What were you, 2018?
As a befuddling year comes to its grinding close, it’s hard to remember, much less catalog, everything that has barreled down the pike. A swirl of controversy seeping upward to the highest reaches of government (“Law & Order: The United States”). The advent of the urban prairie dress. The seemingly unstoppable tumble toward the legalization of marijuana (and the calls for vacating past low-level convictions). Clouds of cucumber vape. The bruising midterm elections.
The Great Awokening. The desperate calls to green the world (just in time for the news that it may be too late). The arrival of the Four Horsemen: Salt, Fat, Acid and Heat. The world’s new favorite vacation destination: Wakanda.
How can we take stock of a year that brought us, and subjected us to, so much?
Easy. This is late capitalism, after all. It’s the stuff, stupid.
It may be a long time before we apprehend the full measure of the slogs and successes of the year, but until then, there are the things: What we bought (and hoped to), what we self-soothed and self-improved with, what we wore (and how we wore it). “No ideas but in things,” wrote the noted futurist William Carlos Williams, back in the salad days of the 20th century.
And what things! Here, 11 of them that defined the stylish year.
The year had barely begun when the commandment came from on high. “He sent me a whole email, like, ‘You cannot wear big glasses anymore. It’s all about tiny little glasses.’” Thus spake Kanye West to his wife, Kim Kardashian West, and, via the bully pulpit of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” to all of us.
It was far from the only provocative pronouncement Mr. West made this year. He called the history of slavery into question, reaffirmed his support for Donald Trump (complete with a visit to the Oval Office), acknowledged an opiate dependency and discussed (and occasionally disavowed) diagnoses of his mental health.
In a year of turmoil, he reigned as one of its stormiest prophets, roaming the wilderness (of Wyoming, where he flew a contingent of fans and friends for the release of his album “Ye”) before making his way back to New York and “Saturday Night Live.”
In the larger culture, Mr. West’s place has been debated, but in fashion, his influence remains strong. Interest in his Yeezy sneakers may not be what it once was, but tiny sunglasses did become, for a time, omnipresent, part of fashion’s continued obsession with recreating nostalgic looks with near surgical precision.
“He sent me, like, millions of ’90s photos with tiny little glasses like this,” Ms. Kardashian West said on the show. Similar pairs, like the ones above, shielded Beyoncé, the Hadids, Kendall Jenner and others from the sun.
The “It” accessory of the year is smaller than a pochette, holds next to nothing and requires regular recharging. It is the Juul, the sleek, finger-size vape of infamous ubiquity. The first issue of the revived Interview magazine, in September, included a Juul fashion spread under the headline “Fall’s Most Ubiquitous Accessory Is a Juul.”
Juul’s dominance in the e-cigarette market is undeniable. Bloomberg reported in June that it had captured 68 percent of the category, and it is such a phenomenon that, as The New Yorker put it in May, “Saying the word ‘Juul’ in front of a group of young people with spending money is like dropping an everything bagel into a flock of pigeons in a public park.”
Juul’s luck has also been its burden. The Food and Drug Administration called out the company in its announcement that it would conduct an “undercover nationwide blitz” cracking down on sales to minors.
In response, Juul, which considers the device a smoking-cessation tool, announced an action plan, taking itself off social media and vowing to remove from stores all flavors thought to appeal to underage users and instead sell them directly from its website. They include cucumber (formerly “cool cucumber”) and creme (né “creme brulee”).
Whatever the outcome, Juul culture is well ensconced. A symbiotic industry has risen around the e-cigarette, offering home-brewed flavored oils and $5,000 18-karat cases. In our offices, our schools, on airplanes and everywhere else: We travel in an aura of creme, soundtracked by a Juulish crackle.
The Prairie Dress
Tale as old as 2018: An Orthodox Jewish former corporate lawyer, wistful for the safe, frilly charms of vintage Laura Ashley, seeks out a dressmaker to make her dream a reality, and is enthusiastically taken up, in all her ruffled unlikelihood, by New York’s demimonde.
It had to be seen to be believed — but then it was seen. On important editors in the front rows of fashion shows, on the Instagram stories of downtown party girls, there they were: high-collared, often curtain-print dresses by Batsheva Hay, every cool girl and down-to-earth celeb reborn as a little hausfrau on the prairie.
Vogue tipped its cap; The New Yorker shined a light. Did anti-sex-appeal have an appeal all its own in a moment struggling to reconcile the fraught and fractious relationship between the sexes? Or a confident assertion that to be so far outré was to swing back in?
Whatever it was, Ms. Hay, who had been making mommy-and-me dresses since 2016, suddenly found herself at the fore. Her modest, modish dolly dresses were, wrote The Washington Post, “the most provocative thing in fashion right now.”
The Statement T-Shirt
His was an entrance announced by choir. Kerby Jean-Raymond, the founder of Pyer Moss, has been rising in the ranks of fashion for years, but his September fashion show, held in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn and scored by a robed gospel choir, had the feeling of a coronation. Mr. Jean-Raymond jolted a weary fashion press out of its customary ennui and, what’s more, proved himself to be the worth the trip. Before the year was out, Vogue and the Council of Fashion Designers of America had awarded him their Fashion Fund trophy, heralding him as an important new voice.
He is refreshingly ready and willing to use it. Mr. Jean-Raymond, who is Haitian-American, has kept the black experience, historically underrepresented in the upper echelons of fashion, at the center of his work and has dived into politics in an industry that often skirts it for the sake of sales.
A T-shirt from his September collection, inscribed “Stop Calling 911 on the Culture,” made dark reference to the unsettling frequency with which white Americans called the police on their black neighbors in 2018, a year that gave us “BBQ Becky” in Oakland and “Cornerstore Caroline” in Brooklyn, among several other incidents.
The T-shirt went on sale after the show in September and quickly sold out. Part of the profits went to the Innocence Project, which works to reverse wrongful convictions.
The Versace Revival
If one fashion house made headlines this year, it was Versace. Its history was hard-boiled in Ryan Murphy’s awards-magnet mini-series, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” about the murder of Mr. Versace and the psychology of his killer, Andrew Cunanan. The Versace family released a statement saying the show should be considered a work of fiction, but the series nevertheless arrived at a watershed moment for the label, now stewarded by Donatella Versace, Mr. Versace’s famously extravagant sister.
Ms. Versace, who sometimes stumbled in bearing her brother’s mantle, has recently been celebrating his legacy and recreating pieces from his archive, reviving prints like the Trésor de la Mer shown here, from one of Mr. Versace’s 1992 collections.
A moment of reflection for Versace also turned out to be a moment of major change. In September, the Michael Kors company announced it would buy Versace for just over $2 billion as part of a bid to create an international luxury group, to be called Capri Holdings. Its Italianate name notwithstanding, hackles were raised at one of Italian fashion’s great houses going, as it seemed, American.
But John Idol, the Kors chief executive, said that Ms. Versace was there to stay, and she insisted that Versace was, and would remain, “made in Italy.”
The Faux Fur
The war isn’t over, but the fakes appear to be winning.
First Gucci announced, in the fall of last year, that it would no longer use fur or shearling in its products. And then, the rush: Similar pronouncements came from Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo and the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group, which will no longer sell fur.
Throughout 2018, more joined: Maison Margiela, Versace, Coach, Diane von Furstenberg, Jean Paul Gaultier and Chanel announced they would stop using fur. (Chanel will also discontinue the use of exotic skins like crocodile and stingray.)
Anti-fur activists often say animal rights aren’t the only driver; they call faux fur a greener alternative to traditional fur, though some (including the International Fur Federation) are quick to note that that’s not necessarily the case, and agreed-upon data is rare. An environmental toxicologist recently told Women’s Wear Daily that neither real nor faux was a “free lunch,” ecologically speaking.
But the arrival of better faux-fur options — in look, feel and manufacture — has made the case for fakes as convincingly as activism can. In late 2017, Kym Canter, a former creative director of the fur house J. Mendel, founded House of Fluff, an all-faux, cruelty-free label. Her hairy “Mongolian lamb” coats are 100 percent polyester. Next year, she hopes to introduce a compostable version.
In a teeth-chattering age of anxiety, it only makes sense that there would be CBD. Cannabidiol, a nonpsychoactive chemical derived from hemp (and cousin to THC, the compound that gets you stoned), promises bliss without blur: a relaxing and pain-relieving feeling of contentment and calm — without the giggles or the munchies. A workaholic’s weed, in short, though some are dubious.
Suddenly, in 2018, CBD was everywhere, a steady drip of drops: tinctures and tonics, stirred into lattes, poured over soft serve or into almond butter, even given to the family dog.
“Our business has exploded this year,” said Robert Rosenheck, the founder and chief executive of Lord Jones, one of the more established labels of the current crop. In October, Sephora, the mega-mart of cosmetics, added Lord Jones’s High CBD Formula Body Lotion to its assortment, the first, and to date only, CBD product it carries. Hora Skin Care, a start-up line, began this year with a serum and has since added an overnight exfoliating mask.
Not to be outdone, good old-fashioned cannabis is enjoying a beauty moment, too. Milk Makeup introduced a mascara with “conditioning, hemp-derived cannabis oil” on April 20 for maximum comedic effect. It became a top seller and has added 35 percent to the brand’s bottom line since its introduction, according to the company.
A Kush brow gel followed — “Do something dope for your brows” — as did a lip glaze and lip balm.
Fashion Nova x Cardi B
Our Lady of 2018, Belcalis Almanzar — better known by her confirmation name, Cardi B — ruled the year in pop culture through sheer largess. Who gave more — in drama, in singles, in guest verses, in news, in feuds, in brawls?
It is an oft-mentioned fact that Cardi came from the world of reality TV, but now she runs the show. She was a co-host of “The Tonight Show” and found even that too small, instead taking her show direct to her Instagram, where she filmed viral videos monologuing her way through her beef with Nicki Minaj. She announced her pregnancy on “SNL,” had her baby, broke up with her husband. In the course of it all, she put out one of the year’s best albums.
Of course fashion would come calling. But though Cardi appreciates high fashion (she likes those Balenciagas, the ones that look like socks, and came to the Met Gala on the arm of the Moschino creative director Jeremy Scott), her allegiance has been to Fashion Nova, an affordable fast-fashion line renowned for moving at the speed of trend.
“I could buy designer, but this Fashion Nova fit,” she rapped, and the company, which rose to international fame this year on the backs of fans like Cardi and Kylie Jenner, gave Cardi her own collection, which sold out within hours of its introduction. (It has since been restocked.) There was a kind of cosmic rightness: two novas exploding together.
Wine snobs once argued over the merits of Bordeaux vintages. To be fair, many still do. But a new class of drinker-aesthete has been on the rise this year, with a horror of sulfites and an appreciation for fizz or funk. If you have ever picked a wine out of your teeth, congratulations. You’ve found your way to natural wine.
“Natural” is a squishy term, with no single definition. It tends to be used as an umbrella to describe wines made with minimal human intervention, organically or biodynamically. These wines skimp on additives like sulfites but may have restrictions on filtering, fining, the way vines are planted and raised.
Natural wine has conquered restaurant wine lists — Frenchette, in TriBeCa, opened with an all-natural list this year — and downtown bars, making stars of outré styles and obscure grapes, and elevating orange wine (also known as skin-contact whites) to a local obsession.
As many people now come in asking for orange wine as for old Barolo, said Eben Lillie of Chambers Street Wines, which has one of New York’s best selections of natural wine.
“I think it became way more mainstream,” said Pascaline Lepeltier, the sommelier and a managing partner at Racines NY in TriBeCa, who this year won Meilleure Sommelière de France, the first woman to do so. Natural winemaking has been on the rise for several years — thanks in part to evangelists like Ms. Lepeltier — but, she said, “if you are not a professional, it’s just now getting everywhere.”
The End of Gender As We Know It (Or at Least the Gendered Bag)
In a possible post-gender future — one that seems to be galloping closer, to the delight of its adherents and the dismay of its critics — such concepts as men’s fashion and women’s fashion will be seen as dusty relics of a backward time. On fashion’s runways the rumble has already arrived. In the vanguard and on the fringes, hyped labels (Telfar, Vaquera, Gypsy Sport) have been insisting on gender-agnostic designs and presentations.
Change generally begins at the margins. What was more surprising — or, for the cynical, more predictable — was the way it percolated up. Even the biggest companies are experimenting with a more elastic concept of what is for whom.
Christian Dior brought back its saddle bag this year, with a major campaign that placed it in the hands of scores of influencers. It was a calculated play for “It” bag status, but it wasn’t the only one. When Kim Jones arrived at Dior to take over its men’s collections, he, too, showed the saddle bag, kitted out with a metal buckle and a cross-body strap, but otherwise largely unchanged, the first time the company has introduced a men’s version of a women’s bag.
Are all saddles created equal? More or less — except, of course, in price.
The Air Max 1/97 Sean Wotherspoon
Those hungry for an end to sneaker mania will have to wait another year. Wandering Cassandras are foretelling the bubble’s burst, but it doesn’t look near. Some industry analysts said that designer sneakers were the No. 1 growth area for men’s and women’s footwear, and designers have not tired of making them.
At greater scale, name-brand sneakers still dominate. According to Josh Luber, the chief executive of StockX, a marketplace that connects sneaker buyers with sneaker resellers and tracks prices, the top sellers by volume and by market share on the platform were all Adidas Yeezys or Jordans.
But rounding out the top 10 was a more artisanal surprise: an Air Max 1/97 (a hybrid of the two Air Max styles) designed by Sean Wotherspoon, a vintage dealer and Nike collector.
“Typically, the top-selling sneakers on our platform are associated with big-name celebrities and athletes,” Mr. Luber said. Mr. Wotherspoon’s psychedelic pastel corduroy pair, which was solicited by Nike and was one of the winners of a fan vote to go into production, broke through thanks to “exceptional storytelling and design.”
The style was an immediate hit. After a limited initial release in November 2017 and a global one on Air Max Day in March of this year, it sold out. Until then, the average sale price for the original on StockX is $576 (they cost $160 when they were released). It was, in other words, a David win in a Goliath world, in a version of the story where David is bankrolled by Nike, a major corporation.
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