In a week of very loud, very literal, protest statements on white t-shirts, the more subtle, nuanced commentary has stood out the most.
America — the current state of it, the future of it — is obviously on the collective brain here in New York. And this might explain why so many, from Raf Simons at Calvin Klein to Thom Browne and even Kanye West, have been creating revisionist re-imaginings of Americana and the old West. Instead of dressing like streetwise athletes, people are going to now be channeling prairie ranch hands and cowgirls.
The Great American West, of the geographic variety, was a theme throughout Kanye's latest collection for Adidas, Yeezy Season 5.
And unlike his controversial outdoor runway show on Roosevelt Island last season (heat wave, collapsing models, angry editors) and the massively crowded, starry extravaganza the season before that (Madison Square Garden!), the show was a fairly smooth, low-key affair.
There were no splashy Vanessa Beecroft human installations. Just a giant black screen in the middle of a dark room filled with just a few handfuls of editors (and Kim Kardashian and Lala Anthony.) The screen showed a live broadcast of each model's look from a dark studio set up backstage.
The absence of production bells and whistles seems to have freed up Kanye's time to produce a tighter, stronger collection.
The clothes — oversized shearling coats and cowboy style denim jackets, relaxed hooded sweatshirts and velour v-necks, flannels and the season's popular boot-cut jean — were not particularly original or ground-breaking. It's not so hard to recreate a lean tracksuit with just the right amount of slouch. But his re-worked streetwear staples were well-executed; there was plenty for a devoted Yeezy fan to love.
The collection also added gas to the old West trend and smartly tapped into the fashion zeitgeist, as everyone rethinks what America means. The image of the model Halima Aden wearing her hijab under a Grey Gardens-style fur coat had more impact than any single piece of clothing on that runway — or any slogan t-shirt I've seen all week, for that matter.
Kanye wasn't the only one to take on Americana this week. Thom Browne's exploration of it was unbeatable, proving that you can make bold creative statements, force people to look at the world differently, and want to buy a new coat all at the same damn time.
Dressed in what was easily the week's most covetable and technically impressive lineup of outerwear (leather quilted jackets, long puffer vests, collaged blazers, fur-trimmed coats in rainbow stripes, the list goes on and on) and tailoring (the double-breasted trend just gets bigger and bigger), Browne's models teetered around a runway made to look like a frozen lake while wearing replicas of ice skates, and inviting all sorts of theorising about what it means in the process. Is this America, hobbling around on thin ice? The rise of a big chill? The winter of our discontent?
As depressing as all of that sounds, the clothes were mood-lifting and inspiring. It's hard not to smile when a stuffed penguin bag is staring you in the face from the runway. Or ooh and ahh at the workmanship that went into a collaged skirt suit, embroidered with an American prairie landscape.
Stuart Vevers referenced the prairie on his catwalk, with little fields of grain leading up to an old ramshackle house on set.
If the Netflix series The Get Down were set in the early 20th century West, it might look like the Coach show.
He cleverly mixed hip hop references with elements from the old frontier, replacing bonnets with shaggy b-boy hats and layering Western-flavoured quilted puffer coats over full prairie skirts and dresses printed with horses and florals.
It sounds kind of wrong and ridiculous in print, but looked great on the runway — the statement made even cooler by the diverse casting (including sisters Adwoa and Kesewa Aboah, Jessie Bloemendaal, Winnie Harlow and Sora Choi.)