New York's new looks have been stomping down the catwalk for the past three days - as any fashion-spotter worth knicker elastic will have figured out - and it's already shaping up as a strong season. The pre-fall collections were a good indicator - when designer's commercial collections have a discernible creative slant alongside their savvy saleability, we can only wait to see what those same designers' imaginations will unleash on a catwalk free from financial restraint.
Well, almost free - this is New York after all, where a twenty-something designer is more likely to be helming a multi-million dollar global brand-in-the-making than running up four-and-a-half fur and satsuma-netting shock frocks in a blustery garret. Still, it would be nice to see a few of them every once in a while. The New York Collections thus far have been slick, sometimes safe, mostly commercial, but nevertheless strong. From a distance, the imagery that popped out at me most was from the shows of Thakoon and Jason Wu, designers whom I must confess I have never had a predilection for. Maybe it's because I'm a Rococo obsessive that I was drawn to these two very different re-imaginings of the court of Versailles. Wu lifted his inspiration from Robert Polidori's documentary images of the restoration of the palace, striking for their juxtaposition of baroque glitter with utilitarian modernism. Wu's translation: crombie coats with strips of chantilly lace running down the arms, beaded lace on neat cotton shirts and a fluffy, feathery mini-frock that looked like the punchline to a crack about cramming ostriches into a Volkswagon. Don't let my flippancy fool you: I loved it, in a way I never have with Wu's work before.
Thakoon juxtaposed Marie Antoinette and Masaai, one of those combos that sounds hare-brained but actually works surprisingly well. His collection showed vaguely Kenyan lumberjack-check in brilliant brick red and cerulean, sometimes draped like tribal garb and sometimes twisted up into air-filled puffer-paniers. That collision of utility and luxury underlined a number of shows - Alexander Wang for one, Altuzarra for another. The former was commercially compelling, as always, although I'll be interested to see if anyone sports Wang's marabou-muffled sunnies or poncho-anorak hybrid. Sounds as if it should be restricted to a school trip to Llangollen to me, but he seems able to shift anything when it hits the shop floor.
As always, Altuzarra gave me pause for thought. I'm a fan of a 180-aesthetic shift - Altuzarra has now hauled our imaginations from Edward Scissorhands, to Sci-Fi safari and now to mid-nineties Galliano. Seeing these images of hefty parkas tossed over taut little bias-cut dresses, I couldn't help but flashback to teenage British Vogue memories of Tim Walker shots of Trish Goff splashing in Glastonbury mud in thirty grand Galliano flapper frocks. Evidently for Joseph Altuzarra those are the same kind of halcyon memories that lead Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford to revisit the seventies so frequently and fervently. I suddenly feel terribly old...