Marc Jacobs wields an impressive power over his home city of New York. Not a single show during New York fashion Week begins on time or even in the vicinity of it, but when it comes to Marc Jacobs, he isn’t playing – the time stated on the invite is when the show actually starts, down to the minute. And it’s not surprising in the least that people turn up at least 20 minutes early (when we're usually there at least 20 minutes late) to a Jacobs show, or run like mad to make it in time, when what the master designer delivers is unlike anything else NYC has to offer.
From the inspiring runways that are more akin to film sets than catwalks, to the feats of fashion fantasy that are perennially sent out each season, a Marc Jacobs show is really a unique experience in this city, where for the most part the shows are held in the rather clinical surrounds of Lincoln Center. His chameleonic aesthetic tendencies also means that even avid fans (like myself) cannot attempt to predict what he might come out with next – just over the last eighteen months, we have seen Jacobs' traverse decadent disco glamour for spring, severe fetish-inspired tailoring and three-dimensional polka dots for winter - and now, a collection seemingly inspired by 1920’s flappers via 1950s cowgirl housewives, conceived with a futuristic twist. Quite an eccentric vision – and it was love from the first look out.
The show began with a heavily fringed velvet curtain opening to reveal a stage with dozens of models standing, sitting and lounging in various poses illuminated by theatrical spotlights. One by one, the girls stepped down the runway, their up-dos accentuated by 50-style ‘do-rags’, and wearing inventive fare including cellophane organza skirts and silicone dresses, ‘film’ fringed skirts, sequined cashmere cardigans and sweaters, checked Western-style shirts, pointed stiletto's (with, I'm sorry, weird skinny-in-the-middle circa '92 heels, let's please not bring those back!) and rubber cowboy boots. The contrast of retro silhouettes with ultra-modern technical fabrications was particularly interesting – key looks being the polished and plasticcy fringed numbers that fused a Film Noir with Sci-Fi vibe to brilliant effect.
As the show reached a close, the models resumed their original stance on stage – frozen in the limelight, the crowd cheering as Marc Jacobs took a bow for his super-modern and completely unexpected collection for spring. Sure, it may not be particularly pragmatic (the transparent numbers may prove challenging) – but hey, that’s what youth-driven Marc by Marc Jacobs is for.
Rejecting the fanfare of over-the-top colour and prints we’ve become accustomed to seeing on the runways this season, Calvin Klein for spring 12 was an exercise in subtlety on all counts. Creative Director Francisco Costa’s vision was clean and direct, with an overarching sensitivity and femininity to the designs – there was even an Elizabethan edge in the distinctive structure of jackets with portrait-necklines and bodices throughout. The simplicity and confidence of the collection was immediately felt – models were fresh-faced and apparently sans make-up with prettily tousled bed-hair, wearing predominantly curve-accentuating gossamer slip dresses with hints of exposed lacy lingerie (this is CK, underwear giant, after-all) in a pale wash of blush, soft gold and lilac hues punctuated with requisite black.
It was a minimal and concise vision, in stark contrast to the raucous insanity that greeted the audience upon arrival. A rowdy throng of paparazzi had gathered outside of the sparse, white-washed mid-town venue, in expectation of celebrity attendees – and as it turns out there were quite a few high-profile faces to take note of. Uma Thurman, Naomi Watts, Lesley Green and adorable Chloë Moretz – kick-ass star of the brilliant movie, Kick Ass – were all sitting front-row. While the front row may have been inundated with A-list stars, the clothing was exactly the opposite of all that celeb endorsement applies – it was restrained, tasteful and more appropriate for the lounge than the red-carpet.
Against a dramatically white backdrop complete with shingled Perspex catwalk, Jason Wu revealed his latest collection for Spring/Summer 12 – and what a surprisingly wearable, subtly experimental vision it was. In contrast to the serene, monochromatic surrounds, a Blade-runner like soundtrack set the mood as models stepped out, tip-toeing a little nervously along the complex multi-layered floor in striking ebony and ivory get-ups expertly fusing Wu’s trademark feminine 50s sensibility with a newfound techno sporty edge. Sleek all-white ensembles and graphic black and white ‘petal’ print high-waisted trousers and pleated dresses launched the collection, followed by confident brights – chartreuse, cobalt and hot pink – and killer blue and white ‘petal’ print confections in both diaphanous layers and structured tailoring. It was a clean, optimistic palette, mirroring equally precise forms – something of a skillful act of restraint on Wu’s behalf, as he has in the past revealed a penchant for baroque-inspired ornamention (not always a bad thing!).Rarely has Wu invested his girls with a bit of rock’n’roll chic – but for Spring, his picture-perfect aesthetic took a refreshing walk on the wild side, as hip-hop inspired windbreakers and reworked macs in popping fluorescent colour and synthetic fabric shook up the prim and proper ladylike fare. Wu wanted to, “Combine iconic haute couture shapes with pop art influences,” he said, and his collaboration on the striking ‘petal’ prints throughout with artist, KAWS, certainly him to achieve his goal. Overall, it was a winning collection, and proof that Wu really is one of New York’s finest young designers – his final red-carpet ready yet girlish and fun floor-sweeping gowns in shocking pink, electric blue and pop yellow testament to his talent.
One part speed-racer, one part hardcore riot grrl, Alexander Wang well and truly nailed a kick-ass Tank Girl vibe with aplomb for Spring 12 – and as if that wasn’t enough, the fact that Linda Evangelista was in attendance (and wearing an irresistible future-90s techy anorak) shot this show instantly to highlight of the day category.
Opening to an Afro-tribal techno beat, models in sporty-techy laser-cut mesh utility vests, shorts, skirts, various fatigues and bomber jackets stormed the cavernous Pier 94 space, winding around rectangular mirrored blocks, causing the audience to see double. A wild tangerine polo kicked off the looks, followed immediately by more demure gun-metal hued fare – but the party really got started as a graphic botanical print came out in force, featured on separates and across entire ensembles. Not often has Wang shown a predilection for print, so it was interesting to see such a bold pattern used so consistently – interesting also that his friend, the talented NY designer Joseph Altuzarra, also chose a tropical print, derived from an Hawaiian shirt no less, this season… Perhaps we’re all believers that every day should be a holiday.
The ready-for-anything fatigues soon made way for sleek racing uniform-inspired all-in-ones, the models, appearing as doll-like BMX-bandits, were even clutching bespoke helmuts. Yet another element was seamlessly added to the mix toward the shows close, a series of 90s fetish leather dresses, cleverly crafted with racing arrows along the sleeves and laser-cut detailing across the bodice to neatly segue into the BMX theme. Once again Alexander Wang has reminded us why he is synonymous with New York downtown cool - he has created a whole universe for his clearly defined 'girl', and whether she's effortlessly tackling the urban jungle or racing BMX's, she does it all in killer ensembles without breaking a sweat.
Over the last few seasons, Thakoon has proven himself to be something of a dark horse – laying relatively low and not succumbing to the increasingly popular, though rather tacky use of front row celebrities to raise the profile of his show, instead relying on his infinite talent, and then boom! Coming out with arguably the most sophisticated and compelling collections of NYFW. It was little surprise then, that the innovative designer would wow us once again for Spring 12, his penchant for cross-cultural and cross-purpose styles resurfacing, but in an entirely new and unexpected way.
Taking East-meets-West to an entirely new extreme, Thakoon’s brilliant – in every sense of the word – collection for spring combined the magnificence of India and the mythical utopia of Shang ri la with the rugged romanticism of America’s Wild West. The baroque opulence of New York’s Plaza Hotel grand ballroom, a space inundated with gilt ornamentation and immense chandeliers, served as the perfect venue for Thakoon’s equally opulent vision. From the gilt ceiling down to the gleaming gold floor and colonial vegetation, the sensory overload reached an all time high as pungent Indian incense burned against a soundtrack merging both cultures – a hint of what was to follow. There was a quiet ruckus from the audience, in obvious rapture at the sight of the very first look: a turquoise silk jacket with marigold paisley overlay paired with a turquoise mini skirt. Cowboy style hats and point-toe shoes, not unlike ankle-length cowboy boots, were paired with traditional Indian textile prints in mad Wild West inspired cuts, along with luxurious gold and paisley detailing consistent throughout. There was even a 50s-era print and metallic full-skirted dress on show, just the thing for a raging desert barn-dance.
Just as the show’s concept transcended time and space, so too did the collection –transporting the audience into a world of pure fantasy, where fabled eras and cultures collide in eccentric harmony. It was a much-needed dose of escapism to say the least, on a day where America was on edge - commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
Marc by Marc Jacobs
As usual, Marc Jacobs youth-driven line, Marc by Marc Jacobs, started right on time – unheard of at any other show, and always causing a major frenzy at the doors of the New York State Armory where both his diffusion and mainline collections are presented each season. And as we’ve come to expect from Mr Jacobs, the collection paraded through the cavernous space did not disappoint – after all, the object of this mens and womens line is to be infinitely saleable, wearable and accessible. And every season, this is exactly what is delivered. So in a way, this collection defies criticism in that is affordable and caters to the mass consumer willing and ready to snap up anything the master designer lays his hand to, and for good reason – almost every piece is downright adorable.
Colours were hot, mirroring the Indian summer temperatures we’re experiencing this New York Fashion Week, in fact the audience were fanning themselves as the opening sweet and simple orange shift dress and vivid red men’s summer suit hit the catwalk. There was an obvious 60s influence in the bold palette principally consisting of green, navy, red, white and black, clean lines and cute peplum detailing of much of the ensembles – and perhaps most of all in the modish frill and button-front detail one-piece swimwear and classic rat-pack era slim-fitting mens suits. There was also a particularly sporty vibe at play, coming through in the mutli-coloured 80s-style sneakers and dresses perfect for a spot of well-dressed pimms-fuelled tennis. Prints were few but striking, in the form of florals, stripes and checks – but it was the all-over vibrant colour-blocked daywear consistent throughout that stole the show. We’ve been seeing a lot of 60s colour-blocked fare already this fashion season, and if Marc Jacobs is getting in on the action we can be sure we’ll be seeing this look taking to the streets in force come spring.
On the surface, Preen’s vision for Spring, inspired by Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury set, may have appeared straight-up prim and proper, on closer inspection however, the looks were all skillfully infused with the ultra-modern edge the label has become synonymous with. It’s testament to design duo Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi that they could combine a geometric pastel print with frills, crochet and contrasting paisley-like black motif along collars, sleeves and hemlines throughout the collection, and come out unscathed – and yet Preen achieved just this with ease. And it is this deceptively complex fusion of ideas that has set Preen aside from other labels that attract the kind of major it-girl and A-list fans Preen always has – since their early days selling wares at Portobello Markets to none other than iconic hottie Kate Moss herself. So it was little surprise the collection proved a hit with stylish fans including Leith Clark, Sarah Sophie Flicker, Kate Lanphear, Rose McGowan and Leigh Lezark sitting front row, looking on with approval.
To a minimal electronic beat, models stepped through an equally sparse space in playfully stitched-up ensembles, lit up by a pastel wall feature that mirrored the sorbet tones featured throughout. Complete with ruffled waists, frilly collars and daring flashes of fluoro, dresses and interesting combinations of separates in an ingeniously blown-up pixilated floral motif, appearing like a grid, had the timeless appeal we’ve come to expect from one of London’s most beloved labels. “We were looking at Virginia Wolf, and wanted to create a collection with that sense of heritage, but make it very modern,” explained the delightful husband and wife team backstage. “We started really working on creating an interesting mix of colour, to keep the collection fresh and modern. That’s where these great colour combinations came in, like cornflower blue trousers and lemon yellow blouse ensemble, and introducing the black floral print detail throughout. Our girl is always looking ahead, and so our looks for spring might be inspired by the past, but always with our signature modern vision. ”
For Spring 12, Olivier Theyskens showcased his extraordinary talent with a collection for contemporary American sportswear brand, Theory, that catered to every possible whim. From casual weekend looks and workplace wear, to disco dresses through to floor-sweeping gowns, the young Parisian designer with a renowned couture-like sensibility took his collection to every conceivable occasion.
Theyskens’ eclectic Spring collection was focused more on separates and their countless combinations, with a particular focus on unexpected proportions, than on stand-alone pieces. In one ensemble, a sassy black crochet mini-dress was paired ingeniously with a masculine olive green floor-length duster coat, other’s included a cropped black leather motorbike jacket and shrunken Chanel-like tweedy cardigan paired with a knee-length dress and men’s style suit pants. Loose-fit blazers were matched with structured shorts, and drop-crotch blue boyfriend jeans sat at ease with a grungy spring knit cardigan.
Much of the collection featured a purposely lived-in feel, a grungy aesthetic Theyskens put down to being a, “kid of the nineties.” And true to that spirit, there was a lot of lazy-chic daywear throughout teamed with tomboy boots – which is sure to please the mainstream Theory consumer, but it was the fun disco numbers and breathtaking evening-wear that really stood out. Cute dresses with gently undulating bias-cut hems in striking metallic fabrics, and out-there trousers cut seemingly from iridescent cellophane, were hard to miss – the showstoppers though, as expected, were the final looks to hit the sparse warehouse venue: intricate web-like cocktail dresses and demi-couture floorlength gowns revealing a whole lot of skin (and nipple), and black grosgrain full-skirted gown with sultry cut-out back. “I wanted the collection to have an eclectic feel, but for all the clothing to suit the Thesyskens Theory girl,” explained the charming French designer post-show. “I also thought about creating a cool attitude with clothing that seems lived in and can be worn with high heels or boots – I also like the idea of creating something timeless that a girl can wear season after season.”
As if we were expecting anything else from the endlessly romantic and inventive Mulleavy Sisters, who are known for having more than a passing interest in the dark and disturbing, Spring 12 was a vision of impossible wonder. It must be said that there are few designer’s who could successfully pull off a collection based, quite literally, around Van Gough’s Starry Starry Night and Sunflower paintings - and yet, this is exactly what the renegade girls from Pasadena did today.
For Spring 12, the designer’s whimsically eccentric vision cavorted from 1950s silhouettes featuring bold all-over prints derived from the post-impressionist's works, to subtly sci-fi disco fun all within the blink of an eye – the chunky-heeled retro-vibe silver platform heels taking the vintage-feel looks well and truly into the imagined future. And while some of the cuts were perhaps not the most flattering we’ve seen from the designers, they were never short of being dreamy and romantic – as at home in a field by a haystack beneath a star-filled sky, as at a fancy uptown Manhattan soiree, but always with the avant-garde edge that makes Rodarte THE American label to watch each season.
And it’s not just in-the-know fashion industry insiders that are die-hard Rodarte fans, but countless (seemingly random) celebrities. Each season sees a new star-studded front row – last season even Elijah Wood sat up front between Kim Gordon, Natalie Portman and Kirsten Dunst, but today reached all new heights of OTT celebrity madness when Beyonce swanned into the room. The crowd quite literally went wild – both photographers and attendees snapping away feverishly hoping to get a shot of the singer who is, quite frankly, insanely good looking. Adorable blondies Dakota and Elle Fanning were also in the house, looking cute wearing last season wares.
Colours were positively gleaming, beginning with marigold yellow and gold and transitioning into iridescent aqua, powder blue, silver, midnight blue, lavender and purple – sequin and bead embellishment throughout also amped up the super-real quality of the clothing, lit dramatically by powerful overhead lights. The collection missed something of the continuity I’ve so appreciated in past seasons, where you are swept immediately into the sister’s unique world without any jumps – it may have had something to do with the bold contrast of Van Gough’s iconic imagery with metallic disco fare (though I kind of really loved that sartorial craziness too), the soundtrack too seemed to miss their usual magic – skipping from Mazzy Star’s Fade into You to Morrissey Anthem Every Day is Like Sunday with little transition. But, when it comes to the Mulleavy’s, you can be sure every detail has been carefully considered, laboured over and the result of the vision they intended – and there’s little doubt that this vision, as multifaceted as it may be, will be setting the trends – and clothing the celebrities – come Spring.
It’s been slim picking this season, and just as the fashion crowd are getting a little restless, the end clearly in sight now, along comes Proenza Schouler to take things up a notch and prove to us yet again just why they’re considered arguably the most important young designers of NYFW. Their collection for spring, at once experimental and intriguing, was also infinitely wearable – fun even, and as the models took to the amber-hued shagpile runway to the beat of bongo drums the excitement in the audience was palpable.
The silhouettes were structured and lean, featuring jungle motifs, scattered animal print, horizontal stripes and incredibly intricate embellishment. The vibe was summer resort circa 1960 – the brilliant vaguely tribal and safari ensembles bringing to mind cocktail hour by a tiki hut in a decadent Miami hotel. There was a fabulously Flinstones edge to the overtly retro take on bold animal prints employed loosely throughout, and striking beachwear took us straight to iconic and wild early 60s Californian surf movie, Beach Party.
Proportions were expertly played with: high-waisted below knee-length A-line skirts and shorts crafted from long sections of eel leather paired with cute bustier tops, or cropped mac-inspired shirts sitting block-like and oversize revealing a dash of midriff above a high-waisted skirt or trouser made for striking combinations. The 70s-inspired palette was genius – with the bold bright orange, electric lime and amber made accessible when paired with basic black and dark brown. The innovative textiles we’ve come to know Proenza for were out again this season in force, particularly interesting were the woven raffia skirts and dresses, one black flesh-baring crochet number in black a total knock-out, as well as the printed neoprene tops – the show-stopping numbers really hit at shows close, teal and yellow tulle embroidered dresses absolutely breathtaking. It was amazing to see from the final run-through the complete journey Proenza had took us on this season, from chic daywear in deep hues that would not look out of place in the office, through to skillfully ornate multi-hued dresses and modish giraffe and tiger prints fit for the red carpet – or rocking beach party.
3.1 Phillip Lim
There’s something of a quiet brilliance to Phillip Lim’s collections that seem to stand alone, and steady, in their own aesthetic world each season. It’s a nice place for Lim to be –seemingly unaffected by the ubiquitous fashion trends, but yet always maintaining an effortless cool that attracts the kind of discerning clientele that isn’t swayed by passing fads.
Amid a season where colours have been loud and prints consistent, Phillip Lim revealed a refreshing collection made up predominantly of pastel-hued separates, with sophisticated dresses and summer outerwear thrown in. The raw, white-washed warehouse venue acted as the perfect backdrop for the sorbet tones of lilac, lemon, sun-faded orange and shell pink on show. The relaxed fit of the loosely tapered silk pants, collapsed jumpsuits and racer back dresses, were intended to reflect the free forming ‘freedom and fragility of kites'. Lim incorporated the ease of 90’s influenced active wear, like some acid blue denim Bermuda shorts, with the more refined appeal of a flowing folded silk of an ivory ‘kite’ gown.
The repetition of the subtle kite detailing was seen throughout, from a magnolia and lemon top of silk ribbons simulating kite tails, to the triangular backs of front folded dresses and hooded silk utility vests. With each season, Phillip Lim’s designs become a little more sophisticated and grown-up – in fact, this collection no doubt will be worn head to toe by Manhattan’s elite Hamptons set next summer, while leather ensembles and detailing, along with modern accessories, illustrate his original downtown-cool vibe is still alive and kicking.
“Greetings from paradise,” announced the postcard invitation to Jeremy Scott’s spring show at Milk Studio, and what a brazen journey we went on to “the land of sunshine” for spring 12 – set to the rockin’ tune of Motley Crue’s strip club anthem ‘Girls, girls, girls’. With a fantastically kooky crowd in attendance, as loud vocally and aesthetically as the irreverent wares being paraded down the catwalk, the audience was treated to a cartoonlike Wild West feast of purposely over-the-top sexy 90s and fetish-inspired looks. Girls with Dolly Parton-like bouffant hair and pig-tails, sweeping false eye-lashes and drawn on cutesy freckles, stepped out in skin-tight high-waisted denim skirts and jeans with bustier tops, while for the boys it was all comical coyboy style rippling muscles – chap pants and jeans revealed Jeremy Scott underwear beneath, paired with low-cut leather vests to showcase worked-on pecs.
There were cow-hide and fun cactus prints throughout, worn by girls and guys donning harnesses and pistols, playfully winking and faux-shooting as they walked the runway, and classic country-style yeehaw fringing – cascading down leather hot-pants, trousers, skirts and vests (an all-over gold fringed leather ensemble a particular stand-out). All in all it was a riot of good-humoured eccentricity and pop-culture references – a wonderfully obscene vision of cowgirls and cowboys let loose in saturated colour and fetish fabrics. Jeremy Scott is a reminder of the New York 70s and 80s underground art scene – an amazing and perverse world of deviancy and innovation, and it’s what makes his shows such a delight each season, to remind us that no matter how commercial NYFW may be, fashion can still be subversive.