Tuesday, September 25, 2007

MILAN spring/summer 2008

when one thinks of the name maxmara, the first thing to come to mind are coats. not japanese influenced utilitarian. but there it was. asymmetrical tailoring, the sombre colour palette, an almost post-apocalyptic futurism, and those flat oxfords the japanese are so in love with. throw in some british early eighties new wave references and you have a collection that unfortunately will fly under the radar. perhaps its because the maxmara legacy is so entrenched with its coats that any form of experimenting or new direction can become almost crippling than evolution. which is too bad because if this was a collection from a designer just making his mark, it would have been unanimously praised. even in a season when the japanese influence is developing into a really strong statement for the future, the history of this house is almost crippling its development. if louis vuitton, lanvin, and balenciaga in paris can be rejuvenated into the future, why not established milanese houses like krizia, complice or maxmara. one can understand that because these milan based labels have been family owned for decades and it would be hard to let an outsider in and take creative control, but in times when the world is getting smaller and smaller, families and relationships have no other option but to get bigger.

for a house that has become synonymous with luxurious furs, the house of fendi, for the past couple of years, have been sending out some of the strongest spring collections. just like the spring collections of 2006 and 2007, the most predominant colour is white. although the most unforgiving of colour, karl lagerfeld fixed that problem with the most simply way, good design. of all the collection lagerfeld designs, the fendi label has the most innovative fabrication. and it is here that the designer manages to combine his strict tailoring, with feminine softness. as exemplified by two dresses, one after the other, both with sharp, pointed shoulders and a fitted bodice that seemed to float away from the body like chiffon from the waist down. as the collection moved onwards, there was a sudden burst of circular shapes in bright colours that were printed on to the fabric in a way to slim down the body. from then on, the circular pattern resurfaced everywhere else. francisco costa also played with this idea a couple of years ago, but kaiser karl of course does it like only he can. towards the end with his finale of evening dresses, the circular pattern almost looked like some of his couture dresses for chanel. they had that ephemeral, airy quality that transgressed time and will always be eternally feminine. the collection lagerfeld designs for fendi might not garner as much attention as the one he does for chanel, but that does not mean that this house does not have as much magic.

for a few years now the marni label has been consistently defining its image to the point that it has almost become as iconoclastic as the chanel tweed suit. the brand's mixture of girlish charm with techno-futurism propelled its designer, consuelo castiglioni as one of the leading avatars in the fashion world. not only copied by mass produced corporate retail chains, her influence has also been omnipresent throughout other luxury goods houses. the evolution of marni as a powerhouse has been a quiet one, much like its designer, it prefers to let the directness of the clothes speak for itself. what it lacks in terms of intellectualism that other designers are famous for, marni makes up for in spades for its sincerity and individuality of its vision that makes its customer extremely loyal to the brand. this season, although was not a watershed marni collection, was an exercise in what makes this brand so successful. the structured voluminous shapes, the quirky styling touches like the russian serf hats and folk-art influenced jewelry, luxurious fabrics in approachable sportswear inspired pieces, all these things combined to something that can't be described as anything else but being very marni. there were some key trends that surfaced in this collection, a more pronounced shoulder, fifties circle skirts, draping, and strong colour blocking. these might seem on point with what has been going on throughout the collections, but these are things that the house has been doing all these years. if it is true when they say that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery", then i guess that there are a lot of sincere people out there.

the intellectual cauldron that consistently bubbles at the house of prada got a surprising new ingredient for spring, fairy tale. for a designers who is famously grounded on reality, she excited us again by expectingly be unexpected by her direction. season after season of dictating a new course for fashion, one might think that she can't possibly surprise yet again. but she does, and with this season her influence wasn't so abstracted by the time the first look came out, it was actually in full view. there were nymphs printed on silk pajama suits that looked fresh out of a muscha art nouveau print. all the arabesque lines also reappeared in the footwear which resembled flowers and vines that morphed into shoes. it veered almost between the magical and gloriously demented. then again, miucca always had the knack of making things that are "ugly" into something sophisticatedly beautiful. which probably explains the resurfacing of some of her infamous "geek chic" ideas that is over a decade old. there was that mixing of prints and fabrics, with some printed to give the illusion of texture. an idea that she also explored with her menswear collection a few months back. also present in her men's show was all the knitted jumpsuits, tunics, and cardigans that grounded that fantasy element of this collection. underlying all the flights of fancy was a response to a cold reality done in a childlike, naive way. what was new however were full circle skirts, the unimportance of hemline which ranged anywhere from just above the knee, to almost the ankle. the other strength of prada is a sense of playfulness combined with cerebral narrative. it is this dichotomy that guarantees that she will always be one step ahead of everyone else. to quote marylou luther of the international syndicate, "she's our research and development for the whole world of fashion", a point no one can really argue.

of all of the jil sander shows that raf simons has orchestrated, this feels like the one closest to his personality. after winning accolades with his interpretation of a 21st take on late nineties minimalism, raf diverted into a more decorated, although be it, restrained sense of elaboration. the decoration came in the form of a cocoon like envelopment of chiffon wrapping around more structured silhouettes. these silhouettes came in the form of cropped jackets, anoraks, and layered fabrics that formed into cocktail dresses and wrap around tops that hinted at the designer's own individual vision of modernism. to fully succeed in thrusting the jill sander pragmatism forward, raf had to combine the house's trademarks and infuse it with something that was far removed from it. for a house that is financially supported by its tailored legacy, it has to be presented in a way that creates a sense of drama. in a time when minimalism seems dated and out of sync with today's obsession with signature items, there has to be a form that it stands out from the banal. sticking with the sander trademark of unfussy, direct to the point clothes, simons managed to merge understandable commercialism with attention grabbing presentation. like last spring's bright crayola colours, this collection also saw the young belgian veering away from the monochromatic palette so closely associated with minimalist designer. the minimalist tag might regularly pop up when akin to raf's sander designs, but props are due when the designer manages to merge his vision and the eponymous' designer at the same time.

it's surprising that not many designers have amalgamated classic couture silhouettes with avant garde japanese designs. i mean, this would have been the ultimate exercise to challenge a modern designer. perhaps it takes two equipped minds to fulfill that feat. roberto rimondi and tommaso aquilano were one of the few who saw the challenge and tackled it with such virtuoso that they managed to combine pagoda shoulders and couture shapes and make it blend harmoniously. and in a season when tailoring is paramount, the duo excelled at merging the traditional with the current. the obi waist and samurai armor were re-interpreted into waist cinching and voluminous sheathes. the lure of orientalism might inspire and escape most designers, but the duo managed to succeed in the way saint laurent did in the seventies. not a hard proposition to excel at. considering they are playing with the hardest and trickiest reference points. what makes them succeed is their sincere attention to the craft and intellectual propriety of design that they are able to learn from past transgression and develop and mature into a team that not only realizes the need for change, but also cradle the adjustment modernity needs.

if you were wondering what last autumn's burberry rocker chic was going to wear for summer, well this is it. there was still a hint of the aggressiveness from last fall, but here it was softened up a little bit. the leathers were turned ruched chiffons that sort of looked like leger bandage dresses (perhaps a nod to the trends of his native london), and the blacks were replaced with greys, beiges, and towards the end, and explosion of turquoise and fuschia that linked this collection with his surfer inspired menswear collection he showed a few months ago. the showed started well enough but it lost its focus during the middle of the collection when it veered too close towards tom ford territory. the burberry customer has come back season after season for bailey's unique interpretation of english icononography. his previous collections were classic, refined, but at the same time young and absolutely modern. this collection was a bit too over the top for the perennial burberry woman. although he flirted with embellishments before, he kept the general silhouette sparse, and the tiered ruffles with the ruched chiffons was a far cry from the quiet humour he's become famous for. but it wasn't all bad, when he tones those ingredients down he comes up with something beautiful, like the silvery grey trench that opened the show, it was ruched, it had ruffles, but it had control and it didn't feel like it was wearing you. one thing no one will argue with though, now everyone knows bailey can do sexy like the best of them.

photo: style.com

Monday, September 17, 2007

LONDON spring/summer 2008

the pleasant, yet surprising paradox of designer giles deacon is that he can at the same time be benevolently luxurious, and avant garde at the same time. the same way fellow brits mcqueen and galliano are. there has alway been a couture like detail that is incorporated throughout his body of work. the structure that supports the clothes, the fabrication, and the handwork in the embellishments shows a designer who has an understanding of the sublime yet have a capricious sensibility. unlike other designers who are weighed down by their intellectual influences, giles on the other hand seems to want nothing more than present a collection of pretty clothes that is slightly irreverent. far removed from the spikes and the studs that proliferated his fall collection, this season saw the designer in tune with the collective mood of fashion with light, airy, feminine dresses. but there was an underlying sense of perversity in those lolita baby-doll dresses that showed that giles also has a good sense of humour. he followed that by closing the show with cocktail and evening dresses that had such couture like refinement and polish that it makes one wonder what this designer can fully achieve if he ever was appointed to design a couture house. who knows, a few years from now we might just see this wish fulfilled.

aquascutum is one of the few english brands that has been undergoing a revival in the past few years. under the design team michael herz and graeme fidler, the label has not only been updated for the sake of modernity, it is actually a house whose vision is not only getting clearer, it is also getting stronger. being a house who's tradition is making impeccably tailored clothes, there were a lot of coats in this collection. the coats ranged from a slightly looser silhouette to a more structured, although not as fitted, military influenced double breasted number with a mandarin collar. the coats however were not the main standouts at the show. surprisingly, there were japanese construction elements in this collection. the asymetric dresses, and a kimono like shape littered the collection, sometimes done in somber neutrals, and at other times, bright blocks of colour. it is this unexpected touch the two designers bring to the brand that the label has become the sort of label that appears to suddenly come out of nowhere and end up on the backs on the coolest kids. well lets just hope and pray some hollywood stylist doesn't put it on one of young hollywood's tabloid bunny and those cool kids should have nothing to worry about....yet.

there is a small canadian contingency flourishing under london's creative umbrella. montreal raised erdem moralioglu, who has been showing in london for a few years, is one the leaders of this pack of ex patriots with his feminine designs that is reminiscent of classic couture polish. there are recurring elements that surfaces season after season in erdem's collections. there is the layering of lace, the tiered knife pleating dresses, the superimposed botanical prints on all the fabrics and an obvious femininity. the most androgynous he gets is putting pants in the show, and even here they were high waisted and full legged, hardly a masculine interpretation. as much talent the young designer has, this season seemed to be a bit redundant. maybe it was because almost all of the designers are in the same frame of mind that he is that even though this has been something he has been doing for a while, it almost felt like it was a collection that was already expected. he might have broken away from his usual vocabulary and expanded into body conscious shapes and harsher colours like red and fuschias done in a graphic way, it wasn't enough. but it did however prove that the young man has tricks up his sleeve. hopefully next season he will have the confidence to explore it even further.

the new messiah of the london scene, christopher kane's meteoric rise to fashion aristocracy is sure to become one of the business most enduring stories. only a year out of graduating from central saint martins, and two critically lauded collections later, kane and his sister tammy, who also serves as the muse of the house, abandoned all the hard edge sexiness that has become his trademark and showed his softer side and versatility while being on point with the season's mood for relaxed, feminine clothes. kane showed his strenght by adapting all his trademarks, like the tiered ruffles, transparency, and the mixing of fabrics and transformed it into ethereal dresses that was a sharp contrast to all the sexual bombs he delivered from his previous collections. perhaps realizing that with all the media attention he's been lavished by, kane felt the need to not only prove that he can attune his inspirations to a different side and succeed at it, he also ended up showing that his instincts are in tune with the collective consciousness. commercially, kane is one of the few young designers with an underground sensibility who actually manages to not only receive good reviews, but also can put his clothes in a shop and sell it. this season, unarguably his most commercial collection yet, there were plenty of clothes that will sure to fly out the stores. from the denim, to the snake skin and camo print chiffon dresses, and embroidered tanks, there were plenty of options here for any woman to chose from. combine artistic integrity and commercial appeal, you have with you the makings of what will become one of fashion's great designers.

if the construction of balenciaga was ever to merge with the drape of vionnet, you might end up with marios schwab. the young designer has made transforming fabric into armor like clothes as a trademark. one gets a sense that anatomy, entomology, are just as important passions of him that he is able to merge with fashion to produce clothes that are at once feminine and almost confrontational at the same time. this season however, the clothes were prettier. the dresses under neath the bandings and body braces he builds were fluid with almost baroque like prints in shades of pinks and yellows. he draped all these jersey fabrics around the body, sometimes suspended by bands that revealed the print underneath creating some form of exoskeleton to give the illusion that the body is being held in place. given that the prevalent mood of this season is one of lightness and obvious femininity, schwab manages to give that look a tension that has rarely been seen throughout the collection. an accomplishment for a young designer who's fashion understanding is mature beyond his years.

next season, jonathan saunders is making his debut in the big apple. so it makes sense that his collection for his final london show has an american sensibility. as a designer who first made his mark with his use of prints, saunders has gradually transformed all the knowledge he gained from working with it to shape the body and applied it to his clever use of colour blocking. for spring he toned down his colour palette to dusty pinks, dove greys, pale yellows, periwinkle, and black and white to provide a graphic contrast. perhaps realizing that north america isn't as fashion foward as europe, he restrained himself a little, not by design, but by how he finished his look. he also experimented with volume, not by much, but just subtle enough that he didn't seem like he was trying to grow too fast, which is an intelligent move on his part since he is showing in new york next season. and new york isn't a city that is known for ground breaking ideas. hopefully, saunders doesn't lose that maverick spirit when he crosses the pound. new york could use some more excitement, and saunders might just be the man to provide it.

a stream of barbarella meets synchronized swimming models paraded down louise goldin's first major london fashion show. there were lots of elements here, a style that is typical of london now. there was the obvious reference to the nineties, the contrasting loud fluoro colours, and a mixing of different influences that is a direct result from the city's diversity itself. the difference with goldin from other designers is her choice in fabric. while most of her contemporaries are using wovens, goldin concentrates on experimenting with knits, and she is using that fabric in a thoroughly modern way. she uses the knits to mold the body. achieving that by her ingenious use of colour blocking and using the fabric's own sense of drape to work and sculpt the woman's form. however this effect was done in her own individual way. there might have been some missoni similarities with the colour contrasting, but rest assured there were no zig-zagging lines here, and her colour sense has a more underground feel. this collection is unapologetically young and is indicative to the youth movement that london is reveling in right now. next season should be an interesting one for goldin when the fashion press waits to see if her talents can also be adapted to an older, and deeper pocketed clientele.

for a few seasons now, canadian designer todd lynn has been showing his own take on tailored formality on the london catwalk. abandoning his exaggerated sharp shoulders of last fall, he focused his attention to the reinterpretation of the classic men's waistcoat. in both men and women, he deconstructed it and transformed it to a biker jacket, a sleeveless dinner coat, or a cropped matador jacket. despite his rigorous approach to tailoring, lynn's passion for rock and roll prevents his clothes to from being too stiff and staid. there is a certain sense of luxurious rebellion in his clothes and a sense of forward movement in his design. the technique might be traditional, but the end result is not. his slanted pleats on his trousers add volume and new sense of dimension without looking bulky. even his three piece suits for women gets an edge despite the suits history of its tradition. there is also something very androgynous about his clothes in the same vein slimane's designs were for dior. he admitted that he wants to design the same clothes for men and women and make them feel sexy. in a world when the lines of gender and sexuality are being crossed more often than the intersection in times square, lynn and his modern take on the most classic of dressing, might be the thing that sets him apart from the wave of new designers fighting to make and keep their mark.

the city of london is and always will be associated with youth culture. after all, it was in this part of the world that the youth revolution in fashion started in the sixties, followed by punk in the seventies, which led to the new wave and the rave scene of the eighties, and the british pop explotion of the nineties. during those eras, the city gave birth to designers who's influence resonates and trickles down and becomes a permanent part of popular culture. the later half of the 2000's is an exciting time for british fashion, and no one provides more excitement and entertainment than london's newest bad boy, gareth pugh. true, that with each collection he seems to be deliberately easing in more commercial pieces, you won't find any inflatable arm appendages this season. there were however beautifully constructed clothes, a somewhat continuation from last season, but this time made of ribbons of leather that provided some sort of bandage dressing thats been popular for the past year. and surprisingly, there were also toned down pieces like a goth-romantic blouse with panels of chiffon to provide a bit of modesty paired with a knife pleated a-line skirt and a classic belted leather trench in embossed leather. there might be more thought involved in this collection to show some sellable pieces, but this isn't what keeps people intrigued with the young designer. editors and journalists come here for a show, and they got it, in the form of a black coat with a white mink stole made to look like a pack of white lab mice complete with red beady eyes and all.

photo: style.com

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.

photo: style.com