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.
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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.