It was a return to normal-ish at New York Fashion Week, with live physical shows finally staged after two seasons of (mostly forgettable) virtual and digital experiments. While that spelled great news for guests eager to see the action in-person, this season was largely characterized by chaotic scheduling (it was basically Brooklyn-Manhattan back-and-forth on steroids), long lines and publicists who blamed the pandemic on why they wouldn't accommodate you at their show.

Still, despite the hassle of showing your proof of vaccination and ID at every show, there were some delightful gems and memorable stories that cut through the noise of the five days of non-stop action (six if you count Tuesday's off-schedule programming). That emotional Thom Browne performance piece? Best in show, period. The European invasion of Dundas and Moschino? You had to be there.

I heard the situation at LaQuan Smith was a hot mess and important Vogue editors left before it even started due to long waits. Some people missed Eckhaus Latta's show in East Williamsburg after Coach (which took place on the opposite end of the city on the West Side Highway) ended rather late. And it wouldn't be Fashion Week without some viral Internet moments aka Larry David front row at Staud looking like he'd rather be anywhere else.

Regardless, most fashion people were generally happy to be around other fashion people again. And what's Fashion Week without a little drama, gossip and hiccups along the way anyway? Despite everyone (including myself) feeling overwhelmed with the VMAs and Met Gala lurking, it was a nice reminder of why many of us do what we do, especially when there's an amazing collection or young designer who breaks out as one to watch. Below, highlights from a NYFW to remember.

Runway Debuts: Fashion Week First-Timers

Photography: Dan Lecca (L); Dan Lecca (M); Arturo Holmes/ Getty (R)

There were several notable designers showing at NYFW for the first time on the runway, including the highly anticipated arrival of Peter Do. Markarian, the label that shot to fame after dressing First Lady Jill Biden on Inauguration Day, showed inside the Rainbow Room where guests sat in banquet tables to see designer Alexandra O'Neill's take on feminine eveningwear complete with dainty bows, fabulous sparkle and romantic ruffles. A tableau of models comprised the finale after the rest formed a circle and moved with the rotating round runway.

Maisie Schloss of Maisie Wilen, the designer who worked at Yeezy for three years and struck out on her own, also made her runway debut with a collection that mixed her signature graphic knits and party dresses with a tech-infused, equestrian bent. Meanwhile, PatBo's Patricia Bonaldi transformed the all-glass atrium at the recently reopened Le Pavillon Restaurant into a Brazilian destination complete with exotic plants and natural light. "This collection was designed to be seen in person," she tells PAPER. "The detailed hand-embroidery and craftsmanship deserve to be seen up close and celebrates the talented artisans in my hometown whose passion and technique imbue each design."

European Invasion: Dundas and Moschino Land Stateside

Photos via Getty

It's always exciting when European designers descend upon NYFW to lend the proceedings a little bit of oomph and pizzaz. This season we were fortunate to welcome Moschino, which is led by an American designer but is still an Italian brand that shows in Milan, and Dundas, helmed by Norwegian designer Peter Dundas, known for its sexy dresses on sexy starlets. The latter's NYFW showcase was actually a collaboration with influencer-fave Revolve, shown on the rooftop of Casa Cipiriani complete with a mirrored runway and sweeping views of the river. Moschino, meanwhile, took over Bryant Park (where NYFW shows were once held for years) with a grassy platform runway in the rain with models like Gigi Hadid, Adut Akech and Winnie Harlow showing off the brand's signature kitschy aesthetic and toy motifs.

Fashion's Future Stars: Breakout Designers Shine

Photography: Julian Cousins (L); Loft Creative Group (R)

The first in-person round of shows since before the pandemic marked the arrival of two buzzy designers with vastly different points of view, but whose unique perspectives and design sensibilities make them ones to watch. Elena Velez, the designer from Milwaukee and Puerto Rican heritage who graduated from Parsons in 2018, staged a presentation that showed off the artisanal and crafty elements associated with her fledgling label through a deconstructed yet feminine lens. Stars like Solange, Grimes and Kim Petras have already donned her aggressive-meets-delicate wares.

Connor McKnight, meanwhile, debuted his second unisex collection with an informal presentation inside a NoMad studio. The Brooklyn-based designer, who cut his teeth at menswear stalwarts Bode and Kith, launched his brand during the pandemic with a storytelling approach centered on the Black family experience. His reworking of knitwear and classic workwear codes give his clothes a retro yet easy feel as seen through his deliberately simple yet streamlined separates and uniform tropes.

Come One, Come All: Tory Burch's Fashion Block Party

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If you happened to be in SoHo on Sunday morning, you were in luck. Tory Burch took over all of Mercer St between Prince and Houston to stage her Spring 2022 show, where curious spectators could watch models stride down the cobblestone runway. Afterwards, the entire strip was open to the public for a fashion block party and street fair complete with stylish booths that gave away free gelato, avocado toast, flowers and plants, magazines, candy and other delectable goodies from local businesses. Guests could also check out her newly opened flagship store that houses local artworks and her latest collections.

White Lotus Vacation: Anna Sui's Indochine Paradise

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I knew something was up with the invitation for Anna Sui's show read that it would take place at Indochine, the French-Vietnamese hotspot in NoHo that could only accommodate a handful of guests. But when the beach-y soundtrack and models emerged in crochet tops, straw hats, printed kaftans, the location couldn't have been more fitting. (Its leafy wallpaper and tropical decor made all the more sense.) It was like a scene taken straight out of White Lotus, the HBO hit series set on a Hawaiian resort. As Sui said in her show notes: "The mood is forever upbeat and anything goes — it's Another Day in Paradise!"

Forever Mood: Larry David Goes Viral at Staud

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At the end of Staud's runway show on the rooftop terrace of Spring Studios, an explosion of fireworks went off in the distance as if to signal the end of Fashion Week. But it wasn't until later when a video from the show taken by The Cut's Emilia Petrarca revealed another surprise of the night: Larry David hunching down with his hands covering his ears looking like he'd rather be anywhere else but there. Staud's designer Sarah Staudinger took it all in stride, of course, telling the publication that they are good friends. But the video went viral nonetheless and gave Fashion Week a much needed jolt of humor and relatability.

40 Years: Carolina Herrera's Incredible Anniversary Collection

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It's only been a few years since Wes Gordon took over from Carolina Herrera to helm her namesake brand, but under his watch, the label continues to inspire the industry and customers thanks to his keen sense of elegance and fantasy. Few designers are able to find that tricky balance of respecting a legacy house while steering it into the future, but Gordon's ability to mine the archives with his own ideas of modernity and romanticism have made the house an utter delight to see both on the red carpet and on the streets of cities like New York. His 40th anniversary collection for the brand was no exception, bringing what we all love about CH — dramatic gowns, bold polka dots, sweeping trains — and celebrating that for all to witness.

I <3 New York: The City Is the Catwalk

The set at Proenza Schouler (Photo via Getty)

Much has been said over the years about New York Fashion Week's supposed waning relevancy compared to cities like Paris when it comes to show venues and locations, but many designers proved that kind of thinking wrong by staging their runways against various backdrops that showcased the best of the city. Prabal Gurung showed his beautiful collection at the very southern tip of Manhattan complete with a live piano players, huge light ball fixtures and the Statue of Liberty looking on from a distance. Monse's Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia took over a 15,000 sq ft skate park on a pier for their Resort show (thank god it stopped raining by then) and Proenza Schouler was the first brand to show on newly opened Little Island on the Hudson River, which was open to the public.

Model Surprises: Celebrities Storm the Runway

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There was no shortage of famous faces on the runway this season, whether you're the daughter of a reality TV legend, an heiress slash beauty mogul or a Gen Z trans icon. At Private Policy, influencer Nikita Dragun emerged with wet look hair and an outfit that left little to the imagination. At Bronx and Banco, Lisa Rinna cheered on as daughter Amelia Gray Hamlin closed the show in a cutout frock. And Lionbabe and Paris Hilton surprised the audience when they walked in the brand's high energy show at the Times Square Edition. "They inspire us and we inspire them," The Blonds creative director David Blond told PAPER backstage of the special guests. "It's very much a give and take relationship. We're very good friends. They're also clients."

'Salt Water': House of Aama Brought African Diaspora Traditions to NYFW

Photography: JD Barnes

Mother-daughter duo Rebecca Henry and Akua Shabaka set the tone for their House of Aama show with an altar of candles, fruits, flowers, letter blocks, shells and Black angels. "Salt Water," as their show was called, is their homage to Africans who were enslaved and forced to cross the Atlantic to the Americas. In a hybrid runway/presentation format, a sailor marched his way around the room waving the brand's flag.

The collection was inspired and reinterpreted by the Black resort communities that thrived in the early 1900s. Creating a fictionalized version of such resorts, "Camp Aama," the brand evoked the Black sailors and water spirits of African diaspora traditions. Sailor stripes, '50s housewife silhouettes complete with silk gloves, twins in matching debutant outfits and lace gloves, Camp Aama merchandise, sailor scarves, high waisted swimwear, sarongs in the brand's flag, and lace cover-ups all came together to create an unforgettable collection. – Kanika Talwar

Going Green: Altuzarra's Air Purified Show

Courtesy of Altuzarra

The weather outside was hot and muggy, and it didn't feel any better upon entering the damp elevator for Altuzarra's Spring 2022 show. But once the doors opened, a refreshing wave of cool air hit just the spot. There were rows of air purifiers lined up by the runway, which was the result of a partnership between the designer and Molekule. (It was Altuzarra's first live show since the pandemic and first in New York after showing in Paris for three seasons. According the manufacturing company, the FDA-cleared air purifiers destroy viruses and bacteria in the air. "I really wanted to create a space that felt comfortable for people," Altuzarra told PAPER backstage. "I thought it was a perfect way of getting people back in an indoor space and feel like they were in a safe environment."

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