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Year in review

Photo: Imaxtree. Illustration: The Globe and Mail

This year's most surprising style story was the mass exodus of fashion's brightest stars from the world's most famous labels, including Lanvin's Alber Elbaz. Caitlin Agnew dishes on their departures and other buzzy moments from hot fuzz to cool greens


With the fast-fashion ethos setting the pace for designer output, it's no surprise that we saw several top tier creative directors set sail for quieter pastures in 2015. First was Alexander Wang, who parted ways with Balenciaga in July after three years with the French maison to focus on the growth of his own line. In October, Raf Simons announced he'd be leaving his position at Dior for personal reasons, telling System magazine he "wanted something calm."

Alber Elbaz. IMAXTREE

Later that month came the biggest bombshell: Alber Elbaz, the Israeli designer known for reviving Lanvin with his couture-like dresses and likeable personality, was suddenly dropped from the label after 14 years for reportedly butting heads with the company's majority shareholder. In mid-December, Jonathan Saunders annouced he's shuttering his label and rumours continue to swirl that Céline's Phoebe Philo is next, as the designer is said to be tired of commuting from her home in London to the brand's Parisian headquarters. But, let's be honest, who wasn't tired in 2015?


Like so many of this year's trends, this one took root via social media. After Roxie Hunt, a Seattle hairstylist, was shamed on The Today Show for posting a photo on Instagram of a friend whose underarm hair she'd dyed bright blue, she wrote a manifesto celebrating her decision and the #freeyourpits movement was officially born.

It wasn't long before celebs joined in, with Madonna and Miley Cyrus sharing shots of their fuzzy underarms, either au naturel or coloured ("pank" is Cyrus's preferred shade of bright pink). Further south, posts showing women's pubic hair caused Instagram users, like Australian photography blog Sticks and Stones, to be blacklisted by the site. On Girls and Transparent, Gaby Hoffmann did her part for the follicly progressive-cause, with her character in the latter stating, "Big girls have bush, daddy." Amen.


Speaking of fur, designers fell for Muppet-esque pelts in all sorts of unusual places this fall. Whether real or faux, a technicolour blanket of fuzz was the thing to wrap yourself in this year, especially while en route to a street style-approved happening (wardrobe suggestions: the patchwork combinations at MSGM, the black-and-white swirls at Emilio Pucci, the knee-length teal toppers at Michael Kors and the colourful fur stoles at Jason Wu). Continuing in the Surrealistinspired vein of Céline's 2013 furry sport sandal was Gucci's fur-lined loafer, christened by Vogue as the It shoe of fall 2015. Then there was breakout-brand Shrimps, whose colourful striped coats were spotted on the likes of Brit It girls Alexa Chung and Poppy Delevingne. Don't let the diminutive name fool you; this London label is the biggest thing to happen to fuzz since Jim Henson.


Fashion's role in gender expression became even more evident this year as designers and retailers alike blurred and, in some cases, completely erased binary gender lines. On the runways, Rick Owens, Gucci's Alessandro Michele and Paris-based Canadian Rad Hourani showed their own signature versions of gender-free clothing to rave reviews, while a bevvy of female models with buzz cuts spawned a striking beauty trend that's already noticeable at street level.

Gender bending attire on the Gucci runway.

Gender bending attire on the Gucci runway.


A long-time proponent of unisex dressing, Miuccia Prada summed up the mood of the season, telling, "More and more, it feels instinctively right to translate the same idea for both genders." Perhaps most striking was Target's decision to remove boy/girl signage from its stores, letting the Tonka trucks and Barbie dolls speak for themselves. Still, there's no shortage of demand for classically feminine pieces. Just ask Caitlyn Jenner, who wore a custom, curve-hugging blue gown by Moschino's Jeremy Scott to accept her award for Glamour's 2015 Woman of the Year.


It was the trendsetting Victorians who pioneered the practice of keeping houseplants, building bay windows specifically for this purpose in a bid to counteract the dehumanizing effects of the Industrial Revolution. In the throes of our own Digital Revolution more than a century later, our newfound enthusiasm for flora as decor is worthy of a chapter in Isabella Beeton's Book of Household Management from 1861. At Paris's Maison & Objet trade show in January, plant paraphernalia had Wallpaper* magazine declaring 2015 the Year of the Planter. In Miami, the Wolfsonian museum devoted an entire exhibition to the attractive philodendron, charting its influence on interiors as well as artists (Henri Matisse) and designers (Erdem Moralioglu). Boston ferns, dracaena and their ilk have been taking over the homes of notable trendsetters, like CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winner and Mississauga, Ont. native Aurora James, who told the magazine she has more than 100 plants in her house. Those who don't have a green thumb can always try leafy wallpaper, like that seen in the foyer of new Toronto night spot The Addisons Residence.


It was hip to be popular in 2015. The social media #squadgoals craze hit a frenzied peak in May with Taylor Swift's star-studded video for Bad Blood.

With more than 675-million YouTube views and counting, the video featured 14 of Tay Tay's most aspirational gal pals, including models (Karlie Kloss, Gigi Hadid, Cara Delevingne), pop stars (Selena Gomez, Ellie Goulding) and actors (Lena Dunham, Mariska Hargitay). Despite supposedly being about Swift's beef with fellow pop princess Katy Perry, Bad Blood cemented the crew-love vibes of Swift's A-list posse, who seem to go out of their way to support one another, at least on the Internet.


Canadian vintners like Niagara-on-the-Lake's Southbrook Vineyards have gone back to basics with biodynamic wines. The general concept is simple: First, take a holistic approach to grape growing where the terroir is a cohesive, interconnected ecosystem. Second, let nature run its course by adding livestock to help the ground's grape-growing powers and even following the paganesque tradition of burying a cow's horn full of manure over the winter to be dug up in the spring, diluted with water and spritzed over the vines. But where biodynamics really gets interesting is in its appreciation of the mystical force of the cosmos, calling for sowing and harvesting times dictated by the moon cycle. However closely wineries follow these rules, the real excitement lies in the industry's movement toward low-intervention wines that embody the uniqueness of a specific time and place, rather than trying to recreate an identical product for every vintage.


After about a decade of meat insanity, the pendulum has finally swung in a leafier direction. Where we once clamoured for juicy bites of horse, pig's head and ox tongue, not to mention all those obscenely decadent hamburgers, we're now elevating vegetables to a mouth-watering status normally reserved for impressive displays of prime rib. Dishes like the beet bourguignon at Rebelle in New York are earning a cult following, while Paris saw the opening of Beckett, a vegetable bar, earlier this year.

A dish from Dandylion restaurant in Toronto.

A dish from Dandylion restaurant in Toronto.

At Toronto's Dandylion, the menu reflects chef Jay Carter's mission to make vegetables the star of the plate with dishes like persimmon, sprouted black lentil and spinach. For many veg-friendly chefs, it's not about pushing a vegetarian agenda but rather a shift in perspective and dining expectations, and one that's arguably better for our waistlines. When your de rigueur lifestyle is filled with cold-pressed juice and SoulCycle sessions, having parsnips for dinner just makes sense.


Known as the Warhol of Instagram, where he posts several times a day under the handle @drawbertson, artist Donald Robertson blew up the fashion world's collective social media feed in 2015 with his acrylic and mixed-media portraits of industry insiders like Carine Roitfeld, Tom Ford and Anna Wintour. Next, the collabs came calling – Brian Atwood, Holt Renfrew, Alice + Olivia, Canada Goose, Vogue Korea and Bergdorf Goodman, to name but a few. His signature red-lips motif has adorned the likes of a Giles Deacon dress, a limited-edition Smashbox cosmetics collection and even a Clare V clutch belonging to Beyoncé. It now seems impossible that a product could launch without the help of this affable Canadian expat, whose breezy way with colour has added an unmistakably cheerful filter to the zeitgeist.