Source: CNN

Across Manhattan and Brooklyn, designers have been offering enticing twists on familiar dress codes at New York Fashion Week, which concluded on February 14. Perhaps fittingly, there was a lot of fashion to love.

Inside the neoclassical Williamsburgh Savings Bank, Peter Do presented the first collection on the official show calendar on February 8, rethinking “protective” fashion for his sophomore showing at the helm of Helmut Lang. To this effect, Do sent out silk bubble wrap trousers, knit balaclavas emerging from smart suiting, weathered sand-colored denim and soft armor in the form of slouchy puffer jackets.

Marking a tentpole return to New York Fashion Week, the designer (and current CFDA chairman) Thom Browne later closed out the proceedings on Valentine’s Day — and took a moment during his final bow to offer a large, heart-shaped box of chocolates to his partner, museum curator Andrew Bolton. Despite that moment of romance, Browne’s collection was inspired by Gothic horror and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” specifically. (The actor Carrie Coon had provided an eerie narration of the story, which played throughout the runway show. “Hearing her transform ‘The Raven’ was a privilege for everyone,” Browne told CNN. “I wanted to embody that dark and romantic, almost grim, feeling you hear when Carrie reads.”)

Models — a “school of ravens,” as Browne’s show notes described them — walked through a field seemingly covered in subtly-fragrant white ash powder representing snow; a model wearing a 30-foot-tall puffer jacket stood throughout, as if a tree. The collection dissected traditional black tie tailoring with layering and “cinched” proportions; grungy elements like distressed leather jackets were juxtaposed with formal corsetry and, on occasion, floral notes. Textures throughout were rich, slick and sinuous.

“The standout moments for me come in the details,” Browne explained of the collection in an email to CNN. “Like the cascading banded military jackets and skirts meant to resemble centipedes… or the cinched waists paired with braided antenna’s meant to resemble mantis like shapes.”

With its enticing riffs on hourglass silhouettes and scaled-up proportions, Browne’s collection was one of a number to play with form and shape to broaden the female figure — and femininity — whether literally or figuratively.

At Luar, which drew buzz both for its fashions and its front row, wide-cut shoulders and oversize sleeves ran throughout; at Sandy Liang, chaste “Sailor Moon”-inspired uniforms and prairie dresses embodied the designer’s aesthetic “growing up a little without sacrificing what you love.”

And models pumping gourd barbells showcased Collina Strada’s delightfully femme take on sports uniforms and gymwear, meanwhile, wearing “elegantly beefed-up silhouettes” — per the show notes — that included lace-trimmed boxing shorts and voluminous jackets mimicking bulging deltoids and biceps.

Then there were the designers updating American dress codes more broadly, whether in their own contexts or anew. Tommy Hilfiger’s return to the runway — attended by the brand’s ambassador Sofia Richie Grange, among other celebrities, and ushered in with an opening performance by Jon Batiste — showcased new takes on prep classics that the brand itself established in the 1990s, with boxy tweed coats, varsity jackets, cashmere dresses and long, bulky scarves.

And Willy Chavarria, who previously held a top spot at Calvin Klein in addition to running his own namesake label, brought a bold vision of American power dressing to the runway through layers and structure, with exaggerated shoulders, sharp lapels and sweeping coats offset by ruffles and sculptural florals, all with Chicano-influenced flair. “I look at periods from the 1930’s Mexican tailoring to 1980’s Calude Montana,” Chavarria told CNN of his inspirations. “Tough leather jackets worn over warm traditional menswear patterns like houndstooth and glen plaid.”

Chavarria’s runway show was accompanied by a fashion film presentation, with a rich, frenetic visual narrative which spoke to community as a respite from the world’s ills.

Like Chavarria, designer Prabal Gurung also took inspiration from community and family, mining his childhood diaries and heritage to create looks — which were richly colored in hues of saffron and vermillion, and embellished with crystals and gold embroidery — that paid tribute to his father’s lineage in Nepal after the death of a family member.

And a similar loss moved Brandon Maxwell, who channeled grief and its emotional stages into a collection that drew from nature and the American Southwest. A trip to the region, Maxwell told CNN, “really softened a lot in me — maybe it sounds really ‘woo woo,’ but in the nature I could understand that through storms and droughts and rains and fires and all the things that sort of things live on in whichever way you choose them to.”

In one of the week’s most anticipated shows, Paris-based designer Ludovic de Saint Sernin made his New York debut with an enchanting collection inspired by the once-taboo photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe, progressing from applique florals and wispy transparent fabrics to shimmering crystal mesh gowns to full-on leather bondage styles.

De Saint Sernin’s designs have often rewritten gendered dress codes, and he told CNN that his clothes show how “the evolution and competence you can gain with your gender and your identity is an exploration that you do your whole life.”

Scroll down to see this season’s runway highlights, updated throughout the week.

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