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NYFW roundup: #MeToo conversations, immersive runways and supersized robots

Models close the Prabal Gurung AW18 show
Models close the Prabal Gurung AW18 show

It was a quieter New York Fashion Week season than usual, as big-name designers including Altuzarra and Tommy Hilfiger chose to decamp to other cities – Paris and Milan, respectively – to host their much buzzed-about runway shows. Even fashion week parties, which in the past provided magazine fodder for weeks to come, have also been scaled down, with the industry seemingly more subdued in general.

That didn’t stop various buzzworthy moments however, including subtle nods to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, various more immersive runway presentations, and a dash of the futuristic with Google TiltBrush and an oversized robot.

Here we highlight some of the most interesting conversations that took place, and where there was still room left for improvement…

Cultural statements

There was little direct acknowledgement of the powerful conversation around the #MeToo movement, but shows attempted to create a stage for female empowerment. For Tom Ford, the approach was literal and included models strutting down the runway donning shoulder pads and a “Pussy Power” handbag. For Prabal Gurung, which The Washington Post has previously described as the “most woke man in fashion”, it was a nod to the #TimesUp conversation as models closed the show as a group, carrying white roses.

Tom Ford AW18
Tom Ford AW18

Also alluding to the message of empowerment, designer Jonathan Simkhai presented a Suffragette-inspired collection, while Kesha’s song on speaking out on harassment, “Praying”, greeted guests.

Following the second yearly Woman’s March, which took place globally on January 20, Brother Vellies teamed up with a roster of labels, such as Clare V. and Rachel Comey, to design a capsule collection benefitting the march and Planned Parenthood.

Meanwhile designer Rebecca Minkoff, who was due to give birth to her third child during the week, forwent a formal presentation, instead opting to showcase her see-now-buy-now on 20 powerful women online. That cast includes members of the Women’s March committee, as well as actress Zosia Mamet and fashion presenter Zanna Roberts Rassi. The designer also teamed up with networking app Bumble Bizz to host a speaker night titled “Trailblazers: Women who have started their own company or have forged their own way within their industry”.

The topic of diversity was ever-present during NYFW too, though perhaps rather positively it was less buzzed about as more designers included a variation of ethnicities and sizes on their runway. Designers such as Christian Siriano and one of this season’s favourites, Eckhaus Latta, enlisted models at each end of the spectrum. Meanwhile model Kendall Jenner hosted an Adidas Originals presentation that featured a colourful cast and the showcase of the brand’s first hijab.

Alternative runways

In addition to the designers whose presence was missed in New York this season, many others moved away from formal runway shows to explore new ways to engage with a new, savvier audience.

Kirsten Dunst for Rodarte AW18
Kirsten Dunst for Rodarte AW18

Adidas teamed up with trendy New York label and lifestyle store VFiles to host a multimedia photoshoot at the Terminal 5 venue in Hell’s Kitchen, for instance. As music played for partygoers, models stood on stage posing against white backdrops, thus partaking in a live photoshoot. The immersive event aimed to respond to a community who wants to participate, rather than watch from the sidelines, said Julie Anne Quay, founder of VFiles.

Online, Zac Posen launched his collection via a photoshoot starring actress and friend Katie Holmes. Similarly the Rodarte sisters published the “Women that Inspire Us” lookbook, which features a pregnant Kirsten Dunst and young R&B duo Chloe x Halle, among others.

Perhaps cleverly steering clear from live presentations, which have in the past not received the best of reviews, Kanye West leveraged his online fandom by releasing his Yeezy Season Six collection online, in a lookbook starring women such as Paris Hilton and actress Sarah Snyder dressed up as Kim Kardashian look-a-likes, as well as the woman herself.

The future is here?

In a week primed for entertainment and participation to take place, designers were surprisingly timid when experimenting with technology this season.

Irina Shayk and robot companion at Philipp Plein AW18

As previously reported, Rebecca Taylor teamed up with Google’s Tilt Brush to create an immersive in-store environment for customers to enjoy her collection in, while Badgley Mischka harnessed technology to better receive their immediate audience’s feedback.

Meanwhile, Nicole Miller teamed up with AI and image recognition company RevelGlam to pilot their software on her runway show. The software analyses insights from fashion shows as well as celebrity sightings and influencer activities in order to predict trends.

Never one to shy away from the spotlight, it was German designer Philipp Plein who became a major topic of conversation however; giving the week a much-needed injection of futuristic tech. In a display of extravagance he has become known for, model Irina Shayk entered the runway from a spaceship and strutted alongside a giant bot with the designer’s logo plastered all over it.

In a week where most designers arguably played safe on many fronts – from not taking a truly clear stand on serious conversations to engaging with new technologies – Plein’s stunt may have trumped the collection being shown, but it simultaneously provided an irreverent and timely take on the future.

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M&S wins Christmas with message of festive female power

Marks & Spencer's Mrs Claus in its Christmas with Love campaign
Marks & Spencer’s Mrs Claus in its Christmas with Love campaign

Move over John Lewis, Marks & Spencer may just have beaten you to the title of best Christmas campaign in UK retail this year.

“Christmas with Love” is not only a heartwarming festive tale, but a message of female empowerment at a time of political dismay coming out of the recent US elections. In an anti-Trump statement, its heroine is none other than Mrs Claus herself.

A feminist declaration, it sees Oscar-nominated actress Janet McTeer, sneaking off on her own secret mission during Christmas Eve night, while Santa is busy away on his sleigh. Taking several cues from James Bond – snowmobile, underground transport hub, helicopter ride and more – Mrs Claus arrives at the home of a little boy to make his Christmas wish come true.

Unlike her husband, she skips all the difficult bits, like sliding down the chimney, and instead acts the ultimate logical superhero by striding purposefully the front door. It’s bold, modern and completely kickass, which supports much of the sentiment about it across social media.

The three-minute tale was created by Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, and directed by Tom Hooper, of The King’s Speech, Elizabeth I and Les Miserables fame. It’s an ambitious piece of cinematic storytelling, as others like Burberry have strived for this season.

Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, executive director of customer, marketing and M&S.com, said: “Our ‘Christmas with Love’ campaign is a brand new approach for M&S this year, one that has been created with our customers and for our customers, with their feedback at the heart of our strategy. Our ambition is for M&S’s customers across the nation to experience something special this festive season.”

It launches during a challenging time for the retailer, after it announced the closure of 60 stores and a fall in pretax profit of 88% during the first six months of this financial year. Never before has there been such a need for it to turn to fulfilling what its customers really want.

“Mrs Claus is the result of thousands of conversations that we had with our customers to understand what they want from M&S – which is warmth, empathy and a touch of humour presented in a modern and contemporary way. She epitomises the huge efforts our customers put in to making the festive season special and represents the love and togetherness that customers want to feel and see in abundance at Christmas,” Bousquet-Chavanne added.

The ad has already been watched over 4 million times on YouTube. It is supported online by a wealth of web content and fun social messaging (as per the below) backed by Mrs Claus with the #LoveMrsClaus hashtag. All of them continue in her note of female empowerment, even the replies being sent to individual users commenting on the ad. She will also appear in a spot giving style tips to TV presenter Dawn O’Porter and Christmas decoration suggestions to Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer.

The campaign comes of course hot on the heels of the US election and presumably a hope from the retailer that it would support the country’s first female president from afar had Hillary Clinton won. The #imwithher hashtag surrounding the presidential election is undoubtedly a great fit with this same message.

The concept of feminist marketing has been a big focus from brands across the board in recent years, including from others such as H&M and Netflix this autumn. John Lewis also nodded to the results of the US election, as well as Brexit, with a quote from Craig Inglis, customer director, that read: “2016 has certainly been quite a year, so we hope our advert will make people smile.”
It does that too, but for the women out there, M&S manages to go that one step further and gently remind us that hope is not completely lost, after all.