Marc by Marc Jacobs
How to critique a Marc by Marc Jacobs collection? Well, it would seem with something approaching difficulty. Jacobs rarely puts a foot wrong when designing the easy, upbeat daywear that defines his diffusion line – eminently wearable clothing that can seemingly be worn anywhere, and by anyone; and in there lies the quandary, it never really seems in much need of criticism. And for spring, Jacobs delivered a collection that yet again, couldn’t help but please both the press, and his multitudes of fans. Following the theme of his mainline collection, Jacobs sent lithe Seventies silhouettes in sumptuous colour down the catwalk – beginning with a breezy, beachy multi-colour stripe tank dress paired with casual sneaker wedges. But where the Marc Jacobs collection was overtly referential and disco-decadent, today’s wares toned down the ritzy Saturday Night Fever vibe in favour of a more toned-down and contemporary take on classic, sporty styles. There was a lot to like, beginning with the jumpsuit, which has surprisingly retained its on-trend status for a few seasons now, surfacing as both a billowy Seventies style number and a somewhat militaristic and minimal reworked safari-suit. Cute bonnet-style hats were the perfect foil for loose-fitting cape-like dresses and jackets, and sweet, super-youthful high-waisted mini-skirts and sweater ensembles were consistent throughout – but stripes, in bright, bold, eye-catching colour were the uncontested stars of the show, finding their way into what seemed like every other look on the catwalk.
Oscar de la Renta
It is always a sublime, strangely cinematic experience at Oscar de la Renta. Today, as a storm erupted outside spoiling the coiffed dos of numerous ladies in attendance, de la Renta’s immaculate ensembles for Spring/Summer 11 sailed onto the catwalk, appearing larger than life. Though not outré in any way, de la Renta has the ability to create garments so irresistibly perfect and crafted with such couture-like precision, that they take on a super-real, costume-like quality. Such was the case with this collection steeped in nostalgia for spring, starting with an impossibly chic nude silk-linen coat with embroidered yellow blooms about the hem, paired with a matching yellow ostrich tote brimming with flowers. From there, the collection quickly moved into rosey summery hues, floral prints and ultra-feminine dresses, all to the tune of Fifties juke-box favourites ‘Only You’ and ‘The great pretender’. The Spanish influence de la Renta explored extensively last spring was subtly reintroduced through chantilly lace ruffles and detailing on pretty cocktail dresses and later, exquisite ball-gowns. Once the floor-sweeping dresses began to file out, there was no looking back. A flurry of dreamy chiffon, sculptural tulle, silk faille, crepe de chine and mille-feuille lace and organza ruffles drifted out in gowns of contrasting black and white, muted gold, peony pink and lime that brought to mind Audrey Hepburn’s fresh-faced Sabrina. An enchantingly lady-like extravaganza like no other during New York Fashion Week (and one that makes us dream of debutante balls and romantic days of old), Oscar de la Renta’s preternatural ability to make antiquated styles relevant in a modern context is continually inspiring.
Much like the avant-garde violin-based soundtrack to their catwalk presentation, Proenza Schouler’s collection for Spring/Summer was an exercise in bridging tradition with modernity. The initial looks, tweedy Chanel-like jackets with prim-and-proper tailored knee-length skirts worn together with classic point-toe pumps looked particularly grown-up and up-town – fast-forward a few looks, and textural shibori-dyed dresses with hints of fluorescent colour paired with down-town cool flat sandals took to the floor, changing the mood of the collection entirely. The audacious colourways, which continued throughout, striking geometric jewellery and futuristic sandal-boots anchored the looks for spring very much in the present, and contrasted beautifully with the ancient shibori dye technique experimented with on numerous, artfully designed pieces. Surface and colour were consistently at play; delicate ruffles adorned waists, necks and hemlines of supple chiffon slips, intricate scale-like sequin detailing embellished entire looks and luminous web-like guipure lace creations appeared at once like something out of the imagined future and distant past.
The effect overall was unusual, beautiful and ultimately inspiring. The ease with which the Proenza Schouler design duo, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, straddle the conventional and the innovative, is testament to their seemingly limitless imaginations and aptitude as designers. Their increasingly covetable accessories – the handbags, bold jewellery and footwear were absolute highlights this season, are also an indication of Proenza Schouler’s saleability as a brand.
Anna Sui is not one to forget her roots. This year celebrating the twentieth anniversary of her brand, the award-winning designer delivered just the kind of dreamy, youthful and earthy vintage-inspired fare that have made her a house-hold name now for two generations of women. From the first look on the catwalk, the attitude was upbeat and, in true Sui form, unashamedly sweet. The models were actually smiling as they took to the runway in late Sixties-inspired print poncho and patchwork print dress, blue suede romper with multi-colour chunky crochet vest and countless prairie-chic plaids, paisley prints, ruffles and lace confections. And what’s not to smile about? The collection for spring, from the cotton and lace maxi’s to the Little House on a Prairie apron dresses and mixed Liberty print chambray numbers, were whimsical reinterpretations of an era of innocence and optimism – a refreshing outlook for the season ahead that we have been seeing consistently throughout the New York collections of late. “What is always in the back of my mind when I design anything is, ‘is it nostalgic but trendy, rock’n’roll but feminine, good girl and bad girl?’” Sui said before her extravagant show, marking two decades of Anna Sui, at the new Lincoln Centre tents. “There is something very aspirational about my brand, and people relate to that – to my background as a little girl that dreamt big and overcame obstacles to create my own fashion label.” Closing with Lily Donaldson, radiant in an embellished flapper-style antique cream pleated mesh bridal number, complete with wild-flower wreath and bouquet, the audience, filled with doll-like girls dressed in last season Sui, was clearly enraptured by yet another aspirational collection from the charming designer – an apt way to begin the next chapter of chez Sui.
One thing can consistently be said about Jason Wu, this is a young designer who does not shy away from ‘pretty’. Amid the ubiquitous downtown-New-York-cool aesthetic of boyfriend jeans and loose-fitting sports-back tanks, comes Wu, sending out glamorous floor-sweeping gowns, sexy and sweet chiffon blouses and gathered tulip skirts, and matchy-matchy brightly coloured tailored ensembles in violet, fuchsia, royal blue and lime, fit for Jackie O. It’s a brave, uncompromisingly uptown vision, and one that has won Wu devoted followers in a saturated industry. Wu borrows from the past – this season from the 1940s and 1970s – to create modern looks with an air of old-world charm: lithe, elongated high-waisted trousers, lean jackets and shorts-suits were perhaps the most wearable (and paired with oversized Jackie O shades and Little Edie turbans were downright fabulous). Introducing accessories for the first time, Spring/Summer 11 saw three distinct handbags and four shoe styles sync with the well-edited clothing – one of the highlights of which was the effortless and easy-to-wear knitwear, that following from last season, tied the collection together.
To the repetitive soundtrack vocals, “I can change, I can change, I can change,” models took to the catwalk in Joseph Altuzarra’s latest, and going by the audience’s reaction, greatest collection for Spring/Summer 11. And change this young designer certainly did. Gone was the corsetry, severe black palette and cinematic femme-fatale looks that so demanded attention last season, and in their place sleek, sheath-like tailored and patch-worked confections in crisp white and navy with snakeskin and silver detailing. The vision was at once brave and restrained; meticulously tailored dresses with deep v-necks and asymmetric hems were seductive without being overtly sexy, and contrasting fluoro belts and silver segments throughout took the collection well and truly into the here and now. It was a clean, subtly Sci-Fi aesthetic – emphasised by the shots of fluorescent colour in the models clumpy do’s, and the consistent use of snakeskin seemed an apt metaphor for Altuzarra’s own ability to successfully shed one skin, or aesthetic, for another.
PHILOSOPHY di Alberta Ferretti
For spring 2011, Alberta Ferretti unashamedly wore her influences on her sleeve, sending out a radiant collection that very literally took its cues from the East. Ferretti made sure every box was ticked when it came to referencing the definitive elements of occidental costume – from the detailed graphic prints in vivid multicolour, conical straw hats and mandarin collars, to the classic Chinese cheongsam dresses and oriental-style embroidery rife throughout the collection, Asian-flavour was the name of the game. And while viewed en masse, the collision of pattern, texture, bold colour and form might have been a bit of a shock to the senses, taken separately, Ferretti’s outlook for the new season was optimistic, even alluring. Out of the context of the full collection, Ferretti’s loose, wide-sleeved open jackets, and all-over print rompers, full-skirted mini-dresses and shifts, were actually quite modern and youthful, and would no doubt be a welcome addition to any summer wardrobe in need of a dose of vibrancy – and, if the shows so far are anything to go by, it would appear that vivid colour is a must for the new season. Ferretti’s flat, mod-like knee-high graphic Oriental-print boots in multicolour, on the other hand, may just have to remain on the catwalk.
It was all pretty rock’n’roll at Y-3, where the collection for Spring/Summer 2011 was presented for the third season in the expansive surrounds of the Park Avenue Armory. Up above the stage, surrounded by a decadent wall of mirrors, London-based band, The Duke Spirit, performed as rigorously-styled models walked, glamorously spot-lit, along the length of the runway. Taking inspiration from three decades of music history, an army of models appearing as Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix and even what appeared to be Billy Idol, sported classic rock silhouettes – lambskin leather motorcycle vests, reworked military jackets and tailored velour suits for men and women were rife throughout. The colourway, as to be expected, was concise; black, white and red was at the core of an engagingly sporty yet tailored collection that saw cropped tanks for women paired with flowing sarong and pleated skirts, and black leggings that erupted into ruffles at the knee. Perhaps most noticeably, Y-3 was experimenting with volume this season, contrasting tiny, tight bandeau tops with flowing skirts or billowy trousers, which as his fans would attest has long been classic Yamamoto style. Adding to the avant-garde rocker vibe, Y-3 also paid homage to artist and vanguard musician Yoko Ono, printing a selection of the artist’s irreverent text pieces on unisex t-shirts including, “Open Your Eyes, Open Your Door, Open Your Legs, Open Your Sides, Open Your Heart, Open Your Mouth.” Footwear was also focused on for spring – Y-3 updated their signature sporty women’s pump in a range of new fabrics and hues, as well as launching their new foldable-sole unisex Kubo shoe. Currently in Tokyo wrapping up his ‘Femme’ collection showing in Paris in October, Mr Yamamoto left a personalised message on the show notes saying, “I’m a rocker at heart, but work must come first. See you all in Paris!”
In celebration of its 25 years year heritage, Tommy Hilfiger went all out for Spring/Summer 11, delivering an exaggerated, beyond-preppy rocker-meets-country-club vision for the season ahead. Hilfiger sportswear classics for men and women hit the catwalk in force, but at the deft hand of designer Peter Som, were cleverly re-proportioned and revived in playful pop-colour. For women the look was all about flirty, fun sportswear with a twist; super-short high-waisted pleated tennis skirts in white and pastel pink paired with yellow fisherman’s hats, bandeau tops with sarong twists coupled with boyfriend-cut trousers and easy-to-wear oversize wool blazer worn smartly as a dress. The floor-sweeping gowns, in both navy and white, were particularly well done – featuring casual open backs and skin-revealing tie-fronts, they were surprisingly accessible and youthful, and just the thing a Tommy girl could wear to Sunday lunch at the yacht club. And the fun didn’t stop with the girls. For guys, the neo-preppy aesthetic saw re-imagined seersucker shorts-suits, leopard-print loafers, classic oxfords, and form-fitting trousers in basic colourways and bright plaids rolled high on the ankle revealing contrasting coloured socks. It was a classic Tommy Hilfiger cataogue reworked and recontextualised, the effect of which was fresh, fun and compulsively optimistic, and will no doubt attract a willing, and fashion conscious, new audience. Not a bad way to wrap up the first 25 years, and begin the next.
Rag & Bone
Sometimes it’s not about knowing the rules and breaking them, but rather paying tribute to the fundamentals of design and evolving from there. With no conventional fashion training, the British design duo behind New York-based label Rag & Bone, originally took their cues from classic denim and workwear to create, and perfect, luxury basics when launching their label in 2002 – and they’ve gone from strength to strength ever since. “Our aesthetic is a function of our lack of conventional training, we have an outsiders perspective on fashion,” the pair said before their spring/summer 2011 collection took to the runway – and from the directional fare on show, it was immediately evident that this rapidly expanding brand has well and truly moved on from timeless basics, and entered the realms of ‘fashion’. The tailored jackets, coats and gorgeous spring knitwear was reminiscent of the classic Rag & Bone aesthetic, but there was a new, and unmistakable, on-trend attitude visible through bold colour, graphic photographic print and 90s inspired sportswear detailing, backpacks and techno-bondage bandage straps and harnesses throughout. The shoes were also attention-grabbing, understandable given that the designers just purchased another floor in their chic Meatpacking District studio to focus exclusively on footwear.
“This season started with the idea of desert warfare... From Lawrence of Arabia and the British fighting in North Africa to modern, high technology Warfare,” designers Marcus Wainwright and David Neville said backstage. “A major influence on the collection came from a collection of fighter pilot G-Suits we have from Russia, China and the USA.” The designers said they balanced this “hardness” with a print derived from a holiday snap in Bequia that was cut up, re-organized, scanned and printed onto chiffon, charmeuse and spandex.
Is the grass always greener on the other side? We’ll have to ask William Tempest, who bypassed his native London in favour of showing as part of New York Fashion Week for the first time this season. Going by his flawless Spring/Summer 11 presentation at Lincoln Centre, where statuesque models on white plinths artfully displayed his ethereal wares, we can only assume the move stateside was a rejuvenating one. Conceived in a bright palette of coral, nude, pale grey and lemon, Tempest created romantic gowns of layered chiffon, georgette and velvet devoré inspired (very literally) by mythical “sirens”, as interpreted by British Pre-Raphaelite and Victorian artists. The effect was dreamlike – as though mythical beauties had magically stepped out from within a John William Waterhouse or Herbert James Draper painting, and landed in uptown Manhattan. But, the collection wasn’t entirely otherworldy – or even particularly classical for that matter. Mimicking the movement of waves, sculptural dresses with structured bustier tops appeared like something from centuries past, but cropped super short and asymmetrically, were given a modern, avant-garde twist. Figure-hugging long sleeved mini-dresses featuring a signature Tempest print were accessible and youthful, and short asymmetrical and one shoulder dresses in punchy pop-colour were striking and wearable, without being over-the-top. Footwear was also on display – Tempest’s ongoing collaboration with Mechante of London, which began for Autumn/Winter 10, sees a line of vertiginous five-inch heels in hues to compliment the key looks for spring.
Richard Chai LOVE
There’s something to be said for creating a collection that strictly adheres to the season at hand – especially if it’s one of the shows to kick off the first new fashion season. Richard Chai’s womenswear line, Love, did just that. While accessible, transeasonal looks are fast becoming the norm, and undoubtedly for good reason, there is something refreshing about seeing easy, breezy and light as air clothing hit the runway for spring/summer – after all, isn't that just what summer is all about? Chai’s vision for spring revolved around crisp, neutral hues and diaphanous layers with structured and sporty elements – windswept ensembles perfect for a romp in The Hamptons. Sheer organza trousers worn beneath skirts, shorts and wide-legged culottes were an unusual, but not altogether uninteresting, combination; and black bandeau straps visible beneath sheer tops and low-waisted sporty shorts paired with nylon body stockings added a subtly athletic edge to an otherwise chic and ultra-modern collection. Necessary structure was introduced through a deconstructed charcoal waistcoast, classic oversize blazer with rolled sleeve, high-waisted suit pants and reworked classic trench.
When I spoke with Rachel Comey before her latest, all-round lovely, collection took to the catwalk for spring/summer 11, she described her ‘woman’ as, “interesting, intelligent and with a sense of humor. A woman with grace, but who isn’t afraid to try new things. A woman that I aspire to be…” And after viewing this pitch-perfect assemblage of high-summer separates, spring trench coats, structured and loose-fitting dresses, and tailored shorts and trousers, it is hard to imagine that the Rachel Comey woman isn’t the woman that we all aspire to be. Elegant, understated and with the unmistakable joie de vivre that we’ve come to expect from this New York-based designer, Comey’s multi-hued collection was accessible and wearable without losing it’s subtly offbeat edge. A fifties-inspired Capri-pant and top ensemble in vivid pink print reminiscent of a MadMen costume demanded attention, as did a crisp white crop-top paired with ultra high-waisted trousers, flowing silk and print chiffon halter-neck dresses and super-pretty ivory polka-dot chiffon party dress and blouse fit for a summer’s night out on the town. Alongside the easy A-line cuts and cinched-waists, subtle oriental design elements crept in, highlighted by the Asian-inspired soundtrack to the show. Being from New York, Comey understands what ‘hot in the city’ really means – with that in mind, her latest collection can be read as a series of instructions on how to stay cool in the summer heat, while looking, well, hot.
It’s no easy feat to make embellished high-end evening wear appear effortless and (to some degree) accessible, and yet London’s own Jenny Packham did just that this season. Perhaps it has something to do with being a Brit – the way we approach dressing for the red-carpet is with a lot less manicured, or rigorously studied, perfection than our American counterparts, so it follows that our designers would create red-carpet-ready gowns in the same vein. For Spring/Summer 11, Packham was all about uncomplicated sophistication and elegance – sending out Twenties and Thirties-style draped, gossamer gowns with intricate sequin and bead detailing that drew on old-world charm, without being overwhelmingly referential. Packham drew inspiration for her delicate, dreamy confections from debutante balls and, she explained, “magical moonlight parties for exquisite youths,” - a compelling, terribly romantic outlook that seemed to have come to life from the pages of an old romance novel. It was definitely a high-end vision on display for spring, and one that isn't easily bought into, but Packham has a devoted, not to mention extensive, clientele that will no doubt grow as she continues to show stateside – especially considering her floor-length gowns are favourites among the American A-list red-carpet set.
In touch with the mood of the season, Alice Temperley’s romantic, medieval-inspired Spring/Summer collection was conceived in a definitely neutral palette – something of a constant throughout countless NYFW collections thus far. It made us wonder, are the refreshing colourways we’ve been seeing indicative of a universally positive outlook on the next decade (after the last was so mixed up in war and instability)? Are designers offering us a ‘clean slate’ so to say? In Chelsea, at the presentation of Temperley’s mainline and accessible new diffusion line, Alice, the designer shed some light on the topic saying, “after the doom and gloom of the recession, it’s as though people are focusing on the positive, and starting anew.” This sanguine attitude was translated into a varied collection of day and evening-wear in soft, muted metallic, white and grey that took direction, quite tangibly, from, (according to the collection notes), “the legend of King Arthur”. Rendered too literally, the medieval theme could easily be kitschy and over the top, in fact it’s rarely in good taste – but Temperley’s innate poise and restraint as a designer saw this collection featuring hooded metallic chain-mail knit tunic, hand-crocheted waist-coat with metal embellishment and draped floor-sweeping dresses with harness details appear ethereal, refined, elegant and essentially feminine – key words that Temperley aptly used to describe the spirit of her brand. While the armour-like pieces certainly commanded attention, it was the deceptively simple, summery alternately white or mushroom dress-coats, pristine white asymmetrical goddess gown, sexy animal print numbers and utterly gorgeous, delicate ruffle mini dress, short-sleeved jacket and skirt that instantly won us over.
In a word, Odd Molly’s collection for Spring/Summer 11 was, well, a little odd. To the tune of hypnotic psychadelic rock music, models with hot pink and lavender extensions in loosely braided hair hit the catwalk sporting jumbled, textural hippie-slacker-grunge attire. Layered to the extreme and featuring mismatched prints, palette, fabrications and styles, it was a sartorial hodgepodge of what appeared as flea market-like finds. But, perhaps that is the charm of the Swedish label, best known for featuring Helena Christiansen as their cover girl some seasons back – it’s identity as a non-fashion fashion brand. From the white-washed cut-off cowboy boots that were paired with every ensemble on show, to the crochet, patchwork, denim and embroidery rife throughout, the collection appeared to take 90s slacker, stoner Californian youth as the overwhelming point of inspiration – an aesthetic popular among hipsters discovering, and emulating fashion-wise, the grungy cult 90s TV show, ‘My So-called Life’. While not for everyone, especially in the case of the last look in the collection – a floor-length ruffled flamenco dress conceived in multi-hued and gold print scarf fabric with jersey camisole top, there is little doubt Odd Molly have an audience for their unpretentious wares that would benefit from being shown as a presentation rather than on the runway.
As lightning and thunder erupted outside, the audience was treated to a synthetic version within the Lincoln Centre tents as stormy acoustics and projected images of clouds framed the catwalk for L.A.M.B’s Spring/Summer 11 presentation. Bold tribal print party dresses hit the catwalk to the beat of banging dub and reggae tunes, sported by (for the most part) peroxide-blonde models that resembled Stefani herself. The huge crowd, dotted with a motley crue of celebrities including L.A.M.B designer, Gwen Stefani’s husband Gavin Rossdale, Spicegirl Mel B, Jeffrey Wright and Carmen Electra, were visibly moved by the wares on show, clapping and dancing around in their seats as L.A.M.B’s streety and wildly varied Spring/Summer11 looks passed by.
Taking direction, in both print and cut, from numerous ethnicities, Stefani’s dresses and light separates featuring graphic African and Japanese prints, and gorgeous Indonesian batik and Ikat fabrics, both opened and closed the show and proved the winners of a collection that was otherwise filled with edgy tailored basics and easy street-wear. The dresses were really the only garments worth viewing on a runway – it wasn’t just the beautiful prints that commanded attention, but the complex pleating, ruffles, folding and embellishment made for a striking sight while in movement. While the majority of the collection was overtly commercial, trend-focused and lacking a defined aesthetic (L.A.M.B appeals to the masses with projected annual earnings of over US$90 million, after all), the more detailed and experimental creations fusing countless prints, fabrics and construction techniques proved that Stefani can both cater to the multitudes as well as a more savvy and niche market.
ALICE by Temperley
It’s no easy feat to find a meeting grown between decadence and subtlety, and yet designer Alice Temperley, through her diffusion ALICE by Temperly line, did just that for Spring/Summer 11. Taking direction from the notorious French heroine, Marie Antoinette, the “Last Queen of France”, Temperley designed wares for a Marie Antoinette of modern day, putting a “street-swise spin on past centuries’ French fashion”. In tune with Temperley’s main line, which was inspired by Guinevere and ‘the legend of King Arthur’, ALICE by Temperley’s spring looks were conceived in a refreshing, sun-bleached palette of cream, nude, cornflower blue and soft metallic with hot pink and black thrown into the mix. While the detailing throughout was fairly luxe – hand-pleated rosettes, delicate bows and metallic embellishment were consistently at play, overall the mutli-faceted collection of both form-fitting and breezy dresses, key separates and light outerwear for spring succeeded in balancing a day to night aesthetic. Post-presentation, Temperley explained that her diffusion line, launched last year, is for a younger audience, and so has more “accessible price points” than the main line, “So that everyone can enjoy the essence of Temperley.”
FASHION'S NIGHT OUT NYC
Fashion Night Out made a carnival of Manhattan last night, the streets were literally filled with people running to and from fashion events and parties – it was intense, champagne-fuelled and not particularly glamorous… Apparently you can have too much of a good thing! There was fun to be had, though, at Elizabeth Charles’ namesake boutique in the Meatpacking District (she also has a store in San Francisco), where some of Charles’ favourite designers, including Lady Grey, Nellie Partow and Jen Kao, had ‘trunk shows’, and New York band, Chairlift, performed live. Charles described the designers she stocks as having a similar aesthetic, “They create tough, but feminine clothing and jewellery.” Jen Kao went on to say that her label is all about, “easy dramatics for women who have their own style and know how to dress themselves.” Next on the list was philip lim 3.1 and Rag & Bone’s joint ‘block party’ downtown, between their SoHo stores. Burgers and ice-cream were the food du jour, and there was a DJ and decks out front inspiring passers-by to dance in the street. Brand Director, Maria Vu, said at Philip Lim’s afterparty at the Smyth Hotel, that their FNO was, “bigger, better and more fun than last season. It was great to see so much energy and enthusiasm from the public.”