It would be nice to turn off iPhone alerts and view the Spring 2019 shows through the lens of design and design alone. But that’s not the world we live in. As my colleagues in Paris sat through Rick Owens’s masterful show at the Palais de Tokyo, the world at large tuned into live coverage of Christine Blasey Ford’s Senate hearing. As models stomped through water in the wake of the Eiffel Tower, Bill Cosby was sentenced to jail for sexually assaulting Andrea Constand. Several days after Chanel’s idyllic beachside set celebrated the serenity of the natural world, scientists announced that by 2040 the global warming crisis will be unsolvable.
And so in addition to delivering Instagrammable accessories and putting on a spectacular show, designers were expected to offer solutions, reactions, or rebuttals to the tumult of our times. What that means for trends is that there is no single overarching idea—much like the world we live in, there are many fashion factions, each offering its own remedy. In one corner are the escapists, celebrating beauty and levity in the darkest time. In another, the pragmatists, who have rethought suiting and daywear to delightful new ends. One more, the expressionists, who are taking the codified and rarefied worlds of couture and fashion itself and turning them on their heads. The most hotly debated group: the camp which is promoting a fearless body positivity in an era laden with accusations of sexual assault and harassment.
The Greatest Escape
Wouldn’t you rather be anywhere but here? Against the landscape of a world spinning out of control, designers infused their collections with a wide-ranging sense of wanderlust this season. At Chloé, Natacha Ramsay-Levi looked to the seaside of Ibiza, while Veronica Etro imagined bohemian California surfer girls, and Tory Burch found inspiration in her parents’ far-flung Mediterranean holidays. All this escapism isn’t without politics. Prabal Gurung delivered a potent message of multiculturalism and diversity with a collection rooted in his Nepalese roots and immigrant journey, and Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli eschewed fantasy for the freedom to be who you are every day. “Today, everyone is talking about escapism. But I don’t believe in that—l think everyone should just live their identities in the city or wherever they are.” Amen.
The Handmade Tale
While we all love talking to Siri and snapping away on Snapchat, designers like Loewe’s Jonathan Anderson, Julie de Libran at Sonia Rykiel, and Gypsy Sport’s Rio Uribe are positing a tech-free future with collections that celebrate the artistry and imperfection of handicrafts. Anderson’s macramé bags elevate the handmade to luxury-goods status, while De Libran’s unfussy net dresses and Uribe’s crocheted tops have an alluring, pastoral simplicity. Consider this a celebration of makers in an ever-machined world. If there’s one thing technology can’t replace, it’s heart.
Must-Have Bolder Shoulders
Nongender clothing is on the rise, from Maison Margiela and Louis Vuitton to Givenchy. So it’s not surprising that the single most popular item on the Spring 2019 runways was a big, boxy blazer. Sort of mannish in its loose cut but with a feminine edge in its pointed shoulders, this shape works on every body, no matter size, gender, race, or creed.
50 Shades of Beige
Ten years ago, beige-colored clothing was all the rage at Spring 2009 Fashion Week. At the time, Vogue said of the tea-stained shows, “Fashion’s strength this season comes from its quiet authority; dress softly and carry a leopard-spot purse.” A decade later, we’re experiencing a renaissance of coffee, camel, cinnamon, and chestnut-colored clothing, led by Riccardo Tisci at Burberry, who painted a portrait of Great Britannia in a diverse palette of flesh tones. Is the return to nude colors a reflection of the politicized body? Or an austerity measure for troubled times? Maybe it’s commentary on oversharing on social media, a reflection of the ways we conceal and reveal who we are underneath our clothes? Whatever the case, expect to see lots more ladies in buff this spring.
A Freer Kind of Ready-to-Couture
Couture shapes, namely the big, voluminous poufs of the late ’80s, have been percolating in fashion for several seasons. Leave it to designers like Marine Serre, Matty Bovan, and Junya Watanabe to ground those flights of fancy in the dressed-down and post-ironic style of the streets. Watanabe mixed ’50s silhouettes with everyday denim; Bovan offered a club-kid take on a couturier’s rigor; and Serre cut her gowns from leftover fabrics like scuba suits and childhood bedsheets. It’s a topsy-turvy kind of haute glamour—a little bit fun and a little freaky.
Some Like It Hot
Before you pick up the pitchforks, consider this: Of the season’s 400-plus shows, no designer made as potent a case for the return of sultry appeal as Donatella Versace did. Perhaps it’s because Versace knows that a minidress doesn’t diminish a woman’s power or presence. After all, she wears a corset and stilettos and just sold her company for over $2.1 billion. So! Instead of policing women’s bodies, let’s celebrate the choice to throw on whatever you want.
Bye-Bye, Basic Black
Black clothing in the age of Instagram? For avant-garde designers operating well outside the Insta economy, all-black everything has become a respite from glitz, glam, and gross consumerism. No one does it better than Kei Ninomiya, whose brand is aptly called Noir. Working with just one color, Ninomiya pushes garments to their limits, imbuing his collections with whimsy, potency, and even a strange sensuality. Long-standing goth gods Rick Owens and Rei Kawakubo have a newfound love for the color, and the next generation of artist-designers is turning to the once-shunned hue as a way to explore form, function, and purpose. This spring, wearing head-to-toe black will be anything but boring.
The Long and Longer of It
Short shorts and long jackets were the talk of Resort. For Spring designers have extended the proposition, sending out kicky trousers with tunics—the only difference is these tops are unbuttoned to above the navel like a deconstructed, vaguely sexy suit. At Paco Rabanne, Julien Dossena’s models were covered up except for their belly buttons, while Haider Ackermann’s suits were fastened just at the neck, revealing a sliver of sternum. Even Giorgio Armani, the king of the suit, is advocating for a matching and messily undone shirt-and-pant combo, proving that this will be the casual silhouette to beat next season.
Now Read: The 11 Key Beauty Trends of Spring 2019
This article first appeared on Vogue.com