by Alexander Fury .

New York Fashion Week: Glancing Back While Looking Forwards


Of all the fashion capitals, New York is the most openly 'trend-lead'. That isn't necessarily a bad thing: there's something seductive about a bevy of designers speaking with a singular voice, especially when they're not really saying anything to rock the boat. This season, that insistent murmuring is 'sports couture' - did someone say déjà vu? Or are we reviving 2010? Maybe a little of both. Certainly, the idea of slimming down couture shapes with stretchy, techie little bits and pieces, pumping in a bit of bri-nylon and injecting the whole thing with go-faster colour has plenty of mileage. It also feels like it relates to today - taking something chic and giving it a forward-thinking spin. That's what fashion should be about. And, as I said, we've tackled it many, many a time before, so no scaring the horses.

This time, the sport-couture cliché is mixed up with something clean and mean from the late-nineties. I can't help but flash back to a few of those great old Tom Ford For Gucci moments when facing a platform-free closed-toe white court shoe, maybe with a thick ankle-strap, or even slicked-back disco hair and glossy skin (very 1997). It'll be interesting to see what Messrs Kors and Rodriguez come up with, with so many young 'uns mining their back-catalogues.

That's one of the reasons I suspect the collections of Joseph Altuzarra (above) appeal to me: we share the same field of references. He's speaking to his generation. Last season was a bias-wrapped aughties Galliano redux, this time we delved back into the Good Ford Almighty-worshipping nineties. It was streamlined, sleek, with lots of black leather jarring against tropical print. Watching from London, after about half-a-dozen blurry twitpics snapped mid-show, I got the message. I didn't need three pages of show notes and a line-sheet. That's why what Altuzarra does is good.

Prabal Gurung's message was far less simple. That's putting it politely. It was messy. Maybe those at the show got it, but whatever he was hankering after didn't communicate through the catwalk image, and as that's how your collection will be consumed for the first six months of its increasingly short life, it's a pretty big issue. I heard pretentious rumblings of Araki as an influence, but the clothes had none of his wit, energy or edge.

If there's a trend to ride, Alexander Wang is the man who'll do it in greatest style. Sports are something he's felt before - remember his American Footballer-chic thing in 2010? In fact, maybe you don't - Wang is one of those designers who is so single-minded and focussed each season he manages to entirely obliterate that which has gone before. It's a scary phenomenon. But I suppose it tricks people into buying more boxy bags and strappy sandals, so Wang's onto a winner. This time we had bunchy peplums, drawstrings and a surfeit of accessories. It was difficult to extract a single must-have from the pile-up of product. But that's the retailers' job.

I also wanted to briefly mention Jason Wu, who seemed to knock some of the stuffing out of his sometimes-stuffy, often-fussy taste for ladylike and offer something cleaner. I'm not sure duchesse satin evening dresses with sweeping trains can slot into sports-couture, but there was an ease about them that has be lacking before. Teamed with simple white v-necks, they put me in mind of a (relatively) young Isaac Mizrahi circa Unzipped. High praise indeed.