Designers Making Refreshing Changes on the Runway

An Undercurrent of Change is Trickling In

Words by Síomha Connolly
October 17th, 2016

As another round of Fashion Weeks come to a close we take a look at some of the designers who are making refreshing changes on the runway. This season there were a number of designers who decided to shake things up (quite literally at Stella McCartney) on the fashion month schedule. There were dancing models at Stella McCartney, “real” models at J.Crew, overt feminist statements at Dior and multi-generational shows as Bottega Veneta sent 72 year old Lauren Hutton down the runway.

While Fashion Month is often considered the holy grail of the industry, dictating the trends, colours and styles that we will be wearing in months to come and declaring items either in vogue or passé, it can at times seem slightly repetitive especially by the time the fourth week rolls around. For those of us who are avid onlookers Fashion Week shows can appear very similar regardless of the different styles of clothing on display from each particular brand. And so when a brand steps out and does something out of the ordinary it instantly gets noticed, not only by the show attendees but by the media and social media users too.

Every season there are certain moments that are captured at the shows that instantly explode on Instagram and Twitter, with fans sharing images of the extra added details that caught their eye. Are these statements made by designers a battle for social media fame? Or perhaps they are an attempt to woo young consumers with these overtly social media focused acts? After all it is undoubtedly true that younger generations are increasingly more influenced by social media and online publications than they are by traditional print media. This shift to Instagram-worthy displays at shows could in ways represent the need to refocus their targeting.

It could also be that designers are attempting to open up the industry. By diversifying shows through using models of different ages, sizes and looks and breaking away from traditional model standards, brands are bringing their products closer to the average consumer. And while diversity is definitely not as prevalent as it should be in the fashion industry, there have been considerable improvements over the past number of years.

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Stella McCartney SS17
J.Crew SS17

Take for example J.Crew who brought a whole other level to fashion week presentations this season. In a beautifully diverse line-up of all ages from 13 up to 70, both male and female, J.Crew presented their spring summer 2017 collection. This unique selection of non-model models (nodels) provided the perfect backdrop for the type of classic yet contemporary wearable collection that J.Crew is known for. The group included a mix of J.Crew staff, family and friends, journalists, photographers and bloggers among others, providing a range of ages, sizes and ethnicities, not usually seen at such presentations.

Next look to Bottega Veneta, who in celebration of their 50th anniversary show sent 72 year old Lauren Hutton down the runway in Milan. The former supermodel and actress carried the same bag that she wore in 1980 film American Gigolo which was designed by the brand and is now back in the collection available to buy once again. Creating a multi-generational show is not the norm at fashion week and so the final walk made for another extremely Instagram-worthy moment as Gigi Hadid and Lauren Hutton walked down the runway arm in arm to close the show, bridging the gap between the two generations.

Another largely picked up on detail from the shows this season was Dior’s feminist statement in the form of their ‘we should all be feminists’ slogan t-shirt, referencing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book who was seated front row. Instantly becoming the most “Instagrammable” moment of the show, the t-shirt was paired with a navy tulle skirt and trainers. This was Maria Grazia Chuiri’s debut collection for the luxury fashion house and what adds to this statement is the fact that Grazia Chuiri is Dior’s first female Creative Director. Making her mark on the brand with an issue close to her heart was obviously important for the Italian designer. Fashion has always been used as a voice for social, cultural and political affairs and while Dior is certainly not the first brand to make a feminist statement at a show, any attempt at opening the topic of conversation is a welcome one.

Last but not least is Stella McCartney whose SS17 show recently displayed at Paris Fashion Week caused a stir on social media, making it onto Selma Hayek, Net-A-Porter and Eva Chen’s Instagram pages among others. At the shows finale models paraded onto the runway in a conga line style dance which escalated into a full on choreographed dance-off between two troupes of models. It was certainly an inventive end to a show and one that caught the media’s attention lightening the mood at a tense time in British fashion by showing that fashion can be fun too.

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Dior SS17
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Bottega Veneta SS17

What all of this points to is that the fashion industry is opening up and while not every brand will be as welcoming to change, it is certainly refreshing to see an undercurrent of diversity trickling in. Amid such uncertainty in the fashion industry with brands reluctant to accept new changes such as the see-now, buy-now model and questions forming about how Brexit will effect the industry as a whole, the designers above have proved that fashion still contains the elements that make it what it is and should be; fun, thought-provoking and overall, a valid and useful form of expression.

Fashion at its core is constantly evolving and these brands are showing that it’s ok not to fit the mould, not to do what everybody else is doing and to stand up for what you believe in and make adjustments when you see fit. Ultimately, fashion is and always will be for the people, the people who believe in it, who wear it and who follow it and these designers have shown just that with their powerful, individual and refreshing statements this season.