Top 10 Fashion Moments of 2015

Francois-Henri Pinault, chief executive officer of Kering SA.
Francois-Henri Pinault, chief executive officer of Kering SA. PHOTO: MARLENE AWAAD/BLOOMBERG
Fashion’s leading man: Francois-Henri Pinault

It has been a year of surprise and change in fashion. No one a year ago could have imagined that Gucci, long an also-ran on the fashion scene, would explode, dominating a new nerd-chic look. Fashion editors were suddenly wearing Gucci loafers in front rows of the runway shows.

The loser in this seismic shift may have been Prada. The Italian label has long been a dominant force in setting fashion trends, but with Gucci doing ugly-chic better, Prada fell out. It reported a 26% drop in net earnings for the nine months ended Oct. 31.

Donna Karan—once the go-to designer for New York working women—stepped down from her brand after 30 years. She was replaced at DKNY by Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne—the young founders of the too-cool-for-school Public School label. They have pioneered cool tailoring and they may represent the future of the New York look, but Ms. Karan’s knowing focus on the needs of working, family-juggling women will be hard to maintain.

The new supermodel proved to be measured more by her social-media following than her curveless physical dimensions. Gigi Hadid (10.4 million Instagram followers), Kendall Jenner (44.3 million Instagram followers) and other gorgeous newcomers drew avid fans who were undeterred by their (slightly) curvier-than-typical forms.

Even as the year closed in on the holidays, the shocks kept coming: Alber Elbaz was fired from his job at Lanvin—an event that shocked even the designer himself and landed the company in the French courts.

The speed with which consumers have embraced these transitions suggests that our world is getting accustomed to flux. A good thing too, as the speed of change shows few signs of slowing in 2016. Before we get there, let’s consider the big moments and trends of 2015 that will be shaping what comes next.

Let us count the reasons: Gucci rockets to fashion domination with new designerAlessandro Michele; Saint Laurent reports 37% sales growth in the first three quarters under the direction of the controversial Hedi Slimane; Demna Gvasalia, edgy unknown founder of the Vêtements underground fashion brand, is named designer of mega-label Balenciaga. Each move represents an earthquake in fashion terms, helping to reformat fashion and boost the fortunes of Kering, which owns the brands. At its helm, Mr. Pinault has shown he knows how to profitably wrangle creativity. What’s more, he’s made sustainability an essential part of corporate strategy, issuing an annual environmental profit and loss report.

The Chloe show during Paris Fashion Week on March 8.
The Chloe show during Paris Fashion Week on March 8. PHOTO: VICTOR BOYKO/GETTY IMAGES
Fringe Fest

The ‘70s weren’t even this hot in the ‘70s. Fashion’s love affair with that decade raged throughout the year, and showed no signs of abating. Fans at the Chloe show in Paris in September were so authentically arrayed in swishy peasant dresses worn under vests, and chunky lace-up boots that the audience looked like a period-piece film set. So carry on my wayward friends: that suede fringed jacket remains a good investment, sideburns optional.

Christian Louboutin’s ‘Rantus Orlato Flat Sneakers’ retail for $1,995. PHOTO: BARNEYS
Designer Sneaker

The apotheosis of the athleisure trend that hijacked fashion this year, the designer sneaker reached new heights with chic high tops and lofty prices. If you don’t want to drop $1,995 on Christian Louboutin’s versions, consider the Stan Smiths for retro reverence, or NikeLab’s “Free Inneva Woven Mid,” a relative bargain at $215. Guys, check out the “purple shade” color.

A model on the runway for Gucci on June 4.
A model on the runway for Gucci on June 4.PHOTO: FAIRCHILD PHOTO SERVICE/CONDE NAST/CORBIS
Pleated Skirt

Gucci’s shimmery Lurex version is getting all the press, but plenty of other designers introduced this nerd-chic take on the below-knee pleated skirt first ( Marc Jacobs, Fall 2015). This is a trend that will drift into 2016 and beyond. Buy one in an unexpected fabric—like leather or lamé.

Amal Clooney.ENLARGE
Clothes Horse

If there was any woman a designer wanted to dress in 2015, it was Amal Clooney. Daily announcements about her outfits were fired off in volleys. Sonia Rykiel, Giambattista Valli, Dolce & Gabbana, Miu Miu, Stella McCartney—she never seemed to repeat an outfit. Given her jet-set life and high-profile marriage to George Clooney, this, too, is a trend that’s likely to last into 2016.

Talking Politics

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at her official campaign launch June 13.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at her official campaign launch June 13.PHOTO: JOHN MOORE/GETTY IMAGES

Perhaps what we’re not talking about is making a statement. Chatter about Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits has died down. Comments aboutCarly Fiorina’s appearance—with the notable exception of one much-disparaged remark by a fellow candidate—have been notably few. A presidential race with female candidates that’s focused more on ideas, and less on style, is very different from the last time around.

Beyoncé on the red carpet at the Costume Institute Benefit Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 4 in New York City.
Beyoncé on the red carpet at the Costume Institute Benefit Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 4 in New York City. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
The Naked Dress

Beyoncé, in Givenchy, Jennifer Lopez, in Versace, and other celebrities proved how much mileage one can squeeze from a strand of strategically placed lace or sequins. Nearly naked dresses arrived at the Met Gala, the Latin Grammy Awards ( Jada Pinkett Smith) and virtually every other big-time gala in 2015. It is a trend made exclusively for red carpets.

Model Lea T during the Sao Paulo Fashion Week in July.
Model Lea T during the Sao Paulo Fashion Week in July. PHOTO: MAURICIO SANTANA/CORBIS

Caitlyn turned up the volume, but the shift toward mainstreaming transsexuals was already well underway. A dozen or so transgender fashion models walked the runways and posed for advertisements without making mention of gender. Lea T, a model whose real name is Lea Cerezo, is a cover girl for the hair-care brand Redken. A longtime muse to Ricardo Tisci at Givenchy, she has been featured in Vogue Paris as well as Forbes and has been walking runways since 2011.

Supermodel Karlie Kloss exits the Fendi show with a Mansur Gavriel backpack.ENLARGE
Supermodel Karlie Kloss exits the Fendi show with a Mansur Gavriel backpack. PHOTO:MELODIE JENG/GETTY IMAGES
The Bucket Overflows

The It bag of 2015 was Mansur Gavriel’s bucket bag. Relatively affordable at under $500, it competed with bags quadruple the price and ushered in an array of copycats. Heady with that success, Mansur Gavriel promised to launch shoes and clothing, and issued new bags at twice the price. It isn’t yet clear whether the brand is a one-hit wonder or the next big thing, but it’s safe to say that the bucket has had its day. Coming on hard, more ladylike bags with rectangular shapes that readily accommodate iPads and other gadgets.

The New Dinosaur: Catwalks

Kendall Jenner walks the runway during the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.ENLARGE
Kendall Jenner walks the runway during the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. PHOTO:DIMITRIOS KAMBOURIS/GETTY IMAGES

The decades-old system of showing clothes on runways months before they appear in stores isn’t working in the age of Instagram and livestreams that let consumers see the styles. The Council of Fashion Designers of America this month hired management consultants to come up with a new system. Brands are already experimenting. Rebecca Minkoff will soon show clothes on the runway in the season when they hit stores. Givenchy’s performance art spectacle in September in New York—to which the public was invited—was more brand-building exercise than fashion show. It suggests that some big labels are learning from Victoria’s Secret, whose runway shows have pioneered the catwalk as mass consumer spectacle.