Normcore was the fashion word on everyone's lips this year. Still not sure what the hell it is? Well, it turns out I'm an expert on the subject. Around the time trend forecasters K-Hole sent out a report introducing the concept, I was at JFK airport, waiting to get on a flight to London for fashion week. My plane was six hours delayed—blizzard—and then, once it was in the air, it couldn't land at Heathrow due to gale-force winds. We were diverted to Newcastle, where, after a meal of vending-machine coffee and a Kit Kat, I boarded one of the overnight coaches hired to take me, a few dozen models, and sundry other fashion types down to London. I arrived at my hotel at 9 a.m., stuck my bags in my room, brushed my teeth and splashed some water on my face, and then sprinted to my first show, clad in the same ripped-up baggy jeans, turtleneck sweater, and slouchy coat I'd been wearing for a good 36 hours by that point. While I was waiting outside the Somerset House for a friend, a street-style photographer snapped me. I didn't think about it again until a few weeks later, when the same friend happened to pick up a copy of the tabloid-ish English-style rag Look and discovered a page-sized photo of me, the very one taken that hard, hard morning. Readers, I am the face of normcore in England. Wondering how to get the look? Now you know.
First things first: Transgender rights are not a trend; transgender people are not a fad. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, can we acknowledge that 2014 was the year that "trans"-ness went mainstream? The fashion industry has done its part to encourage openness: Witness Givenchy muse Lea T, who starred in her first campaign for the house in 2010, or the darling status of Hood by Air, a brand dedicated to erasing gender categories altogether. This year we celebrated Andrej Pejic's re-emergence as the lissome Andreja Pejic, the launch of the all-transgender Barneys New York campaign lensed by Bruce Weber, and Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox's anointing as a fashion icon. Lena Dunham, meanwhile, has signed up to make a documentary about Bindle & Keep, a bespoke tailoring outfit that caters to members of the transgender community.
"Less is more," the saying goes. But then again, says who? Not Jeremy Scott, who kicked off his tenure at Moschino with a maximal bang. His Fall '14 dresses and Chanel-esque suits referencing good ol' Mickey D's may have been the most Instagrammed runway looks of the year. Meanwhile, over at the actual house of Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld was going the other way, making haute tracksuits for models to wear as they shopped the Chanel supermarché. Fast food: Check. Supermarket sweep: Check. Tony the Tiger: Check, courtesy of Anya Hindmarch's Fall '14 breakfast-cereal-inspired handbags, a major favorite among the street-style set.
Lupita Nyong'o rules. That is all.
Addenda: Lupita is an amazing actress; Lupita has paid her dues; Lupita is smart and gracious; Lupita is, like, Audrey Hepburn-level chic; Lupita has a contract with Lancôme; and Lupita has been on about a million magazine covers this year, and in 2015 she ought by rights to be on a million more.
That is all.
Shacking up and breaking up are the bread and butter of tabloids everywhere. This year, fashion rags read much the same way. The big news in 2014 was Nicolas Ghesquière's debut at Louis Vuitton; elsewhere, Jason Wu got cozy with Boss, and Jeremy Scott, as mentioned already, found true love with Moschino. After the Spring '15 shows in Paris, Peter Copping left Nina Ricci for Oscar de la Renta and Guillaume Henry confirmed that he'd split with Carven and was going to Nina Ricci, news that was quickly overshadowed by the announcement that John Galliano (!) was moving into Maison Martin Margiela (!!) and indeed had already been issued his de rigueur white lab coat. That was controversial, but apparently Margiela himself has "let it be known" that he's pleased with the assignment. But no conscious coupling and uncoupling of designer and fashion house was more head-spinning than Marco Zanini's lickety-split entrée and exit at the recently relaunched Schiaparelli. Zanini designed a mere two couture collections for the house, which is owned by Diego Della Valle, and it was widely reported that all parties were unhappy. And as any reader of dating guides knows: If you have to ask, "Is this working?" then it's not.
Do you want an Apple Watch? Or one of those MICA bracelets that Opening Ceremony developed with Intel? In a year's time, are we all going to be talking into our wrists? Maybe. What about Google Glass? Will we all be wearing computers on our faces? Less likely. The real question is: Which of these devices supports Candy Crush?
One of the very best things to happen this year was the Alexander Wang x H&M show, because Missy Elliott performed at the after-party and the défilé was preceded by a parkour performance that pretty much defied physics. In between, there was the show itself, which invited the question: What is"athleisure"? Is it fashion inspired by gym clothes? Is it the way women co-opt those clothes into their non-workout wardrobes, like when they wear their Nike leggings instead of jeans to brunch? Is it fashion's tip-of-the-hat to the fact that women do that, a snake-eating-its-own-tail thing where designers make "designer" leggings for women to wear to brunch instead of jeans? Hmm. Anyway, as long as the word athleisure is being bandied about, we may as well define it: Athleisure is clothing for the person who's thinking about working out but probably won't today.
Time magazine recently polled its readers about whether or not the word feminist should be banned. No! Obviously! And not just because it's a dumb idea to ban words, even really stupid ones like vape, just named by the Oxford English Dictionary as the 2014 "word of the year." Feminist has a right to life, to coin a phrase. Still, you could see what the Time editors were getting at. Feminist, the word, was all over the place this year, in an airy-fairy way that struck more than a few observers as dispiriting. For all the talk about which celebrities were or were not feminists, and all the "feminist" photo ops—from Beyoncé's "FEMINIST" backdrop at the VMAs to the placard-waving models at Chanel—the actual practice of feminism, in terms of pushing for progress on a range of non-sexy but vital issues, was pretty darn thin on the ground. Less talk, more action in 2015, please.
You've got to give them credit. Just when you think we've reached Peak Kardashian—the Kim/Kanye nuptials, surely; the birth of North West, surely; the "Bound: 2" video and the million parodies it spawned—the clan comes up with more ways to penetrate the hive mind. This year, fashion was overrun with Kardashians, or erstwhile Kardashians: Kendall Jenner was the undisputed breakout star of the Fall '14 show season, while off the runway, Kim, Kanye, and baby North were front and center at Paris fashion week in September, taking in the Balenciaga, Balmain, Lanvin, and Givenchy shows. (Kanye turned up at Dries Van Noten, too, for the record.) To put the matter into iPhone-speak, their presence resulted in a total shutshow, but the clusterducks did provide show attendees ample opportunity to Instagram snaps of Kim's famous derriere. Peak Kardashian? Still nope. Kendall caused a mini hullabaloo by choosing to walk Chanel Pre-Fall 2015 tomorrow rather than make her Victoria's Secret show debut, while Jean-Paul Goude got the hype machine fired up good and proper with his oiled-up pictures of Kim on Paper magazine's cover. You're reading this online, so apparently the Internet has been fixed by now.
What's the point of clothes? That question was posed in two distinctly different ways this year. On the one hand, there wasWomen in Clothes, a book compiled by the writers Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton, which addressed the complicated feelings women have about their wardrobes, and the semiotics of what they wear. On the other hand, there was Rihanna, who made a pretty convincing case for nekkidness when she collected the Fashion Icon Award at the 2014 CFDA Awards in a gown that looked like it had been made out of nothing other than pink glitter. Here's a follow-up question for the 600-odd women who filled out the Women in Clothes survey: If you looked like Rihanna, wouldn't you go nude, too?
It's with a heavy heart that we salute the passing of one of fashion's undisputed greats, Oscar de la Renta. By any measure, De la Renta lived a full, fabulous life—clothier to the A++ list, pal of everyone cool and connected, bon vivant, and all-around classy guy. But his last few months were especially busy: At long last, Michelle Obama became the latest first lady to wear one of his frocks; Amal Alamuddin wore Oscar as she wed George Clooney; and Peter Copping of Nina Ricci was appointed as the new creative director of Oscar's house. His legacy is in good hands, we presume. And right up to the end, Oscar was turning out beautiful clothes. There will be no better tribute paid to him than by his clients, who will be wearing—and loving—looks from his fantastic Spring '15 collection.
To this note, it must be added: The fashion industry lost another major figure this year, Louise Wilson. Less famous than De la Renta, Wilson was at least as influential, as the course director of the fashion MA program at London's Central Saint Martins. Her students included, among many others, Christopher Kane, Mary Katrantzou, and Simone Rocha. Kane's Spring '15 collection was an homage to Wilson, elaborating ideas she'd helped him develop in his student days. It was a fitting reminder of how much she'll be missed.
A new chapter begins as 2014 ends. Last month, Condé Nast began its move into 1 World Trade Center—and as CN heads down, down, downtown, photo studios, retouchers, PR companies, and various other businesses that cater to a fashion/media clientele will soon follow. Even IMG is considering moving the "tents"—now up at Lincoln Center—to a location downtown. What does all this portend for the neighborhood? Sports bars shall become blow-dry bars. The multi-meat hoagie will stand down as the local lunchtime fave as the Kale Caesar from Juice Press takes its crown. Derivatives? Out. "A touch derivative…"? In. Maybe we're exaggerating. We're definitely stereotyping. One thing is for sure: By the time New York fashion week rolls around, it's going to be effing impossible to get a reservation at Locanda Verde or Smith & Mills. Book now.
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It's time to take stock: What was 2014 all about? Years hence, will we remember "normcore" or Rihanna's nudecore look at the CFDAs? The Apple Watch or the Chanel supermarché? Time will tell.
Meanwhile, as the year draws to a close, here's our cheat sheet of 2014's dozen hottest topics.