Let’s Decode the Runway

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In an interview after his fall 2018 show, Demna Gvasalia, the current creative director at Balenciaga, told Dazed: “We live in a world that is full of references, and references exist to feed us, but not to feed us in order to copy — they feed us in order to create something new from it.” This season, that attitude was everywhere. The fashion audience has never been more sophisticated, and designers are having a blast mixing and mashing ideas — and mining our collective unconscious.

Carrie Bradshaw Meets Carlton Meets Punk Rocker

Balenciaga, at 148 Mercer St. Photo: Imaxtree

Rather than paying homage to archival Balenciaga pieces, as he’s done in the past, Demna Gvasalia was more interested in pulling from contemporary cultures this season.

  1. 1. A hoodie tied around the shoulders combines preppy culture (see Carlton Banks from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) and streetwear.

    Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images/© NBC Universal, Inc.

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  2. 2. Quilted bags are a status symbol most often associated with Chanel. Gvasalia covered his in key chains and the house logo.

    Tim Graham/Getty Images/This content is subject to copyright

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  3. 3. Zip-off tartan heritage plaid pants look like a cross between basketball shorts and a golfing uniform.

    Phil Sheldon/Popperfoto/Getty Images/This content is subject to copyright

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  4. 4. Carrie Bradshaw wore a similar John Galliano newspaper dress in Sex and the City 2, but Balenciaga’s version is more concerned with what Gvasalia described as “fake good news.”

    Bobby Bank/WireImage/Getty Images/2009 Bobby Bank

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  5. 5. Oversize spikes on red patent-leather pumps are punk-slash-porn-star fetish.

    PYMCA/UIG via Getty Images/This content is subject to copyright

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Caveman Meets Johnny Carson

Gucci, at gucci.com. Photo: Imaxtree/Daniele Oberrauch/IMAXTREE.COM

The set of Gucci’s show resembled an ancient map, with the collection passing through all borders, real or imagined. “Resist the illusion of something new at any cost,” read Alessandro Michele’s show notes.

  1. 1. Traditional Japanese kasa straw hat.

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  2. 2. 1980s synth- pop rhinestone sunglasses.

    George Rose/Getty Images/1979 George Rose

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  3. 3. Dog-collar bondage necklace.

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  4. 4. Caveman tiger-tooth necklace.

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  5. 5. Oversize men’s suit with a checked 1970s pattern.

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  6. 6. Gucci logo bag that was popular in the 1970s.

    Pierre Scherman/Penske Media/REX/Shutterstock/Copyright (c) 1976 Shutterstock. No use without permission

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  7. 7. Macramé lace maxi-dress like one worn by Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby.

    Everett Collection/Copyright © Everett Collection / Everett Collection

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Old Hollywood Meets the Met Gala Meets the Muppets

Marc Jacobs, at marcjacobs.com. Photo: Imaxtree/Alessandro Lucioni/IMAXTREE.COM

In his show notes, Marc Jacobs described the collection as a “reimagining of seasons past somewhere beyond the urban landscape of New York City.”

  1. 1. Silk turbans by Stephen Jones were a self-referential nod to Kate Moss’s Marc Jacobs look at the 2009 Met Gala.

    Patrick McMullan

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  2. 2. Old Hollywood cat’s-eye makeup reminiscent of Elizabeth Taylor in ‘Cleopatra.’

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  3. 3. Tacky 1960s floral wallpaper print.

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  4. 4. Black gloves like those worn by Charlotte Rampling in ‘The Night Porter.’

    Everett Collection/Courtesy Everett Collection

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  5. 5. Tinsel stole that could be its own Muppets character.

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Louis XVI Meets Cyberpunk Meets Track Star

Louis Vuitton, at 1 E. 57th St. Photo: Imaxtree

Nicolas Ghesquière, who staged his show at the Louvre’s Pavillon de l’Horloge, demonstrated how a French girl does time travel.

  1. 1. Futuristic Pink Lady cat’s-eye sunglasses.

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  2. 2. White blouse fit for either Jack Sparrow or Jerry Seinfeld.

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  3. 3. Embroidered waistcoats that would satisfy Louis XVI.

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  4. 4. Luxurious silk running shorts and chunky fashion sneakers.

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  5. 5. The “Twist PM” bag is the latest version of Louis Vuitton’s classic key lock.

    IMAXtree/Armando Grillo

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Rockabilly Meets New Wave

Prada, at 575 Broadway. Photo: Imaxtree/Daniele Oberrauch/IMAXTREE.COM

Miuccia Prada has always had a way of conjuring fashion’s favorite contradiction: jolie laide, or “pretty ugly.”

  1. 1. Boyish pixie haircut with Audrey Hepburn bangs.

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  2. 2. A pink rockabilly dress worn over a sleeveless men’s shirt makes this look seem like a prom dress Duckie and Andie collaborated on in Pretty in Pink.

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  3. 3. Baggy men’s pants worn under a dress hark back to 1990s grunge.

    IMAXtree

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  4. 4. A belted school-book bag.

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  5. 5. Traditional tasseled oxfords were embellished with punk studs and given a witchlike pointy toe.

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Warhol Meets Haring Meets Arcimboldo

Comme des Garçons, at 520 W. 22nd St. Photo: Imaxtree/Daniele Oberrauch/IMAXTREE.COM

Art was used as more than just inspiration this season.

  1. Rei Kawakubo Photoshopped the work of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, an Italian painter known for his portraits made of vegetables and fruit, together with Dutch still lifes of flowers, which she warped to fit over bulbous dresses and skirts.

    Erik Lernestål/This work, identified by The Royal Armoury and Skokloster Castle with the Hallwyl Museum Foundation, is free of known copyright

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Versace, at Bergdorf Goodman, 754 Fifth Ave. Photo: Imaxtree/Alessandro Lucioni/IMAXTREE.COM
  1. As a tribute to Gianni Versace for the 20th anniversary of his death, Donatella Versace resurrected his ’90s Pop Art dress featuring Andy Warhol’s prints of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.

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Chloé, at chloe.com. Photo: Imaxtree/Alessandro Lucioni/IMAXTREE.COM
  1. Designer Natacha Ramsay-Levi channeled Parisian boho via what looked like Pennsylvania Dutch folk art.

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Dior, at 21 E. 57th St. Photo: Imaxtree/Alessandro Lucioni/IMAXTREE.COM
  1. In keeping with the late art historian Linda Nochlin’s question “Why have there been no great women artists?” — which Maria Grazia Chiuri printed across a shirt for spring — the designer included an homage to Niki de Saint Phalle.

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Calvin Klein 205W39NYC, at 654 Madison Ave. Photo: Imaxtree/Alessandro Lucioni/IMAXTREE.COM
  1. Raf Simons had Andy Warhol’s 5 Deaths print silk-screened onto a top, pairing it with equally gory references, like a gauze hospital gown and body-bag-esque black coat.

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Coach x Keith Haring, Similar styles at coach.com. Photo: Imaxtree/Alessandro Lucioni/IMAXTREE.COM
  1. Stuart Vevers, who remembers being inspired by the work of Keith Haring as a child, included the artist’s ’80s graffiti-style prints all over his collection, a nod to both Americana and downtown New York.

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Missoni, at 1009 Madison Ave. Photo: Imaxtree/Alessandro Lucioni/IMAXTREE.COM
  1. Missoni’s signature colorful knitwear prints resembled the bold lines of Sol LeWitt this season.

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Horror Meets Drama Meets Fantasy

Undercover, at Dover Street Market, 160 Lexington Ave. Photo: Imaxtree/Daniele Oberrauch/IMAXTREE.COM

Models looked like characters from your favorite films this season, from The Shining to Flashdance. Thom Browne even played a song from The Little Mermaid.

  1. Jun Takahashi cast real-life identical twins, above, to model the final look in his collection, which was inspired by The Shining. His collection in general pays tribute to Cindy Sherman.

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Moncler Gamme Rouge, Similar styles at 650 Madison Ave. Photo: Imaxtree/Alessandro Lucioni/IMAXTREE.COM
  1. A cutoff sweatshirt plus short shorts and leg warmers make this look more Flashdance than Black Swan.

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Longchamp, at longchamp.com. Photo: Imaxtree
  1. A green military jacket like the one Grace Kelly wore in Mogambo.

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Fenty Puma by Rihanna, at puma.com. Photo: Imaxtree/Daniele Oberrauch/IMAXTREE.COM
  1. Rihanna brought high-heel flip-flops to the runway with this Miami Beach meets Blue Crush collection.

    John P Johnson/Universal/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock/John P Johnson/Universal/Kobal/R

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Thom Browne, at 100 Hudson St. Photo: Imaxtree/Alessandro Lucioni/IMAXTREE.COM
  1. Thom Browne provided the perfect Halloween costume in the form of a skeleton dress à la Donnie Darko and Karate Kid.

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*This article appears in the February 5, 2018, issue of New York Magazine. 

Spring Runway Looks, Decoded and Explained