If fashion is an expression of the times we live in, this year’s biggest moments told the story of a tumultuous world. The war in Ukraine, rising anti-Semitism, and the exploitation of children all found their way into fashion news, editorials, and business in 2022. Of course, there were moments of empowerment and levity, too: Rihanna redefined maternity wear with bold, celebratory looks; Julia Fox became an avant garde fashion star; and ’90s supermodel Linda Evangelista made a triumphant return to the runway.
Here are the 10 biggest moments in fashion this year.
Rihanna changes the game for maternity wear
When cultural force—and future Super Bowl performer—Rihanna announced her pregnancy at the beginning of the year, she broke the news with a photo that featured her walking in New York City beside her partner A$AP Rocky in a hot pink vintage Chanel puffer jacket, her baby bump artfully exposed. That moment set the tone for a trimester’s worth of show-stopping maternity looks, with Rihanna favoring revealing, high-fashion ensembles that centered her growing bump. From a sheer black dress worn over lingerie to the Dior show during Paris Fashion Week in March to an endless array of crop tops, bandeaus, and low-slung bottoms that not only bared but also celebrated her belly, Rihanna rewrote the rules of maternity wear, one look at a time.
Julia Fox becomes an avant-garde muse
As a longtime New York City artist and the breakout star of Uncut Gems, Julia Fox wasn’t lacking in recognition before this year—but after she embarked on a brief but highly publicized relationship with Kanye West (who now goes by Ye) at the start of 2022, she reached a level of viral fame. When Fox appeared on Ye’s arm at Paris Fashion Week in February sporting dramatic black eyeliner and denim and leather looks that matched with the rapper, she went from a local celebrity to an edgy, international fashion muse. The romance was short-lived, but Fox has since rebranded herself as a fashion agent of chaos with outfits that are daring, unconventional, and often gravity-defying (she recently worked with a friend to make an ensemble out of little more than dead leaves, resin, and chains). Though her sartorial leanings may be shocking at times, she’s also proven herself to be relatable and entertaining online, becoming a TikTok voice of the moment with DIY videos, confessionals, and endearing talking-head commentary.
The ubiquitous Miu Miu miniskirt helps mark “the end of the BBL”
If there was one look that dominated both red carpets and editorials this year, it was Miu Miu’s Y2K-esque miniskirt, a deconstructed—and very tiny—take on the pleated schoolgirl staple. The skirt was ubiquitous in 2022, appearing in high-fashion spreads like Nicole Kidman’s Vanity Fair cover shoot and on the streets during fashion month. And like most major moments in fashion, the skirt was more than a skirt. The low-slung, micro-mini style seemed to herald a larger return to early-aughts aesthetics, a time when “heroin chic” or “ultra-skinny” were seen as viable trends. That message was emphasized when Miu Miu played a short film at the end of the Spring/Summer ’22 fashion show in October 2021, where the skirt debuted, that made fun of the Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL).
Gigi Hadid and other models donate their fashion week earnings to Ukraine
In March, just weeks after the war in the Ukraine began, supermodel Gigi Hadid took to Instagram to share that, following the lead of her fellow model Mica Arganaraz, she would be donating her earnings from walking in runway shows during fashion month to support “those suffering” in Ukraine and those affected by war in Palestine. While other models, such as Vittoria Cerretti, Kaia Gerber, and Gigi’s sister, Bella Hadid, also followed Arganaraz’s example, it was Gigi Hadid’s social media post that garnered the most headlines: Vogue covered her announcement in an Instagram post, but later removed mention of her sentiments about Palestine from the caption—and then added it back, facing criticism at each step. When the magazine returned Hadid’s language about Palestine to the post, it included an editor’s note: “We have updated this caption to accurately reflect Gigi Hadid’s statement on her donation.”
Kim Kardashian wears Marilyn Monroe’s dress to the Met Gala
For this year’s Met Gala, where the theme was “American Fashion,” Kim Kardashian paid homage to an American icon, Marilyn Monroe, by wearing the bejeweled, nude dress that the actor wore to sing “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy in 1962. The dress, a body-hugging column gown inspired by a Bob Mackie sketch for the costume designer Jean Louis, was custom-made for Monroe and loaned to Kardashian by the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum in Orlando, which won the dress at auction in 2016 with a $4.8 million bid—making it the most expensive dress ever sold at auction. Kardashian’s decision to wear the dress was controversial. Some blasted her for daring to wear a piece of such historical significance and risking potential damage to the dress, while others took issue with the reality star’s proud admission that she crash-dieted and lost 16 lbs in three weeks in order to fit into it, arguing that her behavior encouraged unhealthy beauty ideals.
Linda Evangelista returns to the runway for the first time in 15 years
Supermodel Linda Evangelista made her triumphant return to the runway for Fendi’s New York show in September 2022, her first appearance in a fashion show in 15 years. Evangelista, one of the original “Supers” whose editorial and runway presence defined the golden age of the supermodel in the 1990s, had made news in recent years after she revealed that a cosmetic procedure had left her, in her own words, “brutally disfigured.” Evangelista’s runway appearance was met with a standing ovation by the likes of Kim Kardashian and Kate Moss. It wasn’t her only foray back into fashion this year; she also appeared on the cover of British Vogue’s September issue.
Bella Hadid steals the show at Paris Fashion Week with a spray-on dress
Bella Hadid was the talk of Paris Fashion Week this fall when, in a stunning finale for the Coperni show, she had a dress sprayed onto her body—a moment that many interpreted as an homage to the Spring 1999 Alexander McQueen show where supermodel Shalom Harlow’s white dress was spray-painted by robots. The Coperni stunt started with Hadid, clad only in a thong, standing still as designers hand sprayed her body with Fabrican, a patented spray-on fabric. After a few layers were applied, the material formed a dress, which the designers styled by cutting a slit and shaping the bodice into an off-the-shoulder form. According to Coperni, the Fabrican dress is washable and rewearable (if you have Hadid’s exact measurements), but can also be returned to its original solution bottle to regenerate.
Ye wields hate speech at his Yeezy S9 show
Ye is no stranger to controversy, but this year the polarizing musician and designer crossed lines that had serious consequences. At Paris Fashion Week this fall, Ye staged a surprise show for his Yeezy S9 collection where he showed shirts that bore a white supremacist phrase that the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center have categorized as hate speech. While the collection was slammed, it was Ye’s attack on Vogue editor and stylist Gabriella Karefa-Johnson on social media, after she shared a critique of his decision to make the shirts, that incited furor. Days later, on social media and in interviews, Ye made a series of anti-semitic comments that led to the end of not only his relationship with Vogue, but also collaborations and partnerships with companies like Balenciaga, Gap, and Adidas.
Alessandro Michele exits Gucci amid a flurry of industry shakeups
In one of the more shocking industry announcements of the year, Gucci shared that creative director Alessandro Michele would no longer be leading the brand after nearly 20 years at the company and seven at its helm. Michele’s fantastical, logo-heavy style redefined and refreshed the legacy luxury house, making it a go-to choice for stars like Harry Styles, Lana del Rey, and Jared Leto. He was responsible for the hugely profitable revival of the brand for parent company Kering, whose revenue nearly quadrupled between 2015 and 2019, Michele’s early years as creative director; Gucci’s global revenue has outperformed other brands in the Kering Group—including Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, and Alexander McQueen—during every year of Michele’s leadership. His exit wasn’t the only shakeup in fashion leadership; this year saw major players Riccardo Tisci of Burberry leaving his role and Raf Simons shuttering his namesake label, pointing to an industry-wide feeling of volatility.
Read more: The Gucci Effect
Balenciaga incites outrage with ad campaigns
Balenciaga, a brand that has thrived on controversy under provocative creative director Demna, took it too far. The fashion house, which has sent models down the runway dressed as refugees with luxury leather garbage bags and made high-fashion riffs on items like Ikea’s $0.99 shopping bag and Bernie Sanders’ campaign merch, is embroiled in scandal. The controversy began in November after Balenciaga debuted one ad campaign featuring children holding handbags shaped like teddy bears dressed in BDSM gear and another with images of paperwork related to child pornography laws. Both campaigns sparked calls for accountability as well as conspiracy theories suggesting that Balenciaga was promoting child exploitation. Chief executive Cedric Charbit and Demna have each released statements apologizing for the images. “I want to personally apologize for the wrong artistic choice of concept for the gifting campaign with the kids and I take my responsibility,” Demna wrote on Instagram. “It was inappropriate to have kids promote objects that had nothing to do with them.”