“We are very French in spirit… The French woman has that mix of bourgeoisie and perversity, sensuality and sexuality,” Joseph Altuzarra told me when I interviewed him recently for the September issue of British Harper’s Bazaar. “The idea of empowerment is also an important factor – it’s become more crucial as women have taken on increasingly powerful positions in the workplace.” And from the first look on the runway for S/S13, the collection appeared the embodiment of this statement.
Beginning with chic work-wear inspired separates, Altuzarra’s vision for the upcoming season revolved around versatile pieces, such as innovative transeasonal cape-like outerwear crafted from denim-like striped cotton, perfect for a high-powered working woman. After all, it is women, not girls, for whom Altuzarra designs – and ultimately this distinction sets him apart from his oft-compared New York contemporaries, and friends, Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, and Alexander Wang. Following his breakout collection last season, the CFDA's womenswear award recipient had set the bar high – and with this collection proved himself well and truly among New York’s most influential designers. From sophisticated daywear comprised primarily of button-down shirts and sleek pencil skirts, the collection graduated into a couture-like extravaganza of lavish, embellished evening dresses dripping with gold fringing and tassels – a necessary dose of excess and luxury in an otherwise chicly understated, though diverse, collection.
There’s no doubt about it, Alexander Wang is the very essence of NYC downtown-cool – and with each passing season, his collection’s go a little further to prove it. This season was no exception – in fact, it was arguably his best-executed in recent memory. From the too-cool-for-school front row lined with fashion and music heavy-weights including Karen Elson, Terry Richardson and ASAP Rocky, to it-models Erin Wasson and Liberty Ross stalking the catwalk, Wang’s S/S13 was set to impress – and when the lights went down on the final all-white looks, the effect was electric, or rather, glow-in-the-dark. But fluorescent looks aside, Wang didn’t need a gimmick to sell his sporty yet conceptual vision for S/S13, which was an intriguing exercise in volume and deconstruction. Shirt-dresses, oversize leather shifts and sultry body-con numbers were sliced apart and reconstructed, at once concealing and revealing the body. Garments modeled on classic sportswear like slouchy t-shirts, baseball uniforms, basketball shorts and parkas were a shadow of their former incarnations, cleverly reworked to become, one can assume, an integral part of his army of cool-girls wardrobes next season.
It was a mod-rocking swinging 60s-fest at Marc Jacobs for Spring/Summer 2013, as models took to a raised, triangular catwalk through a mirrored revolving door in bold striped, houndstooth and leopard print shift dresses and matching separates, with decadent ruffle neck and hemlines. Where often Jacobs toys with a variety of themes and eras to inspire his collections, the looks on display were singularly derivative of the revolutionary – and economically buoyant – 60s, begging the question, why? One couldn’t help but wonder if the dour economic climate, and pending election (with the terrifying possibility of Romney actually being voted in) inspired Jacobs to draw on a rose-coloured bohemian past. Whatever the reason, the effect was upbeat and frivolously fun – dolly-bird girls on parade in boxy, modish silhouettes constructed in jersey, leather and embellished with iridescent beading, with undulating hemlines and bare midriffs in a concise palette of black, white, nude and red. Such an authentic interpretation of 60s style, the collection might have been snatched from the costume archives of, “Who are you, Polly Maggoo” – so while not massively original conceptually, must be appreciated for taking NYFW out of the doldrums of casual everyday-wear and thrusting it back into the realms of fashion fantasy.
Marc by Marc Jacobs
Just as NYFW was hitting a mid-week lull, along comes the perennially youthful and upbeat Marc by Marc Jacobs to provide a necessary breath of fresh air, reviving the waning fashion crowd. This season, the kooky-cool vision was fresh, fun, and adorably awkward – bringing to mind the awesome real-life and fictional teen heroines with killer personality-driven style, Tavi and Ghostworld’s Enid.
Stepping out onto a multi-coloured catwalk, fresh-faced guys and gals donned Jacobs’ own brand of teen-grunge – colourful vintage-inspired print-on-print ensembles loosely layered up and paired with low-hanging backpacks and bright handbags, perfect for lazy summer days. Girls sported bright, mixed-print scarves around their heads and waists adding further blasts of colour to already popping multi-print cinch-waisted dresses, separates and swimwear – offset with flats and platform sandals paired with nerdy-cute scrunched-down socks. For girls the look was a refreshingly pretty and carefree take on the now ubiquitous sexy-grunge-tomboy vibe that’s taken a firm hold on NYC – definitely something to look forward to come spring.
Inside the romantic, beautifully decaying interior of an abandoned 19th Century downtown hotel (the incredible 5 Beekman Street, scheduled to be restored by 2014) New York’s most exciting young label presented their latest collection – and what a way to wrap fashion week. With the launch last week of their first store – on Madison Avenue no less – expectations of design duo Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez were high, and as they have every season in recent memory, they nailed it with genuine ingenuity. Inspired by the utter randomness of Tumblr and the cyber world, McCollough and Hernandez paid homage to the power of technology and the digital age with anomalous all-over photographic prints on low-slung A-line skirts and flattering knee-length dresses. There seemed to be something of a throwback to late 90s, early 2000’s cyber-punk styles, with perforated leather oversize t-shirt tops, zip-front dresses and jackets covered with metal eyelets, but it was in the experimental patch-working of multi-hued python that the collection shined. Their new flagship store may be decidedly uptown, but the designer’s key look for S/S13 – bold patch-worked python jean vests and skirts – prove their downtown cool aesthetic is staying just that.
Set within the grand, neo-classical surrounds of the New York Public Library, Victoria Beckham’s ready-to-wear collection for S/S13 hit the catwalk to the ridiculously catchy tune of Grimes’ ‘Oblivion’ – and it was both as immediately digestible as the soundtrack, and as pared-back and sophisticated as its locale. Beckham’s vision for spring was refreshingly direct – sparse, simple, sharp and Alaia-esque. Forms were feminine, flattering and loosely 60s-inspired – cropped jackets revealing nipped in waists with matching flippy mini-skirts, and killer sculpted A-line dresses in solid colour proving the standouts of a concise collection.
There was an overall ease of wear consistent throughout the pragmatic yet flirty and fun separates and dresses, a point made particularly apparent through the surprisingly practical choice of footwear - flat pumps and sandals (a welcome change from Beckham's usual sky-high kicks). While husband David Beckham, sitting front row in impeccable suit and tie, may have unintentionally stolen the show (it was near impossible to look away!), the collection – beautifully tailored, well-edited and modern-classic – came an impressively close second. Now in its fourth year, Victoria Beckham’s line continues to go from strength to strength as she learns more about her ‘woman’ and continues to extend beyond her signature body-con sheath dresses with aplomb.
Leather and lace proved a killer combination at Jason Wu, where the designer renowned for outfitting the First Lady went against his signature aesthetic opting – rather surprisingly – for dominatrix over demure. Heavily influenced by the recent Helmut Newton retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris, Wu sent out a provocative collection of tough-chic day and evening wear featuring lingerie detailing (thanks to a collaboration with lingerie giant la Perla) and leather harnesses – just the fare one might expect to see in Newton’s heady black and white images from decades past.
It was a bold move for a young designer that has successfully built a brand around conventional red-carpet ready looks – and yet, the primarily nude and black collection was an undisputed hit from the first risqué black leather body-con dress, donned by none other than the radiant Carolyn Murphy. Impeccably tailored stove-pipe trousers, sleek jumpsuits and backless apron dresses demanded attention, as did the flurry of sculpted two-tone pink and black ensembles, but it was the floor-sweeping finale gowns – shimmering, backless, full-skirted and complete with fetish-like harnesses – that stole the show. Wu’s daywear may have graduated from ultra-feminine to ultra-sexy this season, but happily his knock-out eveningwear is as show-stopping and all-out glamorous as ever.
3.1 Phillip Lim
To the tune of Chromatics’ melancholic cover of Neil Young’s ‘Into the Black’, a stream of modern-grunge separates, dresses and outerwear took to the extensive criss-cross runway – slouchy, mis-match print wonders epitomizing Young’s lyrics, “rock’n’roll is here to stay”. It was a particularly youthful, downright cool collection for Lim, whose signature effortlessly chic wares have in the past appealed to a more conservative clientele investing in versatile workplace-friendly day-to-night pieces.
Well, working girls step aside – for S/S13, Lim retired the desk for the dance-floor (or downtown coffee joint) with a collection of tomboy-chic 90s-inspired pieces maxing out on killer print. Leopard, check, tough florals, cheesy-cool slogans, patchwork denim – it was a pattern free-for-all in black, white, fuchsia and multi-colour that ticked all the right boxes, even when co-existing in a singular ensemble. Oversize outerwear, notably trusty wear-anywhere anoraks, and sweaters tied low and loose at the hips oozed androgynous slacker cool, while a more traditionally feminine Phillip Lim aesthetic made an appearance as reworked shirt dresses and classic LBD’s.
NYC is currently in the throes of a wild love affair with reworked 90s grunge (anoraks, mix-prints to the max, dirty dye jobs ala Grimes), and existing at the centre of the boyfriend-style craze is the visionary designer Olivier Theyskens. Popularising the trend in his own inimitable fashion several seasons ago, Theyskens’ has stuck with the tomboy-chic aesthetic, offering rousing evolutions on the theme with each passing collection.
For S/S13, vintage-vibe grunge attire in a spare palette of black and white was elevated by sophisticated, expertly tailored double-breasted blazers, suit pants and sculptural hour-glass dresses – the last of which, striking floor-length numbers, more than hinted at Theysken’s demi-couture leanings. Long, slouchy summer cape-coats and broad-shouldered leather jackets atop sexy leather mini-dresses touched on an 80s aesthetic, while heavily embellished white and iridescent tailored shifts and jackets worked a 60s-meets-Sci-Fi vibe. It was a somewhat dark and sparse vision for spring, challenging the prevailing NYC palette and trend for breezy silhouettes – but therein lies Theyskens’ charm, he affords the easily-digestible NYFW aesthetic a little moody Parisian sophistication.
Set to DJ Michel Goubert’s mix of 90s R&B wonders including Aaliya’s Try Again and Missy Elliot’s Get Your Freak On, Jeremy Scott’s outrageously blinging Sheikh-Chic collection hit the catwalk. Middle Eastern references abounded, most notably in the burka-like sheaths, Afghan scarves, filigree bustiers, opulent gold detailing and AK47 medallions that played on ideas of Middle Eastern luxury, excess and violence – it was definitely a tongue-in-cheek take on some serious issues, and a little darker than we’ve come to expect from the good-time loving Jeremy Scott. There was an overtly New York sentiment throughout seen in chunky trucker caps and backpacks adorning each look – an interesting inversion of the traditional export of luxury goods to the Middle East, with Scott instead selling Middle Eastern-inspired luxury to the USA.