The 8 Biggest Fashion News Stories of 2019

Breaking news: A lot happened this year, and we're here to spill it all.
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Handbag picturing Karl Lagerfeld at the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Awards.

Handbag picturing Karl Lagerfeld at the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Awards.

We're days away from entering a new decade and while the fashion industry saw plenty of change over the last 10 years, 2019 ultimately ended the decade with a bang. If there's one thing we've learned over these past 12 months, it's that fashion news often breaks when we least expect it, so some earth-shattering announcement could easily come before Jan. 1, but we still thought we'd take a moment to round up the biggest stories that made their way through this year's fashion news cycle. From the Barneys bankruptcy saga and Gucci's blackface controversy to the death of Karl Lagerfeld, 2019 proved to be a complete whirlwind for the fashion industry. 

From the controversial to the cute to the straight-up confusing, these are the fashion stories that 2019 will be remembered for.

Gucci 'Blackface' Sweater Controversy Leads to Reckoning

The Gucci sweater under fire. Photo: Screengrab from Twitter

The Gucci sweater under fire. Photo: Screengrab from Twitter

To lead the year in controversial news, Gucci came out with a sweater that many thought to resemble blackface. The luxury brand removed the sweater from its online and physical stores. But, thanks in large part to the brand's collaborator Dapper Dan holding its executives accountable, Gucci actually made efforts to address the deeper issues that led to such a snafu, including making new hires

Fashion Loses a Legend

Karl Lagerfeld and godson Hudson Kroenig during the finale of Chanel's Cruise 2018 show at the Grand Palais in Paris. Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Karl Lagerfeld and godson Hudson Kroenig during the finale of Chanel's Cruise 2018 show at the Grand Palais in Paris. Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

On Feb. 19, the fashion community lost a legend when renowned designer and industry icon Karl Lagerfeld passed away at 85. Lagerfeld was most known for his work as a longtime creative director at both Chanel and Fendi, as well as his own eponymous label. It had been speculated that he was ill after he missed the Chanel Spring 2019 Haute Couture show, but according to sources at WWD, Lagerfeld was working up until the end. Lagerfeld will go down in the fashion history books as one of the most influential, prolific and memorable figures ever to work in design. 

The RealReal's Authentication Practices Exposed

Photo: Imaxtree

Photo: Imaxtree

In recent years, TheRealReal's authentication practices have been called into question by shoppers, brands and Diet Prada. This came to a head when The Capitol Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that conducts in-depth investigations into potential consumer protection issues, published its findings following one such investigation into The RealReal. The report found that inexperienced hourly workers with the title "copywriter," rather than professional authenticators, were performing the majority of authentication of consigned items before writing their descriptions and posting them on the website. This inevitably allowed fakes to slip through the cracks — a major issue for a company that prided itself on accurate authentication. Still, it took multiple subsequent reports and investigations before the company would admit its shortcomings publicly.

Kerby-Jean Raymond Calls Out the 'Insulting' BoF 500 Gala

Kerby Jean-Raymond after the Pyer Moss Spring 2020 show. Photo: KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images

Kerby Jean-Raymond after the Pyer Moss Spring 2020 show. Photo: KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images

Kerby Jean-Raymond, the designer behind Pyer Moss, called out Business of Fashion for addressing inclusivity in what he felt was a disingenuous way. Following months of disappointing experiences with BoF that left him feeling "gaslighted" and "used" by the publication's Editor-In-Chief Imran Amed — including being offered and then denied a BoF 500 magazine cover — an incident at the BoF 500 gala in October was the final straw. "This is some insulting shit," he wrote on Instagram stories after witnessing a Black choir welcome guests into the event. "BoF 499, I'm off the list." He detailed the experience in a heartfelt personal essay.

Fashion's Carbon Neutrality Movement

Pollution. Photo: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

Pollution. Photo: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

After Gucci announced earlier in September that it was going carbon-neutral, its parent company Kering — which owns Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta and Balenciagaannounced that it, too, would be hopping on the carbon-neutral train and more brands followed suit as the year went on. Climate change is caused by releasing gases like carbon into the atmosphere through pollution, of which the fashion industry is one of the largest contributors. So a brand becoming carbon neutral is the best thing it can do, right? In theory, yes. However, getting there isn't quite as simple as brands sometimes make it seem.

What's Not Clicking For Victoria's Secret?

Alexina Graham at the 2018 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

Alexina Graham at the 2018 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

Victoria's Secret ended 2018 on a controversial note via the comments then-Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek made defending the retailer's anti-inclusion casting practices. Things went downhill from there, with the company hiring more conventionally attractive cis women, an association with Jeffrey Epstein, store closures and a cancelled Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. However, late in the year, Razek left the company and its CEO acknowledged the need for more diversity. Sister brand Pink even hired its first transgender model. But is any of it working?

The Influencer Frenzy Around 'New Bottega'

Bottega Veneta in street style at Paris Fashion Week. Photo: Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Bottega Veneta in street style at Paris Fashion Week. Photo: Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Daniel Lee made a major splash as the new designer behind luxury Italian brand Bottega Veneta – waking what he described as "the sleeping giant." Under Lee's guidance, Bottega Veneta has become the brand of the moment with mega-influencers, celebrities and fashion folk alike sporting its accessories, especially The Pouch: a now-ubiquitous dough-soft calfskin bag. Did the brand spend eye-watering amounts of money seeding these products to influencers or did Lee fans simply shell out? It was likely a mix of both.

Barneys New York Files For Bankruptcy

Barneys New York. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Barneys New York. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The fashion industry is mourning the loss of a New York landmark and fashion retail legend, Barneys New York, after a battle of bankruptcy. On Nov. 1, Authentic Brands Group officially became the new owner of Barneys New York in a $271 million deal that is expected to result in the closure of most, if not all, stores, though ABG is expected to continue to license the brand in some way. Reports surfaced that the retailer was planning to restructure and was considering a bankruptcy filing in July, and it officially filed in August. While this has been a truly wild journey for the retailer, it comes at a time of unprecedented upheaval for retail, especially of the brick-and-mortar variety. 

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