris and New York.