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Fashion / Style File

Donald Trump Controversy Hits Fashion Week and a $25 Billion Shed, But Rihanna and Tommy Know the Show Goes On

Your Guide to a Fashion Extravaganza That's Spreading Across New York

BY // 09.06.19

What’s New York Fashion Week without a little controversy?

In previous seasons, a noticeable lack of diversity on the runway, the swift rise of online shopping, the threat of “fast fashion” ripoffs, and the absence of an attention-getting venue like Bryant Park, which served as the center of fashion week in the ’90s and early 2000s, has hobbled the once-mighty showcase of American fashion.

Now there’s a Donald Trump problem.

The semi-annual fashion extravaganza was all set for a reboot, with dozens of designers eyeing a hip new arts space called The Shed in the $25 billion Hudson Yards complex on the city’s west side to unveil their latest collections and reclaim an added touch of glamour.

However, as soon as word got out that Trump’s billionaire friend, 78-year-old developer Stephen Ross, the mastermind behind Hudson Yards, was hosting a big-dollar summer fundraiser for the controversial president, the site became radioactive for designers, who scurried to find other venues.

But the show must go on.

So when fashion week kicks off Friday, designers will be scattered all across New York, from the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, where Tommy Hilfiger is showcasing his second collaboration with former Disney princess Zendaya, to Brooklyn, where Tory Burch, Brandon Maxwell, Michael Kors and Pyer Moss have secured venues far from the traditional Manhattan locations to showcase their spring 2020 collections.

Change has been in the air since Tom Ford recently succeeded Diane von Furstenberg as chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Ford trimmed a day off of fashion week — it’s now only six days instead of the traditional seven or more — and has promised to bring a more international perspective to the confab.

Even with all of the uncertainty, New York Fashion Week still offers an important opportunity to preview upcoming trends and gauge where fashion is today. For a few days, everyone can forget politics and concentrate on what’s on the runway. And we sure don’t want to miss these highlights:

Hilfiger & Zendaya Storm New York

As one of the few American designers who still springs for a lavish, over-the-top runway extravaganza, Tommy Hilfiger has taken his show on the road to London, Paris, Shanghai and Milan in recent seasons. But he is returning to New York Fashion Week with a “See Now, Buy Now” showcase of his TOMMYNOW fall collection designed in collaboration with Zendaya.

The duo is taking over the famed Apollo Theater for the show, promising an event “infused with a cinematic ‘70s Harlem twist, bringing Zendaya’s confident sense of style and optimistic spirit to audiences onsite and virtually around the world.”

The collection, which has a ’70s “Foxy Brown” vibe with monogrammed power suits, oversized fedoras, snakeskin hobo bags, houndstooth trench coats, and leopard print dresses, can be previewed online now and will be available for sale Sunday at tommy.com and nordstrom.com. Fans of the brand can take part in an online virtual reality commerce experience with no headset required via desktop or mobile at tommy.com.

MAD About Anna Sui

Quirky Detroit-raised designer Anna Sui isn’t a household name, but she has influenced fashion with kicky contemporary clothing that combines vintage styles with colorful graphic designs influenced by European and Asian decorative arts, film, art history, and more. The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) is honoring Sui with a major retrospective of her work, featuring 75 looks from her archives, ranging from her inaugural fashion show in 1991 to her fall 2019 “Poptimistic” collection.

Among the hallmark outfits in the exhibition are the “Backless Chaps” worn by Naomi Campbell in the fall 1992 runway show and iconic “Babydoll Dresses” worn by Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Campbell.

“The World of Anna Sui” will be on display at MAD from September 12 through February 23, 2020. But not one to rest on her laurels, Sui will also present her new spring 2020 collection at New York Fashion Week.

Rihanna Takes on Victoria’s Secret

Rihanna made a big splash at New York Fashion Week last September with the debut of her Savage X Fenty lingerie collection in an interactive runway show featuring a group of diverse models, including a very pregnant Slick Woods, who went into labor soon after the show ended. Now the superstar singer/designer is back with a big runway show that will take place during fashion week and stream on Amazon Prime beginning September 20 in more than 200 countries.

Rihanna Savage X Fenty
Rihanna celebrates backstage after her Savage X Fenty collection is unveiled at New York Fashion Week.

The show “will feature a combination of models, actors and dancers wearing the latest savage styles, offering up a new type of sexy, where attitude meets individuality,” according to a press release. “We are working on creating a bold, sexy, super energetic experience for our viewers,” Rihanna says.

The show, which promises performances from some of the hottest acts in music (although it’s not yet clear if Rihanna will perform), seems set to fill the void left when it was recently announced that the 2019 Victoria’s Secret lingerie fashion show has been canceled.

Texas Hot

Brandon Maxwell sure has come a long way in a short period of time. His namesake label is only four years old, but, within a matter of months earlier this year, the 34-year-old Longview native dressed Lady Gaga for the Oscars and the Met Gala and was named the Womenswear Designer of the Year at the CFDA Fashion Awards.

So, of course, the fashion press is eagerly awaiting the debut of his spring/summer 2020 collection in a Williamsburg Brooklyn warehouse.

TMAAArtsAlive_TylerSchmitt_TS1_3961-LynnWyatt,BrandonMaxwell
Lynn Wyatt, Brandon Maxwell at the Texas Medal of Arts Awards in Austin. (Tyler Schmitt Photo)

But he’s not the only designer with a Texas connection to cause a stir on the catwalk. Dallas native Lela Rose always puts on the most fun shows at fashion week — last season she showed her collection at a full-scale dog show emceed by Jenna Bush and fashion expert Robert Verdi — so her runway collection is one of the week’s most eagerly anticipated.

One of the most buzzed-about new lines — Burnett New York — also has a strong Texas connection as Fort Worth native Sterling McDavid co-founded the all-female owned company with designer Emily Burnett. The two women met when McDavid was searching top fashion houses for the right person to design the gown for her Aspen wedding and forged a deep connection with Burnett, who was creative director at Dennis Basso. The duo decided to go into business together to create a fashion line “with unapologetic strength and effortless femininity.” (They will be in Houston on November 14 and 15 for a personal appearance at Elizabeth Anthony.)

And New Yorker Adam Lippes, who will unveil his spring 2020 collection at fashion week, has been embraced by Houstonians Courtney Lanier Sarofim and Elyse Lanier. Sarofim has become a major investor in his business and hosted a show for Lippes at the uber exclusive Lyford Cay Club in the Bahamas (before Hurricane Dorian devastated the island). Lippes was a houseguest at Lanier’s River Oaks home during a spring visit to Houston, where he was featured designer at the Bayou Bend Luncheon and Fashion Show and attracted a loyal Houston following.

“High” Fashion’s New Meaning

One of the most attention-getting runway shows will lend a new meaning to high fashion. Project Runway Allstar Korto Momolu is debuting a ready-to-wear collection featuring hemp-based designs to bring attention to cannabis fashion. While cannabis and CBD products are being largely embraced by the beauty and wellness industries, there is a huge opportunity to use these organic fabrications to pack a big fashion punch, organizers say.

The show is held in conjunction with Women Grow, a women-of-color-run organization designed to obliterate the lingering stigma affected with cannabis and to cultivate female leadership within the cannabis industry.

Parties Galore

Target got a jump start on the start of fashion week Thursday night with a big party to celebrate “20 Years of Design for All,” the retailer’s successful collaboration with top designers over the past two decades. Tyra Banks and Isaac Mizrahi co-hosted the party as guests got a sneak preview of  items that will be on sale at Target stores September 14.

The treasure trove includes Marimekko beach towels, Michael Graves tea kettles, Proenza Schouler bomber jackets, Erin Fetherstone heart-shaped handbags, Phillip Lim menswear and satchels, Hunter backpacks, Hariajuku childrenswear, and dresses by Zac Posen, Thakoon, Rodarte, Stephen Burrows, Altuzarra, Lilly Pulitzer, and Anna Sui.

Bulgari is touting a new collaboration with Alexander Wang at a party at the luxury jeweler’s flagship store while Coach is hosting a party at its Madison Avenue boutique to tout a pop-up shop called “The Coach Originals,” featuring a handbag-focused collection based on the brand’s conic styles from the ’60s and ’70s.

Influential designer Rick Owens, who showcases his collection every season in Paris, is forging a New York Fashion Week connection with a book signing at his New York store. Owens’ book, Legaspi, documents the life and work of Larry Legaspi, the designer behind the iconic looks for musical acts, including KISS, LaBelle, George Clinton and Parliament.

And Swarvoski is hosting a party to celebrate the publication of Book of Dreams Volume 3,  a luxurious coffee table book that showcases the creative potential of Swarovski crystals as an inspirational tool for artists. The party will be held at Hudson Mercantile, an event space in Hudson Yards, offering some proof that not everyone at fashion week is shunning the center.

For a look at what gives designers their inspiration for New York Fashion Week, click through the photo gallery above this story.

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