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Prada AW14
Backstage at Prada AW14Photography Lea Colombo

The collections that defined 2014

Margiela’s couture, Prada’s perversions and Junya Watanabe’s anarchistic conceptualism – Dazed’s fashion director Robbie Spencer selects his favourites

A year is a long time in fashion – 2014 has seen new designers take up the mantle at longstanding houses, comebacks from some much loved, but long absent cult models, and even the farewell of one of the industry’s most established provocateurs. Here, Dazed’s fashion director Robbie Spencer charts his highlights from the last 12 months. Check out the best fashion films, editorials and longreads of the year, and all of our end of year round-ups here.


For AW14, Raf Simons took his past work with LA-based multimedia artist Sterling Ruby to the next level, in the creation of a new, collaborative brand. Inspired by the symbols used by teenagers to both rebel and self-define – like the punk patches both the designer and artist once adorned their clothes with – the collection was a collaged ode to non-conformity, and not just in terms of youth. “I’m completely, completely obsessed with trying to get out of the fashion system,” Simons – who penned a revealing, seven part essay for our Outsiders issue – explained.


Margiela’s Artisanal collections push couture to the boundaries, breaking away from the idea of it as an old-fashioned institution and instead using it as a territory for bold new creations that bridge the gap between fashion and art. Rare fabrics and artefacts are combined with new designs, like SS14’s use of a Bauhaus-era tapestry and embroidered panels designed by Sailor Jerry, or AW14’s 18th century French silks. Photographer Lorenzo Vitturi took the SS14 collection to Dalston’s Ridley Road market for our Summer 2014 issue – watch what unfolded in a film by Amy Gwatkin here.


Junya Watanabe’s AW14 collection was an all black affair, but it didn’t need colour. Like a controlled explosion, fabric was spliced and layered, texture and shape collaged – and when you thought you saw a pattern emerge, it twisted, doubled back on itself and changed directions: it was perfectly executed anarchy. With Watanabe you have to expect the unexpected, and SS15 was no different. A space-age, vinyl vision of colour and chaos, it was a stand out show in the institutional Paris, and provided the perfect opportunity to transform Kendall Jenner into a conceptual muse on our Winter cover.


At Prada, menswear and womenswear went hand in hand. AW14 was declared a tale in two acts – the first saw boys in perverted tailoring, scarves knotted at the neck, followed by girls on the runway in Tibetan sheepskin and see-through skirts. They hinted towards the womenswear show – a Bauhaus inspired collection which clashed constructivist prints and delicate, off-beat sexuality. SS15 menswear took place by the pool, with 70s stitched denim and boxy button downs – Miuccia was “interpreting the classics” – while the folkoric women’s show kicked it up a notch, with Gemma Ward staging the season’s biggest cult comeback, strutting through the purple desert space.


“The most famous designer you’ve never heard of,” declared the press in July last year. They were of course referring to Margiela’s designer Matthieu Blazy, catapulted into the spotlight after legendary editor Suzy Menkes unmasked him. Dazed went backstage exclusively at his SS15 show, where models waited with nymph-like glistening skin and wet hair, bodies wrapped in floral patterns that were somehow both retro and futuristic. The collection reworked the familiar into the bold and new – a fitting last show for the designer, now moving to Céline.


Phoebe Philo’s designs launch a thousand imitations, and it’s easy to see why. Philo can work her magic on the seemingly mundane and transform it into the infinitely covetable – as in Céline’s AW14 collection, where baby blue gingham fabric and knitted flares were lifted from dangerous ‘tablecloths and tracksuits’ territory and elevated. SS15 eschewed the rep of hardline minimalism the Céline woman seems to have developed, with soft floral prints and embellishment. 


Although Simons has been inspired by the historical (going, in his words, “very hardcore into the Dior language” for inspiration) he’s not limited by the past. This year he took the cruise show to (gasp!) Brooklyn, teamed up with Harmony Korine and presented astronaut inspired couture. “For me, fashion only makes sense if there’s an action and a reaction,” explained Simons in our Spring/Summer 2014 issue. “It makes no sense for me if you make clothes that are not worn.” For proof of this, look no further than the Pre-AW14 show in Toyko, where Simons injected a new practicality into his designs, without compromising on glamour.


After a show where a team of step dancers descended on the runway, stomping their way into fashion’s history books, where could Rick Owens go next? The answer was a little closer to home – for AW14 womenswear, he cast his studio staff to walk the catwalk: a touching, personal tribute to the industry’s often unsung heroes. From there, it was to Nijinsky – and the autoeroticism of his performance in Afternoon of a Faun, which translated into his out-of-this-world SS15 menswear show, where bodies were painted chalky shades of green, blue and white. For SS15 womenswear, Owens made another unexpected move: he used tulle.


This year saw J.W. Anderson do what he does best – tear up the codes of gender, sexuality and high fashion and recreate them in a new, off-kilter vision. The avant-bland pioneer – who came in at number 7 on the Dazed 100 – received investment from LVMH this year, which he put to good use. His menswear interpreted a strange sexuality: AW14 was office power dressing for the boys, where a languid and pyjama-like collection was the order of the day for SS15. His AW14 womenswear used deliberately dowdy fabrics (like corduroy and wool) to enwrap the female form, and for SS15 models’ faces were obscured behind giant pleather sun hats. Of course, clumpy shoes were a staple throughout.


For AW14, Miuccia Prada successfully transformed the humble plastic raincoat and wellington boot into some of the year’s most covetable pieces – as sported by Her Minajesty on one of her two Dazed covers. It was a reflection of her love of perverting the normal – “With Miuccia, she’s trying to reorient our gaze, trying to show us things we are used to seeing in a new way,” argued Fiona Duncan in Dazed’s Autumn/Winter issue. For SS15, and set to the soundtrack of John Waters’ Female Trouble, things went fifties, with rebel girls in platforms, crop tops and finished off with bad bitch brows.


Comme des Garçons AW14 womenswear reimagined the familiar, with bulbous, inflated knitwear making exaggerated shapes around the body. SS15 was a season stand out – all in hues of blood red, it incited thoughts of anger, passion, lust and love, with a killer soundtrack to match. For SS15’s Homme Plus collection, Kawakubo played with ideas of captivity – suiting with military inspired buttons and cuffs was worn with giant, tusked winklepickers, whilst embroidered nets ensnared suits with leopard-print collars. The show concluded with an uplifting note, however: flower power slogans like ‘anything war can do peace can do better’ and ‘peace, love, empathy’ decorated the final garments. 


This year, Nicolas Ghesquière ushered in a new era for Louis Vuitton – and it was brilliant. His debut show – AW14 – ditched the spectacular sets of seasons’ past for a pared back runway, where, free of distraction, the audience could focus on his vision – a meeting of 70s codes and slick sexuality. By the time SS15 rolled around, he was in his stride: taking the audience on a futuristic journey, marked by giant model avatars projected on screens along the runway. All of this year’s collections felt coherent together, but each pushed his aesthetic for the house forward. It’s no wonder he bagged International Designer of the Year at the BFAs.


J.W. Anderson is one of Britain’s most pioneering designers, making him the ideal man to shake things up at Spanish house Loewe. For his debut SS15 show, he chose a stark, brutalist building in Paris – the harshness of the surroundings offset by a collection that centred on the idea of softness, movement and fluidity. “I feel like boredom is the biggest problem in fashion,” he explained backstage. It certainly wasn’t a problem for the audience.


Maybe it was all that looking through the archives for his incredible, expansive Barbican retrospective that had Jean Paul Gaultier thinking about the future of his runway shows, but the fashion world was shocked to discover that SS15 would be his final ready-to-wear show. Gaultier had set a precedent for spectacle (like walking a topless Madonna down the runway in 1992, or his infamous Chic Rabbis collection), but nothing could prepare us for his send-off. An outrageously over the top performance featuring Mexican wrestlers, models dressed as fashion editors and culminating a beauty pageant was a truly fitting testament to his legacy.