Extravagant production, family–inspired presentations, showcases of transformation— Fashion Week’s return to physical shows reflected the post-pandemic mood. Under the theme “Return to Glamor,” designers and brands experimented with new venues (Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Empire State Building) and newfangled ideas (see Jeremy Scott’s “baby lady” kindercore collection for Moschino). Here, we round up ten of our favorite shows from 2021 New York Fashion Week.
Stories of Revival Unfold at New York Fashion Week
After two mostly virtual editions, fashion’s marquee event returns to an in-person format with themes of resurgence and a clear post-pandemic influence that saw moments of spectacle but also sentimentality.By Husein Esufally September 13, 2021
Kicking off this season’s festivities, Ulla Johnson took over the Brooklyn Botanical Garden to debut her Spring 2022 ready-to-wear collection that portrayed the post-pandemic woman. As the first designer to occupy the landmark venue, Johnson fostered a dialogue of intimacy through soft-toned frills, batiks, embroideries, and intricate floral prints that were equal parts whimsical and utilitarian. Under the backdrop of a flower fountain and cicada sounds, Johnson channeled the spirit of a resort getaway through a collection that spotlights her knack for feminine detailing.
Skin and sky took center stage at LaQuan Smith’s rooftop showcase in perhaps Fashion Week’s most anticipated venue: the Empire State Building. The opulence was further dramatized by the runway walk of groomed poodles dressed in designer wear. Smith’s choice of runway pieces, however, exuded an elevated seductive edge as it framed the body to create innovative shapes—a signature move from the designer’s playbook. This season Smith traded his renowned use of corsetry and latex for terrycloth and his recent partnership with Puma watched him push the boundaries of his audience.
As a testament to his early years in New York, Jeremy Scott selected Bryant Park—once the epicenter of Fashion Week—for the launch of his Spring 2022 RTW collection that kicked off with Gigi Hadid (holding a baby bottle no less). The show harnessed Moschino’s heritage of tailor-made suits; paired with the theme of kindercore, the lineup took on a whole new meaning of fun. Sporting a mix of playful patterns with toy giraffes, elephants, and seals, the “baby lady” power suits rendered a fanciful vision of the modern mom.
Snow Xue Gao
Opting for a sentimental showcase instead of a runway show, Snow Xue Gao shared a piece of her childhood with her collection. Gao described how, as a child, she often got lost in her grandmother’s peony-filled garden painting Gongbi (traditional Chinese art). Fusing her modern rendition of the ‘king of flowers,’ amidst houndstooth and plaid patterns, Gao tapped Asian aesthetics to debut silk garments that were both relaxed and tailored. She chronicled her hand-drawn process through an animated projection and set the mood with a live pianist—an homage to her grandmother who was a Beijing opera singer. Gao’s myriad of anecdotal references fortified “the emotion of family” in her heritage collection.
Good girl gone bad, American goth, and rock’n roll were the predominant themes of Michelle Duncan’s maiden runway show. With a familiar focus on waste and utility, Duncan updated her timeless black-and-white color scheme following a trip to Miami. “I was inspired by everything happening down there. It was adding a magical sparkle to everything that I was doing,” she says. “In the past year everyone across the world, whether you wanted to or not, went through a transformation.” Channeling the ideas of rebellion and edge from its founding in 2019, Duncan maintained its edgy viewpoint and translated Michelle’s personal change into her collection with hues of scarlet red and lotus blue in skin-baring silhouettes that nodded to her tropical escape.
Sartorial elegance presented in poetry. Adopting a somber approach to American fashion, Thom Browne put on a show tinged by dark academia. Penny-farthings, pegasus headgear, and eerie echoes of bachelors charged the ghostly hall in Hudson Yards as the designer debuted a three-part medley of suits inspired by Plato, maxi dresses crafted from pure marble, and trompe l’oeil tulle drapery (a nod to the tragic memory of the show date, 9/11.) Browne’s Spring 2022 RTW collection was a masterful exercise in theatricality, craftsmanship, and nostalgia.
Bronx and Banco
Known to be a jet-setter, Natalie D’Banco’s Spring 2022 RTW collection carried the essence of her latest gallivant to Tulum. “I miss travelling. I just want us to get out again and be free and be happy,” she says. “I wanted [the collection] to be more daring and fun, not yoga pants and pajamas.” D’Banco debuted her vision of a seductive bohemian fantasy on the rooftop of Spring Studios with a steady rotation of silhouettes with fearless slits, sensual curves, and breezy fabrics embellished with capsule bags made from recycled shells and rope.
Project Runway winner Christian Siriano marries his practice of casting diverse models with his grandmother’s affinity for vibrant orange tones with his Spring 2022 RTW collection that emphasizes body positivity. Hosted at Gotham Hall, Siriano casted model Precious Lee as his opener and closer, and a diverse range of beauties in between, as he continued his newfound embrace of inclusive fashion. Ranging from printed blacks to punchy oranges to leafy greens, Siriano displayed the electricity of evening wear through a range of frames that fitted every woman irrespective of their physique.
Barefoot and bold: Kate and Laura Mulleavy presented a lineup that celebrated the raw soul of nature and drew on their mother’s artistry and father’s botanical specialization. Inside a sunlit courtyard at 155 Bank Street, Rodarte launched an array of looks that bridged business dress and nightwear: polished blazers, floral-print gowns, and lacy constructions. The highpoint of the show was the closing mushroom gown, which struck a personal chord for the Rodarte co-founder sisters: the piece was a reconstruction of their mother’s illustration that recalls their father’s study of fungi.
David Koch Theater at Lincoln Center played host to Tom Ford’s showcase that subverted the buttoned-up appearance of the night-out uniform. As the closing show of Fashion Week, Ford put an exclamation point on the in-person return of the event whose themes unified around ideas of transformation and perspectives. On cue, the designer unveiled a series of elevated athleisure-ish looks in acid greens, neon pinks, and shimmering blues worthy of leaving your home. The dizzying display of satin and sequin apparel played into the idea of statement clothing in a post-pandemic world increasingly run by social media.