NEW YORK — If we learned anything from the 2006 film “Devil Wears Prada,” it’s that what we wear and see in stores didn’t end up there haphazardly.
In one of the movie’s most memorable scenes, high-power fashion editor Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) pontificates about her assistant’s (Anne Hathaway) choice of blue sweater (“it’s actually cerulean”) and its journey from the red carpet to the runway to retail.
“It’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry,” Streep’s Anna Wintour-inspired character preaches. “In fact, you’re wearing a sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room.”
Fashion Week in New York City wrapped up Sept. 13, with more shows unfolding across London, Paris and Milan in the coming weeks.
With so many shows in full swing, it’s only a matter of time before a fresh crop of trends trickles down to stores. But how do fashion editors and store buyers interpret the looks that designers send down the runway and turn them into something wearable for the masses? Here are tips and tricks for how you can analyze a runway show (or the photos you see from one on social media or in a magazine) like a fashion insider. Miranda would be proud!
• A collection should tell a story: Like an enthralling movie or a good book, a strong runway show should have a beginning, middle and end. Looks within a collection typically share similar traits, such as color palette, texture or silhouette, yet they should evolve as the runway show progresses. Therefore, a solid collection should be cohesive in its overall look but build in drama, from more understated or casual pieces early on to ones with an extra “wow” factor for the finale. Sometimes, a creative backdrop or soundtrack help set the mood, too. Critics and buyers also compare a collection to a designer’s past work to determine whether it offers something creative and refreshing, while staying true to the brand’s aesthetic.
• Look for common threads: Some seasons, it seems as though designers all draw from the same inspiration pool. When a color, print, theme or cut keep popping up in collection after collection, there’s a good chance that it will turn into a trend. These ebb and flow, though, depending upon how wearable (and marketable) they are. (For example, ’70s influences have been turning up on the runway since early 2015 — and are still going strong for fall 2017. In other cases, a trend might fizzle after a single season.) If a celebrity takes a liking to a particular trend, that helps its staying power.
• Show pieces vs. what’s actually wearable: Some things seen on the runway are exotic, extreme or just, well, strange — and that’s the point. They’re attention-grabbing garments, not something that’s expected to be lifted right from the runway and worn in reality. While there are lots of instances where an outfit is sold exactly as it’s styled on the runway (this is common for ready-to-wear collections), sometimes watered-down versions of pieces make it to retail. Other times, an outfit might not see the light of stores at all if it fails to attract much buzz from buyers or on social media at Fashion Week.
• From runway, to retail: If you see something you love, you might have to wait a while before you can actually buy it. Traditionally, New York Fashion Week’s September shows preview trends for the coming spring and summer, whereas the February ones unveil what’s to come for the following fall and winter. However, in recent seasons, more and more designers are taking advantage of the spike in exposure their brands get during Fashion Week and have started offering some or all of their new designs immediately after their runway debut. (Banana Republic, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Rebecca Minkoff and Club Monaco are a few examples.)
• Hair and makeup matter, too: Clothing at Fashion Week isn’t all that shapes what’s in style. The hair, nail and makeup looks worn by models also impact industry trends. Designers collaborate with stylists — sometimes for months! — to put together beauty looks that complement their collections. In turn, these styles influence hair and makeup trends on the red carpet, in fashion magazines and, ultimately, at your local salon.