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Fe Noel's NYFW Show Addresses Retirement Inequality

The Brooklyn-based, Grenada bred designer returns to Fashion Week with something to say.

With Fe Noel, though a fashion brand it may be, it’s never just about the clothes. Brooklyn-based, Grenada-bred designer Felicia Noel said it herself on Instagram, “I only participate in New York Fashion Week] when I have a special message to share,” she wrote. (After all, pulling off a runway show is an expensive, laborious feat). And a message Noel did share. Amid a stream of the designer’s signature light and airy silhouettes, it was one that extends beyond the glamour, the brand, or an interest in fashion itself. 

Following a sneak peek of what was to come via social media, anticipation from the fashion collective settled expectedly high for the designer’s second show on the official New York Fashion Week calendar. Noel has a way of delivering fashion that embodies a palpable sense of freedom, confidence, self, and hope that seems to resonate with everyone in the room — Again, no easy feat. 

For the brand’s first show in 2020, Noel took attendees on a trip to her home country. The brand’s Spring 2023 collection, of course, builds on that narrative (thus far, there always seems to be a nod to West Indian and African countries in the designer’s work), but the real focus this time, in a partnership with financial services organization TIAA, was retirement inequality. Noel’s big message became more than apparent by the show’s closing, but a line of intricately crafted ready-to-wear delighted the crowd first. 

Fe Noel’s NYFW Show Addresses Retirement Inequality
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 09: A model walks the runway at the Fe Noel fashion show during September 2022 New York Fashion Week: The Shows on September 09, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows )

The opening look, a slender but billowing and ever-so-sheer maxi dress with exposed seams. The look set the tone for the color palette of the show — for the most part, a soft blend of peaches, seafoam greens, and champagnes (a very Fe Noel-esque lineup of hues, if there ever was one). There were moments where the collection entered a moody, romantic fantasy of sorts — a gardenia-like floral print embroidered on a see-through hot-pants one-piece and a similar balloon gown. Then, to play up the romance exaggerated ruffled and puffed sleeves and pants throughout. A number of other elements are sure to be a hit run with fans as well — match sets, lingerie elements as outerwear, and sheer, ruched dresses. 

Near as opulent as a New York Fashion Week closing gets, the look to end Fe Noel’s Friday night show introduces the brand’s first-ever couture piece — a corset-bodice gown tiered with $1.6 million in (faux, but entirely real-looking) dollar bills. It’s not a random number — it’s the amount of potential savings lost for women, per a 30 percent retirement income gap. Noel tells WWD her primary goal with the collection was to spark conversation. With a monumental piece as big as the statement made, it feels safe to say mission accomplished. 

Discover more of the moving collection below.