Marc by Marc Jacobs
“This is what you want, this is what you get” repeated John Lydon’s acerbic vocals as Public Image Limited’s indelible "Order of Death" played out, providing the soundtrack for Marc Jacob’s latest mens and womenswear collections for his beloved eponymous diffusion line. And the soundtrack said it all really. As we’ve come to expect from arguably the world’s most successful designer traversing the ranks of luxury fashion to youth-driven fare, Jacobs’ knows his consumer and, more importantly, knows instinctively how to cater to them. This season, that resulted in an unassuming and easy-to-wear grungy collection that took the Marc Jacobs guy and gal to military school – where the uniforms were classic, cool and a little subversive (the male model’s partially shaved heads definitely added punk points). For the girls, full-skirted dresses, flippy and pleated skirts and loosely structured belted jackets and overcoats ruled, paired for good measure (and cool cred) with bovver boots and military caps. For the boys, London came calling in the form of preppy slim-fitting suits conceived in traditional black (complete with non-traditional white sneakers) and mod-rocking plaid, as well as 60s-style striped mohair sweaters, check button-downs, classic structured woolen overcoats and weather-proof macs. It was a revisionist 90s grunge and riot-grrrl moment to embrace – because hey, only Marc Jacobs could throw our high school Doc Boot and yin-yang filled grunge days in our faces, and not make us cringe.
Last season, Proenza Schouler’s Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough drew inspiration from the past with a collection that fused tribal and safari by way of 1960s Miami resort – for AW12 however, the look was decidedly forward-thinking and straight-up cool. To a vaguely unsettling Yoko Ono soundtrack, oversized asymmetrical ensembles took to the catwalk in pristine white – from the outset it was clear that experimental, unusually proportioned silhouettes were taking precedence over ornamentation, an aesthetic indebted to the overriding inspiration this season, Asia. Complex Oriental-inspired garments took direction from traditional Japanese and Chinese attire – boxy cuts, vibrant palette of gold, crimson, jade and indigo and intricate embroidery all paying homage to kimono’s, Karate gi’s and cheongsam’s, but in the most innovative possible way. From structured white cotton looks, the collection quickly moved onto hand-detailed silk-satin and innovatively woven lacquered leather in the form of jackets, flippy skirts and dresses in red and cobalt paired with killer black high-heel boots. Quilted satin bomber jackets coupled with shimmering gold tile skirts were standouts, as were asymmetrical silk shantung skirts worn relaxed and low-key with semi-tucked slouchy t-shirt tops. It was a beautifully modern and inventive – and, importantly, very wearable – vision, and the audience’s overwhelmingly enthusiastic cheers at the finale proved we were all in agreement – Proenza Schouler are almost singlehandedly responsible for lifting NYFW out of its commercial shackles each season, giving us all something to get excited about.
Prior to Calvin Klein’s dual back-to-back showings at a white-washed space in Manhattan’s garment district, the twittersphere was a-flutter with speculation that Occupy Wall Street protesters were set to cause havoc and shut down the show – contrary to the excitement though, just a handful surrounded the space and in reality had nothing to do with the actual – inspiring – Occupy movement. That said, the Calvin Klein experience was far from dull with the buzz expected outside instead taking place on the catwalk, where Creative Director Francisco Costa’s vision was a rousing departure from last season’s feminine, lingerie-inspired fare. Where spring’s collection saw sultry figure-hugging cuts in a palette-cleansing wash of nude, gold and blush, AW 12 was a modern, unfussy reinterpretation of 1950’s-inspired loose-fitting hourglass silhouettes conceived in bold black, egg-shell and bright poppy textured wool. Waists were accentuated and cinched with simple, ultra-modern silver belts, and classic court shoes hinted at the collection’s working-girl desk-to-disco-friendly vibe. Outerwear, like the chic separates, was minimal and focused on clean lines in block colour, a striking orange-red mohair collarless coat, gathered about the waist with a silver band-belt a particular standout. It was a decidedly wintry collection amidst the transeasonal looks many designers have been opting for in the wake of global climate change, and while the sculpted shapes in vivid colour for the season ahead may have appeared in stark contrast to last season’s subtle, slip-like wares, the attitude was unchanged – it remained confident, minimal and concise, all that the eminent Calvin Klein name implies.
Alexander Wang is about as New York cool as it gets – and this season, somewhat ironically given the freakishly mild winter NYC has experienced this year, Wang sent out a collection of structured luxe-utilitarian leather, suede and wool outerwear and wintry-hued separates fit to beat the coolest temperatures (and locales) the Northern Hemisphere could throw at you. Complex textures were key amid a faultless, and darkly dramatic, Fall/Winter collection of nouveau-mod pieces modeled by the industry’s finest – Gisele, Shalom, Abbey Lee, Karolina and Carmen Cass among others – who took to the mirrored catwalk in lacquered tweed, waxed suede, patent leather, coated wool and laser-cut mesh constructions in a bold palette of black, white and oxblood. It was an undoubtedly clever marriage of classic-with-a-twist military-inspired silhouettes and innovative fabrications on show this season, a smart move for a designer that while beloved by the fashion set has been criticized in the past by industry elite, including Cathy Horyn, for being ‘unoriginal and derivative’. Following last season’s awesomely future-80s BMX Bandit good-bad-girl collection that demonstrated a real return to form, Wang again this season seemed intent on proving his mettle as an authoritative new-guard American designer – and it worked. Overall, Wang’s vision for AW/12 may have been somewhat safe, but in the current economy, why shouldn’t it be? Covetable and consumable, it had all the elements of a successful and ultimately wearable collection, and like the show’s invasive riot girl soundtrack, it hinted at a subversive intensity that clearly had the crowd (consisting, as usual, of every cool kid around – Zoe Kravitz, Alexa Chung, Erin Wasson, Die Antwoord) in awe.
Band of Outsiders
For Autumn/Winter, the audience at Boy/Band of Outsiders was once again taken on a sartorial journey – this time to the romantic wild, wild west. Designer Scott Sternberg, whose background in the Hollywood film industry has been undeniably worn on his sleeve each season, more than hinted at cinema for AW/12 with a collection shown against a rising and setting sun over rocky desert terrain, set to a dramatic Western movie soundtrack. While the inspired set created a stirring atmosphere, Sternberg needs little fanfare to impress his many devotees – he achieves that with his impeccable collections of up-scale basics in the tradition of American sportswear alone. In fact, if there is one burgeoning designer truly following in the footsteps of grand-master of American Sportswear Ralph Lauren, it has to be Sternberg, whose designs so flawlessly embody the spirit of radiant good-old-American youth. This season, the palette was earthy and subdued in keeping with the western theme – ochres, rusts, ivory and sandy tones reigned throughout, punctuated by black in the form of dramatic duster coats for both men and women. For the girls, the look was modern prairie – silhouettes lithe and lean, hemlines long and flattering, hair and make-up subtly bronzed and unkempt. The boys’ got a little more rugged in beanies and work boots to compliment double-breasted wool blazers, sand-hued chinos and stand-out Cowichan pullovers and hoodies, while covetable tan suede shearling jackets proved the winning outerwear for both sexes. As the Western-themed soundtrack drew to a close, and ‘The End’ was projected onto the stage-like catwalk, the audience reaction was unanimous – to put it mildly, the show was a hit.
As if Phillip Lim hasn’t consistently proven his knack for easy yet sophisticated separates for the effortlessly-cool Manhattan working girl season after season, he made his mark yet again for AW12 with a collection anchored in what he described as “duality”. Lim explored this concept through a bold, primarily monochromatic palette that underlined his signature razor-sharp tailoring, alongside deceptively simple paneling allowing the illusion of shadowing – effectively creating a lithe, lean silhouette. As we’ve come to expect from Lim, structured layer-friendly separates suited to any desk-to-disco girl’s wardrobe in contrasting materials including organza, merino wool and PVC were rife throughout, key pieces being high-waisted pencil trousers, sleek blazers, slouchy-chic knits and two-tone shift dresses. It was really through the outerwear, though, that the collection shined. Textural, subtly experimental and in countless forms, Lim’s polished and modern chill-fighting wares ran the gamut from wool patchwork overcoats, classic crombies and mod-like panelled mohair capes to reworked military blazers and nouveau-puffa jackets. To break up the black and white two-tone party, Lim introduced optimistic pops of red, bright blue, gray and taupe – as well as striking geometric prints, adding a youthful vitality to his grown-up cool vision for the coming winter.
In keeping with the psychadelic sitar-tastic soundtrack (a cover of ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ no less), Karen Walker’s AW12 collection proved an explosion of swinging 60s cuts, beaming colour and pitch-perfect paisley prints. Yes it was derivative of a beloved era – you could be forgiven for thinking you had stepped back in time to Mary Quant’s London – but it was also characteristically cute and upbeat, quietly eccentric and guaranteed to bring a smile to any fashion-loving gal’s lips. Case in point: totally Cher from Clueless-worthy matching shoes, dresses and clutch bags in brilliantly out-there all-over PAISLEY print in bright orange, red, pink and gold – what’s not to love? Along with happily clashing colourblocking throughout, there were standout gold lamé wonders including a structured blazer and overcoat, and chic easy-to-wear slim fitting trousers, sweet puff-ball skirts and angora sweaters in yellow, navy and white. Karen Walker is New Zealand’s most popular designer for a reason, she knows what cute-cool girls want and she delivers – this season offering a necessary jolt of girlish fun and frivolity to a New York Fashion Week that has thus far been glaringly lacking in the off-the-wall style stakes.
OLIVIER THEYSKENS THEORY
Olivier Theyskens has the cool girl covered. Everything an understated girl-about-downtown could possibly ask for Theyskens’ has sent out in spades each season since his hugely successful partnership with Theory was struck 18 months ago. And while the skilful Belgian designer’s couture-like sensibility may have initially seemed at odds with the American label’s office-ready aesthetic roots, the marriage of European artistry with American pragmatism has proven a perfect match – and Theyskens has the front row of it-girls, including Sky Ferrera and Leigh Lezark (and more impressively the sublime Julianna Moore), to prove it. Following last season’s lead, for AW12 Theyskens sent out an understated collection conceived largely in sharp navy, black and charcoal – his grungy Theory favourites in reworked form all making an entrance from boy-friend trousers, slouchy knits and leather biker jackets to purposely worn-in t-shirts. Of course, there were conservative pieces fit for an uptown soiree thrown in too, including beautifully tailored blazers, knee-length skirts, structured outerwear and (somewhat funereal) demi-couture full-length organza dresses in a variation on the flawless cut Theyskens’ introduced last spring. The effortless wares appeared a perfect balance of Theyskens and Theory’s dual aesthetics – with such harmony of style, it’s little wonder the talented young designer has been newly named Creative Director of the American sportswear brand.
Over the last few season’s America’s most whimsical designers, sister’s Kate and Laura Mulleavy, have successfully transformed their collections from unapologetically romantic, sculptural feats to wearable day and eveningwear, while maintaining the conceptual underpinnings they’ve become known and loved for. For AW 12, Rodarte cemented this marriage of art and commerce with perhaps their most commercially viable collection yet, inspired by the rugged Australian outback. Demure 1940s-inspired silhouettes were consistent throughout as both modest day dresses (typically conceived in muted tones) and striking all-over-print evening gowns – the rustic, earthy palette and arresting textile prints clearly referencing Aboriginal cave art and dot paintings. Undoubtedly the strongest looks were all leather – in the form of tailored dresses, and killer black and white shearling coats and cropped jackets that while taking direction from 40s aviator style gave the collection a much-needed contemporary edge. In fact, it was the outerwear that anchored the collection firmly in the now – the svelte, elegant tailoring offering a reprise from the somewhat loose-fitting day-dresses. The beautifully tailored skirt suits (which brought to mind Nicole Kidman’s prim-and-proper ensembles in Baz Lurhman’s faux-epic ‘Australia’), were standouts, and of course the finale hand-print and dot painting inspired floorsweeping gowns couldn’t help but steal the show – the only reservation being, for an Australian like myself, that the motifs – much as I tried to wipe the visions from my mind – brought to mind Qantas Aboriginal-print stewardess uniforms.
Jeremy Scott was at his brilliantly kooky best this season, offering up a collection of 90s techno-raver ensembles in major rainbow-bright colour to the tune of 2 Unlimited’s techno anthem, ‘No Limit’ (there were also a few genius Japanese Madonna covers thrown in for good measure). As the audience danced (and raucously whooped and wailed with each passing look) in their seats to sounds that took them back to their teen years, insanely upbeat new-rave ensembles hit the catwalk – one showstopping number a vibrant multi-hued goat-hair coat, another an eccentric outfit featuring an all-over Bart Simpson head motif, yet another an iridescent mini-skirt and brassiere set. Clearly, Jeremy Scott was reflecting on his 90s experiences – those halcyon days when bindi’s and fluoro-coloured hair were acceptable, when the Simpson’s were new and ‘email’ was a vaguely exotic concept associated with that Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks movie. And in Scott’s loving, and skillfully edited, revision of those wonderfully tacky techno-cyber days for Fall/Winter 12, the designer not only managed to win fans in those that have already lived through the 90s once, but made the era feel new again.