We’re only six months into 2016, and already so much has happened in the worlds of fashion and style. We started the year with a big bang: the first time a presentation during NYFW took place at Madison Square Garden, which, because Kanye West, also doubled as a listening party for one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year. The event also spawned the resurgence of tour merch as a legitimate trend, with enough limited edition product to make every hypebeast’s wildest dreams come true. And if they weren’t releasing concert tees, musicians were flexing in other fashionable ways, casually resuscitating a footwear brand, like Rihanna, or partnering with a huge global retailer to launch a new brand, like Beyonce.
Fashion also kept it reliably weird and awesomely unpredictable in the first half of the year, capped by a $300 T-shirt with a DHL logo that became a status symbol. One of the biggest trends of last year, unisex clothing, has continued to bend gender lines, landing Jaden Smith in a huge women’s campaign in a skirt. And, of course, we said farewell to one of our most divisive designers, Hedi Slimane, who slipped back into anonymity after leaving Saint Laurent. It will be quite a feat if the second half of the year can top the first; for now, these are the Best Style Moments of 2016 (So Far).
Yeezy Season 3 Hits MSG
On Feb. 11, 2016, Kanye West presented both his Yeezy Season 3 collection and played his The Life of Pablo album for the first time ever at Madison Square Garden. The event, first confirmed by Kanye about a week before, promised to be an extravaganza. And it was. Young Thug modeled. So did Naomi Campbell and Lil Yachty. Kid Cudi, Pusha T, the Kardashians, Anna Wintour, Travis Scott, Lil’ Kim, and Nick Young all attended the show. Kanye thanked Carine Roitfeld for being a “real bitch.” It was the event to be at during New York Fashion Week. In fact, fans even waited outside of MSG the day of the show, in the sub-freezing temperatures, just to score tickets. But what was most impressive about this wasn’t the spectacle and hype of it all. It was that Kanye—a rapper who’s passionate about fashion—finally melded his music and design careers together in a way that, at long last, actually made sense. —Karizza Sanchez
Jaden Smith Fronts the Louis Vuitton Women's Campaign
It’s Jaden Smith’s post-gender world, and we’re all just sitting here in a skort, living in it. On Jan. 2, while we were still shaking off our New Year’s Eve hangovers, Louis Vuitton creative director Nicolas Ghesquière casually posted a photo to his Instagram of young Jaden, confirming rumors that he had tapped the Hollywood royalty as the face of his new campaign for Spring. But the rumors hadn’t predicted that Jaden would actually be the face of the Louis Vuitton women’s campaign, alongside models Jean Campbell, Sarah Brannon, and Rianne Van Rompaey. By the beginning of the year, Jaden had already been experimenting with incorporating women’s clothing into his wardrobe for some time; the LV campaign was a high-profile stamp of approval that what he was doing was working.
Turns out, the first half of 2016 would mark a year when the concept of unisex or genderless clothing was creeping into the mainstream more than ever before. Fast fashion mega-retailer Zara introduced a genderless collection into their stores, as did GUESS. Though neither chased any clothing concept that might be too hard for their existing customers to grasp, sticking to the jeans and the sweats that they’re used to, it was undoubtedly a conversation-starter; for once, the progressive minds at brands like Gucci and Acne might not mind that lower-priced labels are picking up their design cues, if it leads to a significant paradigm shift. And one day, when we’re all wearing dresses over leggings, a middle-aged Jaden Smith will sit back in his floating chair, laugh, and say he told us so. —Steve Dool
John Elliott's NYFW Mic Drop
John Elliott is by no means a newcomer. Since founding his eponymous brand in April 2012, the young designer has carved his own lane in menswear. His Villain hoodies still sell out, and they sell out quickly. His collections are well received by the hallowed trifecta of consumers, editors, and buyers.
This past February, Elliott presented his Fall/Winter 2016 collection at the Skylight Clarkson Sq in downtown Manhattan near the tail end of New York Fashion Week: Men’s. The show was one of the most anticipated on the calendar, and for good reason. The collection showed the brand’s growth: In addition to core items like the Villain hoodies, it included a chalk flannel M65 jacket, a leather jacket made in collaboration with Japanese artisans at Blackmeans, paneled oversized hoodies that use sashiko stitching, and even the introduction of John Elliott footwear.
Collection aside, though, what makes this one of the best style moments of the year is what the show meant for New York Fashion Week: Men’s—a moment of genuine anticipation in the middle of a fashion week that editors and buyers are increasingly finding unnecessary or mediocre. John Elliott brought some excitement back to men’s fashion in America. —Karizza Sanchez
Puma Makes a Comeback
Is there anything Rihanna can’t do in 2016? She finally dropped the long-awaited ANTI, an album so self-assured in its boldness that ending with a song called “Sex With Me”—with a hook that consists of her repeating, simply, “sex with me, so amazing”—sounds like a logical conclusion. She garnered her 29th Top 10 single with “Needed Me.” She wiped the floor with every other performer at last month’s Billboard Music Awards with little more than a microphone and killer vocals, appeared in several music videos in a sheer top, and filmed a part in a new Luc Besson sci-fi epic. And then there’s the helping hand she loaned to Puma, the footwear brand often seen as the baby brother to industry giants like Nike and adidas.
“Helping hand” may actually be too gentle of a term for the huge boost Rihanna gave the company (sales in the first quarter of the year were up 7.3% to $973 million). Her Fenty Puma by Rihanna collection started off with a bang with a series of Creeper sneakers, which promptly sold out (the men’s styles, in addition to the women’s collection, it’s worth noting). And then came the $80 faux fur slides, a product so brilliantly simple and on-brand that no one cared they’d been done a million times before; those sold out within minutes, with some subsequently commanding four figures on eBay. This fall will see the retail launch of Rihanna’s apparel collection for Puma, which debuted during Fashion Week this February with an assist from top-tier models Gigi and Bella Hadid. Also on tap to help Puma and RiRi move some more units before the year is through? That other marketing godsend, Kylie Jenner, who is expected to appear in another wave of Puma promos soon. —Steve Dool
Supreme Opens a Shop in Paris
Thanks to brands like Thrasher, Vans, and, of course, the skate tee lovers at Dover Street Market, the line between skatewear and fashion has never been thinner. And, with the addition of Supreme’s new Paris location, the line for fashion and skatewear has never been longer, snaking along the Rue Barbette in Le Marais.
Supreme’s legend is built off scarcity. The brand keeps stock limited, never re-releases many of its most coveted pieces, and before 2016, had only three storefronts in the U.S. and Europe combined: one in Los Angeles, one in New York City, plus a single shop in London. The only place where a Supreme boutique is less rare than a BOGO tee is Japan, which has six locations, including three in Tokyo alone.
Ask anyone living outside of one of the handful of cities that have their own Supreme store and they’ll tell you that getting one is a game-changer. No longer do the brand’s crazed fans have to rely on proxies, battle the bots, or, more likely, pay absurd resale prices. Now, Parisian ‘Premeheads can go camp out overnight and fight off crowds hoping to cop the latest and greatest. Only Supreme would make Paris, the most fashionable city in the world, wait 22 years for a physical location. But, as we’re sure skateurs can attest, it was worth the wait. —Cameron Wolf
Concert Merch Takes Center Stage
Kanye West. Justin Bieber. Drake. This was indubitably the year for artist merch—and the pop-ups where said merch was sold. In March, Kanye West opened a pop-up shop in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood for his The Life of Pablo-inspired merch. (He did the same in Los Angeles in late May.) The following month, Drake and Beats by Dre set up “Views From the 6” shops in New York City, Toronto, and L.A. Then, the month after that, Justin Bieber teamed up with VFiles and Nomad for the “Purpose Tour” pop-up shops in NYC and Toronto, respectively.
In the case of West and Bieber, the temporary boutiques served as another outlet where their tour merch was sold. Drake, who hasn’t gone on tour just yet, instead used it as a promotional tool for his album, Views. Either way, what was most interesting about all three was that it wasn’t simply about artists selling merch to fans who waited hours to cop a tee or a hoodie. As Cool Teen Luka Sabbat told me at the TLOP pop-up in NYC, “It’s a movement… You’re buying into an experience.” —Karizza Sanchez
Hedi Slimane Leaves Saint Laurent
In a time when high-end designers like Riccardo Tisci and Olivier Rousteing build a loyal customer base for their brands by entertaining millions of Instagram followers with selfies, enjoying a spot amongst the Kardashian inner circle, and mugging for the cameras as often as the models in their campaigns—occasionally even appearing in ads alongside them—the reclusive creative director is something of an exception to the rule. But Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent was just that: Not completely press-averse, but definitely not press-friendly, he tended to let his work speak for itself. And it did, throughout his tenure at the helm of the legendary French label, which came to an end in April.
Slimane had nothing to prove when he took over Saint Laurent four years ago; he was already a successful designer and photographer with a dedicated following. Regardless, he got to work right away. In a short amount of time, he totally overhauled a well-known brand and turned it into something new, that still nodded to the label’s heritage—a trick many designers claim to do, but actually don’t. Under Slimane’s leadership, Saint Laurent doubled its revenue. He created what was undoubtedly the jacket of the season. Legions of cool kids around the world either saw their aesthetic translated onto the runway or adopted Slimane’s vision as their own guide for how to dress like West Coast rock royalty. His celebrity fans included everyone from Justin Bieber to Lady Gaga to Ellen DeGeneres to Sylvester Stallone (all of whom showed up to his farewell L.A. runway show in February). The term “end of an era” is often applied indiscriminately whenever someone departs a post they’ve held for some amount of time; but for Hedi Slimane leaving Saint Laurent, that phrase actually rings true for once. —Steve Dool
Beyonce Takes Us to Ivy Park
For a large group of people, Beyoncé launching her long-awaited athleisure brand Ivy Park wasn’t just one of the best style moments of 2016 so far. It’s the only style moment of 2016 that matters. You can find these people still listening to the masterpiece that is Lemonade and buzzing into anyone’s mentions who dares step to the queen. (Have you learned your lesson, Lululemon?) And for that reason alone, Ivy Park has to be on this list.
But it goes beyond Beyoncé’s loyal fanbase disavowing every brand but Ivy Park. In an age when celebrities flex their notoriety to sell exorbitantly priced graphic tees printed on Gildan stock, Bey once again shows us how it’s done. She teamed up with a massive brand—Topshop—to make clothing that was both desirable and appropriately priced. She also didn’t make her fans wait in line and hunt down the gear like it was an unfaithful man ignoring your text messages; she made a lot of Ivy Park, and stamped it all with a logo. She made many styles, for even more inventory, because she’s shaping a brand, not an ambassadorship or a one-off, hyped collab. “I wanted a joint venture,” Beyoncé told Elle. “I presented [Sir Phillip Green, the CEO of Topshop’s parent company] with the idea, the mission statement, the purpose, the marketing strategy—all in the first meeting. I think he was pretty blown away, and he agreed to the 50-50 partnership.”
Beyoncé has put all the pieces together for a successful brand that’s not reliant on its celebrity figurehead. All are encouraging signs that Ivy Park that has legs and, like Queen Bey and her backup dancers, has no problem showing them off. —Cameron Wolf
Vetements Presents Their First Men's Collection
If there’s ever been a design collective that can be described as “exhausting,” it’s Vetements. Hardly a week has gone by in 2016 when the French fashion collective didn’t make headlines for something—the exorbitantly priced Snoop Dogg tee, the sold out Titanic sweatshirt, the overanalyzed DHL top—that straddles the line between genius and outrageous so precariously that it’s often hard to tell on which side it lands. Unless, of course, you’re talking about the decision to cast all white models in its Paris Fashion Week show this season, which was universally slammed as a poor choice; even Lorde called it “a sad moment.”
Despite all that, there is reason to be optimistic about the other bit of news coming out of the Vetements show this season: the debut of the brand’s designated men’s collection. All of the pricing complaints and trollish gimmicks aside, Vetements does seems intent on pushing the fashion conversation forward with inventive design and a fresh take on tried, true, and a little tired classics. If that means giving men the chance to wear something we haven’t been offered before, that’s a good thing. If it’s just an opportunity to sling some more tees that cost a G, well...nice knowing ya. Lorde, for one, is feeling hopeful: “There's no doubt in my mind that Vetements themselves are fully aware and already have something even better rising from the ashes,” she tweeted. Let’s hope she’s right. —Steve Dool
Wiz Wear Cool Pants
Very early this year, before Kanye’s Yeezy Season 3 presentation/The Life of Pablo listening party at Madison Square Garden, it seemed ‘Ye rediscovered Twitter. Presumably, he was under a huge amount of pressure putting finishing touches on the album and new line at the same time, and like the rest of us, opted to get some tweets off during this time of stress. One of these frequent tweeting sprees took a simple misunderstanding—when Kanye was sure his Wiz Khalifa was subtweeting him with a Kim Kardashian diss—and went on a 22-tweet attack disrespectfully slandering the fellow rapper. Nevermind that Khalifa was actually talking about weed; from this epic list of deeply personal shots fired, #WIZWEARSCOOLPANTS was born.
Kanye later apologized for claiming ownership of Wiz’s son with Amber Rose, but his cosign of Wiz’s pants still stands, even if it’s not entirely clear whether is was backhanded or if Wiz does wear cool pants. After all, it could have been a nod to Kanye’s creative consultant at the time, Ian Connor, who once worked as Wiz’s stylist. For his part, Connor went on to point out that Kanye actually likes Khalifa’s style. If you believe that, then the only real question that remains is which pair of pants Kanye was talking about? —Rae Witte