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NYFW 2021 Is The Chaos I Can’t Live Without

The industry’s standout event lives on despite challenges.

( From left to right: @maisie_wilen, @annasui, @casablancabrand / Instagram )


In: Twiggy eye makeup, knit wear, social distancing and exploring the space between the masculine and feminine in all of us.

Out: Tie dye, environmentally unethical practices in fashion and possibly mini bags. (Although I’m not quite ready to let go of that one yet.) Who sets the standard? The designers showcased at New York Fashion Week, of course.

A truly romantic occasion, New York Fashion Week kicked off on Valentine’s Day. Iconic names launched the event, such as Jason Wu’s unexpected bodega-themed Coca Cola collaboration, and Imitation of Christ’s very literal and slightly unsettling interpretation of ‘having a heart’.

The pandemic didn’t cause any shortage of inspired collections and shows. However, the lineup definitely caused a shift in looks. A handful of American designers have gradually distanced themselves from NYFW, a movement led by Tom Ford. There was a definite absence of high-profile names, which opened a unique stage for smaller designers to shine.

The current climate has forced these designers to exceed general expectations. Whether it be through groundbreaking design or activism through garments, many rose to the occasion. (But naturally, a couple collections fell on the other side of the coin, providing tired and unnecessary ensembles. I’m looking at you, Jonathan Simkhai and Sandy Liang. It had to be said.)

We’ve sorted through the array of live and digital presentations to show you the magic moments at NYFW.


Anna Sui

As an Anna Sui stan, I am most definitely biased. But that doesn’t take away from how this collection truly excited me. It’s the moment. These pieces are lush, mod and groovy. The collection was titled ‘Phantasmadelic’; If Bowie and Elaine from “The Love Witch” had a baby, it would be this.

The pieces were multi-patterned, velvet-clad and jewel toned.

According to the brand’s Instagram page,“Anna drew inspiration from the 1968 film ‘Wonderwall’-- a scientist peeps through a hole in his wall and discovers a colorful dazzling world."

Dazzling indeed with a definite wearability. I can see many of these pieces working their way into your Instagram feeds next fall.

Prabal Gurung

I’m into it. Bury me in corsets, pearls and pink flare pants, I’m begging you. This collection presents the question, “Can you commit to love?”

In response to the recent spike in anti-Asian racism, and the persistent discrimination against all minorities, Prabal Gurung contrasts his overtly sweet and amorous pieces with a plead for change.

“Our presence is threatening to white fragility and supremacists when all we want is coexistence and celebration of us the way you have forced us to celebrate you for decades,” Gurung said. This collection is surely a celebration, stunning in both execution and message.

Proenza Schouler

Alright, alright, we have to talk about it. Ella Emhoff is my latest obsession, and chances are, she’s yours as well. The 21-year-old stepdaughter of Kamala Harris is making a name for herself outside of political circles as she made her runway debut with Proenza. This collection has received a decent amount of attention, and it's likely due to Emhoff’s stylish, androgynous presence. However, I don’t think there’s a lot to say about the collection itself. The pieces have classic silhouettes with an earthy palette. It’s obviously lovely, yet painfully boring when sat next to other looks this season. Kisses to Ella and that sick leather trench though. I’m free literally anytime.

Maisie Wilen

Skintight, weightless and whimsical. Maisie Wilen’s FW collection is nothing short of wonderful. I’m admittedly a little confused by the pieces. There is an unmistakable tropical vibe consistent throughout the collection. The hesitation comes from the fact that my first impression categorizes these outfits as Spring/Summer. However, we’ve undeniably been deprived of a true opportunity to embrace these seasons due to COVID. I think Wilen has created something that transcends F/W and for that, I’m intrigued. I think there’s a lot to be said about the element of intrigue, and these pieces have it.

Are they what one expects from a fall/winter collection? Not quite. But through the use of exotic florals and peachy hues, I hear Enya playing in my head as I scroll through images of models walking on water.


Mark my words, if The Queen’s Gambit gets renewed for a second season, wardrobe would be drooling over this collection. This is a very themed ensemble; modeled after a Grand Prix, it's an intense visual of late nights spent in Vegas.

Cars, dice, drinks and dancing. Maybe I love it so much because this lifestyle seems like a memory, or maybe I love it because it's just that good. Regardless, I think it’s a turning point for this brand and I hope Casablanca starts getting the attention it deserves.

Another show season, come and gone. It’s bittersweet, but I’m ready to see these pieces transition to the real world. Honorable mentions go to Batsheva, Collina Strada, Staud and Private Policy. Until we meet again, NYFW. You’re a mess and I love you.


Madeline Murphy is an Online Editor at Rowdy Magazine. She’s currently studying Journalism with a minor in Women’s Studies. Madeline can be found making Apple Music playlists, trying Nigella Lawson recipes and binging SATC. She’s fiercely passionate about social justice and the power of words. Her Instagram is @maduhlinemurphy


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