New York Fashion Week: It's fleshy or furry as the autumn/winter 2015 shows begin

It doesn't matter what you're showing for what season - if customers like it enough, it'll sell

New York is a good place to start each fashion season – not because of the designers, but because of the city.

It’s all about extremes: not that old/young, uptown/downtown designer thing, which has largely been eradicated (the designer Jason Wu is barely 32, but is far more uptown than the 51-year-old Marc Jacobs, for example), but something more elemental.

Right now, at the start of the autumn/winter 2015 shows, seven inches of snow is forecast over the next 24 hours, and temperatures are set to plummet. And people question the validity of seasons in fashion today?

 

But fashion shows aren’t just about what’s on the catwalk, they’re about the people attending. The press, buyers and a smattering of favoured (read: hyper-moneyed) clients provide a snapshot of how real women wear these clothes. Anna Dello Russo, the 52-year-old Vogue Japan editor, routinely pitches up to sub-zero show venues in abbreviated dresses, open-toed sandals and bare legs. And I’ve seen her sweltering in Milan in midsummer in knuckle-deep fur.

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Jason Wu's clothes satisfy wealthy women’s needs (AFP)

When people say “seasonless” fashion, they’re not talking about a techy coat that can adjust to variations in temperature. Rather, there’s a cadre of well-to-do people for whom the outside world is of no concern. Fur in summer, mini-skirts in winter? It’s the climate of wealth, in which lives are air-conditioned and centrally heated to a constant temperate state.

The result? It doesn’t matter what you’re showing for what season – if those customers like it enough, it’ll sell. That must be very liberating for a designer. Or daunting.

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Jason Wu shows real fur, a surefire hit with New York socialites (AP)

Customers like what Jason Wu does. He doesn’t frighten the horses. He’s been called the Oscar de la Renta of the digital age, and that’s not because of aesthetic similarities, or even because both have dressed first ladies (Wu is Michelle Obama’s go-to, much as De la Renta was for the Reagan, Clinton and Bush wives). It’s because his clothes satisfy wealthy women’s needs.

His show on Friday was for winter, so Wu piled on the fur. Skirts in double-face cashmere fell to a sober mid-calf, but were slit high over bare legs, while backs were carved out on both day and evening dresses. They’ll export to Middle America and the Middle East with the greatest of ease.

More than anything else, there’s a validity to Wu’s clothing. You can see the point – and the gap it fills in the market for that stripped-back, easy-to-wear American breed of luxury that makes so much European fashion look fussy and overworked.

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Kanye West gets minimal for Adidas Originals (Getty)

Validity is something that frequently feels strained in an over-saturated fashion market. What, for instance, was the point of Kanye West’s grandiose show with Adidas Originals? Despite that moniker, it was mostly second-hand ideas, from Helmut Lang and Maison Martin Margiela mainly, that were co-opted for an audience of heavyweight celebrities and fashion press.

The overriding impression was, simply, that if Kanye can, Kanye will. I’m sure it will sell. But does that make it valid as a statement on the New York fashion calendar? Or especially interesting? Strip away the celebrity – on the label, and front of house – and there was little to justify the kerfuffle.

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