From Rihanna to Chloë Sevigny, Fashion Week prioritized charisma over clothes

Chloe Sevigny. (AP)
Chloe Sevigny. (AP)


  • During the New York Fashion Week fall collections—including a detour to Phoenix for the Super Bowl—the focus was less on the fashion frippery and more on the fashion folks

In “Iron Man 3," superhero Tony Stark is haunted by the existential question of whether the suit makes the man or the man makes the suit. The fashion industry depends on the former—selling clothing that it promises can transform and complete you. And recently, garments have continually trumped their wearers, with interchangeable influencers modeling attention-grabbing trends like micro-kilts, Big Red Boots and bra tops.

But these past few days at New York Fashion Week, the message is that, though fashion can help, ultimately it’s the wearer that elevates a look. Characters, more than clothes, dominated the week: 48-year-old first lady of New York Cool Chloë Sevigny opened the standout Proenza Schouler show; the cast of “The White Lotus" continued their tour of the zeitgeist; the late editor André Leon Talley spiritually presided over a Christie’s sale of his wardrobe and art. Even larger-than-life Rihanna in a notably casual, yet punchy, Super Bowl halftime look echoed the theme from afar.

Although some undeniable trends popped out in the fall collections—metallics, the return of the miniskirt, creamy Halston-esque wool outerwear—the week belonged to those charismatic enough to transcend what they wore.

Phoenix Phashion Week: How Rihanna stole the show(s)

No one dared stage an important fashion event on Sunday night around 8 p.m. EST, when Rihanna was set to take the stage for the Super Bowl halftime show. As it was, editors scuttled into parties and presentations late, sneakily checking their phones during dinners to see what the pop star would sing—and wear. But it turned out that her pure presence as a pregnant (surprise!) Rihanna was the real story, rather than a queenly procession of outfit changes.

Rihanna’s sporty, all-red look was designed to put her and her bump front and center. This was not the 2015 Guo Pei marigold-colored Met Ball robe that was memed into fashion history, nor even her last pregnancy announcement with its full bare-belly reveal. It was a relatively simple outfit that wouldn’t have looked completely out of place to coach a toddler tumbling class.

The pop star wore a red flight jumpsuit thrown open to reveal a red bodysuit and molded breastplate from the LVMH brand Loewe, designed by Jonathan Anderson. This outfit was topped off with two consecutively worn Alaïa scarlet leather puffer pieces: one a scarf with integrated gloves, the other a longer full coat. The red puffer looked like a homage to a similar Norma Kamali blanket coat worn by André Leon Talley, who was a friend of the pop star’s. Prioritizing comfort, she finished her look with red sneakers from the Maison Margiela MM6 and Salomon collaboration.

One final dramatic sweep of taffeta for André Leon Talley’s caftans

The live auction of André Leon Talley’s belongings at Christie’s crushed estimates on Feb. 16, netting over $1 million to benefit his former churches (with the online sale still going strong). The editor, who died in 2022, left behind a collection as eclectic and impressive as the man himself, including dramatic caftans made by designers including Tom Ford, Dapper Dan and Valentino, bespoke Manolo Blahnik sandals, and homoerotic artwork from Karl Lagerfeld, Antonio Lopez and Herb Ritts. A set of personalized Louis Vuitton luggage went for $94,500, over 23 times its high estimate of $4,000.

Mr. Talley’s Norma Kamali red puffer, said to inspire Rihanna’s Alaïa version at the Super Bowl, sold for $25,200.

At the show’s opening, Mr. Talley’s presence was felt well beyond the objects themselves. The Cut’s editor in chief, Lindsay Peoples Wagner, spoke about how Mr. Talley opened doors for Black creatives in the industry, and the Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir belted out songs including “Respect" and “How I Got Over," Mr. Talley’s favorite. Christie’s head of private and iconic collections, Liz Siegel, reported that during the preview, “people flooded the galleries to pay their respects to this larger than life figure and marvel at the diversity of his collection."

Patience Torlowei, the creative director of Nigerian brand Torlowei, was in town to show her clothing at the Black in Fashion Council showroom and attended the opening of Mr. Talley, who wore her pieces. She felt honored to see her caftans in the context of the exhibition, but at the same time, “one was reminded of the great loss to our world his absence has been," she said.

Chloë Sevigny incarnates Proenza Schouler’s realism

Somehow, even after 20 years in business, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler are seen as the “cool kids" of the New York fashion scene. Same goes for the women they dress, like Chloë Sevigny, who opened their show, and Sienna Miller, who sat front row. All of them are now in their 40s, but they possess a with-it edginess even as they’ve graduated from Lit Lounge to the Carlyle, from accumulating matchbooks to collecting Prouvé.

The brand’s fall outing, which they called “possibly our most personal collection," was an ode to their inspiring friends, women like Ms. Sevigny but also stylist Camilla Nickerson, singer Sade and artists Yoko Ono and Louise Bourgeois. Intentionally devoid of a theme or silhouette, the clothing echoed the way a real working woman gets dressed: Throw this jacket over this top with these slacks; grab this bag.

The pair asked writer Ottessa Moshfegh, of “My Year of Rest and Relaxation," to write a text that would be syncopated by the electronic musician Arca. In an interview, Ms. Moshfegh called the process “a complete joy, a creative ecstasy." The resulting fictional journal entries were read by Ms. Sevigny for the soundtrack (for example: “I took Yasmin to lunch after the studio visit.").

Ms. Moshfegh said she was inspired by a huge file of images of women that the designers shared before the show. Together, she said, she got the impression of “a very interior beauty, something thoughtful and solitary and individual and wise and curious and open."

Fashion embraces the cast of “The White Lotus"—even Greg

Two months after the season-two finale of “The White Lotus," the show’s pop-cultural moment is still going strong. The theme song is being remixed and bumped at clubs from Ibiza to Indianapolis; its stars Simona Tabasco and Beatrice Grannò appeared in a Valentine’s Day Skims campaign; and Jennifer Coolidge is doomed to live on forever as GIFs and memes of her hapless character Tanya.

The fashion industry, which adores a wink (and a paparazzi bulb), welcomed the show’s stars with open arms this season. Meghann Fahy (Daphne) appeared composed and elegant in the front row of the Khaite show. Ms. Tabasco and Ms. Grannò giggled, in the style of their hookers-with-hearts-of-gold characters, at the Michael Kors show. And Jon Gries, who plays the arguable villain Greg, walked the runway of indie brand Eckhaus Latta.

Fashion shows can be grimly serious, and all that focus on buttons and bias cuts gets repetitive. So it can be a relief when designers look to familiar and even funny faces to lighten the mood.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text

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