Sometimes all-white just isn’t alright – case in point, purveyor of NYC downtown-cool Alexander Wang’s collection last season. It got slammed for being derivative (Ann Demeulemeester anyone?) and just not particularly wearable, which is a problem when it is what your label is supposedly built around – but not to worry, it seemed Wang set out to right all wrong’s with a well-conceived and considered, and most importantly inventive, collection for AW11 that highlighted his aesthetic strong points: innovative fabrication, deconstructed suiting and an overall sci-fi-slash-sporty vibe (zippers and silver detailing rife throughout). From the outset, the show – set in the cavernous Pier 94 space Wang opts for each season – appeared as an industrial future-disco. The floor, illuminated in a sequence of light-up squares discoteque-style, saw models stepping haphazardly to the pounding beat of 90s club music – the Prodigy soundtrack certainly brought back high school memories! There were sexy-cyber ski-bunny looks, statement oversized parka-poncho and bomber-biker hybrid’s – which have been a huge trend on the catwalk for winter 11 (even at Altuzarra!) and elongated and sheer re-workings of the classic tuxedo dress-shirt and aviator-cum-mourning coat. Heels in striking metallics stood out, rose-gold loafer-style numbers with tassel were a favourite, while others featured chunky flaps at the back of the ankle – an unusual look in sync with the not-quite-right leg-warmers throughout. Textures were of particular interest, and very much a highlight of the collection; winter coats began as soft merino wool and graduated seamlessly into needle-punched leather, while pullovers started out as angora and merged into chiffon – a rather impressive experimental feat, and evidence that Wang can offer a lot more than just androgynous cool-girl garb.
Joseph Altuzarra, once again for AW11, was all about shedding last season’s skin to reveal an altogether new and unexpected vision. Bypassing entirely the white and snakeskin ensembles of last spring, that while genuinely interesting were not particularly appealing, Altuzarra sent out a flawless collection for AW 11 reminiscent attitude-wise of the brilliantly cinematic, bondage and ‘cat-woman’-inspired leather constructions of last winter. Describing his new collection as “combining the nonchalance and rebellious spirit of the 90s”, motorbike jackets were reworked and deconstructed, zippers and superfluous elongated straps were rife throughout and the subdued palette of principally charcoal, black and burgundy, was broken up with a classic argyle print. Platform boots were black, knee-high and intimidating with fur jutting out strangely along the tongue, heeled sandals appeared as over-the-top white fur-balls and sparkly silver heels, featuring chunky white fur ankle straps, were on the humorously bizarre side. Leathers and luxurious fur were stand-outs, as were tweedy wools fashioned into below-the-knee skirts with audacious thigh-high splits, and supple floor-length ivory evening dresses hinting at bygone eras, heavy with metallic embellishment and fringing, both closed, and stole, the show (there were literally ecstatic gasps and sighs from the audience). Textures, colours and materials were purposely jumbled, as Altuzarra played on concepts of patch-working contrasting elements to form a whole – the designer also explained that he was attempting a more “sensual femininity” this season over “bold sexuality”. It’s exciting that New York has another designer to watch – the weight has been lifted (just a little) of Proenza Schouler and Rodarte now.
Band of Outsiders
Band of Outsiders, Boy and the more recent addition of Girl by Scott Sternberg are always a major highlight – and this season for the first time, the collections were shown on the catwalk rather than as a presentation. While the show was exciting and quite unlike anything we’ve seen (hot boys came hurtling down ropes, mountaineering-style, from cavities in the ceiling onto the catwalk – what beats that?!), the presentations seemed a more apt way to view Sternberg’s wares – it was difficult to take in the countless feats of contemporary American sportswear on show as they were passing by so quickly. Sternberg’s impressive presentations of past seasons not only put his old-school preppy-perfect confections in the right context (his mis-en-scenes would showcase the collections against nostalgic film-set like backdrops), but would allow the opportunity to get up close and see all the minute details of fabric and construction – you could spend as long as you liked taking in every single outfit. The look for AW11 was California desert style – think rustic ponchos, beanies and earthy fabrics for guys and girls. It’s the type of collection that seems instantly classic – the kind of clothing you can imagine yourself living in (if only you could afford it). Band of Outsiders/boy and Girl really is American classic sportswear at its best – fine-tuned and subtly reworked for a contemporary audience. The fact the soundtrack was The Doors hypnotic ‘The End’, and that cookies graced our seats, made for a pretty outstanding sartorial experience.
Inside New York’s elaborate French-revival Plaza Hotel’s plush ballroom, complete with baroque detailing and imposing chandeliers, Thakoon Panichgul showed his latest collection to an instantly shocked – and awed – crowd. From the first look on the catwalk – a thoroughly original Masai-plaid taffeta belted jacket paired with cobalt cigarette slacks and pleated waist skirt – the often hard-to-please New York fashion set was utterly won over, an exciting development given the amount of (well-received) ‘glamorous’ crystal-encrusted floor-length gowns I’ve had to witness this NYFW! Daring colour and volume set the tone for a collection expertly mashing-up African tribal prints with classic tartans and checks, and sporty street-wear elements with tailoring. It was a brave vision, and Thakoon nailed it. The cross-cultural, cross-purpose fusion and exceptional print and textiles, reminiscent in spirit of avant-garde master Dries Van Noten, continued throughout the collection as deconstructed down puffa’s, tribal print wool asymmetric and draped silk dresses, gathered, tucked and pleated tunics and reworked blazers and coats hit the serpentine runway. From the opening vivid blue and red ensembles, the collection slowly merged into bold black and yellow in the form of floral batik rococo dresses, bustle skirts and blouses, and then as eye-catching tweed ensembles. Proportions were also observed – from high cinched and ruffled waists, to looser draped pieces sans waist-line, lean trousers to voluminous skirts, a variety of flattering silhouettes were experimented with. Thakoon’s streety, tribal, techno-wear for AW11 even took on a biker attitude late in the game, with a simple black cropped leather motor-bike jacket making an entrance alongside feminine re-workings of chunky black biker boots. All-in-all, a complicated, audacious and completely inspiring outlook for the season ahead.
Against the blaring “The beautiful people, the beautiful people,” Marilyn Manson anthem, statuesque models took to the mirrored catwalk anchored with huge white, polyester padded columns. It was quite a departure from last season’s dreamy-disco fare that I was so moved by: a collection of pure 70s fantasy – super-real glamour at its best. Where last season, Jacobs was all about saturated colour and lithe, free form, for Autumn/Winter 11/12, the look was strict and disciplined – but in a fantastically cartoon-like way. Models wearing sculptural bubble-like beret’s and space-age-meets-turn-of-the-century platform boots, donned impossibly structured, form-fitting dresses and ensembles resulting in an amped-up feminine, hour-glass silhouette – the effect was almost cyborg-like perfection, a kind of Victorian-era Replicant fest. And, true to the repetitive soundtrack that played the length of the show, the girls were indeed beautiful. That hyper-real quality was at play again following on from last season, but where spring/summer’s blaze of brilliant colour and metallics, dramatically oversized sun-hats, platform heels and full, sweeping skirts made for a fantasy we could be a part of, winter’s vision was instead rather intimidating and exclusive. Where Manson’s chant was originally an ode to freaks, within the confines of this show the irony was lost - and I couldn’t help but be left wondering who, aside from the ‘beautiful people’ on parade, could possibly wear these couture-like, precise garments. That said, fashion is fantasy – and we don’t need to imagine ourselves wearing the clothes on offer to admire them, and when it comes to Jacobs, I am an enduringly avid fan.
The excessive plasticcy-synthetic accessories and embellishment added humour to the austere forms – particularly in the glittering three-dimensional polka-dots adorning entire outfits. It was also good to see faux-fur capitalized on, when there has (somewhat disturbingly) been so much of the real thing throughout NYFW this season, fabrics appeared rubbery and skin tight – as trousers, column skirts, sculpted skirt suits and jackets. The streamlined guipure dresses towards the end of the show offered a fresh take on the lace we’ve been seeing quite a lot of for winter, and overall, the rich, textural fabrics realized as super-sculpted separates and dresses was a bold move. The only criticism last season (that I heard anyway) was that Jacobs’ collection was too overtly referential of a particular era – well, Jacobs may have taken this to heart, because his future-archaic feat for AW11/12 is certainly original, and has made the 70s influence he started (rife through the NYFW collections this season) seem like old news.
Is it any wonder that Rodarte’s collection for Autumn/Winter 11/12 has been the uncontested highlight of the week? It goes without saying that it is THE show to attend during New York Fashion Week (well, and Proenza Schouler), because each season under the Mulleavy sister’s eccentric and energising spell, we are given a potent reminder of just what it is that made us fall in love with fashion to begin with. Their exceptional spun-from-air aesthetic is as near to art as fashion – and in a city as commercial (fashion-wise) as New York, it is essential to have a brand that remains as true to their instincts and unconventional vision as Rodarte. This season, the Mulleavy sisters took a trip out to the country, David Hamilton fresh-faced prairie style, by way of 70s Laura Ashley – and it was a nostalgic journey well-worth taking.
Warm, pure, sunlit hues took to the catwalk: yellow, soft ochre, washed-out peach, bone and cornflower blue made up the optimistic palette, at times broken up by graphic black and white print sections and panels, that while striking, disrupted the overall flow of the collection. The soundtrack – a genuinely barn-dance worthy ‘country’ twanging guitar with equally twanging male vocals, took the nouveau-prairie ensembles into an imagined rural context where fields of daisies and straw-bales, blue skies and fluffy white clouds came immediately to mind – a fantastic, sartorial Oklahoma if you will. Dainty without being stuffy, dresses and full skirts in antique-feel crochet, cotton and chiffon fell to mid-calf, textures throughout were earthy and featured cosy hand-crafted details like geometric paneling and grandpa knits adding to the overall lived-in, old-world attitude. There was a total change of pace as a series of dramatic crimson gowns hit the runway, a particular show-stopper donned by a contentedly smiling-smirking Karlie Kloss. It was a marked change from the rest of the collection, and proof that the Mulleavy’s still have eveningwear down to a fine art - but following Rodarte's inspired foray into daywear proper last season, it was exciting to see the sisters so successfully continue the theme.
Marc by Marc Jacobs
While Marc Jacobs’ playfully austere main-line collection may have moved well away from the disco-decadence of Spring/Summer, his youth-driven Marc by Marc Jacobs collection was firmly footed in the sexy, sultry 1970s. That first look on the catwalk said it all – blazing copper-gold leather blazer atop a rusty metallic satin blouse, paired with herringbone trousers and lace-up oxfords. Wow. And the easy-breezy blown-out hair on the fresh-faced models wearing the luscious disco-by-day ensembles pushed an earthy-glam vision of perfection you couldn't help but want to be a part of.
For winter, textures had been emphasized, and visibly taken up a notch from last season. The collection, crafted in lavish fabrics, as always had endless looks – standouts included polka-dot velvet dresses, leopard print sweaters, loose-fitting late-disco era shifts, a supple silk jungle print jumpsuits and deep chocolate alpaca coat. Tailoring, oversized and playfully feminine-masculine, was observed: corduroy suits, double-breasted macs and loose-fitting mens-style tailored shorts and suit jacket ensembles were key. Cashmere and chunky knits were also consistent throughout as coats, double-knit trousers, sweaters and dresses. Hemlines were elongated in keeping with the trend for spring, and accessories were – you guessed it – 70s inspired: brown leather satchel-handbags, navy panther shoppers and leather hobo totes, alongside suede booties, chunky platform high-heels and chic tassel loafers. There was an early 80s edge throughout, that brought to mind New York punk rock heroine Blondie – and suggested a potential return to a more strict 80s mod-rocking New York style for spring.
You’re always in for a rowdy rock’n’roll good time at a Jeremy Scott show. There’s such authenticity of spirit inherent in his designs and the way he presents them that you’re won over each season – whether you are actually a fan of his brilliantly cocky and subversive wares has little to do with it. The fact that he’s a designer that lives the lifestyle he projects through his clothing – and has his cool, punky friends both modeling in and lining the front row each season – is a major part of the appeal. Seeing countless shows all week and barely finding time to sleep, I can’t stress enough how invigorating it is to be part of a fun, crazy, positive experience like this – and the entire audience seemed to feel the same way… From the first look out there were literally cheers and catcalls – Jeremy Scott’s take on fashion (that it should be FUN) is one we need more of.
This season, Scott’s show began with voices emanating from the loud speakers: “I’m on the list… I’m, I’m on the list” (laughs and cheers erupt from the crowd, which included the black-clad Misshapes trio) “What list? There’s no list tonight!” Then, bang – lights on, and bangin’ house music sets the beat for models in awesomely gharish pop colour and equally hyper-pop cuts. It was a 70s dark-side-of-disco and raver 90s hybrid vision that Scott pushed for next winter – and honestly, I’d love to see New York looking like this! It was a beautiful-freak fest, and much of the clothing was wearable. Models were fitted out with fluoro pig-tail extensions donning extreme ensembles including a stand-out clear PVC mini-trench with pink furry bikini beneath, solid-silver leather form-fitting dresses, mini overalls, a-line skirts and cropped motor-bike jackets, multi-colour pastel biker jacket as mini full-skirted dress and knit skeleton-pattern sweaters. Following from last season, opening looks featured graphic logo’s – this time, with reference to Coca Cola, “Enjoy GOD” – on Tanks, dresses and loose shirts. The final look was a blast, and summed up the super show – a floor-length sequined dress playing on the Superman costume, complete with extended flowing red cape.
There was just one thing on everyone’s minds as Michael Kors’ outlook for Autumn/Winter 11/12 was about to hit the runway – that just moments prior, Bette Midler had been serenading Kors backstage… With a ukulele. Funnily enough, this was seriously what the editors up-front were discussing practically as it happened – news travels fast with twitter. The front row was quite an intimidating spectacle, alongside the brilliant ‘Big Business’ Midler sat quintessential A-listers Anjelica Huston, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones – all in attendance to ring in the thirtieth anniversary of the Michael Kors main-line.
To celebrate the occasion, Kors sent out a ‘greatest-hits’ collection embodying “sporty decadence and pragmatic glamour”. Models draped in long, lean lines that emphasised Kors signature ‘elegant athleticism’, stepped to an up-beat 70s post-doowop soundtrack in bold monochrome hues. Juxtaposing sharp tailoring with languid 70s-era draping, a polished yet easy silhouette emerged – a definitively Kors refined and simplified take on classic American luxury.
As though looking back on his label’s three-decade heritage, Kors sent out reworkings of his hottest looks over the years in the form of high-waisted chiffon jersey blouson dresses and pant-suits, sleek bodysuits, gorgeous flannel masculine suiting and sultry figure-hugging gowns. Knotted fox-fur cropped jackets and bathrobe coats came in an array of tones – vivid red, blush, mauve, cream and cocao. The looks were delivered in striking block-colour, accentuating Kors’ taut, trim cuts and unbridled, sheer-luxury approach to American sportswear.
3.1 Phillip Lim
Phillip Lim is at his best when he focuses on pragmatism – on designing the type of well-fitting, flattering and accessible clothing that make women’s lives easier: and that is precisely what he’s been doing expertly over the last few seasons. The charming designer has said on many occasions that that is exactly what his label is all about, and it’s what he has become known and loved for. For next Autumn/Winter, much of the collection was created in that vein, but there were some pieces that rocked the boat – such as the pegged pants with contasting coloured flap that were pushing a 'fashion' angle that didn’t seem cohesive. What is so beautiful about Lim's designs is their inherent timelessness, chic simplicity and lack of overt fashion or trend focus, while always remaining up-to-date – Lim is able to reach an incredibly wide audience because he creates easily layered separates, dresses and perennially pitch-perfect outerwear that moulds to the indicidual’s sense of personal style. There was a lot to love – even if the edgy contrast trousers consistent throughout weren’t much of a hit – Lim was emphasizing volume this season, with alternately stiff and draped dresses and separates that sat chicly at a distance from the body. Colours were gorgeous – Lim’s signature camel, tans and nudes alongside shots of cobalt, red and green were in line with the optimism in terms of palette that we’ve been seeing on the catwalks since the spring collections. It was another great, pared-back and elegant collection for Lim, with a lot of casual basics that will no doubt form the basis of many New Yorker’s wardrobes for Autumn.
It was all a little nouveau-riche at Jason Wu for AW11/12 – but given that the inspiration for the season was, Wu said, “the detailed restoration process of Versailles”, perhaps it was self-conscious – even vaguely ironic? Here’s hoping! Gilded mirrors were piled together to form a reflective catwalk, while a mammoth chandelier hung at the end of the catwalk – production design elements reflective of the overall feel of the collection, which was elaborate to say the least. A baroque-meets-sportswear theme prevailed, as what would otherwise be quite classic winter wardrobe staples, became something else altogether when covered with crystal and metallic beading, embroidery and lace detailing. Following on from last Autumn/Winter’s collection, Wu’s strong point was most certainly in the accessible outerwear that not only imbued the collection with a vital pragmatism, but gave it a youthful edge. The chunky knits of last winter that we were such fans of, and that took the frou-frou prettiness of the dresses and separates down a few notches, were replaced this time around with slouchy, casual hooded parkas and cute capelet’s – there was also a lot of statement fur. Puffball Mongolian fur dresses were standouts, and reminiscent of Sonia Rykiel’s all-out-fun numbers from last winter, worn by models – in a particularly memorable catwalk moment – moshing happily to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. While there was a lot of lace, frills and over-the-top gold and embellishment on show, one can’t really fault Wu, designer who has built a vastly successful business, and attracted a dedicated following, for his well-crafted wares.