Fall Into Favor

At Runway shows in New York and Europe, the strongest designers moved fashion forward

by: Rebecca Malinsky and Rory Satran

Originally Published March 8, 2019 in The Wall Street Journal

ONE MINUTE CAN feel incredibly long. The 60 seconds of silence commemorating the recently deceased designer Karl Lagerfeld at his final Chanel show in Paris this week vibrated with an acute awareness of his legacy: 36 years at the French brand (and 54 years at Fendi, plus an eponymous line, photographs, furniture, books). For that minute, editors, buyers, photographers and celebrities muted the collegial chatter that fills in-between moments during the month of fashion shows. Then, after the sound system broadcast a snippet of Mr. Lagerfeld’s voice, his beloved efficiency prevailed. Chimes sounded and the show began: 72 elegant après-ski looks marched across a wintry set of snowy chalets. As the couturier is widely reputed to have said, “Fashion is about going ahead, not about memory.”

Leading that charge for the fashion collection at Chanel will be Mr. Lagerfeld’s right-hand woman Virginie Viard, who was appointed co-artistic director, alongside Eric Pfrunder, who will focus on fashion image. Designers at other labels pushed forward, too. At Celine, the only show that could rival Lagerfeld’s swan song for buzz, Hedi Slimane spun the past into the future. Mr. Slimane has the knack of using updated tailoring to reinvigorate dusty things—in this case, ’70s pleated wool skirts and bourgeois blouses. Two other youngish designers similarly reanimated legacy French houses: At Paco Rabanne, Julien Dossena mixed inventive materials such as metallic knits and chain mail crafted from plastic stars, while at Chloé, Natacha Ramsay-Levi updated looks with imaginative accessories (Velcro sock boots, in particular).

In Milan, stalwart Italian brand Max Mara revamped its typically camel-colored cashmere coats in bright hues like teal and cobalt, while Prada added lace and rosettes to otherwise tough looks. In London, Riccardo Tisci continued his reinvigoration of Burberry, cleverly merging capes and trenches, for instance. In New York, without Raf Simons to innovate (after his departure from Calvin Klein), the task fell to brands like Proenza Schouler, which delivered with convertible knits, and fledgling talents like Eckhaus Latta. When asked how they plan to wind down from their runway shows next week, many designers said that they would be getting to work on spring 2020 collections. Mr. Lagerfeld would be proud.

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Bad Romance

This season’s dark florals were tempered by gothic details like combat boots. Clockwise from top left: tough horticulture vibes at Giorgio Armani; a twisted ladylike number at Erdem; blooms on a blazer by Paco Rabanne; Alexander McQueen’s punk princess; a thorned rose adorns a Valentino jacket; a Wednesday Addams-inflected look at Prada; the night garden is planted at Dries Van Noten.

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Paging Mary Tyler Moore

The ’70s working woman, who actually made an effort, is back. From left, un-mellow yellow at BalenciagaBurberry’s beige babe; a throwback moment at CelineChloé proposes a total look; Victoria Beckham does dressed-up.

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Plaid Gets the Green Light

Suits appeared in verdant tones and checks, sometimes Venn-diagram-ishly within one look. From left, green sets at Erdem, 3.1 Phillip Lim and Lacoste; the full monty at Givenchy; plaid at Dolce & GabbanaGucci and Proenza Schouler.

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The Notorious-RBG Effect

Pop a white lace collar judiciously. From left, a voluminous ruffle at ChanelHermès evokes origami; Loewe’s perforated detailing; white tops a neutral column by the RowLouis Vuitton somehow makes lace punk.

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Cream Rises to the Top

A big, fuzzy light-colored coat is about to become crazily covetable. From left, a cozy camel-hair coat at Akris; fluff happens at Michael Kors; just belt it at Salvatore Ferragamo ; a luxe version at the RowAgnona’s elegant ankle-length one.

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I Wear More Than One Hat

When is the last time you donned a chapeau just for fun? If you shrugged, that may change come fall