Could you stomach a fashion show when war is breaking out just over 1,000 miles away? Still in the throes of a global pandemic, the fashion industry echoed the sentiments of Miuccia Prada delivered in a statement released after her autumn/winter 2022 fashion show. “You want to live again, to be inspired. And to learn from the lives of people.” But at what cost?, people asked themselves and their neighbours, as they sat on the front rows in New York, London, Milan and Paris, phones pinging with updates on the Russian invasion and the desperate plight of the Ukrainian people.
Giorgio Armani held his show in Milan in silence, as a mark of respect. Numerous brands, big and small, made donations, and talked about the importance of creativity in the face of autocracy. But the now mononymic Demna acknowledged the elephant on the runway most explicitly. Having considered cancelling his Balenciaga show, he reframed it as an act of resistance, realising that “cancelling this show would mean giving in”. That comment was especially potent given that the designer was forced to flee his homeland of Georgia in 1993, at the age of 12, and subsequently sought refuge in Ukraine. His show, originally conceived as a comment on climate change, became a response to war, with models venturing out onto a snowy runway, bent forward against driving wind, carrying (leather) bin bags of belongings. The final two looks – one blue, one yellow, the colours of the Ukrainian flag – gave shape to fashion’s determination to push forward, for better or for worse, no matter the context.
Other talking points for autumn: gender fluidity, sex appeal, body positivity. Come fall, waists will be cinched and fabrics will be sheer – that youthful zest for Y2K and body-conscious clothes that made itself known in acres of bare skin this past summer isn’t going anywhere. Suits are heading out-of-office, upping the glamour quotient for evening in luxurious velvets, bold prints, and colours that make you want to jump for joy. Knitwear is everywhere, and paired with everything.
But the biggest fashion trend of the autumn/winter 2022 collections? The return of beautifully made clothes you can wear any time, any place. Witness the rise of the humble tank top, a wardrobe binder that rarely commands the spotlight, yet sat centre stage at Prada, Bottega Veneta, and Loewe. Ditto the flight jacket, souped up with sequins, leather and feathers and paired with ladylike skirts and thigh-high boots. The oversized blazer, too, packed a punch, teamed with everything from tiny metallic skirts and latex boots at Versace to baggy cords and sneakers at Louis Vuitton. Whether you feel like showing off or not, these are clothes for going places. Savour that freedom.
Plain White Tank
Designers’ preoccupation with wardrobe basics found its purest expression in the revival of tank tops. Basic? No longer. At Bottega Veneta, newcomer Matthieu Blazy cut them from paper-thin leather, at Prada they were marked with the house’s triangular logo, and at Loewe they came rubbery and transparent. Pair one with your jazziest skirt or sleekest leather trousers and you’ll find yourself instantly catapulted – albeit in a lo-fi, “oh this old thing?” kinda way – into the new season.
The unassuming wardrobe staple that never goes out of style? The flight jacket, reporting for duty. Triple duty, in fact, as this is an outerwear hero you can wear from morning work-out class to weekend lunch to evening soirée. It’s had various luxe updates for autumn – see Prada, Elie Saab, and LaQuan Smith for embellished exemplars, and Loewe for a squishy leather delight – but vintage-style, oversized iterations are also in evidence, as seen at Isabel Marant, Raf Simons and Sacai.
Return Of The Waist
Gen-Z’s love of corsets (#CorsetTok has 5.6 billion views on TikTok at the time of writing), is proving a powerful influence on the catwalk. Numerous designers built corseted waists into their silhouettes for fall, while Dior and Balmain went one step further and gave corset panels a futuristic edge, moulding them in metal and ramping up their protective properties.
Perhaps designers had rising energy costs on their minds for autumn. Turn the heating down several degrees, they seemed to suggest, and swathe yourself in knitwear. At Yohji Yamamoto, models were positively swimming in wool, swaddled in several layers of Aran knit with giant mushroom-shaped hats spooling stray threads across their faces. If that sounds extreme, take your cues from Chanel, where the twin-set got a youthful update courtesy of ’90s accessories; Louis Vuitton, where Fair Isle-style sweaters were knotted at the waist; or from Molly Goddard, where chunky sweaters were paired with her signature tulle evening dresses. Whatever your preference, cardigans, sweater dresses, blankets, two-pieces and statement sweaters in touch-me textures are everywhere.
Fashion is nothing if not perverse. After miniskirts dominated the spring catwalks, lengths fell to the floor for autumn. Body-swamping maxi coats, many in dressing-gown cuts and faux-fur fabrics, were mainstays in numerous collections; but it’s the floor-sweeping maxi skirts and dresses that caught our eye, injecting silhouettes with serious drama at The Row, Saint Laurent and Altuzarra.
Prep Meets Y2K
Like it or not, Y2K is here to stay. And its penchant for thigh-skimming skirts means the mini, last season’s biggest story, is not on the way out either. Miniskirts hit the catwalks in renewed bursts of youthful energy: sporty and tennis-flavoured at Miu Miu; checked and punky at Charles Jeffrey and Marine Serre; and with Gen Z-infused preppy verve (think: Olivia Rodrigo goes to the White House) at Chanel, Halpern and Oscar de la Renta.
Demna has shaped the fashion industry in myriad ways, but his influence manifests most noticeably in the strong shoulders that continue to crop up on catwalks in multiple continents. Now a Balenciaga signature, shoulders as wide as doorways defined collections at Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Lemaire and Versace. The key piece? The oversized blazer – often styled as a boy-meets-girl layer over short skirts or sexy dresses.
Show Some Skin
In case you missed the Hot Vax Summer memo, body-con is back in a very big way, and manifesting in all manner of transparent fabrics, skin-tight silhouettes and fearless cut-outs. The difference now? Body-con isn’t just for twiglets. Case in point: The season’s largest dose of body positivity came via Ester Manas, whose euphoric Paris presentation showcased her curve-celebrating ruched designs on a coterie of Rubenesque beauties.
Leather For Living In
“The idea was to bring back energy, a silhouette that really expressed motion, because Bottega is a bag company, so you go somewhere, you don’t stay home.” So said Matthieu Blazy, on the occasion of his Bottega Veneta debut. No idea summed up that “best foot forward” approach better than the leather skirts and dresses buoyed up by peppy pom-poms of leather fringe he sent decisively down his catwalk. Elsewhere, at Loewe, leather was frozen in motion on minidresses, and at Alexander McQueen, Alaïa and Hermès, it was cut for wide strides in the form of mini and midi dresses. One thing’s for sure: these are clothes to put a swagger in your step.
Tailoring Gone Wild
Designers are in agreement: corporate tailoring is heading out-of-office for autumn. And what could promise a more fabulous sabbatical than a fuchsia suit? Pierpaolo Piccioli bet big on the colour for his Valentino show, splashing it over cocktail dresses and floor-sweeping gowns, but it was in the oversized suiting that it had its biggest impact. At Tom Ford, Alberta Ferretti and Etro, 1970s velvet was having a moment; at Michael Kors, Gabriela Hearst and Alexander McQueen, it was all about eye-popping colour.