Any fashionista worth her OTK* boots knows it's New York Fashion Week right now. I've been tracking the shows on Style.com, and I hate to admit it, but so far I've been pretty disappointed.
*Over The Knee Boots (Prada Fall 2009)
New York is a hotbed for young designers, so it's nothing new to see a budding label make a few side steps on the way to finding its aesthetic identity, myself included. But this is also one of the most exciting things about NY Fashion Week; although it's not the most avant garde of the fashion week venues, one really gets a chance to see where fashion is heading - it's mostly sportswear, not couture, so people will actually wear this stuff.
But from what I'm seeing this season, even the established brands are struggling to find a binding aesthetic thread. Silhouettes are all over the place. Styling is sloppy. There seems to be no forward movement - if you threw your wardrobes from the past 3-4 seasons into a blender, you'd end up with Fall 2010.
The only congruity I've witnessed is an overwhelming mish-mash of textiles, punctuated by a startling misuse of one of my favorite fabrics - Velvet.
Velvet is everywhere this season. Jackets, pants, dresses, gowns. That in itself isn't such a crime - My own sketches for a fall collection featured many incarnations of heavy cotton velvet (Josh can attest to the fact that I have an uncanny ability to sense trends before they appear). But in so many instances on the runway, the cloth looked mishandled - crumpled, wrinkled, even crushed (I thought that crushed velvet had been relegated to bad ice skating costumes, but I guess I was wrong). It was shown over-embellished or paired with uncomplimentary fabrics and trims. Rarely did I see it displayed as the sumptuous, luxurious cloth that it really is (*with the distinct exception of that lovely black Bibhu Mohapatra asymmetric dress).
Another trend that has popped up also appeared in the men's collections a few weeks back - that is emphasizing the shoulders by breaking up the upper body with contrasting fabrics (See the Menswear examples I pointed out HERE....the Louis Vuitton section especially).
Philosophy di Albetra Ferretti
Chado Ralph Rucci
Cushnie et Ochs
Like I mentioned in that previous post, this is something I've been experimenting with myself, based on the image of a woman rising out of a pool of water. It makes complete sense for Donna Karan to incorporate this shape, being that she has made quite a living on exposing her woman's shoulders. I think this is a natural evolution of the embellished, heavily padded, and over emphasized shoulder trend. This incarnation is more sleek, more feminine and much more wearable.
Aside from strong collections from sophisticated designers like Carolina Herrera, Donna Karan (celebrating the label's 25th anniversary), and Marc Jacobs (who I typically don't really jive with), there were only 2 collections that excited me....and neither were by designers I usually follow very closely.
Peter Jensen, with his unmistakably English approach to modern dressing, turned out a lovely collection on the theme of 1930's schoolgirl. He went beyond this typical predictability by giving not only excellent, simple separates, but quite a bit of charming sexiness. I feel that this styling referenced his Danish heritage - So many Danish girls I've seen have this uncanny ability to wear coy, cool and quirky all in the same look. There were looks from cute to chic, hip to classic - something for me, my mom, and my grandmother. And it was all cohesive - not an easy feat.
Can we say "Copenhagen?"
One of the more convincing arguments for velvet this season
Peter Jensen is a great representation of what New York fashion week has to offer - cool wearable clothes. Any of these pieces could be worn a plethora of ways by many different women, and each could add her own twist. Clothes for the people, that's what I say.
Zero + Maria Cornejo did the one thing any collection should do - present a cohesive aesthetic concept. It's really what any art should do: Tell you what the artist is thinking. What does she want you to see? What is he trying to get across? Most fashion shows this season have failed in this department. You leave feeling clueless about what the designer was trying to say. But Maria Cornejo has rarely faltered in this effort, her vision is so precise. This season she used her trademark androgynous tailoring to tell a vague 'England to Africa' story, but it wasn't the narrative that took center stage. It's simply that she makes cool, interesting clothes with a point of view, and real people actually want to wear them (Michelle Obama is a real person, isn't she?).
Backstage after her show, Cornejo said, "Everybody does fashion right now, and nobody needs anymore clothes. You have to do things that are desirable and look lovely and authentic."
...a woman after my own heart.