The Download: New York Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2024
Thom Browne autumn/winter 2024, US

The Download: New York Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2024

Cutting through the chaos and overwhelming nature of fashion month, we distil the key insights from New York Fashion Week.

In 2023, fashion weeks were all about the spectacle and attention grabs – as we reported in our Autumn/Winter 2023 Download. This season, the race to ‘break the internet’ with a viral runway show seems to have cooled down. Whether because of budget constraints or a creative choice, the presentations seemed to refocus on the beauty, technicality and diversity of clothes and the designers imagining them.

‘Nowhere else do you feel the excitement of the city like in New York and nowhere else do you experience such diversity in talent,’ designer and chair of the Council of Fashion Designers of America Thom Browne wrote in a statement.

‘Through the presentations we bring to life, to the worlds that we designers immerse our guests in, telling stories that nobody else can dream of, that are so uniquely ours.’

Key Takeaways

: New York Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2024 stepped away from viral spectacles, emphasising beauty, technicality and diversity. Designers like Thom Browne and Proenza Schouler allowed their work to speak for itself

: Amid societal shifts, fashion designers redefined the American Dream. Willy Chavarría celebrated under-represented identities and Tommy Hilfiger revived American Collegiate Nostalgia

: Helmut Lang addressed social unease by emphasising protective clothing on the runway – a trend LS:N Global forecast in Safety Fits in March 2023

‘I think we’re working harder this season to strip away the decoration,’ said Jack McCollough, the co-founder of Proenza Schouler, echoing Browne’s message. No elaborate stage design or stunt in sight – the label showed a wearable, beautifully crafted collection without faff. Is letting the work speak for itself fashion’s next strategy to cut through the marketing noise?

Willy Chavarria autumn/winter 2024, US Willy Chavarria autumn/winter 2024, US
Willy Chavarria autumn/winter 2024, US Willy Chavarria autumn/winter 2024, US

American designers put a new spin on Americana

The American Dream is dead, long live the American Dream – at least from a fashion lens. On the runway, several designers questioned what an American identity looks and feels like in 2024.

A standout was Willy Chavarría’s thought-provoking collection, exploring the notion of Americanness from the outskirts, celebrating the identities of queer, immigrant and all other Americans under-represented in Uncle Sam’s conventional visual narratives. Here, Mid-western elements were re-interpreted and modernised, refitted to better reflect the realities of American society.

Another highlight was Luar from designer Raul Lopez, which brought Beyoncé herself all the way to Bushwick, Brooklyn, for a show musing on the ‘metrosexual’ persona.

Other shows explored the American Collegiate Nostalgia, with Tommy Hilfiger leading the charge. The designer claimed that the preppy, varsity style is back and bound to gain traction as streetwear’s clout softens.

Collina Strada autumn/winter 2024, US

Redefining the feminine mystique

New York Fashion Week runways questioned what feminine and sexy mean outside of norms and conventions. Celebrating female power, Collina Strada’s Stronger collection introduced an athletic version of femininity. On the runway, models carried makeshift dumbbells made of pumpkins and donned power outfits mixing padded shoulders with ruffles and sheer fabrics. ‘The femme body and mind has long been shaped by the imagination of men,’ the show’s press release says. ‘It’s about time we resculpted that meat-headed vision into something closer to the reality of femininity – something altogether sweatier yet more refined.’

Paris-based designer Ludovic de Saint Sernin, known for his androgynous and sensual style, showed for the first time in New York. This season, he explored the tension between his usual kinky, leather-laden and buttock-bearing looks with the subtlety and poetry of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe’s work.

Elsewhere, designer and semi-finalist of the 2024 LVMH prize Elena Velez hosted a contemporary version of a literary salon to showcase her new collection. Inspired by Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind novel, the collection addressed how women fare in the face of censorship and societal collapse.

Helmut Lang autumn/winter 2024 Protection Vs. Projection. Photography by Huy Luong, US Helmut Lang autumn/winter 2024 Protection Vs. Projection. Photography by Huy Luong, US
Tory Burch autumn/winter 2024, US Tory Burch autumn/winter 2024, US

The catwalk as a window for current crises

Fashion is a mirror of society, and a few designers used their platform to convey the social unease and anxiety of living in permacrisis.

For his second collection at the helm of Helmut Lang, Peter Do reflected on the protective nature of clothes and the tension between armour and adornment – notions explored in our Safety Fits microtrend report. The result is a strong visual lexicon that evokes strengths and fragility – bubble wrap used as a fabric, along with plaid and balaclavas. ‘I feel like living in New York, a lot can happen in a day. I want to provide a tool for you to be ready for whatever it takes,’ said Do following the show.

Other labels had a focus on wearability and functionality. At Tory Burch, the collection featured ‘sharp edges, unusual textures and technical sport details’, state the show notes. ‘We were thinking about making the everyday sublime: an old jacket, a lampshade, even a shower cap,’ explained Burch. The collection hints at the gloom behind the glam, showing that beauty can be found amid bleak realities.

Strategic opportunities

: Boundaries between fashion and entertainment keep blurring, but New York Fashion Week is making the case for a less-is-more strategy – using simplicity as a statement in an over-saturated media landscape

: How is your business addressing intersectionality? The fashion scene gives us a good reminder to keep questioning, reconsidering and re-imagining outdated narratives, and hold spaces for all identities

: Consumers want products that can do more for them. Use disruptive thinking to explore new ways to upgrade product utility with enhancements that meet future needs

: As body hostility is on the rise, brands have the responsibility to fight back by portraying body diversity, celebrating different definitions of beauty and actively including under-represented voices

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