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The 11 Biggest Fashion Stories of 2016

Your guide to everything that got the industry talking this year.
Gigi Hadid and Tommy Hilfiger on the TommyxGigi runway in September. Photo: Randy Brooke

Gigi Hadid and Tommy Hilfiger on the TommyxGigi runway in September. Photo: Randy Brooke

As the year comes to a close, we're taking a moment to look back on all of the people and things that dominated the fashion conversation in 2016. It may be hard to remember — some other major stuff happened in the world this year, in case you missed it — but there was a lot happening in our industry, from the "see now, buy now" phenomenon to the game of designer musical chairs with which even we had difficulties keeping up.

From the sad to the ridiculous, these were the 11 biggest fashion news stories this year.

See Now, Buy Now

Seriously, has a week gone by in 2016 that you haven't read the phrase "see now, buy now" somewhere? It seemed like all that the industry could talk about was the rise of instantly-shoppable collections. New York enthusiastically embraced the concept, while most European labels observed from the sidelines — or renounced the idea altogether. But considering brands like Burberry and Ralph Lauren called it a success — at least in terms of garnering press, if not in bottom line sales numbers — more companies might take the concept more seriously in coming seasons.

The Passing of Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham was a New York City legend, fashion or otherwise. A egalitarian of style, he was never without his blue jacket and his bicycle, pedaling around the city or quietly prowling through the best parties looking for the most interestingly-dressed people. Cunningham's death in June was a huge blow to the fashion industry, where the photog was universally beloved. There's no question his absence will be felt for years to come.

Melania and Ivanka Trump 

The Trump family was undeniably the biggest story of 2016, and it was inevitable that it would trickle into the fashion industry: Donald Trump's third wife Melania is a former model, and his daughter Ivanka has her own fashion line. Between Melania's Gucci pussy bow — was it a nod to her husband's infamous comments? — and Ivanka's misstep promoting a bracelet from her own line that she wore on television, no matter how hard you tried, the Trumps were inescapable. As the debate about which designers will dress the future First Lady rages on, we're sure this isn't the last the fashion industry has heard of Melania.


If there was a musical act out there in 2016 that didn't put out must-have merch, we haven't heard of them. Kicked off by Kanye West and Justin Bieber, artists like Beyoncé, Drake, and The Weeknd all hopped on the #merch bandwagon. We even made our own. Will the comeback of merch continue into 2017? All signs point to "yes."

Kanye West. Period.

Oh, Kanye. He started out 2016 strong, debuting his latest album "The Life of Pablo" at his mega-show for Yeezy Season 3 at Madison Square Garden and selling out merch at blockbuster pop-up shops around the world. His "Wolves" video doubled as a Balmain ad, he massively expanded his partnership with Adidas, and he covered the all-important September issue Harper's Bazaar with his wife, Kim Kardashian West, shot by Karl Lagerfeld. But as the year went on, Mr. West seemed to devolve further into his worst impulses: He held the fashion industry hostage for hours at the Yeezy Season 4 runway show on Roosevelt Island, ranted at the Bazaar Icons party, and canceled tour dates at the end of 2016 for mental health reasons. We hope 2017 will be better for West.

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Vogue Versus the Bloggers

It was a feud we thought died all the way back in 2013. But with one Milan Fashion Week wrap up, the digital editors of reignited the tired argument that bloggers don't have a place in the respectable corners of the fashion industry — particularly in the front row and in street style galleries. Influencers like Susie Bubble and Bryanboy were quick to fire back, with many joining the fray in the days following. Can't we all just get along?

The Rapidly-Changing Print World

As digital grows in importance, legacy media brands like Condé Nast and Hearst are playing catch-up — something which, sadly, often results in rounds of layoffs and closures. In 2016, Teen Vogue reduced to a quarterly schedule; Self, InStyle UK, and Complex all ceased print publication altogether. Condé Nast recently announced it would consolidate teams across five categories; similarly, Hearst revealed it would combine editorial teams across five of its titles. As these brands continue to navigate the new world of publishing, 2017 will likely remain tough for the print industry.

Nasty Gal Files for Bankruptcy

Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso has built an entire brand around being a "#GirlBoss," but couldn't dodge accusations that everything was not, in fact, perfect in paradise. After being dogged by issues ranging from layoffs to lawsuits, the brand filed for bankruptcy in November. Amoruso is reportedly resigning; Nasty Gal has been approved to tap into a $20 million loan from Hercules Technology Growth Capital Inc. Boohoo is trying to acquire the troubled brand, but only time will tell if it's salvageable. 

"Elle on Earth"

It was the poorly-written screed read 'round the world. "Elle on Earth," written by Jacques Hyzagi for the Observer, had the fashion industry talking — and texting, and tweeting — about the many insane aspects of the a 3,700-plus word rambling essay. It tore into the staff of Elle, who Hyzagi accused of ruining an interview with Rei Kawakubo. But what the fashion world wanted to know was: Who is this guy? And did no one at the Observer bother to edit the piece? 

The Revolving Door of Designers

It's something that happens every year, but in 2016, the changes came fast and furious, often seeing designers and houses part ways in three years or less. Peter Copping was out at Oscar de la Renta, then Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia of Monse were in (for which Kim is being sued by Carolina Herrera, where she was briefly, sort-of in); Francisco Costa and Italo Zucchelli were out at Calvin Klein, then Raf Simons was in, with Maria Grazia Chiuri taking his vacated seat at Dior; Peter Dundas was out at Roberto Cavalli; Bouchra Jarrar was in at Lanvin; Hedi Slimane was out at Saint Laurent, then replaced by Anthony Vaccarello, who was then out at Versus Versace; Consuelo Castiglioni was out at Marni; Haider Ackermann was in at Berlutti; Danielle Sherman was out at Edun; Jonathan Saunders shut down his own line to be in at Diane von FurstenbergAlessandra Facchinetti was out at Tod's; Stefano Pilati was out at Ermenegildo Zegna; Alexis Martial and Adrien Caillaudaud were out at Carven; Declan Kearney was out at Maiyet; Massimiliano Giornetti was out at Salvatore Ferragamo; Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osbourne were out at DKNY; Brendan Mullane was out at Brioni, then Justin O'Shea was in, then right back out again.

Got all that? (Yeah, we're confused, too.)

The Passing of Sonia Rykiel

French designer Sonia Rykiel was a legend in the fashion industry — not just for her covetable knits, but for her joie de vivre. She passed away in August, aged 86, leaving behind a beloved fashion brand and a lasting legacy for women who love clothes. 

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