Fame and celebrity

The 10 fashion game changers of 2015, from Alber via Kanye to Zoolander

Fashion editor Jing Zhang looks back at the biggest news of the year, from some shock exits at Christian Dior, Lanvin and Net-a-Porter to a Rihanna’s stunning Met Gala entrance in that Guo Pei gown

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 December, 2015, 6:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 April, 2016, 12:55pm

Fashion is moving faster than ever, with digitisation so rapid even social media platform Snapchat has become a big thing. But there’s been a backlash, too, with the fashion world attaching more weight to sustainability, longevity and responsibility.

Picking the year’s 10 defining moments isn’t easy, but we’ve tried. In the end, that meant passing over Dolce & Gabbana’s controversial comments about IVF babies, supermodel Cara Delevingne’s move into film, and the frightening Kardashian-Jenner takeover of all things fashion – now that even Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) has got in on the action with a glamorous Vanity Fair cover. So here goes:

1. The luxury retail slowdown in China

Some of the biggest brands such as LV and Prada are shrinking their physical presence in China after almost a decade of aggressive expansion and store openings. What was once a

sure thing has become more unstable as the economy slows, a government crackdown on corruption and giving gifts takes its toll and Chinese shoppers are drawn less to big brands and travel and shop

more overseas. The Chinese continue to be the world’s biggest luxury spenders, and growth has slowed, not stopped. But increasingly these brands are rethinking their e-commerce strategy in China

as consumers spend ever more online.

2. Raf Simons leaving Christian Dior

In late October Simons stepped down, and in a statement said: “It is a decision based entirely and equally on my desire to focus on other interests in my life, including my own brand, and the passions that drive me outside my work.” The quiet Belgian designer brought a fresh, modern approach to one of fashion’s biggest brands. Now that he’s left, there’s a big question mark over who will replace him, with many eyeballing old-school favourite Alber Elbaz.

3. Alber Elbaz’s exit from Lanvin

The departure of the lauded designer from France’s oldest fashion house came as sad and dramatic news to many. There were murmurings of differences between Elbaz and the brand’s controlling shareholder, Taiwanese media magnate Shaw-Lan Wang, who has rejected lucrative offers to sell the brand. “At this time of my departure from Lanvin on the decision of the company’s majority shareholder, I wish to extend my gratitude and warm thoughts to all those who have worked with me passionately on the revival of Lanvin over the last 14 years,” said Elbaz in a statement. All will be watching for his next movie – whatever it is, it will be big.

4. Zoolander at Paris Fashion Week

Thunderous whoops, claps and raucous cheers rang out as Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, stars of the comedy Zoolander, took to the runway in a surprise finale walk for Valentino in March. It was a stunt to announce that the pair would be making Zoolander 2, but a quite fantastic one, too. This major highlight brought together the world of cinematic parody with the serious and often ridiculous world of high fashion – two unlikely bedfellows, but it made for a wonderful moment.


5. The rise of Gucci’s renaissance man, Alessandro Michele

The Italian brand’s new designer was announced early in January this year. He showed a quickly pulled together men’s show days later and thus started the romantic, geeky, gender-blurring, retro-inspired new-old explosion that in the space of under a year would reimagine Gucci. Everyone might be drinking the Gucci Kool-Aid at the moment, but you can’t deny that Michele’s statement has had the strength and freshness to invigorate both a lagging label and Italian fashion as a whole.


6. Kanye West x Adidas Yeezy collection debut at New York Fashion Week

The nude body stockings, military elements and alien-like androgyny left many high fashion editors cold when this hotly awaited line debuted in February. The rapper and music mogul’s forays into fashion continue to be controversial – and this Yeezy line has proved not to be that popular with fashion critics (much like his Paris fashion week shows of his own label a few years back). Yet West still manages to be one of the most talked about names around in fashion. And with collections selling like hot cakes to fans, it seems like West might yet have the last laugh.

7. Natalie Massenet’s shock exit from Net-a-Porter

The merging of two e-commerce fashion giants – what could wrong? News broke in March that Yoox Group would acquire Net-a-Porter for a reported £936 million (HK$10.8 billion). And despite assurances on both sides that all was hunky dory, Massenet, the queen of fashion e-tailing who started Net-a-Porter in 2000 from her home in London, unexpectedly stepped down in September, fuelling rumours of a serious rift between her and Yoox founder Federico Marchetti. She left the company still as an industry legend and pioneer, with a cool £100 million in her pocket after selling her shares.


8. Rihanna at the Met Gala

One of our favourite fashionistas owned the Met Ball Gala this year in a gigantic, fabulous and rather ridiculous Imperial gown by China’s most famous couturier, Guo Pei. Chinese social media users were quick to compare the yellow dress to a jian bing – a popular Chinese pancake/omelette, but the moment was epic (I still think she looked amazing) and inspired countless funny internet memes. The Gala dress code theme was the record-breaking exhibition “China: Through the Looking Glass”, and the red carpet results proved to be more than “interesting”. Some looked rather chic, for others it was a hot mess of well-worn Chinoiserie tropes (yes, here’s looking at you, Sarah Jessica Parker).


9. All change at Balenciaga

New York designer Alexander Wang bowed out, and months later Georgian-born Demna Gvasalia from Vetements was announced as his successor. Gvasalia might be an unknown to the public, but he’s worked at Margiela and Louis Vuitton, and the Vetements label he co-founded has quickly become an industry insider favourite. It was another left-field play for the storied fashion house, but one that’s creating major buzz for one of fashion’s most important hot seats.


10. Brands are streamlining

In a move that said much for the future of the luxury market, Burberry folded all its lines (Burberry Brit, Burberry Prorsum and Burberry London) into one line simply named Burberry, creative director and chief executive Christopher Bailey announced in November. It’s a move that’s followed the likes of Marc Jacobs and Victoria Beckham who both folded their diffusion brands this year. Similarly Dolce & Gabbana did this a few years back, all making for a major movement back towards singular, defined unified brands in high fashion.