Author: Ben Tuthill
It’s Fashion Week. It’s been Fashion Week for three weeks now. If you have been paying attention you are probably starting to feel exhausted and wishing that the Dolce & Gabbana show was about thirty looks shorter. If you haven’t, you probably a.) don’t care, or b.) are confused and overwhelmed by what’s going on. Lucky for you I’m here to help you wrap your mind around the process of watching a runway show. I have the authority to do this because I’m a fashion intern and I had a subscription to Cosmogirl in high school. Let’s get started:
Prepare yourself. You are about to get into something that no one, not even economists or social theorists can understand. Why do a few people in Paris get to decide now what everyone is going to wear in three years? Why does anyone listen? I have a theory but it’s going to take twenty years of Georges Bataille, Austrian economics, and Thomas Aquinas to confirm it. Don’t try to figure it out; just embrace it.
Runway clothes are kind of ugly. This is the first hurdle you need to get over. Yes, runway shows are abrasive, but that’s what makes them interesting. At best they make you rethink your sartorial limits and open you up to new and exciting ways to spend your money. At the very least they are sort of fun to look at. Don’t write the whole thing off because it’s weird; try to learn something from it.
Don’t get overwhelmed. It’s easy to see a fashion show, take in way more information than you’re able to process, and decide that it’s dumb. Avoid that by going in focused on an element that you can understand and center your experience around that element. I always start with silhouettes: the first thing I look for when I watch a show is the shape of the clothes and the way that they are tailored.
Take Fendi’s show this Saturday: for the most part the collection is centered around cinched waists, wide sleeves, and straight, formless outerwear. There is a lot going on in terms of colors and materials, but all of it is anchored by a fairly consistent silhouette. The collection isn’t just Karl Lagerfield throwing up all over a runway; it’s thoughtful, dynamic, and, despite its abstraction, surprisingly wearable. It’s overwhelming if you have nothing to organize your experience around, but if you focus on one thing it sort of makes sense.
Don’t worry about trends. Every style publication in the world is going to put out some sort of report at the end of Fashion Week telling you what trends are going to be in style next season. Don’t buy it. There’s so much going on in any one show that it’s impossible to pick out a specific element that’s going to sell.
After New York this year everyone was talking about the orange “micro-trend” in menswear. I saw the shows too: yes, there was some orange, but there was also a lot of maroon, royal blue, and Kelly green. If you like orange, you’re going to notice it. That doesn’t mean anyone else will, and it doesn’t mean that it’s going to sell in six months. Don’t waste your time trying to find a uniting theme across the entire week; just focus on one show at a time and try to understand that show in terms of itself.
Don’t fall behind. If you’re anything like me, you’re going to watch one show and have the compulsion to watch all of them. Avoid that impulse; it will destroy you. There are about twenty notable shows a day, and even if you have a cool professor who lets you use a laptop in class you still aren’t going to be able to make it through all of them. Honestly, it gets stressful: I write this stuff into my schedule and I still wake up in the middle of the night sweating the fact that I haven’t watched the Marc Jacobs show from three days ago. Keep moving forward. Focus on the shows you actually like and let the rest go.
A few reminders: Designers are different than labels (Christian Dior is a label, designed by Raf Simons; Phoebe Philo is the designer for the label Céline). Spring shows in Fall, Fall shows in Spring. Don’t get distracted by pretty models. Don’t try to understand Thom Browne.
Paris Week just started yesterday. You’ve got this.
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