Nostalgic Progress – A New York Fashion Week Review


Caroline Calvert

This past week, the world’s most prominent designers hit the Big Apple for the 79th semi-annual fashion week. It’s no surprise that there was a lot riding on the designers to produce next-level art that would live up to the chaotic nature of the year. Artists took wildly different approaches, with some pulling from nostalgic memories of the recent past, and others providing a commentary on the current state of the world. 

As the lights centered onto the Tom Ford runway, the crowd eagerly awaited for the latest visions to emerge. As a playlist of the best 80s jams filled the room, glitzy dresses and plenty of stiff shoulder pads flowed onto the stage. Ford made sure to exaggerate the already bright aesthetic of the era by adding sequins, a large statement in his line. Much like how the 80s was the age of exuberant nightlife, the models looked like disco balls come to life. Showcased were large statement earrings of the decade—huge in comparison to the models’ heads. Modern silhouettes were incorporated into the looks, with alterations made to the garments to show more skin. Large cutouts just below the chest gave the clothing an interesting geometric appearance, an homage to the popular 3-dimensional patterns that were popular during the 80s. Ford also explored the office-chic side of the period with fashionable blazers and work suits flooding the runway. The 80s experimented with the idea of incorporating fun styles into the workplace, the very definition of combining work and play. Ford reminds us with this collection that if the 80s could influence any part of culture today, it would be to allow the same nightlife persona to come through in the office. Despite Ford’s beautifully crafted collection, the best part of the show was who was in attendance. Madonna, the very definition of the 80s, attended the show. If any more convincing was needed to prove the brilliance of this line, Madonna’s presence surely confirms it. Ford essentially reimagined the influence of Madonna’s fashion in the 80s; Madonna was the woman who popularized statement earrings and adorned larger-than-life outfits for every outing. The idol herself endorsed a fashion line that centers around much of what she created, making her stamp of approval all the more meaningful. 

Elena Velez took a much different, much more modern approach to her Spring 2023 line. Her creations are akin to a cage—trapping the wearer within its grasp. Velez intended on aggressive designs for her collection; the pieces represent how women are trapped with living in a body that is fetishized. The garments are unpleasant to look at because that is how it feels to be looked at: as lesser than those who are meant to be equals. The models lumber down the runway with tired, almost blank expressions, portraying how truly painful and exhausting it is to simply exist as a woman in today’s society. They cannot even emote to express the suffering they feel wearing the garment. Under certain pieces, the undergarments of the models can be seen. This is intentional, demonstrating how even when existing in a state of discomfort and anguish, all society seems to care about is how visually appealing a woman is. After a year where women’s rights have been questioned and stripped away, Velez seems to hint at a future in which the direction of equality takes a turn for the worse. These pieces remind the audience that if something is not done soon to counteract the violence and emotional turmoil women go through daily, the suffering of half of the population will never cease. 

With 2023 right around the corner, these designers have the power to influence the world’s cultural trajectory. While some may find comfort in reveling in the past, it is important to look forward to what new possibilities society holds. Americans can no longer ignore the inequality facing millions of women in the United States today if they wish to enact change. While it is always pleasurable to enjoy the past and its gifts to culture today, one must not forget to look to the future before it passes by.