THE 10 BEST COLLECTIONS OF FALL 2012
by Jeremy Danté
with all the shakes ups, walk offs & political, celebrity filled seatings that went on this season; i decided to review collections in a new format. as an artist, i have looked at collection after collection, challenging myself to think of new & refreshing ways to review the shows. as the, hands down, highest traffic time of the year for me, show season plays a vital role in the game of fashion. without runway, nothing else exists. there is no foundation for other creative endeavors, inspiration runs dry, trend quivers to it’s death- runway runs all. that said, there has seemed to be a decline in creativity on the runway. with the entrance of a greater number of collections presented each season, gradually, there seems to be fewer & fewer collections of value. amidst the fashion ruins we’ve seen in new york, london, paris & milan- i decided to flip the script a bit & narrow down the best collections in a ranking of 10. leaving no room for lackluster appeal, uninspired direction or bullshit- i’ve opted only to mention my favorites & this will now replace the previous format of multiple blog post runway reviews. this season, i’ve paid greater attention to show production, runway soundtracks, inspiration & creative direction. as an artist, writer & digital journalist, show season, at times; feels like a marathon. a marathon in which i haven’t thoroughly training for. edging closer to the finish line with each review i post, my sentiments on fashion have often times become dulled. this new format will allow me the opportunity to think & discuss fashion with you in a more objective manner. collections were based on overall vision, execution, construction, accessories & interpretation of trend. these are my top 10 picks. in an effort to create a much more interactive experience, which will allow you to discover new resources in your pursuit of gaining knowledge in high fashion, designer collection names will appear on your screen in beige. click the links to activate gallery views of full collections for the respective designers mentioned, via style.com
NEW YORK – as the front line of fashion, on the fashion calendar, new york captivates through the buzz & anticipation of show season. every year, im always anxious to see what collections will be presented, which trends will be revealed & how designers have either evolved or digressed, aesthetically. considering the number of collections presented in new york, little to no creativity is even flexed during show season. as a clear representation of america, the purity of design & brillance of construction is rarely seen in new york. without completely forgetting the greats of american design in this new millenium; i say without hesitation that new york is the single most uninspired of all the fashion capitals. that said, i still take time to look at every collection in an attempt to represent & dissect the root of the problem- less is more & in new york that thought is either forgotten or intentionally ignored. what happened to the days when american design meant something & actually stood out? while much of new york is spending their style days up against a fence, easily, i chose my two favorite collections from new york fashion week.
1. PROENZA SCHOULER as the ultimate downtown chick outfitters, jack & lazaro always deliver during show season. amidst the watered down designs of new york’s fashion collective, established & getting there- proenza schouler is a label that remains consistent in their delivery of strong concepts, accessories & thoughtful inspiration. presented in new york with completely inspiring execution, this season seen the label projected bouts of volume, structured deconstructed silhouettes & intricate weaving. protection & escape served as the theme of the collection, as the designers sourced everything from martial arts to fencing this season. these inspired aspects of strengths were well developed & thoughtfully introduced on the runway this season. intended to be much more free flowing, while never lacking strength or power, the collection was heavily based in movement. while new age kimono’s were seen, imperially inspired brocades added a little more luster & glamour to the otherwise dominating design force we seen from the label this fall. wide legged pants, beautiful use of fur & impressive weaving of leather which was intended to mirror baskets from bhutan, in the south of asia. i loved the sense of global inspiration that never seemed to isolate the american market, i felt a sense of fearlessness in the need to push boundaries this season from proenza. overall, this was a complete stand out in new york this season & ranks as my number one choice for the american design sector for all of fall. no one was fucking with this label this season.
2. ALEXANDER WANG supermodels, glossed finishes & a little bit of hard edged style drove the alexander wang show over the edge for me this season. with models gisele, karmen kass, shalom harlow & karolina kurkova all walking the catwalk, the level of prestige & feel of “i’ve arrived” was felt with an incredible amount of cool. it seems as though wang, as a label, is one of the more rapidly developed. developed in terms of season to season aesthetic & developed as a business. but with all success comes scandal. as of recent, scandal has ravaged the digital fashion press & gossip reel, when it was revealed that alexander wang, as reported by the new york post, had employed a team of 30 seamstresses & sewers, demanding they work 80hr work weeks with no paid overtime, in a windowless work room on broadway. the crew of 30, who have been instrumental in the creation of wang’s super successful collections; claim that conditions were so bad that some of them got sick & even got injured. filed for $50 million is damages, the crew was reportedly forced to work in a 200sq ft space to produce wang’s collections. one man on the crew, wenyu lu, age 56; said that he was hospitalized after being forced to work 25hrs without a break. after complaining of these working conditions, lu was fired. admittedly, as much as i loved the collection & admired the direction, as well as the model casting; the recent headlines of wang’s collection have put a bad taste in my mouth. as one of the most talented young designers in the american design market, evidence of wang’s ability to pull the cool from the dark & grimy streets of new york was undeniable. but it seems as though a bit of that grime has managed to be more than just a cool aesthetic. oddly, wang’s inspiration for his FW12 collection was ‘distorted perceptions’, where things appear to be one thing but are actually something else. in strange ways, art imitates life & here was no better example of that. in no attempts to discredit his design skills, this collection was one of wang’s best but hopefully his legal woes won’t distract from his design.
LONDON – often getting the short end of the stick on the fashion calendar, london is one fashion capital that is stylized from concentrate. complex & over the top, beyond any form of fashion expectation, london continued to stay true to their direction of chaotic designs & heart pounding concepts. while collections remained balanced, some collections went the classic route while both seemed to balance one another, equally. with bigger labels like burberry prorsum clouding the area & hogging the spotlight, i’ve found myself looking to other smaller labels for creative shelter. in london, throngs of designers are birthed & go on to conquer the other fashion capitals working for other labels based in new york, paris & milan. while i did have a tough time picking a favorite from london, considering my intense need to represent from an artists perspective; the two i did select represent london’s future through design theatricality & it’s refined heritage.
1. BELSTAFF with the reign of burberry seeing no end in the near future, i was completely taken aback by the belstaff collection this season. beautifully photographed look book images were revealed, as the british label clearly proves that they are coming for the british design thrown. founded in 1924, belstafff originally produced all-weather, waterproof jackets & outterwear; while being the first company to every use waxed cotton. now headquartered in italy, it seems as though the british label has been able to tap into a much more refined arena, far beyond just creating all-weather garments. under the creative direction of martin cooper, an american, the label has debuted a strong effort for the FW12 season. with an impressive design resume, cooper comes to belstaff with a wealth of skill, having 16years experience at burberry, where he served as design director of outerwear. heavily based on iconic designs that were inspired by the brand’s archives, cooper thoughtfully designed pieces for men & women, almost identically. with great weight & an almost heavily emotional sense of design resonating in the collection, i was completely floored by this label & had to include it as one of this season’s 10 best. im very about execution & here it was done expertly well. i’ve seen collections that i’ve absolutely loved, but the way in which they were shot did them no justice at all. well rounded, artistically; from design to presentation & all done so beautifully- i am obsessed with belstaff & this new direction. completely enthused, i am, for cooper leading this new era for the label. while some of the collection pieces weigh closely to those of burberry, the inspiration for the collection is backed by a long standing & rich brand history that can only serve as greater inspiration in season’s to come. it’s dark, it’s glamourous & most of all, it’s stylish. from the smaller, tighter cropped coats- to the dramatic, black shearling fur coat with the belted waist- i love. with cooper being an artist & photographer, these additional talents will no doubt prove to be beneficial for the label, in their pursuit of the crown. i am very excited to see how they take the opportunity to become far more individualized in the high fashion spotlight.
2. McQ in the last few years leading to alexander mcqueen’s death, it seemed as though the McQ diffusion line was a complete departure or disconnection. this season, that disconnection was null & void. the runway, a first for the McQ label to be presented on, was covered with leaves; as a reminder that it was fall. i love that the same dramatized designs we expect from mcqueen were interlaced into this collection. creative director & resident boss bitch over at mcqueen, sarah burton, seemed to ignore the limitations of price point as it relates to style this go-round. cylindrical up-do’s, earth toned leathers & surprisingly stunning use of velvet, which i usually hate, was all beautifully used for this season’s mcqueen diffusion line. while the price tag of the collection has always intended to be a little more forgiving on your pocket books, this fall, that lacking element will not be visible in design. what i love & have loved about mcqueen, aesthetically, is their fearlessness to go there- to show out a bit. sarah burton has done a truly amazing job in her role as creative director at the label & the fruits of her labor are vividly visible on the runway & through advertising. for the first time ever, i seen the direct connection between big sister mcqueen & little sis. im sure that consumers will eat this shit up at retail. with the few pieces of menswear also being presented on the runway, i loved the concepts & how well executed the collection was. as a full show, through design & overall vision- undoubtedly, this collection was a standout in london. strong silhouettes & powerful presence ruled this collection. no one can deny the incredible sense of inspiration this collection has lent to fashion; the mcqueen archives, nor the enthusiasm that will be met by consumers.
MILAN – associated, in my mind, with over the top, show stopping glamour; milan is always a sight to see. considering that fashion is their number one industry, the amount of style & pressure to produce it was felt this season. it seemed as though more collections in milan were staggered rather than stunning. milan was a tough call for me this season, as i tried to look at the shows more objectively. it was difficult to pick a favorite based on all the judged criteria, given the fact that the palette presented this season was dull, as was the quality of design seen. though better known for labels of gaudier design DNA, i have found myself being drawn much more to the minimal designs in milan. (surprise, surprise) in my mind, im very anti when it comes to the hyped. im not afraid to say when something is lackluster, for lack of better articulation, ugly or just plain un-beautiful. i’d like to think that my eye has become much more refined & in some ways desensitized when it comes to political posts regarding how great a collection can be. i have found that many of the ‘great’ labels only have the platform or an established consumer audience, while true design talent boils below that hype. below that hype is where i have found some of the better collections, while some bigger labels have also put in valiant efforts. this season, milan was littered with tacky designs, overly conceptualized direction & failed attempts to wow us. with that said, i’ve selected two collections that made me sit up both with high impact design & thoughtful minimalism.
1. GIANFRANCO FERRÉ prior to them taking the helm at the label, stefano citron & fererico piaggi assisted gianfranco ferré up to his death in 2007. following ferré’s death due to a massive brain hemorrhage; the label suffered many changes & suffered loss of interest in the public eye. considering the design history of ferré; as a designer, his role as creative director at christian dior from 1989-1997 laid the ground work for a label worthy of design credibility. new directors, citron & piaggi, have fused that direction with modernization, beautifully. now in their second season at the label, i loved the use & intentional deconstruction of silhouettes we seen this season. though still minimal, in essence, the styling of the collection & it’s use of design lines was stunning- the belted waists, the dripping fur accents & milky toned palette which was fused with deep rooted fall tones of navy & maroon-brown was sensational. as much as i detest it’s presence, i again found that the use of metallic in this collection, was a bit forced & did not fit into the impressively clean, straight forward palette in which i loved most about the collection. metallic registers as cheap to me, though it can be done right, in this collection it wasn’t. i understand the need to push to maintain trend relevancy, but beyond trend, true style never dies. the tailoring of coats & the slight use of sheer was well produced, well developed. overall, the collection packed a powerful punch, look after look & im hoping that stronger elements on the advertising & public relations tip will help push the collection through ad campaigns & high fashion editorials at vogue & beyond. a design voice that relied on minimalism & modernism instead of showstopping antics, like other labels; i believe in the greatness that the ferré label can be. with help from other meaningful areas, bossing up on the business side, the commendable design is good & is well on it’s way.
2. GABRIEL COLANGELO beginning with a staged capsule collection at the front end of 2008, gabriele colangelo has cited a life of traditional atelier with his family, and has grown up surrounded by what he describes as a ‘tradition of excellence’ & has learned the ‘expression of grace & craftsmanship’. an inspired designer who is still rather fresh in the game, colangelo used artist, jason martin, as his inspiration for his fall collection. using techniques that can only be described as high art, i was immediately taken by the collections use of print, palette & intensely attracted to the use of clean design lines- which im partial to. what’s impressive of milan is the amount of young talent that is pumping from the region. with respectful nods to some of the more established, high glamour labels- there’s a beauty & certain freshness that i find with young italian designers. not as biased as some french designers, not as boisterous as the brits, nor as jaded as some in new york- it’s new & vibrant. as a forming pattern we will likely see more of in the next few years; designers who’ve grown up in a wealth of fashion, specifically in milan, seem to be coming more & more into the spotlight. this kind of upbringing almost resurrects the ways of old as these new designers are merging what they know of traditional technique & combing that with the modern; to help high fashion progress. if you’re a loyal follower of mine, you may have me caught me saying, “inspiration is fluid” – as it is for true artists. to elaborate on colangelo’s inspiration for this collection, contemporary british designer, jason martin is listed as a member of the contemporary art society & has held varied exhibitions to further promote his work. visible in the collections use of color, as well as the use of print- much of colangelo’s work has been praised for it’s reinvention & this collection proves that point to an even greater extent. fall is built around statement coats & the one of the greatest bids in milan this fall, was gabriele colangelo. beautiful use of fur, the technique of dipped/ombre’d pieces; it was all very chic. sleek lines guided the collection’s design direction quite well, while action packed details added another dimension of interest & artistic appeal. one of the most interesting perspectives i’ve seen this season, especially in milan- hence my inclusion as a favorite. reportedly influenced by christian dior’s new look & the modern designs of phoebe philo; one should not question my attraction to this collection & retail should have no problems serving this set to the fashion famished.
PARIS – of the fashion capitals, paris reigns supreme. unending sophistication, refined poise & flawless production- clearly, the fashion calendar saves the best for last. while new york begins to pitter patter on their never ending runways that stretch over the course of nine days, i sit, waiting & dreaming of what paris will show. in my mind, i sometimes wish that show season was like DVR (digital video recording, otherwise known as TiVo), where i could record the whole thing & fast foward to paris- skipping the commercials & dull moments, only leaving my thirst for high fashion quenched with the shows by dior, gaultier & vuitton. surprisingly, even some of those bigger labels left me wanting more. in comparison to others on the fashion calendar, paris presents the most options for ‘best of’, which is quite clear this season in my review. the french have led the way for style & international poise for many years, this season was no different. with it’s combination & contrasts of modern, classical & otherwise progressive design- paris was it’s usual, inspiring-self this fall. posing much more difficulty for me, in my process of elimination, there were many good collections but i vowed to only discuss those which impacted me most. how were these collections changing our view of fashion? how is this challenging what we’ve seen before? how is this maintaining or breaking down the ideals of parisienne chic? is this changing the view of women & how they dress? these questions often cross my mind when labeling collections as ‘powerful’, ‘important’ or ‘of value’. with only four more collections leading to our top collections of the fall, paris presented the greatest effort in refining design in the highest form of fashion. these four have severely impacted our style culture, undoubtedly.
1. DRIES VAN NOTEN celebrated as one of fashion’s ‘most cerebral designers’, i’ve been familiar with the work of dries van noten but there is something about this season that has made me sit up in my seat. empowered through incredible design details, the FW12 van noten collection is one that made me look at fashion design a little bit differently. lending a bit of minimalism through use of sleek lines, i’ve become quite obsessed this season with being much more engulfed in the root of inspiration for designers- researching runway soundtracks, runway video, detailed imagery & past interviews with the designers. i find myself favoring belgian fashion designers now & have uncovered a deep rooted love in the radical modernization of classical style that is often contrasted through their collections. in my long standing attraction to the mystifying presence of the historical antwerp six, my attraction, ultimately my obsession, with the dries van noten label has swelled insurmountably. the way minimalism was contrasted with the perfect amount of detail, not to mention the way inspiration was threaded ever so thoughtfully throughout- inspiring. the way some looks were undeniably militant while other played on oriental regalia was picture perfect. in terms of wear-ability, this season’s collection was made to have an impact at retail. but even beyond a steady aim at retail, the collection did not falter on presenting garments or serving design on the highest of high end tiers. this, to me- is fashion of the future. without pushing the progressive envelope too far & making you feel disconnected; the collection seemed to appeal to the eye through forms of futurism, introduced in such a way that they attract you in a sly manner, not a jolting one. the details signal that the future is upon us, but the classical appeal was remixed in new & innovative ways. innovation that was able to introduce the future while not abandoning the present. it’s these collections that change fashion- they may not possess the annoying commercial presence, but something beautiful is being said. something larger than life, more like art is being translated in the way that threads piece together sleeves & seams create dresses. an absolute best this fall. an imaginative progression of both style & vision that was so well interpreted, it becomes expanded beyond the world of fashion & transcends into art. a true success in the context of high fashion & it’s influence.
2. BALMAIN interestingly inspired & beautifully executed, olivier rousteing has done a spectacular job at taking the baton over at balmain. a fashion house heavily based in design intricacy & haute couture heritage, this season rousteing allowed that heritage to be resurrected. reportedly inspired by elizabeth taylor’s fabergé egg, the collections inspiration was translated perfectly. what i loved about this collection & what i love about olivier’s approach is that it’s a progression. from last season to this season, the silhouettes presented by decarnin are seen while greater forms of individualism or personalization are added in greater amounts, over time. by making these alterations gradually, the existing balmain clientele base is not disturbed; rather they are attracted slowly into a new direction. this collection made me question why balmain has not yet re-entered haute couture. these clothes were excessive & over the top; they surpassed wearability in some forms. show stoppers in every sense of the word, the collection pushed the limitations & really stood in a league all their own through design details. the balmain label is one that has become iconic & almost played out for repetitive silhouettes & overuse of metallic- but this season the label was more fresh, glamorously sophisticated & intimately intricate. it was new, but still familiar. that’s what fashion collections should be- gradual, inspiring & beautifully executed. i applaud rousteing for all that he has done & all that he plans to do during his tenure at the label. with the brand’s diffusion line gaining more advertising steam in the last season; the house of balmain looks like it’s in a prime position with a fitting leader at the forefront. i just wish some of this beauty was forecasted & produced more for the menswear division of the brand. i cannot wait to see how well this is received on the editorial front & how this beautiful inspiration will be re-produced in advertising format. this collection is one that makes your eyes wide with wonder- i see cover shot written over so many pieces. and these clothes were more than just beautiful, far more than memorable- in fact, they are absolutely unforgettable.
FALL 2012 – of the collections we’ve seen this season, judged through specific criteria, i have been able to clearly sort through high fashion to find & identify only what i absolutely love. allowing each fashion capital to represent qualities found in those regions, i thought it would be helpful to distinguish & represent each capital in selecting the greatest two. as some collections are better than others, in construction, production or execution- i allowed the number of rankings at each capital to balance out; leaving a top two for my absolute best. runway is the most valuable to me & i have found that i’ve been reacting in such a way that has caused me to distance myself. this reaction to how rapidly globalized fashion has become & is becoming everyday, each week, season, month & year; seemed to be out of my control. this new format & method of greater objectivity is to remedy that reaction. with the direction i intended to go in for the future of this site, to better encapsulate my literary voice, in an effort to make greater preservation of my mission in this space, i am now looking at angles with more journalistic worth & artistic sensitivity. these collections have had the greatest effect, not only on me; but, i feel, on fashion & the culture in which we live in.
1. BALENCIAGA as the one collection that spurred me out of my runway writer’s block this season, the work of nicolas ghesquière during his tenure at balenciaga is that in which i marvel over. season after season, through constant reinvention; the balenciaga label leads the rest of high fashion into the future. leading the way, but remaining in a lane all their own- this season’s collection was one of the best, for sure. it had me thinking about the big labels who’ve stayed true to their heritage, labels who’ve remained consistent & labels that have defended, at all costs, their branding identity. what is so impressive of balenciaga is the fact that they have seemingly abandoned their classical direction; which helped them rise, following the opening of the first balenciaga boutique in 1918. in 1937, cristobal balenciaga made an entrance into haute couture; with the opening of his first haute couture house. historically inspired by the spanish renaissance; clientele of the balenciaga label have gone down in history for risking their lives during world war II; just to get their hands on some of these designs. designs ranging from the square coat, the tunic, the spherical balloon jacket, the high-waisted baby doll dress, the balloon skirt & the sack dress all revolutionized the world of fashion design & have contributed largely to what fashion is today. as one of the greatest fashion designers in history, the house of balenciaga has afforded many designers the opportunity to move on through successful ventures in fashion, as cristobal balenciaga himself worked with designers oscar de la renta, emanuel ungaro & hubert de givenchy- all in which conquered fashion in their own right. through legendary associations with the kennedy’s, the house of balenciaga has remained at the forefront of high fashion & in the public eye, as well as in the heart of the global fashion audience, since it began nearly 100 years ago. to this day, the house remains in the vein of modernization as ghesquière so flawlessly includes iconic elements of the houses silhouettes, while morphing them to new & refreshing ways to the high end retail market. the sense of futurism in the collection, this season, was attached to the idea of corporate entities & even spies. the label combines elements of their heritage with those that are unseen in todays market. this has proved, time & time again, to be a winning combination. powerful women are what is represented at balenciaga- the space like, teenage elements in the collection were unexpected. incredibly strong silhouettes were seen as the outwear seemed to resemble space suits at one point. the use of sheer, the use of color & the attention to detail in the ability to properly define the modern woman- balenciaga continues to lead the way for the future of fashion & this collection was evidence of that.
2. ALEXANDER MCQUEEN one of the illest design chicks in the game has to be sarah burton. her ability to produce under pressure while at mcqueen, quite possibly the most focused upon fashion brand in the last three years; is highly commendable. what was once heavily emotional & inspired by the dark side with gothic interpretations is now a vivid, almost fashion relic of angelic proportions. from burton’s involvement & association with the royal family, who could forget the wedding dress she made for kate? it seems as though burton’s own femininity is now fearlessly being projected onto the runway. as described by as burton as evidence that she was “pushing herself”, she continued, “it has to move forward” – almost admitting that a greater sense of change was on the rise. the collection was almost surreal- the clothes floated on the runway as silhouettes were almost like holograms; heeless, well, heels glided on the wood flooring of the salle wagram, where the show was held. there was a sense of vintage grandeur but never was there lacking any form of futurism- it was perfectly balanced & served ‘vision’ in true mcqueen fashion. as the only label to have two collections on this season’s top 10, no better designer than burton deserves the recognition she has & will recieve. the way that she has contrasted & respected the DNA of the mcqueen label is truly remarkable. i know that these collection pieces, from those metallic belts to those incredible visor/sunglass pieces- will all make for beautiful photographs in every magazine. each piece, really, deserves it’s own cover. burton has allowed the house of mcqueen to carry on uninterrupted through beautiful execution & vivid concepts. i loved how exaggerated the designs were, but even in that, the concepts were still very delicate yet powerful. this collection is hands down, one of burton’s best & an unreal delivery of dope.
lastly, i want to make one thing very clear. though only 10 labels have been selected, in this list, every collection shares the same wealth of greatness. in fashion it’s important to remain focused & un-phased. un-phased in the sense that some things that have the opportunities of commercial push, might not always be the greatest effectors of evolution. remain un-phased, as to not allow oneself to become so caught up in the glamour, that you ultimately lose focus. in fashion, it’s imporant to remain focused in your ability to look at collections with fresh eyes, each season; utilizing objectivity to distinguish what is good from what is great. fashion has been described as many things but one thing for sure, fashion is a marking of time. fashion represents who we are as a people, how we want to look & how we want to feel. a perception, fashion works hand in hand with style & that is one thing that is self defined. beyond simple definitions or even standard opinion, fashion is what you believe it to be & i believe that it is something great. it’s the most liberating form of expression; tying together music, advertising, anatomy & photography. there is no one better cumulative creative industry like fashion. though it promotes division in some forms, true artists can see that it also builds bridges. whether it was the improvement we seen from kanye west or the fact that he basically jacked tisci’s swag at givenchy- it’s fashion & we can discuss it. i was impressed by the unbreakably classic designs of dior, even despite their lack of leadership & was also gravely disappointed by the house of versace. from the innovation of mugler to the extrememly dope outerwear at gareth pugh- this season was much like many others before & to follow, a conversational piece. in my work here, what i have done is establish a zone, where true creativity & artistic integrity can be protected & celebrated.