From homecomings to newcomers: New York Fashion Week moments that won over China

New York has a reputation for nurturing designers who can craft the ordinary into something extraordinary. Austrian fashion icon Helmut Lang was one of them. After stepping down from his eponymous label in 2005, now, after countless creative director reshuffles, the house thinks it’s found the answer to reviving its legacy: 32-year old Vietnamese-born designer Peter Do. 

Across the Big Apple, this Spring Summer 2024 Fashion Week season was a homecoming of sorts. Ralph Lauren returned to the calendar after four years, while Phillip Lim also made a comeback after a self-imposed hiatus. Notably, Do’s long-awaited debut held the promise of propelling Lang’s label back to the fore of cultural relevance. 

While fresh-faced designers such as Palomo Spain and Diotima’s Rachel Scott brought a breath of fresh air that cut through the city’s leaden weather, it was the calendar mainstays – like Tory Burch – who pulled out the unexpected stops and flourished.

Chinese A-listers are dominating the season’s fashion circuit. Boosting the popularity of NYFW in the mainland, their star presence ignited social media commentary and was widely documented in China. When it comes to capturing China’s interest, the key to making waves isn’t what’s on the runway, it’s who’s sitting on the front row.

Peter Do showcased his debut collection for Helmut Lang on Friday. Photo: Yahoo News

Helmut Lang

Helmut Lang’s showcase was the first collection to arrive from Do, the Vietnamese prodigy and LVMH prize winner whose eponymous label has been redefining fashion since its launch in 2018. 

After achieving star status across the style sphere, expectations were high for Do’s debut at Lang, which was publicly unveiled in May this year. 

The designer’s attempt to recapture the essence that had cemented Lang’s legacy as a cultural force in the 1990s didn’t take off as hoped, according to critics and enthusiasts. While the new creative director was praised for doing his homework, others claimed that Do had done his research so well that the collection ended up lacking artistic depth.

Critics said the clothes felt misguided, lacking, and didn’t quite grasp the radical campness that Lang had championed in his work. This sentiment was prevalent in China, too, where netizens expressed their disappointment at Do’s decision to rely heavily on brand archives rather than take the opportunity to innovate a crumbling fashion maison. 

There was a lot riding on Do’s shoulders when he entered the doors of Helmut Lang. Under his own brand, the designer has had the freedom to take risks, but with the pressure of a commercial business and novelty-hungry fashion lovers to satiate, Do’s first attempt seems to have underwhelmed. 

Tory Burch transported audiences to the space age with her collection on Monday. Photo: Footwear News

Tory Burch

On Monday evening, as the sky above New York opened, the dark horse of the week emerged in the form of Tory Burch, who crept up at the final hour and stole the entire show. 

As crowds bottlenecked the American Museum of Natural History’s new Gilder Center, Burch’s take on ‘effortlessness,’ a term the designer highlighted in the collection’s show notes, didn’t fit into categories like Prada’s pragmatism or The Row’s quintessential quiet luxury, but took on a new definition of its own. 

The garments aligned faultlessly with the modern American woman, whose penchant for well-made, well-considered garments is what elevates the streets of New York. 

Each design boasted its own blink-and-you’ll-miss-it detail that ticked off the look: Mary Janes had a sophisticated makeover, while space age elements shone through in the form of ergonomic flouncy frocks, wrap-around eyewear, and precise cut-outs and collars. 

China’s netizens spotted celebs including Qin Lan, Sun Yi, and Liu Wen in the showcase’s audience, which ignited conversation on Xiaohongshu. Domestic audiences praised the collection for tapping into a new wave of modern femininity and graceful charm. 

Expanding in China is big on Burch’s agenda. The label has been investing in its expansion plans across Asia over the past few years, with CEO Pierre-Yves Roussel telling American media channel CNBC in May this year that the brand’s presence could be as big as it is in the US. 

Backstage at Coach’s SS24 show, which marked Start Vevers’ 10 years at the brand. Photo: CR Fashion Book


After a year of recalibration and pivoting to target New York’s style-savvy Gen Z crowd, Tapestry-owned Coach kept up its new-and-improved, youthful demeanor during its showcase on Friday. 

The label brought its newfound contemporary-meets-grungy sensibilities to the runway in the form of slip dresses, barely-there knits, and lots of leather; the perfect attire for pre, during, and post-club. 

Coach bags have appeared on social media and the streets this year after the house’s recent rebrand, and they are once again in full force this season. Taking on new shapes, new colors, and new quirks, the hashtag #coachbag has already attracted over 4 billion views on TikTok, a number that’s likely to increase once the new collection hits shelves. 

Coach’s commitment to celebrating counterculture has placed it front and center in the West as the fashion house to watch, though it is yet to achieve this type of status in China. 

The online buzz surrounding the label was propelled by the celebs spotted in the audience rather than the clothes themselves. K-pop star Taeyang, Chinese actor Liuyu, actress Wu Jin Yan, TV personality Wu Ying-chieh, also known as Gui Gui and Emma Wu, and influencer Yi Meng Ling attended and stole the spotlight.

Ralph Lauren’s return to the NYFW calendar brought opulence and glamor to the runway. Photo: CNN

Ralph Lauren

After a four-year absence from the New York calendar, Ralph Lauren’s collection marked a homecoming. Not only did the designer return to NYFW, he went back to his homeland of Colorado, too. 

Bohemian elegance threaded through the runway in painterly patchwork denim, disc belts, and cowgirl hats, which was both softened and sharpened by the presence of glitzy halter neck gowns and tailored jackets.  

The consensus in the West was that Lauren’s comeback was a solid, yet safe return. Reaction in China was widely positive. Netizens complimented the storied fashion house for bringing back its trademark draping techniques and silhouettes, as well as its Americana opulence. 

The sartorial elegance of blazers and preppy suit silhouettes also resonated well with Chinese consumers – an appeal most likely largely driven by the mainland’s current old-money trend. 

But, again, it was the presence of local and global celebrities that sparked social buzz. The attendance of huge names such as Christy Turlington on the runway caught the attention of onlookers. Chinese audiences spotted stars such as domestic darling Li Bing Bing, Qi Wei, and South Korean singer and actress Krystal Jung on the sidelines.

Gen-Z favorite Sandy Liang’s moodboards for her SS24 collection made waves across China’s socials. Photo: Highxtar

Sandy Liang

On Saturday, the bows and rosettes were out in full force once again on Sandy Liang’s runway, as the designer looked to 1999’s cult movie The Virgin Suicides, a psychological romantic drama, for inspiration. Featuring sheer blouses, taffeta dresses, and button-ups in tow, this season’s offering arrived with a welcome grown-up twist. 

Chinese netizens remain enamored with Liang’s girlish sensibilities, giving the label the nickname ‘Rebellious Sweetie’ on Xiaohongshu. Mood boards from the collection have been circulating on the social platform more than the runway itself, suggesting that fashion lovers across the country are keen to learn more about the behind-the-scenes process and where the Parsons School of Design graduate draws ideas from. 

Gen Z consumers in particular have been impressed with Liang’s ability to tap into the nuances of girlhood while injecting her styles with a good old dose of angst. It’s an attitude that demonstrates Liang’s deep understanding of her consumer base. Over the past year, the designer has invested in cultivating a strong brand image through collaborations with the likes of Salomon, further defining her audience base in the process. 

But Liang needs to be careful of stepping into gray areas. The designer’s take on pleated minis and minimalist tailoring was branded a “copy” of Miu Miu by critics on Xiaohongshu, suggesting the designer needs to focus on carving out a space of her own. 

Additional reporting by Mia Liang and Daphne Hsia


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