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The 25 Best Fashion Collections of 2016

Style Lists Best of 2016

Whether you’re a fan of the provincial-chic artistry of Simon Porte Jacquemus’ Spring/Summer 2017 collection or Schiaparelli’s circus-inspired couture creations, the new collections presented this year during fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan and Paris have showcased a promising level of creativity—and an extraordinary attention to design details and impeccable taste we’d like to see for seasons to come.

Now, it’s safe to say the past 12 months haven’t always been kind to the fashion industry at large (it was a continuous game of musical chairs for some creative directors, and a right-off miss for a few designers’ new lineups), but as we head into the New Year we’re looking back and celebrating international style with a list of the 25 best collections of 2016.

25. Cottweiler
Season: London Men’s Spring/Summer 2017

Based on the “future ruin of a hotel resort,” British designers Matthew Dainty and Ben Cottrell and their joint menswear label Cottweiler presented a Spring/Summer 2017 collection atop a runway scattered with shatters of broken pink ceramics. As their runway debut, the collection was a launching platform for one of the most promising designer duos in an increasingly creative community of London. As a member of the Topman-sponsored “NewGen Men” program, they had time and energy to present an upgrade to their signature tracksuits—this time appearing with new technical treatments and materials, like an extra-cool transparent Italian linen. They're innovative, authentic, and we can't wait to see more from them in the New Year.

24. Ashley Williams
Season: London Spring/Summer 2017

Ashley Williams' Spring/Summer 2017 collection was a hodgepodge of 1980s youth culture, complete with puffball dresses, dungarees, mini-skirts and graphic two-piece suits. We loved her modern oddball aesthetics and the reimagined silhouettes of yesteryear, but we were thrilled to see models of all shapes, sizes and colors; it was a diverse cast of women wearing the looks that were cool in our childhood, and are even cooler now.

23. Monse
Season: New York Spring/Summer 2017

Designers Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia deconstructed men's shirting for a refreshing take on femininity in their Spring/Summer 2017 collection. Together, Kim and Garcia updated their menswear-inspired look with a staple of colorful sequins and sleek, extra-chic silhouettes. This collection was full of contrasts and inventive pairings, and there seem to certainly be a lot more than meets the eye with this designer duo; exactly what we're hoping to explore in 2017.

22. Acne Studios
Season: Paris Men's Spring/Summer 2017

For Acne Studio's spring menswear outing, founder and creative director Jonny Johansson dressed the models in tent-like ponchos inspired by his own nostalgic reflection on summers in Sweden; they were functional, sometimes waterproof and always very Acne. Filled with stripes, colors and checks, this collection had several components we love: we loved the fine knitwear, we loved the striped cotton poplin shirts and we, of course, loved the waterproof jackets. This collection was clean, fresh and entirely season-appropriate—and it had us wanting to put on our wellies and run to the mountains for a drizzle of spring showers.

21. Mihara Yasuhiro
Season: London Men's Spring/Summer 2017

Japanese designer Mihara Yasuhiro made a London debut with his Spring/Summer 2017 collection—a lineup of ever-cool Fifties-inspired Americana. Mr. Yasuhiro may have made his fame in Japan with footwear, but this collection showcased his ability to build a solid wardrobe filled with dungaree, mix-match retro plaids (sometimes with strong solid contrasts) and a take on the iconic bowling shirt. It was fun, it was thrifty, and it was nothing less than exactly what we'd expect from a show blasting Elvis Presley tunes; all this for a collection we've been fans of since the very first look.

20. Proenza Schouler
Season: New York Fall/Winter 2016

Another mid-1900s inspired collection to make it onto our list of the best collections of 2016 is Proenza Schouler's Fall/Winter 2016 collect. Drawing on the Process Art movement of the Sixties and Seventies, this New York-based label played with the ideas of control and release, resulting in a lineup of lean, tailored jackets, billowing trousers and contrasting details. Soft furs, raw-edge hems and a sleek synthetic fabric, the fabrics were inventive and balanced, and precisely what makes Proenza Schouler a name on this list.

19. Roksanda Ilincic
Season: London Spring/Summer 2017

Serbian designer Roksanda Ilincic has captured our minds with this season's signature languid look. With her perfect layering and flowing silhouettes, her collection imbued a vibe of relaxed freedom into the spring collections in London, and we were left behind with a remarkable example of her mastery of combining colors, pairing babydoll-style dresses with wide-leg trousers and supplying an entire season worth of long, breezy dresses. Roksanda Ilincic, we'll definitely be taking you with us to our long-awaited summer vacation.

18. Facetasm
Season: Paris Men's Spring/Summer 2017

A former semi-finalist at the 2016 LVMH PRIZE, Hiromichi Ochiai's runway debut in Paris sported several sartorial numbers for men and women alongside a recurring display of Ochiai's fine tailoring abilities. His collection was a mash-up of tailored and streetwear influences, featuring vests, trousers and shorts with tube socks and check sneakers, but it was with the varsity sportswear details and sweaters that his versatility and eye for textures was most evident. With denim and camo to patchwork and florals, this collection has a lot on offer, but it still has us wanting more.

16. Marques' Almeida
Season: London Fall/Winter 2016

Portuguese-born designers Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida offered a decidedly refreshing take on their seasonal runway show, where in lieu of an unvarying cast of models they opted to send out a diverse cast of their own friends (each wearing their label's latest Fall/Winter 2016 looks). From the very first look, the women sported zipped-up jackets, gingham shirting, oversize sweatshirts and more for a full-on thrown-together vibe—this was, after all, real women wearing real clothes. Though they presented this collection in early 2016, Marques'Almeida's personal brand for cool is total nonchalant-chic, and we were hooked all year long. We first knew of them for their denim, but love them for their cool-girl aesthetics and varied use of colors.

16. Alexander McQueen
Season: London Fall/Winter 2016

The true essence of Alexander McQueen was returned to the label for its Fall/Winter 2016 appearance, this time in the form of creative director Sarah Burton's rendition of a midnight romance. Her sheer, lace-trimmed lingerie-inspired dress code contrasted elegantly with reference to men's tailoring—a combination that was at once ethereal and realistic. There were trousers, sunray pleated skirts, Marabou feather adornments, quilted silk satin eiderdown coats and whimsical motifs (including clock faces, floating lips, butterflies, birds and more); hands down, this was a collection to be desired. And we still feel the same way.

Season: London Spring/Summer 2017

It's often hard for designers to find a balance between portraying fashion as art and fashion as a wearable utility, but that's exactly what designer Katie Roberts-Wood did with her Spring/Summer 2017 collection in London. Her quiet presentation at the ICA Gallery hosted an array of intricate ruffles and frills, which were occasionally punctuated with harsher aprons and trousers. By the end, this had become a collection without showstoppers or extravagant one-uppers; instead, the designer replaced those ideas with homogenous minimalism—and we applaud her elegant subtlety.

14. Sid Neigum
Season: London Spring/Summer 2017

Ah, Sid Neigum. This Toronto-based designer has been on our list for the better part of a year, ever since we discovered him in February, but his runway debut during London Fashion Week in September secured his place for seasons to come. As the winner of the DHL Exported competition (a contest sponsored by IMG and DHL to help emerging designers expand internationally), this season Neigum has gone on to embrace the local and international industry with his simplistic designs—simple yet extravagant. Usually working within a range of minimalist tones (this season only being white, black, vermilion and some golden tones), Sid Neigum is a designer who understands the saying, that less is more, and because of this we believe 2017 will definitely be a big year for him.

13. Jacquemus
Season: Paris Spring/Summer 2017

Simon Porte Jacquemus was, undoubtedly, one the standout stars of Spring/Summer 2017. His exploration into the provincial costumes of southern France resulted in a lineup of dramatically oversized and distorted silhouettes for spring (and his straw sunhats with extra-large brims were the most obsessed-over accessories this season). He's been deemed a fashion darling in the Parisian fashion scene since his participation in the LVMH Prize a couple years ago, but this collection this season has made him one of this year's best.

12. Toga
Season: London Fall/Winter 2016

Designer Yasuko Furuta may have found inspiration for her Fall 2016 collection in the chaos of the natural world, but we thought her “bio-motifs” (often representing mitochondria, paramecium and bacteria) was an extra-cool spin. As only her second-ever runway appearance, this collection showcased Furuta's clever blend of romantic dresses with smart, tailored separates—and that's exactly what caught our attention the most. Her contrast of razor-sharp trousers with soft georgette and tulle made for a total “borrowed from the boys” look—another reason this collection was an undeniable best of the year.

11. Preen by Thornton Bregazzi
Season: London Fall/Winter 2016

This collection was signature Preen all the way through, complete with dark floral prints, Nineties grunge influences and slouchy knits, and not to forget designers Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi's continuously keen attention to rich fabrication. For the Fall/Winter 2016 season, they delivered an almost witchy rock-glam aesthetic to the fall runway, leaving us with notions of toughened femininity. They balanced pleated leather dresses with slinky cocktail numbers for an edgy, sexy yet elegant a collection that, for us, became almost indicative of the Fall 2016 shows in London.

10. Delpozo
Season: New York Fall/Winter 2016

Delpozo's Josep Font is a daring mastermind when it comes to blending whimsy, elegance and modernity, and because of this his classic feminine silhouettes are far from the ordinary—they're exaggerated, intricate and architecturally stunning. Really, if we can add one name to your must-know designers from New York Fashion Week, Josep Font and his exquisite label Delpozo would be at the top of the list; however, since we're ranking our best collections of the year, he made it to the tenth spot (with great competition) because of how remarkably his designs from this particular collection have stuck with us all year long.

9. Versace
Season: Milan Spring/Summer 2017

Donatella Versace took female empowerment to be the core message of her S/S 2017 collection, presenting a series of aggressively athletic garments during her show in Milan. This wasn't the sexed-up Versace full of clashing colors and evening-ready options, but one that was energetic and entirely more day-oriented. With a range of jumpsuits, windbreakers, tracksuits and leggings, Spring 2017 was brought out a surprising sporty-yet-still-sexy side from a label we had, personally, written off; we only hope they continue in this direction in the year to come.

8. Prada
Season: Milan Spring/Summer 2017

Prada has always been in a league of its own, but Miuccia Prada's 1990s minimalism-inspired spring collection brought her namesake label up to our eighth spot because of her retro prints, as well as her light yellow silks and sleek jersey options. This was lux, lux, lux—and we couldn't see this collection anywhere else on this list.

7. Balenciaga
Season: Paris Fall/Winter 2016

This was an obvious inclusion. As the first collection presented under the creative direction of Demna Gvasalia, Fall 2016 was a groundbreaker for the iconic French fashion house; it was true-to-form Demna (who you'll probably know from the cult label Vetements) and yet distinctly respectful to the legacy of tailoring handed down by its namesake designer Cristóbal Balenciaga. Though it wasn't without a few Vetements influences, this collection made puffer jackets and boxy suiting the look of the year, and though his Spring 2017 outing was as equally signature as this one we couldn't help but celebrate this collection for how originally and refreshing it was at the time. Since then, the whole “Vetements effect” has taken hold of several designers and brands, but on this list we're celebrated the source of the look—Demna himself.

6. Valentino
Season: Couture Fall/Winter 2016

As the last couture show Valentino's co-creative directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli would present before her inevitable move to Dior as their new, sole creative director, the Fall 2016 couture collection was illustrious, extravagance and perfectly Elizabethan. Inspired by the works of Shakespeare, the designer duo sent out 17th-century inspired ruffled collars, opulent gowns and contrasting slim-fit trousers; but nothing, and we mean nothing, could distract us from the hand-painted gown shown above. How absolutely stunning!

5. Schiaparelli
Season: Couture Fall/Winter 2016

The beloved Elsa Schiaparelli was truly resurrected this season for the latest couture outing of her rebuilt namesake label. Her iconic legacy was illustrated and fantastically present throughout the collection, with a quintessential Schiaparelli vibe that was completely unmistakable. Inspired by her 1938 circus collection, creative director Bertrand Guyon sent out series of couture creations boasting extreme architectural shoulders and a range of animal motifs and ringleader-inspired options. Never before has Elsa Schiaparelli's true sense of eclectic elegance been more accurately portrayed—and that's exactly why this is one of our 2016 bests.

4. Marni
Season: Milan Fall/Winter 2016

Consuelo Castiglioni's Fall 2016 collection for Marni was “whimsy attitude” with entirely new options for a season of romantic yet powerful dressing. Inspired by the Renaissance, she delivered stirrup pants with wide waistbands and big, high-contrast buttons, next to deeply arced capes and reimagined poet's blouses in crisp cotton and pixelated harlequin diamonds. This collection was sophisticated and incredibly chic, and easily one of the best shows of the years because of its stunning balance between being provocative and subtly elegant.

3. Comme des Garçons
Season: Paris Spring/Summer 2017

Comme des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo is a wunderkind, an absolute genius, when it comes to creating fashion. Inspired by the idea of “invisible clothes,” what she produced was the polar opposite with an almost operatic showcase of the artistry and theatrical prowess of one of the greatest designers in modern fashion history. This was classic Kawakubo through and through, and a close, close third on this list.

2. Gucci
Season: Milan Spring/Summer 2017

While the Comme des Garçons Spring 2017 collection could have easily been No. 1 on this list of the year's best collections, we've chosen the top two because of their ability to reimagine each of their labels in distinctly unique ways—and, of course, how they mesmerize and capture us in the process. And, Gucci's Spring 2017 collection in Milan did exactly that. In a showcase of his enviable color scheme and well-honed imagination, creative director Alessandro Michele stretched his creativity with a collection inspired by the 1970s. With a bright pink runway filled with sheer floral and oriental prints and countless platform shoes, Michele toed the line between soft poetry and bursting through the gates of the old Gucci; this collection was the new Gucci, the old Gucci and exactly why we adore Alessandro Michele as creative director of this Italian legacy label.

1. Viktor & Rolf
Season: Couture Fall/Winter 2016

While Alessandro Michele’s Gucci came in second place because of the creative director’s ability to refuel an entire label with modern masterpieces of the season, we’re placing the Fall/Winter 2016 collection of Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren’s couture label as Number One on this list of our most favorite collections of the year because of their profound talent for recycling old ideas for new, reimagined beauty.

A biannual festivity for the fashion world, Haute Couture Week is a platform for the world’s most talented couturiers to present their seasonal creations, a typically far more elaborate to-do than the ready-to-wear show in New York, London, Milan and Paris. For their Fall 2016 outing in July 2016, Viktor & Rolf explored the extravagance of vagabonds (“those that belong nowhere, wandering from place to place with their thrown-together, tattered and seemingly mismatched look,” according to the show notes).

As such, this collection was constructed entirely from fabrics sourced from past collections. Yes, that’s right: they created couture confections from their bins of scrap fabrics and leftovers buttons. With layers of tulle, weaved ribbons and a mélange of vintage buttons, they “threw together” couture and we couldn’t believe our eyes; this was upcycled haute couture and an entirely new take on the idea of salvaging. Simply put, this was the best collection of 2016.

Brent Taalur Ramsey is an American fashion writer living in Paris.

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