It is looking to be a fashion month like no other. The coronavirus pandemic has upended the traditional runway format, and in its place a mix of virtual and, in some cases, physical shows with limited audience numbers has started to roll out.
New York Fashion Week (NYFW) arrived first, running from September 13 to 17 ahead of London, Milan and Paris.
Organizers adapted to circumstances by hosting a number of outdoor events, and Jason Wu opened the schedule with a runway show on the rooftop of Spring Studios in Manhattan. He showed his Spring-Summer 2021 collection to a socially distanced crowd of just 30 people, sending models such as Indya Moore down a plant-filled set inspired by the Mexican town of Tulum.
Below are our five highlights from New York Fashion Week.
The end of sweatpants?
Many people are still spending a lot of time at home due to the global pandemic, but judging by some of the collections this season, designers are hoping that by spring 2021 our lives will demand glamorous ensembles.
Jason Wu kicked off NYFW with a summer holiday-themed runway show, with models breezing in donning beach-ready maxi dresses and tailored shorts, in tones of blue and terracota.
Indya Moore walks the runway for Jason Wu during New York Fashion Week on September 13, 2020. Credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images
Wu wasn’t the only designer with an escapist mindset. Dreams of better times and of jetting off to far-flung oases were visible in several collections, from Badgley Mischka’s bright and luxurious gowns to Naeem Khan’s intricate hand-beaded tops and dresses.
Fashion with a message
Chromat Spring-Summer 2021. Credit: Lia Clay/Chromat
Meanwhile, architectural swimwear and athletic brand Chromat, known for its diverse runway shows celebrating all bodies, released the film “Joy Run” by filmmaker Tourmaline. The fashion film, which shows masked models in neon sportswear, featured transgender track star Terry Miller, advocating for the fair inclusion of all genders in sports.
Maisie Wilen Spring-Summer 2021. Credit: Maisie Wilen/Clare Gillen
Another newcomer was the avant-garde mother-and-daughter wearable-luxury label Dur Doux, and Oak & Acorn, a Harlem-based sustainable denim brand that makes bold, genderless styles.
Designer Davidson Petit-Frère opted for a film to show off his slick menswear suits and debut his womenswear line, tapping actor Michael K. Williams of “The Wire” and “Boardwalk Empire” fame to star alongside “Den of Thieves” actor Ron J. Rock in the short flick “Destined.”
Imitation of Christ Returns
The digital approach offered a space for offbeat labels to flex their creative muscles, including the newly revived early-2000s collective, Imitation of Christ, founded by actress, artist and designer Tara Subkoff and designer Matt Damhave.
The conceptual fashion label, which was upcycling garments before the practice was a trend, made its NYFW debut almost 20 years after it staged a gothy ready-to-wear show in a New York City funeral parlor (Chloe Sevigny was famously involved in the label’s original iteration).
Imitation of Christ Spring-Summer 2021. Credit: Maxwell Turner
This time around their theatrical presentations, which took place simultaneously in New York and Los Angeles, featured a capella singers and a video screening, while their Spring-Summer 2021 collection was rife with skateboarder style including eclectic mixed prints, vintage T-shirts and a sequined race track jacket.
NYFW officially closed with designer and filmmaker Tom Ford presenting his Spring-Summer 2021 women’s and menswear lines through a digital lookbook.
Ford chose an optimistic slant, saying in a short film, “The last thing I want to see are serious clothes.” While still comfort-inducing, his soft shirts, 1970s-inspired jumpsuits and caftans had a fun and glamorous edge, with whimsical animal prints and florals. And his menswear collection was no less lively, with a series of silk pants in tropical prints.
Tom Ford Spring-Summer 2021. Credit: Courtesy of TOM FORD
Inspired by a documentary about the fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez and the smiles of the ’70s models Pat Cleveland and Donna Jordan, Ford’s collection exuded joyful elegance.
He said in a statement that he had found it difficult to find meaning in new clothes during the early days of lockdown, but once restrictions eased he felt inspired to create for a “slightly more dressed world.”
Adding that it was still a “casual world” but “one where I actually felt like making a bit of an effort to get dressed,” he said.
New York Fashion Week ran from September 11–16, 2020.