Comebacks, Throwbacks and Newcomers on Display at New York Fashion Week

From the aquatic to intergalactic, New York Fashion Week covered all of the bases with plenty of practicality too.

As several retailers have indicated in interviews and financial reports, including Neiman Marcus Group and Saks Fifth Avenue, consumers are spending more on travel and other experiences and less on discretionary items such as fashion. Designers are trying to reel them back in with refined and wearable styles.

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With the spring 2024 New York Fashion Week now a wrap, stores are hoping they can continue to do just that. Softer tailoring, mesh layering, an abundance of whites, uniform dressing, seasonless and weightlessness, mermaid-inspired styles and flats were among the key trends. Khaite received high marks from several retailers, as did Peter Do’s debut at Helmut Lang, Altuzarra, Phillip Lim’s return to the runway, Proenza Schouler, and Wes Gorden’s latest collection for Carolina Herrera. Emerging talent like Diotima and Zankov were also singled out.

Unquestionably, the designer business has lost some luster, due to hybrid working, inflation concerns and the now-entrenched casual dress code. In response to those behavioral shifts, retailers are still trying to whittle down their inventories. Given that, the operative word for fourth-quarter business is “uncertainty” among retail executives, who have been placing orders cautiously and primarily holding back on open-to-buys. Despite that, they will jump on trends that emerge during the season, or “chase” the goods, as they like to say.

While the average American household spends $1,434 a year on clothing, that sum is minimal for top-tier designer shoppers. But the overall strength of domestic designer clothing is tepid. The $27.15 billion luxury fashion sector in the U.S. is expected to inch up 1.84 percent CAGR (compound annual growth rate) annually through 2028, according to Statista Market Insights.

Against that backdrop, retailers and designers remain decidedly cautious for the remainder of this year and planning next spring. Nonetheless, fashion rolls on, and here are retail executives’ views on some of the highlights of New York Fashion Week:

Linda Fargo, senior vice president of the fashion office and the director of women’s fashion and store presentation at Bergdorf Goodman 

Favorite collections: The best collections of the week were Khaite, Phillip Lim, Brandon Maxwell, Altuzarra, Carolina Herrera and Ulla Johnson. Best emerging were Diotima, Ashlyn, Wiederhoeft, Zankov and Puppets and Puppets.

Key trends: Refined constructions, softened, tailoring and elevated minimalism. Wardrobe essentials. Pervasive transparent, layering, lingerie elements, interesting body reveals and body diversity and sensuous softer constructions. Whites, washed pales and pastels, sunstruck yellow and occasional feel-good vivid colors. The build-upon slipdress, white jackets and softened tailoring.

Mood: Despite breaking world turmoil and ever threatening rainouts, there was a “lightness of being” to the New York collections. The wearability of last season progressed into something more refined, and in the end, perhaps beautiful. The prevailing staging felt reflective and more attuned to tranquility than edge and provocation, like the collections themselves. It couldn’t be lost on us that Michael Kors staged his quietly glamorous collection on 9/11 on the water’s edge in Brooklyn with an appreciative panorama of New York City, or that Pete Do used a highly personal and reflective essay on identity as a voiceover on his debut for Helmut Lang.

What was lacking: If there was anything missing from the week it was the balance of more drama and fantasy that you get from Rodarte and Thom Browne.

Open-to-buy: Our buys are always adjusted by the strength of each collection individually. We always leave open to buy for newness.

Altuzarra RTW Spring 2024
Altuzarra RTW spring 2024

Rickie De Sole, women’s fashion director at Nordstrom

Favorite collections: Proenza Schouler, Michael Kors Collection, Rachel Scott’s first Diotima presentation, Zankov, Carolina Herrera, and Joseph Altuzarra.

Key trends: Shades of whites from eggshell to ivory. The short suits at Theory and Maria McManus are two prime examples of shorts making sense for the office or an evening. The ‘90s minimal trend feels new again and an undercurrent of ‘60s mod influence at Tory Burch was teasing fun.  We relished all the aquatic watercolor tones, mermaid fantasy, and sparkling oceanic touches. Artful prints were everywhere. Collaborations between designer and fine artists like Ulla Johnson and Shara Hughes were a highlight.  All the crochet, hand-painting and displays of artistry were often moving.

The mood: There’s a great sense of community in New York. You could feel it everywhere, from CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalists Rachel Scott and Henry Zankov renting a gallery together to share and show on the same day. The crowd turning out and enthusiastically welcoming Peter Do’s debut at Helmut Lang, Phillip Lim’s return to the runway with House of Slay in force.

What was lacking: A nice cool breeze! Outside of the collections, we always look forward to seeing what the fashion show crowd is pulling out for fall. Not that there weren’t plenty of great looks on display, but I think we collectively would have enjoyed a nip of sweater weather for prime layering and autumnal style peacocking.

Helmut Lang RTW Spring 2024
Helmut Lang RTW spring 2024

Jodi Kahn, vice president of luxury fashion at Neiman Marcus

Favorite collections: Khaite’s alchemy of easy glamour and New York edge is irresistible. Altuzarra’s inspiration of “Rosemary’s Baby” proved to be elegant, refreshing and fabulous. The crinkled cottons, rich satin car coats and ombré taffeta gowns were pretty, polished and beautiful. Area’s quirky but beautifully crafted collections are wearable art. As classic sportswear took center stage this season, seeing the shock of crystal, faux fur and camp was a delight.

The mood: September always feels like Fashion’s New Year, with everyone energized to see what is next from New York’s most exciting talent. The flash floods, late show times and far-flung venues were not for the faint of heart — but this did not stop us from supporting our brand partners.

Key trends: In addition to updated American sportswear, and uniform dressing, there was a serene-chic quality that kept everything from feeling too minimal. Sheerness and weightlessness with mesh and organza, in ethereal shapes and tailoring was prevalent throughout the collections. The colors supporting this trend were beautiful sun-bleached neutrals in ivory, almond, cream, and putty. Red continues to provide an energizing pop of color. Skirt suits, flats and kitten heels are the shoes of the season, with pragmatism and wearability top of mind in this wardrobe building style.

Proenza Schouler RTW Spring 2024
Proenza Schouler RTW spring 2024

Tiffany Hsu, chief buying officer for Mytheresa 

Favorite collections: I really enjoyed Khaite, Dion Lee, Area, and of course Peter Do’s debut at Helmut Lang. I also thought Bad Binch TongTong and Palomo [Spain] brought a much-needed fun factor to an otherwise tame New York Fashion Week this season.

Key trends: All-white everything, ’90s minimalism, surrealism, denim core and monochromatic.

Mood: I think the overall mood was quite optimistic despite the wild weather. There seems to be a return of nostalgia for the ’90s and minimalism in the collections across the board.

What was lacking: There was a major lack of any “wow” factor from the shows. I’m usually able to pinpoint a highlight from each season from a particular collection, but I was left wanting more.

Open-to-buy: We, as a business, always have ups and downs on our OTB but it is brand-dependent. In terms of seasonal investment, we continue to grow our spending and business where needed.

3.1 Phillip Lim RTW Spring 2024
3.1 Phillip Lim RTW spring 2024

Arielle Siboni, Bloomingdale’s fashion director

Favorite collections: Jason Wu, Khaite, Philip Lim, Michael Kors, Altuzarra

Standout pieces: Philip Lim’s organza jackets and leather tops: Ulla Johnson’s lace edged styles; Brandon Maxwell’s sheer skirts, especially styled as a layering piece with suiting; Khaite details seen in clasp hand belts, sharply tailored jackets and balloon sleeves.

Key trends: A sense of ethereality in sheer dresses and skirts; pastels particularly in ice blue and butter yellow; ’90s minimalism; monochromatic dressing, and utility juxtapose feminine detailing; bubble hems, lace, and drop-waist dresses. There is also a sense of “undone-ness” with lots of raw hems in tailoring, linen and crochet. Designers continue to take inspiration from the sea with the return of shells and nautical notes, and head-to-toe denim. In accessories, belts, kitten heels, ballet flats and metallics continue.

Joseph Tang, fashion director of Holt Renfrew

Favorite collections: Peter Do’s debut for Helmut Lang, Phillip Lim’s return to the show calendar, Proenza Schouler’s sophisticated, sublime modern wardrobe pieces and Khaite’s strong, dynamic vision of dressing.

Standout pieces: The A-Line “trophy skirt” at Theory and Phillip Lim, Khaite’s luxe leathers and Proenza Schouler’s pastels. There were also ballet flats in various fabrications from silk satins to sheer embroidered mesh.

Key trends: Uniform dressing with utilitarian details mixed and matched to elevate wardrobe essentials; a new take on feminine dressing with ballet and mermaid-inspired details in coral pastels and feminine bows and frills, done best by Ulla Johnson.

The mood: The energy and excitement of New York did not disappoint — with some designers debuting and other designers returning to the catwalk.

What was lacking: There weren’t enough collections using the runways to further tell their brand stories and immerse you in their ethos. Peter Do’s ode to his heritage and upbringing in association to New York and Helmut Lang association brought deeper meaning to the collection.

Liane Wiggins, head of womenswear at Matches

Favorite collections: I loved Khaite’s oversized bags and the mesh loafers are genius. It was also great to see the full collection in the showroom — effortless high summer cottons and denims, strong transitional pieces, pops of red and the tonal knit dresses and cardigans are super chic. Peter Do’s debut for Helmut Lang cleverly spoke to the brilliant heritage of the brand. Other favorites were Tibi, Gabriela Hearst, Ralph Lauren, Carolina Herrera and Ashlyn.

The mood: Hot and steamy — there is a real desire for newness out there. But it is balanced with pieces that are effortless to wear, easy to care for and travel with. Designers are also using sheer layers (look to Philip Lim, Altuzarra, Khaite) to build looks that cater to various climates. We saw skirts over pants, cleverly styled in lightweight fabrics. Helmut Lang, Fforme and Philip Lim were highlights.

Key trends: There was a nod to the ’90s, a modern monochrome palette, sheer layers, pops of red, green and washed Bordeaux, as well as mesh footwear. White denim was shown by Nili Lotan, Khaite, Frame and Sea to name a few. My takeaway is to invest in the best version and wear for winter with a darker colored sweater.

What was lacking: Instead of a big shift in trends, we saw interesting, slightly quieter but still relevant new shifts for the customers and brands.

Beth Buccini, Kirna Zabete

Favorite collections: Khaite was hands-down the best — powerful, masterful and super wearable. Our business here is on fire and I love everything she does. I also loved Carolina Herrera, Rosie Assoulin, Gabriela Hearst, and Brandon Maxwell.

The mood: It was cautiously optimistic. It was great to see so many designers showing that we haven’t seen in a while. There was more energy than the past few seasons for sure.

Key trends: The minimalistic trend continues, but it is more intricate. Tailoring is still super important, with softer elements and sheer details. Fabrics are more intricate: crochet, lace, fringe, and tulle. We’ve seen so much black and white, but red is everywhere. So is silver. HotPants are a thing!

What was lacking: I miss the days when we had a centralized location for the shows, because we ran all over the city this week. The good news is New York is back and packed. The bad news is the traffic is too. However, seeing Khaite at the Armory and Carolina [Herrera] at the Whitney were such quintessential New York moments.

Open-to-buy: Our open-to-buy is up, as we’ve added new stores and business is strong.

Carolina Herrera RTW Spring 2024
Carolina Herrera RTW spring 2024

Roopal Patel, senior vice president and fashion director, Saks

Favorite collections: Cate Holstein at Khaite, Ralph Lauren, Proenza Schouler, Brandon Maxwell, Tory Burch, Peter Do for Helmut Lang, Carolina Herrera, Gabriela Hearst, Michael Kors, LaQuan Smith. CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund designers: Diotima, Sami Miró, Tanner Fletcher, Melitta Baumeister, Zankov, Kozaburo, Kim Shui, 4S Designs, Who Decides War, Colin LoCascio.

Standout pieces: Everything from Khaite, especially the red tank dress, Proenza Schouler’s white T-shirt and broken-glass skirt look, and Gabriela Hearst’s crochet mermaid gown.

Key trends: The spring collections were chic and paired back with an effortless ease. The play of hard and soft contrasts. Razor-sharp tailoring and uniformity with a neutral palette of nude, white, black and pops of red, yellow and icy blues. A minimalist approach with more fluid and wispy fabrics. Crinkled and folded reworked nylon in tops, skirts and tank dresses at Proenza Schouler and Khaite. Sheer and transparency are also trending. A focus on texture and craft in the hand of fabrics at Diotima and Jason Wu. The flat is back in a big way. Mesh slip-ons and mesh totes at Khaite and Tory Burch feel directional for this minimalist approach to spring

Mood: NYFW is back and better than ever. You could feel the optimism and energy in the air that anything is possible and that dreams come true. The week had so many emotional moments. The much-anticipated return of Ralph Lauren set the tone for this next generation of designers. Peter Do’s debut collection for Helmut Lang was all the buzz. Phillip Lim making his return was heartfelt and moving. Cate Holstein is steadily building her empire and this knockout show at the Armory delivered just what her clients are looking for: a wardrobe that you can build upon season after season with that signature Khaite vibe. Proenza Schouler’s standout collection delivered a clean, light and airy approach that played with the lines of minimalism, all for a cool and chic lineup.

Elyse Walker, founder of Elyse Walker

Favorite collections: Altuzarra — my favorite collection from Joseph to date, featuring impeccable styling, perfect red and olive satin hues, all layered to perfection! Brandon Maxwell — it was such an emotional show that all culminated in a well-deserved standing ovation. He delivered a collection that was elegant, modern and exactly how women want to look. Not to mention, he had the new “it” belt of the season.

Key trends: There were sophisticated statements in vibrant red, sheer sheer, sheer, luxurious satin dressing and big hardware featuring mixed metals.

Mood: Without a doubt, this year the mood matched clothing — understated and sophisticated.

What was lacking: Absolutely nothing but enough time to get from show to show!

Open-to-buy: Let’s just say my first call after the shows is to our planners, begging for more budget.

Astrid Boutrot, women’s fashion director of The Webster

Favorite collections: Diotima, Khaite and Proenza Schouler. We love Diotima’s continuous evolution of the use of crochet, from a fully rendered dress to the touches featured on the tailoring pieces. Khaite’s boxy tailoring, hardware styling, and billowy sleeves were standouts for us. Proenza Schouler was all about the icy blue broken-glass pieces that truly showcased the staple/statement moment and the versatility of shine within a wardrobe.

The mood: Neutral, neutral and more neutral from the street style to the runway, the mood is geared towards extraordinary essentials both in an everyday and elevated way.

Key trends: Pops of color juxtaposed with impactful black-and-white moments, including red, are here to stay! We love all of the chunky earrings, layering accessories, and the variety of takes on tailoring pieces, inspiring the many ways we can see our client styling them.

What was lacking: With shoe trends primarily focused on flats, The Webster client still loves a heel, so that was definitely missed.

Open-to-buy: Our open-to-buy is trending the same as in past seasons.

April Hennig, chief merchant, Moda Operandi

Favorite collections: Brandon Maxwell,  Khaite, rising star Diotima and Rachel Scott.

Standout pieces: Gabriella Hearst’s rich white silk macramé poncho and dress that took over 1,500 hours to create; Khaite’s billowy, angelic organza blouses paired back to micro minis bottoms; Diotima’s green and black lace crochet gown; fiery red sheer jersey pieces at Brandon; oversized and micro and mini bags at Staud; Ulla Johnson’s new print with Brooklyn artist Shara Hughs

Key trends: Sheer gauzy layers, icy palettes, metallic fabrications, coquettish elements; modernized Victoriana and Old Western motifs; brown as an alternative to black; fringing and crochet, everyday effortless, elegant jersey for evening.

Mood: Traditional runway shows that put the focus on great, wearable clothing left you thinking there was a lot to buy. At the other end of the spectrum, lots of energy, creativity and passion from younger designers pushing boundaries.

Open-to-buy: We are taking a discerning and very measured approach to the season.

Lacking from the shows: NYFW would surely benefit from a more streamlined schedule that take logistics and distances into account.

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