NYFW highlights: From political statements to a double amputee on the runway

Olivia Petter
Getty Images

New York Fashion Week marks the start of a month-long sartorial spectacle as designers showcase their latest creations to editors, buyers and influencers.

While Milan is renowned for its flamboyance and London for its emerging talents, New York is known for its progressive social conscience, often leading the way in terms of body positivity, diversity and powerful political statements.

This season proved just as provocative, with a child amputee walking the runway and Prabal Gurung using his catwalk to make snarky jibes at the Trump administration.

And that’s excluding all talk of clothing, which, at its core is what fashion week is all about.

Read on for our New York Fashion Week highlights.

Prabal Gurung asked ‘Who gets to be American?’

(Getty Images)

The Nepalese-American designer likes to pack a political punch at fashion week. In the wake of #MeToo, while most brands scrambled to find ways to promote female empowerment, Gurung was five steps ahead.

Not only did his models walk the finale together, hand in hand while holding white flowers – a symbolic gesture of unity for #MeToo – but he invited the movement’s founder, Tarana Burke, to sit in his front row, a spot usually reserved for editors and celebrities.

This season, Gurung took aim at the Trump administration, dressing models in sashes with the words: “Who gets to be American?” splashed across them, referencing the president’s notoriously draconian immigration policies.

Explaining his intentions in a statement, Gurung said: “In the last few years, incited by the divisive rhetoric of our current administration, I’ve considered the many faces of America and how we should seek to redefine it.”

The fashion designer added that the aim of his latest collection, which marks the 10th anniversary of his brand, is “to celebrate hope, courage, and present an ode to the true American dream”.

Ralph Lauren created a one-night-only Jazz club

(Getty Images)

Ralph Lauren has a penchant for grandeur. While the heritage American designer usually realises such an aesthetic exclusively through his designs – think sweeping metallic gowns and classic tailoring – this season saw Lauren kick things up a notch, or 20.

For his spring/summer 2020 show, the 79-year-old fashion titan created “Ralph’s Club”: a one-night-only jazz club inspired by the majestic hedonism of the 1920s.

Singer Janelle Monae performed a lineup of jazz classics as fashion editors exchanged tattletales over glasses of champagne before fawning over muses including Bella and Gigi Hadid, who hit the runway in a menagerie of vintage-inspired designs.

Zendaya teamed up with Tommy Hilfiger for a 1970s Harlem party

(Getty Images)

For the actor’s second collection with Hilfiger, she provided a heady dose of nostalgia by sending models down the runway in an array of 1970s staples. Tailored jackets were paired with houndstooth neck ties while wide-brimmed hats and bug-eyed shades led the way in terms of accessories.

  • Read more

Elsewhere, androgyny played a key role, with three-piece suits and loose-fitting trousers making several appearances. The velvet count was heavy, too, with rich shades of wine providing a pleasant change from the overwhelmingly monochrome palette.

A nine-year-old double amputee made fashion week history

(Getty Images for Art Hearts Fash)

On Saturday, double amputee Daisy-May Demetre made her debut at New York Fashion Week at just nine years old.

The Birmingham-born child walked the runway for luxury childrenswear label Lulu et Gigi wearing a knee-length dress that proudly showed off her prosthetic legs.

Demetre was born with fibular hemimelia, a defect where part or all of the fibula bone in the leg is missing. Neither of her feet developed properly due to her condition, meaning she was unable to balance or move properly. The youngster has a promising career in modelling ahead of her, having revealed she will also be walking in Paris Fashion Week later this month.

Tom Ford gave the crop top a sci-fi renaissance

(Rex Features)

Crop tops used to be cool, until teenage festival-goers co-opted them and the trend started infantilising anyone over the age of 20.

But Tom Ford has made them suitable for grown ups again. Or at least grown ups who want to show off every nook and cranny of their upper body. For his spring/summer 2020 collection, the American designer sent models down the runway in shiny geometric crop tops that looked as if they had been moulded to their bodies. They came in vibrant fuchsias and intoxicating violets. Some one-shouldered, others with a polo neck.

While it’s unlikely that we’ll see high street replications of Ford’s futuristic designs, we’re hoping his upscaled crop top will prompt others to revisit this bona fide fashion trend and bring it back from the muddied festival fields.

Rihanna took us all into a new digital age without smartphones

Cara Delevingne modelled in the lingerie show (Getty Images for Savage X FentyShow Presented by Amazon Prime Video)

This season, instead of allowing guests to film Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty show, the singer-turned-designer issued a ban on smartphones. Why? Because Amazon Prime has bought the rights to stream the luxury lingerie runway show, which featured performances from Halsey, Big Sean and DJ Khaled.

From a selection of photographs that have been released, we know that Cara Delevingne and Rihanna herself had starring roles in the show. But fans will have to wait until 20 September to see the sartorial splendour unfold on screen.

Marc Jacobs delivered a bombastic collection without rhyme or reason

(Getty Images)

There was something whimsical in the air at Marc Jacobs on Wednesday. Few could pinpoint a common theme in his surrealistic, Alice in Wonderland-esque collection, which was a majestic display characterised by dramatic proportions, feathers and fantasy.

Jacobs described the show as a “celebration of life” in homage to various fashion icons, including the late Karl Lagerfeld.

(Getty Images)

The clothes themselves – orange tea dresses, rainbow suiting and all-over ruffles – might look like a mishmash of your grandmother’s dressing up box, but the result was an eccentric display of fashion that doesn't play by the rules.

Read more

Read more New York Fashion Week: The best street style looks outside the shows