Sunday, September 9, 2007

NEW YORK spring/summer 2008

new label ohne titel presented a collection that was so focused, and with such an individual viewpoint that is not only rare for more established designers, but even more so for a label showing for the second time (well the first to not go under the radar like their debut collection did last season). designed by parson graduates alexa adams and flora gill, they presented something that was basically absent during the new york shows so far, work wear. taking their inspiration from the idea of dressing the working women of the eighties, adams and gill showed asymmetrically cut jackets paired with either slim or voluminous jodphur like trousers that was a new take on the continuing trend of volume. although the suiting was the strongest part of the show, the designers also showed their talent for not only designing for day, but for evening as well. there were dresses with prints that appeared to be a hybrid of african and graphic ideas first shown as white panels on tan fabric and by the end of the show transformed into a technicolour parade. considering that this is only their second show and the fact that it was so well received, the pressure is on for the designers to present their next, even more important collection next season when more eyes will be watching their next move. but for now, new york just got its newest fashion darlings, and you can bet on it that by next spring, you're going to see those technicolour dresses on all the hot girls that never made out with you in highscool.

in a commercially driven city like new york, new zealand designer karen walker is a breath of fresh air. like her contemporary marc jacobs, walker is one of the few designers showing in new york whose clothes have such an endearing, whimsical charm about them that has earned her a cult like following with the downtown set, which only got bigger when she started showing in new york two seasons ago. with this, her third big apple presentation, walker showed her trademark mix and max haberdashery, but this season, her girl was a little bit crazy..well eccentric might be a better word. she basically covered every era with this collection, from the forties style floral prints, sixties sergeant pepper jackets, seventies wide leg pants, and a little bit of eighties mud club thrown in the mix. in a less adept hand, those references could've resulted on a collection that lacked direction, however with walker's talents, they not only succeed, it is actually the fact that makes her successful. she has the talent of compounding those influences and putting it in a way that is modern and young without looking too literal. it has that almost naive nonchalance that it never looks like she's trying too hard. even though the presentation of the clothes might seem to only fit a younger demographic, individually her pieces are actually quite versatile and approachable to various age groups, meaning that in time, those downtown girls who buys her clothes now will still be wearing walker when they grow up and move uptown.

tan faced and tossled hair, the models at british label preen's new york debut made it easily one of the sexiest show of the new york collections. continuing from last season's eighties references, justin thornton and thea bregazzi did away with the mugler and montana references and looked at the softer side of the decade. the silhouette was generally looser and the fluid fabrics like silk and ultra suede skimmed the body rather than constrict it which allowed the garments to give the idea of how the woman's body looks like underneath those clothes. think vintage donna karan but a lot more sex, less about work, more about play. vaguely using the safari trend, the designers used colours instead of safari like details. the palette consisted of deep greens, camels and grays occasionally splashed by yellows, oranges, and blues. with luella bartley, and mathew williamson opting to show in their native london instead this season, the preen show in new york made sure that england was well represented.

for a few seasons now, designers lisa mayock and sophie buhai have acquired a following for their off kilter but extremely feminine clothes. this season, hollywood was a suprising influence considering these two brooklynites' aesthetic is far removed from the over the top look of the west coast. although if it wasn't for the props consisting of giant cut-outs of movie stars from the past, the hollywood influence could very easily been missed due to the pieces in the show that urban girls will salivate over. the strength of these two designers, actually the strength of the new designers coming out of new york right now, is their ability to modernize classics and make them both appealing to younger and older clients simultaneously. in vena cava's case, its their reinterpretation of menswear that was a pleasant surprise from the duo who was initially know for making pretty dresses. although mayock and buhai's designs are by no means groundbreaking, they are able to pick through a plethora of inspirations and mesh them together into one coherent image. they can show on the same runway a beer can print that doesn't seem out of place besides a chartreuse evening dress. by the way, it should also be noted that the duo's sense of colour is sophisticatedly understated.

proenza schouler, a label thats just five years old, has quickly become one of the most important shows during the new york fashion week. the label's signature style of body conscious clothes, which took some time off last season's poiret inspired collection, came back in full force for their most recent collection. starting the show with what appears to be a combination of military and safari influences, with the military theme even more augmented by cavalry hats, jake mccollough and lazaro hernandez presented a collection that was rich with ideas and options. the major trends coming out of new york this week was cemented at this show. the before mentioned safari references, legs (lots of it), and ethnic touches such as the african inspired prints, and touches of shine. the boys always present a coherent collection every season, but with this season, the boys seems to have hit a good stride. maybe because of the valentino fashion group buying a forty five percent share of the fledgling company, the duo was able to explore their creativity further which was not available to them before when they were limited by money. this could also be a reason why the lux factor was higher than previous collections. the proenza schouler customer might have to fork a little bit more cash next spring, but i'm pretty sure they won't be complaining.

when hussein chalayan left the design duties at cashmere house tse, the label lost a bit of its footing and was regretfully neglected by the fickle fashion crowd. with tess giberson helming the creative direction of the house for the past four seasons, tse is once again quietly making its presence known. the warmer season isn't really the season for a knitwear based brand like tse, but giberson is working her way around that by showing the lightest knits in the finest of cashmere that ranged from over size tanks, to striking evening wear. for her wovens, she continued her exploration of volume and played that against the safari trend that has been ubiquitous all over the new york runways. proving that not only is she brave enough to experiment, she also has her fingers on the pulse and she can reinterpret those common ideas in her own unique way.

after winning the CFDA/vogue fashion fund award last year, designer doo-ri chung perhaps felt the need to expand her trademark jersey draping and explore new territories and prove that she is no one trick pony. there was a new focus on tailoring which she showed in full, high waisted pants and shorts and coats devoid of any super masculine references. this is doo.ri after all and these clothes are for the most feminine of women. and you can't get more feminine when doo-ri starts playing with her favorite fabric, jersey. her trademark draping of jersey is what won her accolades in the first place, so its no surprise that she fully exploited her talent in molding this material and produced some of the most fluid dresses which moved with the most ease and sex appeal done in a minimalist, american way. her evening gowns might have closed the show, but it is her cocktail dresses that was the highlight of the collection. particularly the one in black organza with a sweetheart neckline in black lace. doo-ri chung might not be a household name yet, and she wasn't an instant star in the new york fashion scene, but sometimes it's better to quietly solidify your reputation. and in her case, her future as one of the greats is almost set in stone.

there is a wonderful new identity, and cohesiveness coming out of new york's younger talents. this look is decidedly modern, young, urban and ironically feminine besides all its androgynous influences. sari gueron belongs to this group. the new urban girl is a far cry from helmut lang's warriors of the nineties. this new decade, women are no longer looking for clothes to assert their power and equality, they already know that, and the world already knows that, what she's looking for now is to be practical, feminine and strong at the same time. this season gueron showed practical and beautiful clothes done in a loose, confident way. she opened the show with three looks all individual primary colours that slowly eased themselves in with greys, whites, and blacks. gueron's strength is her ability to work with fabrics and give them a definite shape. the dress might have a touch of drape, but there is still a strong silhouette that supports it. the designer manages to combine a sense of new urgency for change and direction. after so many seasons of lady-like conservitism, a lot of young designers are looking for a new direction and a unified idea on how to dress the woman of today. gueron is one of the more exciting and individual of young new york, a talent that will surely see her evolve into a very interesting designer.

toronto based designer jeremy laing has been showing in new york for a few seasons now, and steadily, his brand has grown and learned from this decision. laing's design trademark is his ingenious use of draping fabric in a sculptural, abstract way. this season, the young designer used light shows as the base of his collection. the arabesque lines of the northern lights were interpreted as soft drapes on dresses that draped anywhere from across the body to over a dress connecting to the back. the only really obvious reference to light here was the firework prints that he used which resembled flowers. spring time is a perfect time for laing because it is his ease with soft fabrics that showcases his talents. although the first half of the show were in stark white, it gradually moved onto beiges, greys, blacks, and finally those firework prints in rich jewel tones and one dress with interesting color blocking. as always with laing, the major silhouette was loose, but he also touched on some body conscious shapes accentuated by belted waists. the canadian representation in the global fashion world is few and far between, but with a talent like laing and his design a perfect fit to the new york aesthetic, canada might finally realize that nurturing it's talents' creativity is whats going to propel it's future designers to the next level.

designer andreas melbostad and his fledgling label phi has been building a reputation for his precisely tailored clothes over few short years since the label was founded. and given that tailoring is going to be one of the key trends for this season, phi is right on the money. although the presentation of this collection might have appeared to be a bit too heavy for spring, in order for melbostad to fully get his point of view across, and stand by his own conviction as a fashion designer, he had to show how these pieces work with each other. he opened the show with boxy cut jackets paired with skirts and finished off the studded leather boots that was clearly influenced by the punk movement. there was something confrontational about this clothes, not just with the punk details like the studs and zippers, which was a relief since basically all the collection shown in new york has been soft and ultra feminine. the designer knows his customer and what their demands are so he never really ventures too far off from familiar territory. this might invite the criticism of journalists and editors, but these people are not who melbostad designs for. the phi woman is independent, intellectually aggressive, and sexy at the same time. the kind of woman you imagine seeing walking down the street with messy hair stomping down like she owns the whole block. and as much jealousy that woman incites, you know deep down inside any woman would love to be in her position. considering the label is financially backed by susan dell, wife of billionaire computer entrepreneur michael dell, one can be sure that this is an investment by a very capable company, one that would not waste it's time and money if it wasn't making a profit.

the juxtaposition of the nerdy and the sexy is a theme that is not new to fashion. marc jacobs "sexy secretary" look a few years ago is an example. what differs from rachel comey's take on that idea is that her's is a little bit more perverse. imagine band geek michelle from the movie american pie but with better outfits. the demureness of these clothes is contrasted by body conscious knit dresses, semi sheer fabrics, plunging necklines, and lots and lots of legs. despite that underlying theme of sex, there is still an intelligence and artistic touch to this collection. she knows how to play around with proportions and layering to achieve a modern interpretation of classic ideas, there was a flirtation of the fifties with this collection, but it never looked like a costume. comey is designing for young girls like herself. intelligent, hard working, artistic, and enjoys seducing.

thakoon panichgul has been designing for just three years, yet his understanding of what the needs of the modern women are is surprisingly mature. there was a more pronounced play with the masculine/feminine this season. a place the young designer never really ventured into before and he couldn't have picked a better time to do so than now with all the renewed interest in tailoring. and unlike his other shows, this one had a sense of deliberate act of less polish. his shapes and proportions were a little bit more experimental, working with volume not by exaggerating shapes, but rather adding something like oversize pockets on a dress which gave an illusion that there is something tied around the waist. there was also mixing of prints and texture and a more graphic use of colour that was absent with his former outings but took center stage this season. perhaps realizing that since the majority of people buying his clothes are young women, he decided to show his collection in a more youthfull, less contrived way. this decision perhaps might have influenced him to push his creative buttons and explore unfamiliar territories, and that just made him grow exponentially.

leave it to marc jacobs to have the most subversive and provocative show during new york fashion week. in a week with few stand out collections, the marc jacobs show redeemed an otherwise lackluster season. the only real provocateur in new york, marc started his show by running out and waving, this was the first signal that the show was going to be shown in reverse, with the closing pieces first to head out in exit formation. what followed was an insouciant collection of what seemed to be a mixture of playing dress up in clothes (or shoes) that don't fit, deconstructing and reconstructing, the architecture of building clothes, and surprisingly sex. the peeking undergarments throughout the show was an obvious giveaway to the theme of the collection. it was sometimes used as a vague trompe l'oiel print on dresses, glimpsed under chiffon cut outs, or more directly models projected on a large screen behind the catwalk shown in their unmentionables as they walk down the runway. a complete departure from his austere, russian constructivist inspired collection last fall, this season, he abandoned the previous severity and came out with one of his most experimental collections to date. it still had that trademark jacob's awkwardness and charm, but the sex was almost too in your face. in his previous collections, there was just that hint of sex that was almost crossing the line, here he is miles on the other side of it. as brazen as this collection might be, jacob's knows his clients, and he would never send down anything his voracious devotees won't wear. the accessories alone is enough to guarantee the brand a profitable season. marc is the first word on what the season is going to be about, and who knows, maybe in a couple of weeks time when he shows his vuitton collection, he might also have the last say.

diffusion lines can sometimes become a sad excuse for a well established designer to maximize the profitability of his or her name. there are of course exemptions to that rule, miu miu or marc x marc jacobs for instance. the difference between alexander mcqueen and the latter before mentioned designers is that, unlike prada or jacobs, mcqueen's commercial viability always seems to be perenially in question. with his secondary line, simply titled "mcq", mcqueen proves that not only can he design a lesser priced collection with more commercial appeal, he can also adapt his avant garde leanings to a readily understandable collection. the basis for this collection is the olympic games, which is translated to gymnast attire influenced jumpsuits and sweaters, and to a more abstract shift dress made by interlocking circular discs inspired by the olympic circles of different colours. everything in this collection had a sporty, american sportswear feel, which makes perfect sense to show the line in new york. after all, where else to show commerical clothes but in the center of capitalism.


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