If 2015 was a year of (mostly) shocking and delightful developments, this past year was one in which the fashion industry got serious—well, a little more serious, at least.
Proving that good style doesn’t just mean pretty clothes, designers used their platforms to jump into the political fray.
There were political and presidential declarations made; attempts to tackle gender and diversity; and the loss of one of fashion’s most beloved.
In 2016, we also fell even more in love with our two favorite style queens—Michelle Obama and Beyoncé. We eagerly watched as the rousing game of musical design chairs continued… and as Kanye West attempted to make not one, but two grand fashion statements; and we crowned the Hadids our new favorite fashion sisterhood.
Fashion Declared #imwithher
During the September shows at New York Fashion Week, a flurry of designers proclaimed their allegiances loud and proud—bows were taken in pro-Hillary Clinton get-ups, “I’m With Her” merch was designed and donated, and statements of support were cheekily made.
Vogue led the charge with its first ever official political endorsement backed by some serious fundraising work by editor in chief Anna Wintour.
But, alas, even the support of the queen of fashion—not to mention a campaign wardrobe heavy on the king of All-American design—could help ensure victory for Clinton. The fashion world woke up on Nov. 9 facing a new dilemma: Who’s willing to dress Melania Trump? Results are still coming in, but it looks like this may be the next big political divide.
…But At Least We’ll Always Have Michelle Obama
The first lady is determined to leave her sartorial mark on the White House. From established brands like Oscar de la Renta and J.Crew to up-and-comers like Jason Wu and Brandon Maxwell, Obama has not only shined in looks that are fresh, modern, and often innovative, but she has also taken pride in promoting America’s hometown talent. The FLOTUS fashion watch has been endlessly entertaining, but, more importantly, it has also been a reminder of the power of fashion to communicate new ideas and sew support for the American fashion team.
The Never-Ending Game of Musical Chairs Plays On
The new year started by giving us answers to our most pressing questions: Bouchra Jarrar was appointed the head of design at Lanvin and Maria Grazia Chiuri broke up the Valentino band and went solo at Dior, with her former partner Pierpaolo Piccioli doing the same at Valentino.
Hedi Slimane took his final bow at Saint Laurent in February (and won a $13 million contract dispute with YSL), making room for Anthony Vaccarello to take over the legacy brand.
Ahead of the September shows, Raf Simons landed at Calvin Klein after departing Dior last year, and Diane von Furstenberg (who is married to Barry Diller, chairman of IAC, the parent company of The Daily Beast) quietly stepped aside and appointed Jonathan Saunders as chief creative officer. And don’t even get us started on the slew of celebrity collaborations that swarmed the runways as the changes at the top kept coming.
We Said Goodbye to One of the Most Beloved
At a February fashion show in 2015, I sat behind a front row seat that remained empty with just a blue coat draped over its back right as the show was about to start.
A frazzled publicist came over ready to appoint a replacement to fill the straggler’s seat when a neighboring audience member timidly spoke up. “I think that’s Bill Cunningham’s seat,” he said. The publicist immediately backed away. Bill could sit whenever he liked.
On June 26, the fashion world lost one of its most beloved members when Cunningham died at the age of 87. Since his early days, Cunningham had peddled the streets of New York City on his bike, wearing his iconic blue blazer and 35mm camera, documenting the everyday style of the city’s denizens.
He helped pioneer the now ubiquitous interest in street style and became a celebrity in his own right. In the months following his death, over 1,000 of the top fashion players honored him at a memorial service at Carnegie Hall, while the city he roamed for so many decades named a corner—the one he called his favorite for style spotting—in his honor. Cunningham’s front row seat will forever be saved.
It’s a Beyoncé World, and We’re Just Living in It
From the surprise video drop of “Formation” and Beyoncé’s revolutionary performance at the Super Bowl to her game-changing album Lemonade, 2016 was the year of Bey in pretty much every category of culture.
Taking us on the style tour of a lifetime in the video album for Lemonade, Beyoncé went from breaking car windows in a stunning flowy yellow Roberto Cavalli gown to breaking it down in a cropped Yeezy ensemble complete with a Hood by Air fur coat.
In one album, she went through more costume and hair changes than we can count, and introduced us to new artists and designers along the way.
She also paid tribute to the Black Panthers—in a Michael Jackson-inspired ensemble—during her Super Bowl halftime show, and launched her own athleisure label, Ivy Park. For all of these contributions, Beyoncé was named CFDA Fashion Icon of the Year and officially slayed 2016.
Gender Divisions Are Banished
Genderless fashion has been a buzzword for the past couple years, but 2016 was when it finally took center stage.
A handful of top houses, including Burberry, did away with the distinctions between their men’s and women’s fashion shows, choosing instead to stage one combined presentation each season.
Other designers ranging from Rick Owens to Prada took this development further, showing gorgeous, unisex pieces rather than looks for one specific gender.
In addition to these broader changes, Jaden Smith was named the face of Louis Vuitton’s spring womenswear campaign, James Charles became the first ever male CoverGirl, and Hari Nef, the first transgender model to be signed to a major agency, became one of the year’s models to watch.
And the Industry (Somewhat) Tackles Diversity
In other areas, like race and size, the fashion industry still has a very long way to go—though small strides were made this year.
According to the Fashion Spot, the spring 2017 runways had the greatest diversity yet, and the number of women of color on the covers of the glossies reached a new record. In addition to greater racial inclusion, the industry has also focused on greater diversity when it comes to body type, with certain designers like Christian Siriano and Becca McCharen-Tran of Chromat shedding light on inclusivity.
In addition, plus-size model Ashley Graham got her own Barbie, while IMG signed its first plus-size male model. Inclusion of the transgender community on the runway is still dramatically low, but the year ended with a very small increase that will hopefully build momentum in 2017.
There is still a very long way to go to increase diversity and inclusion in the industry, and the year also saw some extreme lows: Leslie Jones’s difficulty finding a designer who would make her a dress for the Ghostbusters’ premiere was an outrage.
It’s All About the Hadids…
Move over Jenner sisters, there’s a new top model family in town! Gigi and Bella have been on the rise for several seasons, but they officially took over in 2016, with Gigi beating both Bella and Kendall Jenner to win International Model of the Year at the British Fashion Awards.
In addition to walking some of the top shows of the year—including both taking a turn down the Victoria’s Secret runway—and raking in some serious model dough, the sisters have also gained an avid Instagram following, joined Taylor Swift’s #squad, and made news for their high-profile love affairs (Zayn Malik for Gigi, and The Weeknd for Bella, although the two have recently announced their split).
Kanye West Faced a Fashion Implosion
It has been a year of highs and lows for Kanye West, in fashion as it has been in life. In February, he announced that he would be presenting his Yeezy Season 3 collection in Madison Square Garden as something of a joint fashion show-cum-album launch.
The event, attracted 20,000 people, including all the top industry names, and it was largely a success (although Anna Wintour famously admitted to being reduced to tears after getting lost in the MSG basement).
So, the fashion flock was excited, if a bit annoyed, to receive a surprise day-of invitation to Kanye’s Yeezy Season 4 show. On a scorching September day, editors and writers assembled to catch busses out to the island, where they were then stuck waiting for hours for the show to begin. During the delay, they watched helplessly as models began to falter in the heat with water in short supply. It was an “epic hot mess.” But, never fear, 2017 is a new year, and the fashion fascination with Kanye is seemingly endless.
And Other Notable Mentions
Nostalgia for the ’90s took over the runways (hello, slip dresses), while Prince George stole our hearts yet again when he met President Obama… in his bathrobe.
Kate Moss started her own modeling agency, and we hit peak tour merchandise. A pantsuit nation was declared, while warming relations with a different nation led to an epic—and controversial—first fashion show for Chanel in Cuba.
The fashion community bid adieu to legend Sonia Rykiel, while athleisure made room for streetwear, which won top trend of the year. In that spirit, adieu 2016, we’re off to put on our finest holiday hoodies.
And This Year We Were Wearing…
In 2016, we threw it back to the ’90s, with nostalgia for the decade that brought us slip dresses, bell sleeves, and clogs going strong enough to leave Cher totally buggin’.
These top trends were topped off by the ’90s icing on the cake: chokers in every form, from large statement pieces to dainty strips of lace and velvet.
Speaking of velvet, it’s back, and not just for the ladies. From dresses to blazers, it was all soft, silky goodness for the dons and dames.
When the fashionistas weren’t wrapping themselves in luxury, they were showing a little skin. One shoulder looks were all the rage, but the real va va voom statement was delivered in cut-out and off-the-shoulder vibes (Hillary was way ahead of the fashion pack).
You know you’re living in a techie world when the hottest color of the year is nicknamed “tumblr pink.”
This soft girly pastel went by several different names—rose quartz, millennial pink, blush—but what you call the hue doesn’t matter nearly as much as where you’re wearing it (hair color included).
If you thought the idea of pink being actually in style was farfetched, you were probably shocked to discover it was totally on trend this spring to wear your couture PJ’s out of the house for pretty much any occasion. But if exposing your bedroom wear wasn’t your thing, all you needed was to rock a little tour merch. No, dusting off your old *NSYNC T’s wouldn’t cut it (the year wasn’t that into the ’90s). The cool kids were shelling out some serious dough to acquire all of The Life of Pablo, Formation, Anti, and Purpose duds they could get their hands on. Beyoncé and The Biebs for the win!