Brands announcing expansions into evening wear is a growing fashion month fall 2023 trend.
During London Fashion Week, Rixo and Julien McDonald expanded their evening wear offerings, while menswear designer Willy Chavarria launched his first evening wear collection during New York Fashion Week days before. Becoming a go-to source for holiday party looks was a key driver, according to the brands.
Sales of occasion wear bounced back last holiday season, and the fall 2023 catwalks, overall, have indicated that designers are now prioritizing the category. Occassion wear is expected to a top-three sales-driving fashion category in 2023, according to industry executives surveyed in McKinsey’s State of Fashion report. Brands are backing that claim by introducing new, dedicated evening wear lines or renewing their focus on dressed-up styles featuring satin, sequins and velvet.
In New York, 7–year-old brand Willy Chavarria launched a gender-neutral evening wear line during his show on February 15. The collection featured dresses of floor-grazing lengths in satin and velvet. And in London, Julien McDonald, S.S. Daley and 16 Arlington made long gowns and sequins the focus of expanded evening wear collections.
Buyers at London Fashion Week defined evening wear as a top trend of the season, noting the brands expanding their focus on the category, including 16 Arlington, S.S. Daley and Chet Lo.
“From New York we were excited by the consistently strong and elegant evening offering at Carolina Herrera, the exquisite embroidery with edgy punk glam attitude at Cuculleli Shaheen, gothic romance at Rodarte, and seductive confidence at LaQuan Smith,” said Marc Rofsky, director of buying of ready to wear at Moda Operandi. “From the London shows we were impressed by the dramatic and moody opulence at Erdem, quintessentially cool attitude at 16Arlington, and the instantly identifiable codes established at Nensi Dojaka. This season is more about rich fabrications rather than flashy surface treatments. We are seeing new key items like evening coats, tuxedo and “le smoking” inspired looks, evening separates, capes and caped gowns. Silhouettes are either long and lean column and slip dress shapes, or elegant bell shapes at midi lengths.”
For 8-year-old London-based Rixo, which targets a mid-level to high-end consumer, gowns are the most significant product category for fall 2023. The brand, which launched 10 gown styles in November 2022, will now offer 24 gown styles in September, after seeing significant sales growth in the category. The brand declined to say what percentage of its total current sales come from occasion wear.
“We offered a lot of [occasion wear] for the festive period last year,” said Henrietta Rix, co-founder of Rixo. “So we focused our fall collection on expanding to more true-occasion styles. Our customer loves wearing Rixo for special moments and big events. … and the [overall] fall collection is more elevated than previous collections.”
Occasion wear, including vintage and bridal pieces, will have a large presence in Rixo’s flagship store, opening in London in April. Occasion wear pieces are also a key driver for Rixo’s rental and resale businesses; Rixo rents more than 2,500 items through U.K. rental site HURR, with the majority of styles being party wear.
Kathleen Talbot, vp of operations at occasion wear brand Reformation, said the growing demand for party wear was evident last holiday season. “With the world opening back up, people are embracing dressing up,” she said.