After a week or so of New York shows, frankly it can all get a little bit Groundhog Day - especially when we schlepp up to the sterile confined of the Bryant Park tents for yet another polished but soulless collection of all-American classics. Although staged, for the final season, in that aseptic space, the Autumn/Winter 2010 show from 3.1 Phillip Lim managed to buck the trend on all other counts - reviving our collective flagging spirits, lift listless hearts and, ultimately, give us something to get really, really excited about.
The cape was a starting point for Lim - he said the airborne, airfilled shapes were inspired by the idea of a disco-dancing club maven ripping her evening frock in a downtown gale. An obscure point of reference, perhaps, for a collection that at first glanced looked rather homely, with flowing camel coats swinging loosely at the back, magically lightened layers of cavalry twill billowing in the breeze and a fantastic swathe of cotton poplin fashioned into a fly-by-night fluttering button-down shirt. But with their waved hair, honeyed skin and nonchalantly elegant attire, his models had the look of a young Lauren Hutton out for a night on the tiles. The only explicit reference to those disco divas came in the eveningwear, with short, sequin-embellished chiffon evening frocks twisting down the catwalk under chic, short tuxedos or a series of fantastic fur jackets in beigey tones. Indeed, the outerwear throughout was stellar - shearling coats, patchworked and piped in chocolate-brown leather, had the fur flipped inside and out in alternating panels, sleeves tufted with beastly texture. It was so damn good, Lim tricked out a pair of them - one in caramel, the other dove-grey - and they were two of the best things seen on any New York catwalk this week. The rest of the collection sized up pretty well too, with oversized lumberjack blanket-checks in fuzzy angora fashioned into high-waisted trousers and cute pinafore dresses with trapezoid skirts. Biker jackets were thickly-lined in mongolian lamb, cut in giraffe-pattern ponyskin, or deconstructed into a quilted leather vest to be worn with a full-length crepe dress - it sounds gimmicky, but in actual fact was a sensational proposition for a young, energetic evening look. Indeed, that energy was the truly great thing about this entire collection - a swaggering, overwhelming sense of optimism and confidence that infused every single piece from bold animal print pantsuits to chic neutral outerwear to the final flash of brilliant Mother-of-the-Bride cerise satin.
So, what exactly was there to get excited about at 3.1 Phillip Lim? Pretty much everything. This was a collection, quite simply, of truly fantastic clothes, presented in a easy, breezy and simple manner that spoke volumes about what New York, and the very best of its designers, should mean to contemporary fashion.