10 Best Runway Shows of 2014

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2014 was a great year for fashion. More than that, it was a great year for fashion shows, with more and more designers embracing a theatricality that enhanced their designs. No still photos, here. 2014 was all about how clothes moved in space, be they wool coats or silk capes, and for that we’ll need video. These are the 10 best fashion shows of the year, each one displaying a fabulous collection of clothes, flawlessly presented.

1. The Blonds Fall 2014 Collection

The Blonds have long staked their claim as the camp cartoonists of modern fashion, bringing lurid, electric colors together with saucy silhouettes. Never ones to hide an influence when it could be stitched in rhinestone on their sleeves, their Fall 2014 collection was a delightful take on Catwoman, the Joker, and, in a fun mid-collection twist, the Pink Panther.

Utilizing city-scape screenprints, graphitti-ed poodle skirts, bejeweled shoulder accessories cats, and more stretch-vinyl than you can crack a whip at, The Blonds have made true supervillian couture. Simultaneously camp and chic, classy and trashy, Batman ’66 bold and Gotham grim, as only The Blonds can do.

2. Christian Siriano Fall 2014 Collection

Ever since he shimmied his way to a win on Project Runway six years ago, Christian Siriano has been The Boy Who Would Be King, backing up his proclamations of greatness with serious design chops. His professional career has been more or less successful attempts to merge the operatic fantasy that is his trademark with more conservative—and wearable—fashion conventions. Sadly, one cannot live by ruffs alone.

Siriano’s Fall 2014 Collection is his latest stab at the Crown of Respectability, evoking mid-century Dior and Saint Laurent. But Siriano’s too much of a rebel to be a proper retrosexual. His indulgence in his personal peccadilloes of volume and texture make the clothes feel more like a cover song than a faithful reproduction. This collection has been referred to as signs of Siriano’s “maturity,” but don’t believe it; he’s just getting better at packaging.

3. Chanel Spring 2015 Couture Collection

When a designer of a certain age wishes to evoke youth culture, the results tend to look faintly ridiculous, a mishmash of what young people were wearing several decades ago crushed together with a infantilized idea of “the kids today.”

Leave it to Karl Lagerfeld to not deny this eventuality, but to lean into it. Largerfeld mixes the bulky silhouettes of modern street-wear with cropped structured jackets, tightly-laced corsets and loose, formless dresses. The collection looks futuristic, but a very specific, 60’s-flavored, unabashedly girly version of the future. It’s 2001 by way of Sailor Moon.

And yet, it all works, from he Easter egg palette to the profusion of sparkles to professional longhair Sébastien Tellier laying down beats both Barberella and Jackie Kennedy could dance to. Lagerfeld may not have avoided the pitfalls of an aging designer, but damn if he didn’t make those pitfalls work for him.

4. Nicholas K Fall 2014 Collection

No one loves draped layers more than Nicholas Kunz, so its fun to watch her pull back on her dreamy, earth-toned aesthetic a bit and embrace her inner post-apocolyptic goth-ninja. The clothes now hang in jagged, sharp angles. And there’s less layers, presumably so that one can more effectively pull off one’s goth-ninjitsu skillz (best move: the dreary roundhouse).

But despite all the exposed midrifts, the collection feels pleasingly heavy. Kunz is making up the lack of quantity of layers with quality, giving each piece a tangible solidity. The expansive hoods and broad collars echo this sentiment, creating a weighty collection that feels as modern as it is resilient. Karl Lagerfeld has to filter street-clothes through sci-fi confection; Kunz makes clothes that are ready to tear up the street.

5. Tadashi Shoji Fall 2014 Collection

Tadashi Shoji’s love affair with lace hit its peak with this collection. No longer content with usual lace patterns and materials available, Shoji turned to science to give him more options. The result: laser-cut micro-suede dresses bearing intricate Moorish-influenced designs. The lush opulence didn’t end there. The collection was littered with rich velvet capes and diaphanous skirts, the whole experience bringing to mind the wardrobe of forgotten, romantic royalty.

Shoji’s never been one to shy away from color, but everything seemed more intense here, as if the joy of finally achieving a life’s pursuit of the perfect lace dress spilled onto every other article of clothing. Few collections this year offered such pure, unadulterated happiness.

6. Stéphane Rolland Spring 2014 Couture Collection

Another retro-future inspired collection? Must be something in the water. But where Lagerfeld zigs to girly skirts and sneakers, Stéphane Rolland zags to dominant womanly pants. Wonder Woman would feel just at home in one of these ensembles as Solange Knowles did at her wedding. How did Rolland manage to create such powerful clothes out of such airy-fairy fabrics? Must be all the capes.

And what capes! Rare is the couture collection designed to be worn, rarer still is the couture collection designed to move while worn. Still photos just cannot do these clothes justice. Combining flowing fabrics and architecture details has always been in Rolland’s bag of tricks, but results have always felt mismatched and piecemeal (which, to be fair, was clearly the point for some to them). Here, all of Rolland’s quirks come together. Never before has the phrase “moved like a dream” felt more apt.

7. Thom Browne Fall 2014 Menswear Collection

Speaking of dreams, take in Thom Browne’s indelible tweed fantasia, won’t you? Few designer enjoy the idea of “the runway as performance” as much as Browne does, and this acid take on Wind In The Willows meets Peter and the Wolf is one of his best. While the artfully-done animal hats and masks threaten to steal the show, they don’t quite overtake Browne’s suits. Marrying fastidious tailoring with rough, fringed seams, the textured jackets of the first half of the show would be worth marveling at even without elephant and badger heads above them.

Love those animal heads, though. That rabbit mask especially.

Browne theatrics extend to the clothes, for while his “animals” are more or less dressed ready-to-wear, his “hunters” clothes are voluminous in the extreme. While some of this is no doubt for the joke of it, what better way to display the bold etched leaf pattern than on as much fabric as possible? Brown may be fashion’s funniest madman, but there’s method in every pratfall.

8. Moschino Fall 2014

Moschino has never steered away from trash culture, but this may have the been the first time they’ve embraces actual garbage as inspiration. Wrapping models in oversized snack wrappers and McDonald’s packaging iconography has far more wit than it should, and the fact that each piece manages to evoke its source inspiration and it look like a real outfit speaks to the skill of the designers and their dedication to this couture-Borrowers aesthetic. And this is before you even get to the coats and dresses done up to look like someone skinned Sponge Bob Squarepants, goofy mug and all. But the most elegant bit of self-parody has to be the black leather ensembles in the middle of the collection. The Moschino belt-buckle has become ubiquitous in recent years, and these outfits, covered head to the toe in the brass letters, a literal fashion masochist. Bondage as branding. Or perhaps, the other way around.

9. DKNY Fall 2014 Collection

Karl Lagerfeld can’t do youth street wear without making it out of spun space-sugar, and Nickolas K leans too hard in the other direction, making clothes to survive the end of the world in. Is there any designer who can actually translate what people are wearing today into high fashion? Oddly enough, DKNY is here to pick up that particular torch. Rather than filter the slouchy combination of hip-hop, vintage, activewear styles that Millennials favor these days, DKNY merely enhanced it. Using huge swaths of leather and oversized prints, DKNY upscaled the materials while keeping the shapes and nature of the clothes intact. If ain’t broke, right? So. did DKNY managed to keep the energy of street-style clothing in a runway collection? Just look at clear enjoyment the non-models have wearing these clothes. Looks like they nailed it.

10. Betsey Johnson Spring 2015 Collection

May the gods bless Betsey Johnson.

This collection was presented as a tribute to queer marriage, and boy howdy, does it deliver. Three parts glam, two parts camp, and just a little bit rock-n-roll, every piece of this show is a delight (though it never quite tops the high set by the fringe-skirted bride and her butch sequined jacket and sports-bra wearing partner. Those two are too adorable)! Johnson may never truly leave the ‘80s behind, but in a collection flirting with drag as much as this one, she’s managed to turn that bug into a feature. The result is queer-chic, with a tongue firmly in its cheek. It all works, right down to drag superstar Sharon Needles in a wedding dress at the end, wielding a bouqet like one of Charlie’s Angels. Like Thom Browne, Johnson understands the latter half of the phrase “fashion show.” Other designers may have had better fashion, but Johnson had the best show.

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