In Depth

New York Fashion Week: The runway-to-retail revolution

In the age of instant gratification, fashion's finally got with the programme and exploited post-show purchase potential, says Charlie Boyd

Often criticised for rehashing the same old trends and parading their wares like the emperor's new clothes, designers have at last embraced the modern era. This season's shows in New York represented a complete transformation in the way we consume fashion. There were the usual extravagant sets, including a 40ft Ferris wheel, the familiar outrage on social media, thanks to Kanye West forcing his models to stand in baking Manhattan heat while they wilted like wild flowers, and the front rows were filled with the traditional models and style mavens - and Madonna. But the collections themselves were fuelled with a new lust factor: they were available to buy straight off the catwalk.

Tommy Hilfiger's collaborative line with model du jour Gigi Hadid - hailed as "the next Gisele Bundchen", as reported by ES Magazine - was available to buy right after the show. Tom Ford, Alexander Wang and Ralph Lauren all followed suit, allowing their collections to be snapped up online by eager shoppers as soon as the lights went down. For the first time, the fashion-conscious don't have to wait months for new-season designs and production has finally caught up with the real-time nature of social-media promotion and the live streaming of shows.

There were plenty of trends to encourage shoppers to buy now instead of later, but until every designer is up to speed with the runway-to-retail concept, there are still pieces worth waiting for. Velvet was made modern and covetable for summer, thanks to Victoria Beckham's gently gleaming, crushed-velvet skirts, which fashion editors have already earmarked. "We thought, yes, Mrs Beckham, you're onto something here," notes The Telegraph.

Marigold yellow was dubbed the "colour of the moment" by InStyle. Forget insipid, sherbet hues – you should be aiming for the punchy palette of buttercup bright, Little Miss Sunshine, Play-Doh and Crayola yellow seen at Proenza Schouler.

If look-at-me shades feel unwearable, you won't be heartened by another trend that dominated show week: the bralet. Designers have been flirting with the bra-cum-cropped top for several seasons, but now, says CNBC, "it's official: The crop top is becoming a wardrobe staple". Victoria Beckham, Tory Burch, DKNY and Oscar de la Renta concur – they have all designed sports-luxe-inspired versions. Layered over cropped T-shirts or worn with sheer blouses or under tailored jackets, this is one garment that requires gym-bunny abs.

The more reserved among us will be reassured that classic femininity was also out in force. Cue ruffles – thousands of them – across the runways of Tome, Altuzarra, 3.1 Phillip Lim and Diane von Furstenberg. British designer Jonathan Saunders made his show debut as creative director at the last of these and has earned the industry's approval after just one collection – he has "re-energised and refined the house that Diane built", says Vogue. The latest iteration of the girlish embellishment we've seen in recent seasons, the ruffle is a social-media dream – "prepare for a summer of endless boomerang wiggles clogging up your Instagram feed", warns the mag.

The catwalk is no less immune than the rest of us to the technology now dominating our day-to-day lives, whether it be the aforementioned Instagram, Snapchat or the, these days, rather archaic-feeling feeds of Twitter and Facebook. We are used to receiving information, imagery, food and anything available on Amazon Prime right here, right now, so designers have had to follow suit, speed up their processes and make their collections accessible to the masses at our behest. Alexander Wang's clever move to sell his collection from mobile pop-up stores on trucks circling downtown Manhattan after his show was echoed by Ralph Lauren setting up a shopable runway on Madison Avenue, bringing his wares quite literally to the streets. These are bold retail decisions designed to make high fashion relevant to us mere mortals. As legendary fashion critic Suzy Menkes reports for Vogue, "Where it will lead is yet to be seen".

Charlie Boyd is the executive fashion and jewellery editor for Harper's Bazaar UK and Town & Country

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