Fashion week has been hijacked by the natural world. For decades, “the shows” existed in a champagne bubble, a equate to universe in which celebrities were jammed together on extensive benches, as if for a very glamorous school photo, and where arcane diktats – Navy is the New Black; Minimalism is Dead – were unalloyed six months ahead of time, as if by a cabal of fortune tellers.
But this is 2016, and singularity politics has trumped everything else. From Brexit to the presidential choice, public debate centres on issues not of policy, or economics, but of discernment, race and gender. On social media, if you are not cooing over pretty panda videos you are probably debating a hashtagged identity flow – Kim Kardashian and the politics of nude selfies, or diversity at the Oscars. The myriad striking image of summer 2016 was of a woman in a burkini, surrounded by armed policewomen. On 4 September, Kanye West caused a furore with a dash call requesting “multiracial women only” for his Yeezy catwalk make an appearance. On 8 September, the day New York fashion week opened, Lionel Shriver endured a sombrero on stage during an instantly controversial speech close by cultural appropriation. In other words, this season’s the fad headlines were never all that likely to be about the sleeve remodels.
What’s more, this is a moment of structural change in style. This London fashion week marked the beginning of a new era of immediacy in mode, with Burberry leading the charge of straight-to-consumer shows. The cultural allusion of See Now Buy Now fashion is that the clothes on the catwalk relate not to the theoretical circle of six months’ time, but to the world as it is now. The new business model is still solely embraced by a minority of designers, but its mindset is impacting everybody. The craze week has simply become more relevant. In a world where you can apply for a delivery of milk on Amazon Prime and put the kettle on to make tea tuneful much straight away, our relationship with time is workforce. “Speed is everything,” said Christopher Bailey after his See Now Buy Now Burberry divulge on Monday evening. “It’s changing how we think.”
You can tell work week has changed, because the people in its orbit look several. Look at the front row of any fashion show right now, and you will see oversized hoodies, tracksuit duffs, flat shoes. The front-row look – high heels, sample-size accouters, everything dry clean only – was once all about signalling elite standing. By contrast, this season’s must-have pieces – jeans with raw, unequal hems and sweatshirts whose extra-long sleeves give the issue of having been borrowed from a flatmate in a scruffy swotter house – present an uncompromising vision of outsider chic. (Some prospects of fashion, however, do not change. A pair of jeans from Vetements, the flagship classification for this look, costs around £800.)
Fashion’s shift on the way democracy, with catwalk streams livestreamed and increasingly unreserved to consumers, is reflected in the clothes themselves, as a broader vision of what ambition looks like. At London fashion week, Christopher Kane, one of the standout LFW predispositions of his generation, has made “Outsider Art” a theme of his recent collections. At his musical at Tate Britain on Monday, pencil skirts in what he dubbed “Italian autostrada kill fur” represented “the alchemy of making something out of the humble and the abandoned”. Richard Malone’s collection, part of the Fashion East grandstand a expose, was based on the aesthetic of workers’ uniforms. Tunics were distinguished, tailored versions of those worn by hospital cleaners. “I hunger to integrate [workwear] into fashion, to make it a respected, alluring thing,” Malone said.
Dernier cri week’s intersection with identity politics is most high-profile where it is sundry photogenic. Gender fluidity is a talking point in public dispute; fashion has turned it into a trend. London fashion week’s inclination It girl, Adwoah Aboah, a model who walked for her friend Ashley Williams’ expose and sat front row at Burberry, has a staggering buzzcut beauty which does not abide by to feminine tropes. What started with a menswear impress upon on womenswear has evolved into Gucci’s aesthetic of velvet, treasures, rainbow colours and tumbling curls for both men and women, a look that is verging on post-gender. Orlando was the inspiration for Burberry this week, where the attires for men and women were an interchangeable collage of silk pyjama shirts, blazers, and – of track – trenchcoats. Backstage after his JW Anderson show this week, schemer Jonathan Anderson talked about an “urban cultural reappropriation of Tudor outlines” and borrowing “something of that masculinity and aggression” of Henry VIII’s clothes-press for modern womenswear.
Most significantly, gender neutrality is moving designers strongly associated with traditionally feminine standard operating procedures of beauty. At the presentation for her Victoria Victoria Beckham secondary queue in London this week, Beckham showed loose trousers with oversized jackets, an anti-bodycon look that is unequivocally different from the corset dresses that were the starting place for her main line. “Soft tailoring is what I wear myself, most of the unceasingly a once, these days,” she said.
A fashion-show audience typically integers around 500; two million people watched livestreams of the most late-model New York fashion week. The exploding audience figures malicious fashion week is being held to account on issues to which the shape industry has for a long time been wilfully blinkered. Mould health and body image was the first flashpoint, and continues to be a touchpaper flow, the glacial pace of change reflecting the resistance by an industry which has protracted played by its own rules to accept accountability. Those who have watched manner shows for decades and long ago stopped registering the size of the paragons are bewildered by this new audience, who see jutting collarbones as something more weighty than a handy clothes hanger. Who look at models and see not by the skin of ones teeth “girls”, as they are always known, but people.
On the same night that the prime minister hosted Christopher Bailey and Vivienne Westwood at a Downing Suiting someone to a T reception for British fashion, Marc Jacobs walked into a tumult by putting pastel woollen dreadlocks on white models on his New York catwalk. Jacobs’ sign response to criticism – “I don’t see colour or race” – clated an insensitivity, for which he has since apologised. In the year of Black Lives Meaning, not seeing colour is hardly a defensible position. Coco Chanel’s cable about fashion reflecting the world we live in has been recreated more often than her boucle tweed jacket, but, a century later, profuse designers are still slow to recognise that if fashion scarcities to be taken seriously in the real world, it has to play by grown-up finds. With cultural power comes responsibility, after all.
While some designers are stock-still struggling to navigate their place in the newly accountable trend industry, a generation is emerging who have an instinctive grasp of make’s place in a connected world. Grace Wales Bonner, the British conquering hero of this year’s LVMH prize – the most valuable and acclaimed in the global fashion industry – explores ideas of black virile identity. “I feel like I’ve seen enough images of raven men looking really aggressive, very hypersexualised or “street”. That’s not how I contemplate about men at all. That’s not the men in my life,” she said last year of her ultra-elegant menswear.
The key tendencies of this London fashion week were a speeded-up house model, gender-fluidity, and outsider chic. Which is all very unexcitedly, except it doesn’t really explain what to wear. The diverse interesting fashion week becomes, the less significant the bends on the catwalk feel. My tip for the standout look as seen at this London frame week? Forget Burberry’s Cavalry jacket, or Christopher Kane’s Roadkill skirt. I’m pursuit it for the asymmetric white party shirt, as seen at Downing Row on Theresa May.