To make the understatement of the century: This year in fashion was like no other. But philosophizing about what 2020 means for “the future of fashion” is less interesting than simply looking at fashion’s weird, beautiful, chaotic present. The first two months of the year brought the normal stampede of global fashion shows, and then the world stopped—and designers with it, in some cases. The ongoing pandemic and the protests of the summer gave birth to digital Fashion Week, a strange and dystopian experiment that nonetheless brought some joy, lots of pretension, and some pretty fantastic clothes.
It’s perhaps an impossible task to say which fashion shows were the best or most important. But because trouble is fun, I decided to rank them—admittedly this is a moronically subjective exercise, and very likely I’ve missed many people’s favorites. But in a year when the fashion industry convulsed into a funhouse-mirror image of itself, looking back on these two seasons of fashion shows tells us a lot about what happened this year, what mattered, and what things might look like in a year—or, at the very least, what we might be wearing.
15. Rick Owens Fall 2020 menswear
Sometimes I think I don’t miss fashion shows—the waiting, the weird weather (it’s always weird!), the traffic, the wastefulness. But then I think about something like Rick Owens’s bombastic show in Paris last January, where two of the Migos fist-bumped over a power-shoulder coat, and I sigh with nostalgia. The invitations were a heavy piece of engraved metal, which yours truly dropped on the concrete floor in the silent moment just before the show began, and everyone made fun of me for the rest of the week. It was precisely the kind of unwitting look-at-me-don’t-look-at-me performance that Owens was twistedly parodying with those huge, pleadingly boisterous shoes and shapes—and the kind of dressing-as-a-performance that I’m guessing will shape the next year in men’s style.
14. Yohji Yamamoto Fall 2020 menswear
This year, I began tracking what I coined “the Yohjissance”—both a renewed interest in the designer’s archival work, and a fresh sense of energy from the brand and the man himself. It all began with this show in January, where the designer’s oversized, fluid tailoring and mischievous sensibility struck me as almost alien in our self-serious, try-hard fashion world. It was so sophisticated, so contemplative, and done with so much intellectual integrity that I felt embarrassed thinking about anything else. This was an unusually strong collection—the ragged, painted knits and crispy-but-fluid gabardine suiting were some of his best pieces in years—but it also made me nostalgic for a period in fashion when you were a Yohji acolyte, or a Slimaniac, or a Raf guy, and pledged fealty to that person like you would a saint or a knight. That’s so appealing in an era when luxury brands are designing their logos into homogeneous oblivion—and cool in a way perhaps only still available to Yamamoto.
13. Maison Margiela Artisanal Fall 2020
Nick Knight has spent the past two decades preparing himself for this very moment. An early pioneer of digitizing the sluggish fashion industry with his platform, ShowStudio, Knight created a video for Maison Margiela’s Artisanal show that was like his magnum opus: a postmodern hour-long freak show about the process of making a fashion collection, triumphantly demonstrating the kind of storytelling that the video medium opens up for clothes, and indulging in the chaos of digital communication.