The neon lights are always bright on Broadway, but this fall, fluorescence will find its way into stores and closets well beyond 42nd Street. Fashion this season is filled with wonderful, classic elements like mannish cocoon coats, power suiting and the elegant, monochromatic skirt set for the bougie set, but there are these little groundhog-like flashes of elements which gave an otherwise nostalgic season a bit of a kooky, exceptionally alien feel.
Azzedine Alaia’s signature tailoring served as the iconic and archival anchor of the fall collections. Double-breasted basque jackets in stiff black felt had sculpted sleeves, matching tonal buttons and a clever tie waist whose sum of its parts made it seem as if it came out of an unwritten beatnik version of a Hemingway short story in Spain or, opposingly, a futuristic Bronte novel. Trench coats with oversized storm flaps, drop shoulders, a sturdy cinch belt and a contrasting short hem in a barely shiny black leather also conveyed a polarizing but amiable feel, which was equal parts old world and contemporary.
The crux and success of the fall collections always seem to rely on the reimagining of outerwear, and Alaia accomplished that with magnifying glass accurate tailoring but also a Goldilocks ability to predict the pulse of trend and appealing to the sentiment as well as presenting something new. This ability, if we were to give it a word, would be “desire.”
Other well-rounded collections like The Row, Valentino and Givenchy followed suit, some quite literally, with the sharpest shoulders, oversized plaids and even a darling houndstooth Sherlock Holmes-cum-Clockwork Orange cape, like at Prada. One of the freshest looks came from Burberry, where veteran model Natalia Vodianova stepped out in a peachy nude gabardine blazer with a tonal accordion pleat midi-skirt accented with a white-and-black windowpane bow front blouse, kid driving gloves and a perfect red lip.
And then other collections still seemed altogether out of this world. Saint Laurent, who has a rich legacy of impeccable tailoring, turned the runway into a fantasy space land replete with black lights, pulsing lasers and infinity mirrors. It made the models in plunge-front tuxedo jackets atop micro miniskirts and pointed stiletto pumps look like otherworldly creatures attending a rave at the Mos Eisley cantina.
Other designers featured floor-length choir robes in solid neon like at Carolina Herrera and Balenciaga, and others still kept in line with a more traditional sartorial silhouette but swapping fluorescent fabrications for tweeds and herringbone. One of the best examples came from the middle of the Jacquemus show, which featured a double-face overcoat worn with wide-leg trousers and oversized enamel hoops, all in the blindingly bright bougainvillea pink.
Certainly, the continuation of neon as an important color category in fashion flows from the persistent dominance of streetwear and athleisure. But the odd turn that it has taken, which attempts to obscure the body with eggplant-shaped dresses in neon green or highlighter yellow bulbous top hats with matching tea kettle-shaped skirts suggests that designers are looking past sportif, street style or anything remotely familiar. The strange, abstract shapes imbued in saturated, hyper colors seem to remove us from the known human experience altogether in an attempt to understand something far, far beyond. Bob Lazar, I’m a believer, and this one’s for you.