New York is where the fashion circus begins its seasonal ‘journey’. Here’s the city where the week starts with empty order books, and the big names and business-minded brands of fashion hope to dominate. New York might be known for its billboards and power people, but it is also home to some of the most important mavericks that survive in fashion.
Spring/Summer silhouettes were strong, confident and bold – much like the women and the attitude of the city that never sleeps. Jason Wu and Victoria Beckham cut expertly close to the curve - think Alaïa - both showing strong directional collections. Wu cut leather with lace, mixed the subversive with sensual and opened with a Wonder Woman – Carolyn Murphy. Job done. Beckham defined what a woman wants - separates - all while emphasising her designer rather than ‘fame’ status. Beckham is a serious player on the circuit now, her bodycon sheath dresses continued to evolve. This season they were punctuated with confident new shapes and solid colour, and were graphic in cut rather than through print. They were also styled with flat Manolo Blahnik gladiators and brogues (showing real conviction for the lady in the high heels). Diane von Furstenberg, another formidable woman on the runway and President of CFDA, delivered draped bold prints that moved from dress to palazzo pants. Easy kaftans mixed in earthy tones from the spices of Morocco were equally perfect for the ever-changing way in which we see the world. Along with the fashion, DVF presented a glimpse of the future. Partnering with Google, she created a high-tech ‘behind the scenes’ peek with glasses that captured the girls' eye-view as they walked the runway. Fashion times are achanging and those who embraced this stood out.
New York always serves up slick and assured collections, but this season, overall, palettes were restrained, frivolity was controlled - much like the purse strings. Forward marching women could favour designers such as Phillip Lim and Olivier Theyskens Theory for style savvy essentials. The fashion forward Alexander Wang led the way capturing the high-tech, downtown cool of SoHo in luxe ‘deconstructed’ pattern-cutting that played with volume and re-pieced silhouettes with a restrained monotone palette and refined modernity. Highlights include Liberty Ross looking luminous in a windbreaker. Narciso Rodriguez and Calvin Klein also skilfully sculpted new serene modernist silhouettes. Rodriguez draping saw open backs and slashed mesh tops. He offered up everything from pant-suits through to slip dresses, mixing not only what a woman wants, but what a man wants to see her in. It was one of Narciso’s sexiest collections - a career defining moment.
Francisco Costa was also on form for Calvin Klein, drawing inspiration from the erotic allure of a woman. Here, white lining popped out from black mesh and provocative peplums flounced past Emma Stone, sat A-Row. The collection had smouldering intent. Costa cited the late Carolyn Bessette Kennedy as this season’s Calvin muse, and it was fitting that the spirit of CBK infused these two designers as they refined the ‘less is luxe’ look she made New York's style signature. (CBK was glamazon PR for Calvin Klein, and great friend of Narciso when he designed there. Ironically the wedding dress he created for her helped propel the launch of his own label and clean signature line.)
But let's not get too distracted, for then there is Marc Jacobs. There is fashion before and after a Marc show. Before, print seemed a faux pas, after, it was a force unleashed. Marc remains pivotal to how New York unfolds, and the key to his shows is to always expect the unexpected. Marc Jacobs stripped out embellishment and, in show lasting six minutes, sent out a collection of stripes, with startling crisp scalloped hems and graphic modernity. It was a fresh look at sixties muse Edie Sedgwick, which re-defined the direction for spring summer. Stripes were ‘in’ - see also the sexy and leggy looks of offer at Michael Kors' ‘geometric glamour’ collection, as well as the pieces on show at Tommy Hilfiger and Belstaff.
But as much as retail fashion is about commerciality it is also creative. From the ball studded heels at DVF and the curl of the golden lurex trench at Derek Lam, to the craftsmanship and skills led by New York’s Karl, Oscar de la Renta, creativity was everywhere. At ODLA we saw bouffants resemblant of Marie Antoinette gone punk and satin ribbon embroidered to look like a Basquiat scribble. His collection hit the trends – the mid length skirt, the slim silhouette - but offered the easy finesse of a true couturier. But can couture be commercial? Well, look at Rodarte with their gothic punk fringed feathers and inverted collar lines, Thakoon with his printed hourglass birdcage corseted illusion dresses and the artistic lightness of Prabal Gurung. Finally, Proenza Schouler kept the rebel majestically cool, inspired by tumblr, in a collaged, modern collection of cut and craft, which proves that New York is not all Beige and Vanilla Park Avenue Princesses – it has punch and leads the way to a bold Spring/Summer.
There’s no doubt about it, Alexander Wang is the very essence of NYC downtown-cool