Clothes Were the Least Interesting Part of Fashion Week SS24

Fashion is ostensibly such an important part of every fashion week that it’s right in the name. And, yet, during the month-long festivities of Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2024, the clothing came last.

That’s not to say that the clothes were all bad or even bad at all. It’s merely that the Fashion Week SS24 clothes were uniquely outmatched, partially because they were largely quite tame and, primarily, couldn’t hold a candle to the typical fashion week spectacles.

Take Balenciaga as an example. Now, I enjoyed the collection just fine and there’s plenty of quality Demna quirk throughout.

But the house used consistently to balance wow factor and wow clothes, like with that mud-caked Spring/Summer 2023 collection where excellent outerwear, funky footwear, and a freaky set met in perfect harmony. The stunt-casting of a certain troubled rapper didn’t hurt.

Balenciaga SS24, though, offers familiar Demna fare and unexpectedly normal looks alike, stuff that’s easily washed away by the eye-popping guest list, which encompassed Balenciaga fanboys, fashion critic Cathy Horyn, and Demna’s mother.

Brother Guram, who was not invited, was amusingly salty.

In fact, the who’s-who guestlists were often the main event at Fashion Week SS24.

That’s hardly an aberration, admittedly — is Twitter gonna get excited about Anthony Vaccarello’s subdued Saint Laurent collection or Rosé sitting front row? If Martha Stewart is at Hermès and Paris Hilton is walking Mugler, who’s looking at the clothes? — but it does highlight an issue plaguing the season.

Namely, the presentations were nearly all so consistently conventional that they were unable to pop as hard as the people they invited.

Let’s look at Acne Studios.

For Spring/Summer 2024, the Swedish fashion label presented one of its most pared-back collections in years. Compared to the very capital-F Fashion that Acne’s showed in recent seasons, the latest offering was surprisingly straightforward.

There was a contemporary edge throughout, what with all the low-rise jeans and tech-y sunglasses, but this is a newly-muted Acne.

Interesting that Acne is simplifying only as it just snagged a red-hot Kylie Jenner as the face of its seasonal denim campaign.

Kylie functionally stole the spotlight away from the clothes, in fact.

She later repeated the feat at Schiaparelli, where the only other hot topic was sister Kendall’s stiff walk. Sorry Kendall, nothing personal.

Meanwhile, Coperni’s explosive, headline-making brushes with tech (hello, Bella Hadid sprayed-on dress) were missing from its refined SS24 offering. Sure, there was a far-reaching PUMA collaboration on display but, by far, the head-turner was a Naomi Campbell cameo.

Not that it was a bad collection or, hell, that any of these are bad collections. Sometimes you just make clothes.

Case in point: The Row’s inevitably exquisite show, where beautiful clothes and peerless styling prevailed.

But that was really just great fashion, The Row doing The Row things. The other brands look like they’re taking a seasonal breather by comparison.

Truly, there’s a pervading sense of back to basics.

Labels are making wearable stuff with only a dash of whimsy, still finding footing for their young creative directors or returning to their signature cues.

Thus, most of these collections offer little to digest beyond face value. Take that as a compliment or critique as you see fit — it is what it is.

Certainly, shows offer myriad statement pieces, the occasional occasional quirky theme, and even exceptions to the rule but zoom out and the consistent overarching attitude is an abrupt return to normalcy, or whatever normalcy means in the realm of luxury fashion.

But that itself is pretty normal, right? Like, every fashion week has shows that’re quiet and shows that go hard.

Thing is, even the runways that didn’t smack of ordinary were overshadowed by the sheer spectacle.

Stunts as conventional as Mugler’s wind-blown dresses ramped up to a series of tricks that only got more and more outré, from JW Anderson’s clay clothes to the audience participation at Sunnei.

AVAVAV showed a collection of pure gimmickry, as usual, so much fun that the clothes weren’t even secondary — they were irrelevant.

These are all really cool things that make for much more memorable fashion shows but they also have nothing to do with clothing.

Admittedly, who’s to say that fashion shows have to sell clothes at all — and those JW Anderson pieces are literal works of art — but these moments of wackiness only further minimize Fashion Week SS24’s wan emphasis on fashion itself.

Speaking of second fiddle clothes, courrèges and Prada sent out some very pretty looks that were all but overshadowed by the nifty set design.

At the former, it was almost more fascinating to stare at the plaster floor that cracked throughout the presentation and, at the latter, pillars of slime dripped down from the ceiling.

At both, you wanted to look at the surrounding ephemera more than the clothes.

Taken individually, these moments are fine. It’s at least a positive that there’s at least anything to discuss at the shows, clothes or not.

But taken collectively, nothing sticks. It’s not for lack of effort or nice clothes but that no one quite hit the tricky je ne sais quoi that defines a landmark fashion week presentation. There was no viral equivalent to, say, LOEWE’s minecraft clothes and no must-see moment like Saint Laurent SS23.

Hey, there’s always next season.

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