The Weirdest, Wildest, and Most Important Fashion Shows of 2022
Paris Fashion Week, June. Everything was going pretty smoothly—and then the horses started shitting. At the Casablanca show, four shiny equines were corralled in the center of the carpeted runway, looking handsome and a little uneasy as guests filtered to their seats. As influencers edged close to the pen to snap horse selfies—and the horses snapped selfies of their own—the scene struck me as a potent symbol of the heady atmosphere that had pervaded the entire high fashion ecosystem that summer, the first since the onset of covid where the runway calendar was packed with in-person shows, presentations, and parties. The prevailing wisdom seemed to be that beautiful clothing was no longer captivating enough—or maybe not even the point of runway shows anymore. You needed cool clothes, but you also needed horses.
“Fashion week” (an imprecise term, but the best we have for now) hasn’t been the insider-y trade affair it once was ever since the rise of the supermodel in the ’90s. And these days, with thousands upon thousands of people watching dozens of shows in person and on their phones, brands have to devise increasingly elaborate ways of entertaining them. The audience expects more than a bunch of models stalking down a catwalk: they expect a performance. This year, brands delivered in extravagant fashion. Louis Vuitton, for one, erected a colossal dreamworld in a courtyard of the Louvre to pay a final tribute to Virgil Abloh, complete with a marching band imported from Tallahassee and a Kendrick Lamar concert. Other flexes were more subtle. Gucci, in what would be Alessandro Michele’s final show for the Milanese powerhouse, cast 68 sets of painstakingly sourced identical twins. Emerging designers got in on the fun in their own ways, too, as when Mowalola returned from a three-year hiatus with a body-baring collection of X-rated ecclesiastical-wear. The message was clear: as long as fashion sits at the center of popular culture, and money floods through the ecosystem, the brands are going to act accordingly.
On the other hand, 2022 might be remembered as the year when the whole endeavor got a little too ambitious—when things started going haywire. Like when the music kicked on at Casablanca and the startled horses started pooping all over the floor, which most guests gamely tried to ignore. (The stench, however, was hard not to notice.) It was a reminder, important as ever, that often the best rewards are found by peeling back the layers of spectacle and remembering why these shows exist in the first place. Beneath all the ’grammable moments and VVIP front rows and at the center of the constellation of events and activations that now circle the traditional schedule is, hopefully, some beautiful and compelling clothing that will inform how you and I dress.
As the menswear shows whip around the corner—things kick off at Pitti Uomo in Florence on January 10!—we’re looking back, with a clear bias toward events this GQ writer was present for, at the moments from the men’s shows this year that we won’t soon forget.
When it comes to the scale and ambition of his work, the only person Kim Jones can outdo is himself. This year, Jones unveiled a buzzy Dior collaboration with ERL in LA, and ended the year with a celebration of not one but two blockbuster collections in Cairo, including one presented to 800 guests in front of the freakin’ Pyramids of Giza. The second was a collab with the buzzy and brilliant Tremaine Emory of Denim Tears. (Supreme x Dior Men’s when?) But Jones set the tone for a year defined by a quieter form of hype with his first Dior outing in February, where the models marched out in gray and beige wool-and-leather Birkenstocks, which would go on to scream off retail shelves for $1,100+ a pop, selling out many times over. There were plenty of exasperating trends in menswear this year, but you have to tip your Steven Jones Millinery beret to Jones for ensuring that the most covetable shoes of the entire year were gardening mules inspired by a couturier’s green thumb
February, New York
Nobody captures the dissociative cool with which downtown New Yorkers dress quite like Maryam Nassir Zadeh. After a year where most clothing felt either overdesigned or too abstract, this show was like a tall glass of water, and a reminder that NYC is still the best place to find real style: the models—whose ranks included novelist (and GQ cover profiler) Ottesa Moshfegh!—were draped in MNZ’s drapey trousers and chill, slouchy leather jackets, pitch-perfect real clothing tweaked with anti-fits realized through Zadeh’s collaboration with stylist and downtown scenester Thistle Brown. Together, they’ve turned the large, pleated Abdou trousers into the coolest pants of the moment.
Held before Milan Fashion Week, Pitti Uomo—the menswear trade show turned sartorial peacock-palooza—draws a modest crowd of press and buyers. Shame, because everyone else missed out on a downright gorgeous show that fully solidified Bonner as a next-gen fashion-world star. Starting in 2020, the soft-spoken London designer began racking up hit after hit with her Adidas collaboration, which practically single-handedly revived the fortunes of the Samba, and which validated the serious appetite for her rigorous and sensitive vision. Here, she unveiled spirited cashmere suiting made with Savile Row stalwarts Anderson & Sheppard, and sumptuous opera coats tailored with silk specially woven by Charvet in Paris, not to mention gorgeous kaftan-length tuxedo shirts that other designers have already begun to emulate. Bonner has no problem building on her commercial success with an even more elegant and expensive vision, and I have no doubt that it will connect. As she told me after the show, “That’s really the ambition for Wales Bonner, is to have a luxury brand that represents a black or Afro-Atlantic cultural perspective. There isn’t a house with that heritage, and that’s what I’m trying to build with myself.”
When Raf Simons announced the shuttering of his namesake label last month, many speculated that he might be stepping up and taking more creative control of the Prada-verse. Whatever happens, I hope he and Miuccia Prada keep their enormous Western boots firmly on the gas pedal and give us more polarizing, singularly trendy ruminations on manhood and style. Not everyone liked the skinny, Y2K-throwback suiting, or the tiny leather boy-shorts, or the gingham macs. (I loved all of the above, and especially some shrunken leather bombers, which represented an abrupt and welcome 180-degree turn away from the muscular, oversized, beloved-by-Drake bombers which marked the beginning of Mrs. Prada and Simons’s unprecedented collaboration.) In show notes distributed after, Mrs. P declared that the collection was about “choice”—what is the right coat, out of thousands of options?—which is really about honing a razor-sharp stylish instinct. Simons elaborated that he was thinking about “oddness,” the “anti-logic” of combinations of clothes. “The garments are classic, but their mix contradicts, making them exciting and new,” he said. You don’t have to like the individual pieces of the collection to get a thrill out of these two heavyweights exploring the give-and-take of how men get dressed every morning.
Is denim the most important material in fashion today? It sure looked like it as models crunched past on an elevated gravel runway at this bitchy, brilliant Y/Project show. Glenn Martens has been firing on all cylinders lately; his conceptual rave-wear at Diesel has been a hit among high fashion-obsessed Zoomers, and his guest couturier stint at Jean Paul Gaultier has given way to some of the most daring and memorable red carpet looks of the year. At Y/Project, he’s built a cult following who worship the way he manipulates jeans into sexy, zip-front cardigans, into trompe l’oeil overcoats, into dramatic, fringe-y ball gowns, and into simple, unimpeachable pairs of blue jeans. His vision is clear, and the results are highly memorable.
Mowalola Ogunlesi was supposed to run the design program at Yeezy GAP, but she quit shortly after arriving in Calabasas because she felt the vibes were off. Her sharp intuition extends to her namesake brand. Upon her return from a three-year runway hiatus, Ogunlesi made the rampant nudity designers had been toying with all season look prudish by comparison; her collection probably required the least amount of fabric of any shown in Paris. All season long, the trend of exposing models’ chests mostly felt cheap, a gimmick rather than the heralding of a new era of sexiness. But Mowalola’s approach, one of “weaponizing” clothing in an intentionally provocative manner (like in a see-through ecclesiastical frock), felt more akin to early Hood By Air’s avant-garde approach to streetwear, or Rick Owens’s shocking, funny full-frontal runway moments. Mowalola might not be working in good taste, exactly, but you would ignore her at your own peril.
As a procession of boys in sorbet-colored anoraks strode by, trailing gossamer kites of fabric behind them, all I could think was this: Fashion is overdue for a Craig Green-aissance. His language of sublimely layered and silhouetted workwear is as thorough and captivating as the codes of any major luxury house, and there’s no reason why the thoughtful Londoner shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as other stars of the fashion avant-garde.
For several years, it has felt like Anthony Vaccarello has been patiently setting up the menswear side of Saint Laurent for a big, juicy reveal of his personal vision. (After all, he had never designed menswear until landing at Saint Laurent in 2016.) This is where he did it: on a rocky, windswept desert plain an hour-plus outside Marrakech. The crowd would have gone gaga for whatever clothing he marched out at sunset that night in July—such is the seductive power of being inside YSL’s tres-chic bubble. But few seemed emotionally prepared for the beauty and sensuality of the silky blouses with plunging necklines and the tuxedos that were so sexily tailored it felt almost like we were seeing the Le Smoking jacket for the first time. In the popular imagination, the YSL man is wearing skinny jeans and pointy boots and a bad attitude— a caricature of a retrograde brand of masculinity. By the end of the show, several of the new Saint Laurent men were weeping. “For me, it’s very important to cry at the show,” Vaccarello told me. “I like when there’s an emotion. It’s super important to tell a story. Then at the end, if you cry, it means that you understood where I want to go, and I like that.”
September, New York
Raul Lopez designs around the best archetypes in fashion. The HBA co-founder and current steward of “premium trash” channeled his Dominican aunties and uncles who showed up to Brooklyn family potlucks dressed like movie stars: “Latina Elizabeth Taylor” was one such guiding theme. The slick jeans and croc-effect blazers made this vision available to anyone, but the Luar show was a blowout of epic proportions with Lopez’s community of underground darlings, who nearly rioted to get through the door despite a security bottleneck—such are the lengths to which New Yorkers will go to support their hometown hero. Once inside, hardly a person in the front row stayed in their seats as models vamped and posed around the packed auditorium. Models don’t really strut these days—they sort of stroll and swish, like ambulating walking-man emojis. Lopez told his models to strut. “I grew up where, when you did a show, you had to do a show, you had to shut it down,” Lopez told me. “I come from ballroom. So I’m like, You need to bring it.”
Matthieu Blazy staged a career-defining show to follow up his strong debut at Bottega Veneta, and prove that he was just the man for the job after Daniel Lee’s abrupt departure last year. He pulled out all the stops to do so, with a madhouse runway set commissioned from Italian design legend Gaetano Pesce (complete with 400 individual resin-dipped chairs), a Kate Moss cameo, and an enthralling wardrobe of sophisticated, dignified garments. This was just about the only show of the season that benefitted from including more ideas, more looks (72 in all), more mood changes. The greatest triumph was in the opening movement, where Blazy did what can often feel impossible in a week full of designers seeking to engineer the next viral moment: he captured, on the highest and most elevated level, precisely how so many people want to dress today. Look two in particular was a masterpiece: T-shirt, jeans, boots, and an argyle sweater seemingly tossed around the model’s shoulders seconds before he walked onto the runway. Everything but the sweater, of course, was leather.
All year, men have gone crazy for tiny sweaters and simple button-downs and especially leather pants. Call it the Miu Miu effect. Ever since Miuccia Prada included a couple men’s looks in her March show, it has felt like menswear has re-oriented itself in relation to her pet project (one which gets bigger and more serious by the day). In the months following, men went crazy for archival Miu Miu men’s (discontinued in 2008) and whatever they could get their hands on in the right size. Come September, there were rumors that Mrs. P would unveil a full-fledged revival of men’s. Instead, she did something arguably even cooler by giving us just a few more men’s looks to chew on, featuring shiny nylon parkas, gauzy multilayered tees, cute sleeveless cardigans, more buttery leather pants, and a tasty acid wash denim suit. It was the stuff of pure aspiration—more clothing than fashion, the types of things you could imagine wearing for decades to come. Which made it a good frame of reference for how to look at all the new menswear we’ll see in the months ahead.