‘Tis the season for New York Fashion Week, starting on February 3. This year, the fashion industry’s most prestigious event isn’t without its changes to the catwalk, perhaps in line with a post #MeToo era that’s splitting past fashion and beauty standards from their outdated seams.
Though most looks coming off the runway are made to be worn by women, typical couture designers are men. But this New York Fashion Week is losing a lot of male designers that are usual staples at the grand event. Ralph Lauren, Jeremy Scott, and Tommy Hilfiger will not be showing their collections on the catwalk. Even the chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Tom Ford, won’t be there due to a little scheduling conflict with the Academy Awards. (The Oscars are coming to screens near you on February 9.)
Though we might skip out on a night of fashion week to (maybe) watch Adam Driver win an Oscar, Hollywood’s biggest stars are sure to pull out all the stops in haute couture. Maybe Greta Gerwig will sport a green velvet suit, or ScarJo wear a plunging red gown by Vera Wang.
But for NYFW, there are some cult favorites and new designers to look out for that are gender bending the historically male-dominated fashion industry.
Everyone is talking about KeenKee, the menswear fashion label launched in 2018 by designer Kee Kim, who was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. Though headed by a male designer, the brand is committed to gender-bending high fashion.
Expect to see male models wearing pleated skirts and patterns typically associated with femininity. In an interview with the CFDA, Kim said, “I believe that KEENKEE will be recognized by people as an approachable ready-to-wear brand for both men and women.”
The up and coming female designer to pay attention to at NYFW is Olivia Cheng from her self-started label, Dauphinette. Cheng’s formula for design is founded on making people feel happy, with one-of-a-kind pattern mixing pieces all taken from vintage or recycled material. Cheng’s designs emulate the modern woman: she cannot be replicated, mass produced, or defined. She curates her own look, and loves to go thrift shopping– you can’t find that pretty-ugly sweater anywhere else!
Slashed by Tia is also serving some new talent with major Renaissance vibes that look like something FKA Twigs would wear. The brand was created by designer Teni “Tia” Adeola in her dorm room (who just graduated college last May). Talk about a young, powerful woman taking bedroom craft to couture.
Another female designer expected to make feminist history on the runway this season is Maria Grazia Chiuri, the first female artistic director to head Christian Dior. Chiuri raised the bar with her collection last season. Yet it wasn’t the male founder designer and founder from which Chiuri found inspiration. She took it from his sister, Catherine Dior. This remarkable woman was a concentration camp prisoner and member of the Resistance during World War II. After securing her freedom, she became queen of the flowers as an acclaimed botanist. Chiuri paid homage to this unsung hero (who was surviving the Nazi gulags while her brother was designing in Paris) at Paris Fashion Week. On the runway, Chiuri showcased gardening hats and boiler suits a la gardening chic, embroidered with floral and fauna galore. Only a female designer could give this little-known feminist fighter her moment, and it’s finally in style.
Dior’s Spring/Summer 2020 Couture Show, “What If Women Ruled the World?” was influenced by Judy Chicago, the mastermind behind the epic installation commemorating female artists, “The Dinner Party” (currently at the Brooklyn Museum). The runway was shaped like a womb. Dior won’t be showing at NYFW, though label debuted the feminist collection during Paris Haute Couture Week in January. Still, the brand is changing how women are represented on the runway.
Unfortunately, Savage x Fenty won’t be showing at NYFW, either. But rumor has it that Rihanna might make a surprise appearance. Maybe she’ll strut in singing “Needed Me” (fingers crossed). The fashion industry could definitely use more of RiRi’s femme-boss energy.