If there’s one overarching message from the Fall 2018 shows, it’s that fashion is changing. Menswear and womenswear are being presented together on the runways, brands are questioning the very notion of seasons (hello, Moncler), and the designer revolving door keeps spinning. Just as we were taking our seats at Chloé in Paris, we learned that Riccardo Tisci is in at Burberry, and later we found out that Virgil Abloh was in at Louis Vuitton men’s.
But the world is changing, too, and it’s doing so at an arresting clip. Time’s Up, #MeToo, Everytown for Gun Safety, NeverAgain, Black Lives Matter, the ACLU, and many more activist organizations are dominating conversations in America and abroad. Fashion can’t ignore the world around it, especially when people of all strokes are becoming more and more inspired to use their appearances as a form of visual protest—from the black dresses at the Golden Globes to the orange bandannas of Everytown.
So, what to do on the runways? In many ways, this season seemed to be one less about the actuality of a garment and more about the person inside it. Do you need to feel safe? Try a shaggy faux fur from Givenchy or some reflective gear in radioactive colors from Prada. Are you desperately trying to stay optimistic? A shimmery, jingly dress from Paco Rabanne or a bold flashback to the better-days ’80s by Tom Ford could do the trick. Unity was represented by a team spirit at Versace, while the freedom and potential of the American West was evoked at Calvin Klein and Coach.
In the end, though, the season’s most arresting trend might be the most obvious. Or maybe essential is a better word, with designers taking up the call for a new practicality. You could call it the Philo effect, but that would be doing a disservice to labels like Lemaire and The Row, which have been peddling this kind of luxurious nonchalance for years. When everything’s gone haywire, don’t you just want a coat that makes you feel strong, a dress that lets you feel powerful, or a shirt that turns up your mood to 11, no bells or whistles attached? The luxury of the everyday can be solace in “time’s like these.”
To Protect and Serve
Utilitarian tropes, from outdoorsy gorpcore to camouflage, have been permeating fashion for some time, but this was the season that protective garments really took hold. At Prada, that meant a rethink of the brand’s signature nylon and a wild use of neon, reflective colors. Junya Watanabe, Gosha Rubchinskiy, and Maison Margiela all got in on the action too. The message: safety first.
The Great ’80s
Short dresses! Assertive shoulders! Electric-hued animal prints! The ’80s are back, big time, designed as a decadent corrective to the constant stream of bad news that is 2018. Whether you opt for oversize outerwear from Marc Jacobs or a slinky little dress from Saint Laurent or Isabel Marant, the only rule this season is more is more.
With Queen Elizabeth watching from the front row, Richard Quinn morphed one of Her Majesty’s most beloved accessories—the simple scarf—into absolutely fabulous dresses and outerwear. But the repurposing of the staid kerchief didn’t end there: Tory Burch, JW Anderson, and Marine Serre built entire outfits on printed silk squares.
The Western Frontier
Westernwear has been the crux of Raf Simons’s message at Calvin Klein since he arrived at the US label, but prairie separates were spotted at Dries Van Noten, Bode, and Coach 1941 too. Perhaps designers are inspired by the self-sufficiency of pioneer women. Or maybe they’re taken with the moment that America became something more than a set of geographic limits. Or, hey, maybe everyone’s just really into Westworld.
Simple sequins just don’t cut it anymore. Julien Dossena put together an awesome, aural collection for Paco Rabanne, which combined high-shine dresses with a twinkly auditory experience. At Balmain, you could hear the whir of paillettes, and at Thom Browne, the clinky shhhhh of chain mail. Even the guys got in on it with Palomo Spain’s linked-metal dress. Here’s to fashion that sounds as good as it looks.
In Awe of the Size of These Lads
Which came first, the absolute unit meme or enormous fashion? Debate that while you wrap yourself up in Balenciaga’s multilayered coats or Comme des Garçons’s mille-feuille frock. As comical as some of these supersize garments might look, they’re not just a Joey Tribbiani on Friends proposition. Fashion that takes up space has political and social undertones—living large has its advantages.
This article first appeared on Vogue.com