There were over 70 designers officially presenting collections during New York Fashion Week’s spring-summer 2024 shows, and in a rare but welcome turn of events for the apparel industry, a large swath of the pieces on the runway were colorful, practical and even kind of wearable.
That’s not always the case at these marketing-driven spectacles, which often put performance and shock-value ahead of more prosaic considerations. However, the collections have become more consumer-driven, with labels such as Staud, who showed on Sept. 10, and LoveShackFancy, who showed on Sept. 12, collaborating with pocket-friendly brands such as Wrangler and Gap, respectively.
The shows themselves have become more accessible too, as online presentations and “shop the runway”-style partnerships have blurred the lines between fashion’s elite front rows and people watching from the comfort of their couches. This began to take shape well before the pandemic gave it a digital push and influencer culture convinced everyone they could be a brand ambassador. It’s all brought fashion sharply down to earth, and the recent shows are an excellent example of how that’s playing out now.
The official, on-calendar events took place at Spring Studios in Tribeca and ran from Sept. 8 through Sept. 13, although Fashion Week unofficially kicked off on Sept. 5 with the debut of supermodel Naomi Campbell’s first collection for PrettyLittleThing.
Other notable designers debuts included Peter Do’s first collection for Helmut Lang, presented on Sept. 8, and Fforme, whose collection of understated, flowy pieces in neutral shades presented on Sept. 10 practically screamed “quiet luxury.”
Returning to the catwalk after several years away was Ralph Lauren, whose Sept. 8 show in Brooklyn featured another 1990s supermodel, Christy Turlington, closing out the presentation in a floor-length, one-shouldered gold gown.
Also returning after a 4-year hiatus was Phillip Lim, who showed on Sept. 10 and joined fellow designers Rebecca Minkoff and Joseph Altuzarra in pre-selling pieces from their collections online through Rakuten’s “Wear the Runway” sales event.
In the end, despite four days of over 90-degree weather in New York City leading up to the shows, and days of drenching rainstorms and muggy afternoons during the events, the shows brought a sense of lightness and palate-cleansing hue, with plenty of stark white, faded denim and luxe beige tones mixed in with bright pops of color and enough suits for everyone.
1. Balletcore, corsets and plenty of pink
The soft pink shades and fluffy frills of Degas-inspired ballet looks have lasting appeal, but they’re getting refined too, as seen on the runways of Collina Strada, which offered up ribbons, corsets and leotard tops, and Sandy Liang, which offered oversized satin bows, dancer-inspired shrugs and ballet flats. Shades of pink even showed up in suiting from Carolina Herrera, proving that no matter how grown up a person gets, there’s still room for whimsy. Of course, nowhere was fanciful thinking more apparent than at Christian Siriano’s show, where the red carpet-darling had musician Sia performing in an extravagant confection of a dress and models showed corsets with tutus in every length for every gender and outfits engulfed in tulle frills.
2. Sheer delights
Fashion is moving toward transparency, at least when it comes to style cues. See-through clothes gave a wispy lightness to otherwise simple leather outfits at Coach, while LaQuan Smith’s sheer tops were meant to be seen and show everything off against bright, colorful monochrome party looks. At Michael Kors, the trend was more subdued, showing up in lace dresses and flowy skirts. Meanwhile, at Prabal Gurung, models’ skin peeked out beneath jewel- or feather-embellished fabrics, or was revealed behind ornate prints.
3. Suits come back to the table
As a contrast to all the ballet-inspired looks and a subtle rebuke of years of pandemic lounge clothes, designers have brought back power suits, albeit with a few updates since the look’s 1980s heyday. Theory presented a few cropped capri suits and Bermuda shorts suits that almost echoed Pharrell Williams’ signature style, while Pamella Roland showed off brightly colored and jewel-embellished suits, and Tory Burch delivered quiet suits in tan, beige, gray and other easily-stained light colors. Willy Chavarria’s suits were sometimes festooned with gigantic flowers or loosened up with basketball shorts, and at Sergio Hudson, suiting looks ranged from deconstructed and denim-enhanced to full-body plaids. Then there was Peter Do’s debut show for Helmut Lang, where uniform-style black suits were shot through with shocking stripes and sashes of yellow and hot pink, and paired with simple button-up white shirts.
4. Neutral territory
There was plenty of throwback to a mid-1990s sensibility, from slip dressing to the occasional strutting supermodel, but nowhere did that decade show up more than in the creams, whites, beiges, greiges, tans, khakis and every other shade of neutral tones on the runways. It offset faded denim at 3.1 Phillip Lim, where jeanswear materials contrasted with khaki, and it was elevated to ethereal levels and downplayed on slip dresses at Altuzarra. At Proenza Schouler, occasional pops of blue and red made the mostly pale collection of whites and gray-blue tones feel even lighter. And Brandon Maxwell’s show was awash in sumptuous shades of black, cream, ochre and gray, which made his flowing pants and gowns feel almost liquid.
5. Red for the win
The grown-up sibling to ballet’s pink softer side, red added a sharp point to so many collections that it became hard to ignore. At Ralph Lauren, who marked his return to New York’s fashion week with plenty of gold, black and denim, there were sudden spots of red in sheer plaids and patterns, or paired with emerald satin pants. Kozaburo showed red pants and even paired it with pink, and Jason Wu had red pop up occasionally as one of the only bright colors in his otherwise neutral-toned show. In fact, it was everywhere. A jacket at Altuzarra, a lining or a flower at Willy Chavarria, a colorblocked dress at Helmut Lang. It was like a swipe of red lipstick with an otherwise subdued outfit, and added an energetic finishing touch to New York’s fashion season.