PARIS — A single brand captivated the fashion industry during the spring 2019 runway shows. The frustrated and angry argument was ostensibly about clothes. But in truth, it was sparked by the same triggers that have consumed the broader culture.
On the surface, the story of Celine centered on the brand’s transformation under a new male designer from sophisticated, thoughtful restraint to louche, puerile ostentation. But dig for a bit, and you see the fashion world debating women’s power and agency versus that of the men who would define them. Long-standing industry bugbears such as ageism, white privilege and body negativity look ever more outrageous in the white-hot light of women’s fury.
As the spring 2019 season wraps up, trends like bike shorts, broad shoulders and baby doll dresses are mere diversions. The big takeaway is a simple but profound demand: that the fashion industry be respectful of women.
By the time the runways shows came to a close, most every collection had been viewed with a few key questions in mind: Are these clothes in service to women? Do these frocks make sense in the life of a woman — not a girl, not an adolescent, but a woman with responsibilities and daily demands? Do these clothes elevate her or do they threaten to make her look foolish?
This season there’s little willingness on the part of casual observers or passionate fans to forgive designers who get lost in their own imagination. There’s no patience for trussed or hobbling clothes. No patience for shows that send a homogeneous parade of wasted-youth models down the runway. What have designers got for a woman who takes her style seriously but also has work to do and a life to live?
For spring 2019, women can turn to Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli for elegant sportswear and eveningwear that will take their breath away. Dries van Noten and Loewe’s Jonathan Anderson cast an artful eye on sportswear; Hermes exudes straightforward luxury. Sacai’s Chitose Abe is ever more avant-garde in her trompe l’oeil approach to design.
Stella McCartney has oversize suits, and Haider Ackermann has long and lean ones.
There’s solid tailoring at Clare Waight Keller’s Givenchy, too — but beware the cropped cargo pants, which don’t really do anyone any favors. And for those with a more fanciful nature, consider the bedazzled tops and denim skirts at Miu Miu.