My Top Ten Shows of Fall 2013

Hello again! Now that the Fall 2013 shows are just a distant memory (until they show up in the August issues of magazines), here are my top ten shows for the season:

#1 - Undercover - Jun Takahashi has been one of my favorite designers for years now, ever since I noticed the breathtaking craftsmanship and smartly subversive detailing in his Spring 2007 collection. After a rather unremarkable collaboration with Uniqlo, he's returned to the runway for his Undercover line. Anatomy detailing, such as ribcage insets on a button-up, are typical of his slightly macabre aesthetic. Men's shirt collars multipled to become dresses, without even reminding me of Viktor & Rolf, which is all the more impressive. Lingerie morphed into vests and skirts. You absolutely need to zoom into the details to fully appreciate this fine outing.

#2 - Christopher Kane – With PPR (or Kering, as it has just been renamed) as his new majority stakeholder, Kane outdid himself and put on a show that showed how he plans to spend all that new money. Extremely gratuitous plays with texture, from the most incredible furs to the unsettling finale of filament tentacles. The cool camouflage prints and brain scan embroidery were typically subversive Kane touches.

#3 - Hermès – This surprised me. Christophe Lemaire has suddenly proven himself to be a master at discreet luxury, bringing the label to places that Jean-Paul Gaultier never seemed quite able to reach. Everything is silently aching to be touched, a total meld of textiles that the rest of us can only dream of cloaking ourselves in. No American could put out something like this without falling into the trap of pastiche, but Lemaire totally hit it out of the park.

#4 - Marc Jacobs – Olafur Eliasson inspired the huge sun hanging over the circular stage. A simple, melancholy show that brought to mind his previous “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” show, but much more grown-up and less strictly nostalgic. It felt new and unexpected without gimmicky styling. A totally solid return to his roots, a palate cleanser that perfectly closed out the chaos of New York Fashion Week.

#5 - Narciso Rodriguez - It's not that Rodriguez is at all a forgotten designer, but I just feel he doesn't get as much love as I think he deserves. He consistently puts out smart clothes that still bring an artistic, subtle glamour to the daily wardrobes of working women. Any woman who's been following Raf Simons at Dior with fawning adoration, or Jil Sander's return to her label, or Akris or any of the best European designers, should definitely look into getting more Narciso into her closet.

#6 - Prada - A woman undone, and totally mysterious. I described it at the time in a text to a friend as "weird, a little disturbing, domestic, feline, sexy, a little Hitchcock, a little Wong Kar-Wai, a little aligned with Marc Jacobs!!!!" I stand by initial reaction. Also, phenomenal casting - Kirsten Owen, where have you been hiding all these years?

#7 - Céline - Phoebe Philo, along with Claire Waight Keller at Chloé and Stella McCartney, make up the trio of fantastic female designers living in London and showing in Paris. Philo, however, is at the front of the pack, showing yet another desirable collection of modern staples, full of real sensibility without a hint of vulgarity. It's about as far from this season's Saint Laurent woman as one can get, and for that we are all eternally grateful.

#8 - Balenciaga – Alexander Wang’s debut was small but strong, with painted, crackled marbling on the runway, repeated everywhere from the shoes to the furs. A brand new identity for Balenciaga's accessories will absolutely silence those who questioned his appointment to the storied house, while those beautifully sculpted coats are sure to fly out the door.

#9 - Proenza Schouler - The Proenza Schouler boys not only brought Sasha Pivovarova back to the runway (can you believe she didn't even walk Prada?), but they finally seem to be getting a good grip on the slightly older, slightly less "downtown" customer, the woman who is their real bread-and-butter customer. Between their savoir-faire with accessories (including a new shoe licensing deal with Iris, the same people behind shoes for Jil Sander, Ann Demeulemeester, Marc Jacobs, Chloé, and Rodarte) and their more sophisticated aesthetic, they're really aiming to have (yet another) breakout year.

#10 - Gareth Pugh - Impossibly beautiful, incredibly dramatic coats, from white to black with an interlude of deep blue. Branch-embroidered white coats at the opening are sure to sell. The finale lineup of showpieces crafted from garbage bags, densely connected to resemble hedges, reminded me of Alexander McQueen's Horn of Plenty collection in the best way. Rich, romantic, with the perfect balance between dark and light.

Honorable Mentions:

- Jil Sander - Strong, rigorous silhouettes, some real best-selling pieces for sure

- Derek Lam - Perfect American sportswear, totally effortless

- Dior by Raf Simons - Lovely as usual, but where were all the black models?

- Givenchy - Cool sweatshirts, as usual, but also surprisingly, deeply emotional

- Jason Wu - Hitting his mark every time, with plenty of mature, unexpected sex appeal[gallery ids="575,568,570,571,572,573,567,576,574,569"]

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