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The biggest fashion news stories of 2015

From John Galliano’s runway return to Raf Simons’ Dior departure and Rick Owens’ penis-baring models – here are the headlines in this year’s fashion news

The landscape of fashion can change enormously in the space of a year. 2015 saw a number of high-profile designers depart their prestigious positions of power – it all began with Raf Simons, whose resignation from Dior sent ripples through the industry and caused many to question whether or not he was a victim of the relentless pace of fashion. It was also the year that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West cemented their reputation as one of fashion’s most intriguing power couples – as well as posing for a now-iconic photobook lensed by Juergen Teller, West staged his first runway shows. Rick Owens brought the penis onto the catwalk and forced us to question our views on male nudity, whereas John Galliano made his long-awaited return at the house of Margiela and Rihanna made history by becoming the first black spokesperson for Dior. It’s been a busy year, but here are our picks of 2015’s most shocking, triumphant and provocative news stories.

Never one to shy away from making a statement, designer Rick Owens made headlines this year for showcasing (albeit subtly) private parts of the male anatomy on the runway at his AW15 show. Although not intended as a shock tactic, the moment quickly went viral as the hashtag #DickOwens began to sweep across Twitter. Owens was somewhat bemused by the conservative reactions, later going on to ask, “Why did your parents teach you that your penis is ugly? All the most conservative or vehement reactions were: ‘How disgusting!’ ‘Why would anyone want to show a shrivelled up nutsack like that?”

In one of the year’s most unexpected stories, Raf Simons made headlines by announcing his resignation at the house of Dior. Although the decision was amicable and accompanied by a press statement claiming Raf’s desire to “focus on other interests in my life”, his departure was the first in a series of high-profile power moves that rocked the fashion industry. Raf was closely followed by Alber Elbaz, who was ousted by shareholders at Lanvin in what is quickly becoming one of the year’s messiest break-ups, and then Jonathan Saunders who announced the closure of his eponymous label just weeks ago, citing “personal reasons.”

Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson this year became the unlikely heroes of Paris Fashion Week, reprising their roles as Derek Zoolander and Hansel to close Valentino AW15. The duo strutted onto the runway to a soundtrack of Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” to compete in a walk-off that brought smiles to the faces of the front row, proving that fashion really does have a lighter side. Their appearance was conceived as a launch for the sequel of Zoolander (a favourite of Valentino designer Maria Grazia Chiuri), which cast Stiller as a clueless male model brainwashed to assassinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

After years of infamous ad campaigns and rumours of sketchy behaviour by boss Dov Charney, American Apparel this year filed for bankruptcy after five years recording no profit. The brand was initially a success story, gaining a reputation for challenging the labour standards of the garment industry and releasing provocative ads which helped establish a distinctive, profitable brand aesthetic. The brand subsequently expanded worldwide in the mid-noughties but, by 2009, the company was recording a loss and struggling for credibility after a series of controversies. Rumours have been circulating regarding a plan for the future (and Charney is even rumoured to be back on board), but 2015 remains the year that things appeared to be over for the notorious brand.

The appearance of Kim and Kanye on this list comes as little surprise. Pop culture’s most influential couple have had a busy year, between them establishing clothing lines, a range of emojis and, well, this really odd photobook. Shot by Juergen Teller on a holiday in France, the bizarre snapshots show Kim struggling up a dirt hill in nude pants and Teller wading his way through a stream in no shorts and a red puffer coat. Still, despite the bemused reaction to the bizarre editorial, the photobook has gained notoriety in its own right, even being shown as part of an exclusive gallery exhibition in London. 

Few names in the fashion industry have attracted as much press attention as John Galliano. The designer is renowned for his eclectic dress sense, larger-than-life personality and, despite a well-documented struggle with addiction, his incredible talent. Acclaimed for his theatrical shows and romantic designs, Galliano has established a reputation as one of fashion’s greatest showmen; therefore, responses were mixed and anticipation was rife when he was appointed creative director of the notoriously private Maison Margiela. Any doubt surrounding the partnership was quickly dismissed in January when fashion press got their first glimpse of his debut Artisanal collection – a perfect fusion of Margiela’s signature codes and Galliano’s artistic flair, the show ushered in a triumphant new era of Margiela which has since taken the industry by storm.

Despite not actually releasing an album this year, Rihanna did make headlines for a series of fashion collaborations with the likes of Puma and River Island, as well as the announcement that she would be also be turning her hand to fashion design, debuting a collection at New York Fashion Week. Most notably, she was also chosen as the first black woman to ever front a campaign for Dior, a breakthrough in terms of racial diversity in the fashion indsutry. Rihanna referenced the historical gravity of her appointment in a speech acknowledging “it is such a big deal for me, for my culture, for a lot of young girls of any colour”, but the pairing is also a sign that fashion is increasingly harnessing star power to appeal to a new, younger generation.

Rick Owen’s SS16 collection was conceived as a protest against male aggression however, a bit ironically, one of his male models decided to walk the runway holding a banner emblazoned with the words “PLEASE KILL ANGELA MERKEL...NOT.” The last part of the slogan wasn’t quite visible on the runway, and the move backfired enormously with the model being punched by Owens himself upon his arrival backstage. Elaborating on the controversy, Owens said, “He’s been my male muse for the past twelve years or something and I think he just felt comfortable enough to do something in a show and I’m furious.” Unsurprisingly, the model was swiftly removed from the website of his modelling agency.

The anticipation surrounding Kanye’s collaboration with Adidas was extraordinary from the moment of its announcement, but few could have predicted the expansive, NSFW lookbook that broke the internet when it was leaked online earlier this year. Shot by renowned photographer Jackie Nickerson, the images presented a beautiful take on beauty, diversity and the naked form. It was also a chance for fashion fans to glimpse what would become one of year’s most talked about collections, its aesthetics rooted firmly in sheer, functional basics and oversized streetwear. Naturally, Kanye himself also made an appearance in the lookbook, cementing his reputation as one of fashion’s most interesting new voices.