Nope, not Christmas. New York City’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.
Luckily for us, NYC Fashion Week actually comes twice a year and doesn’t care if you have been naughty or nice, just if you have the money to throw down for some serious designer rags. Of course, calling what has come down the runway this fashion week “rags” is near blasphemy.
Per the usual two-season ahead schedule, the current shows – which run this year from Feb. 6-13 – present styles for Fall and Winter 2014. While it may seem straightforward to design for the chillier months, the 95 different collections that are on the official schedule suggest that there is more than just wool suits and ear muffs to think about. However, the shows that are noted on the official schedule are just the tip of the iceberg. New York Fashion Week is not restricted to official tents, as young, talented and unknown names put out shows in nightclubs downtown and across the boroughs. Big names eschew the traditional Bryant Park tents all together, instead putting on intimate luncheons and cocktail hours with bored, emaciated models standing for hours in carefully curated outfits, heavy leather totes balancing delicately on their elbows.
To put it plainly, New York Fashion Week is thrilling and exhausting. Each of these designers have toiled for months on making sure very hem is correct, ever fabric is appropriate, and that each look will appeal to buyers at the big department stores. The weight that the designers carry on their shoulders is enormous: the runway is more like walking the plank, for each look that pops out will be dissected and hopefully devoured by its fashion-concious audience. These are not merely looks that are aesthetically pleasing, but also trends in the making. Here is my breakdown of the best, the worst, and the heavenly.
Vera Wang used classic plaid and soft chiffon well, making the generally heavy knit fabrics in which plaid usually appears into airy, silky garments that breathe new life into a season where bulky fabrics usually reign supreme.
Tory Burch and Donna Karen both did classic fall, in rich velvets and tweed that were composed into elegant, fierce looks. Burch leaned into her classic, prep resume, adding knee high socks and a touch of shine with beads and metallics. Karen was celebrating her thirtieth year in the industry, and had each of her models looking like they could take on the world with severe make up that complimented the architectural looks she engineered. Best moment of the Karen show? Supermodel Karlie Kloss’ confident strut down the catwalk in a flowing red silk-chiffon gown.
Theory and Altazurra both took a feminine route, combining diaphanous fabrics with menswear inspiration. In a myriad of muted tones, Theory bonded silk and wool together to lovely effect and used elegant, boxy, long jackets to stay true to the season. Altazurra used small spots of bright colors to jazz up his muted palate, while showing off a spectacular fit to each model’s frame. Silk dresses were enveloped in warm jackets and there was a series of shift dresses that were made to rule a boardroom. Bonus points to Altazurra for the simple and pretty hair and makeup that doesn’t take away from the different looks.
Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen’s line, The Row, gave me pause. At first, it was all too reminiscent of the over-layered look the diminutive twins favored during the early 2000s. Further examination of the looks led to the realization that these looks were refined, streamlined, and accessible. Obviously, a dark grey floor-grazing wool/cashmere cape seems a little over the top, but it is the sort of regal item that would be lovely with jeans and boots. My particular favorite from this collection was a robe style jacket in a soothing shade of oatmeal: the tailoring was perfect, while the waist tie made it feel casual.
I get that “Star Wars” was one of the best franchises of all time. What I don’t get is a gown that has Luke Skywalker on it, and unfortunately, this is what Rodarte presented to us this season. The sisters behind Rodarte are utter fashion darlings, but their taste level is always a little off; they frequently wobble between fashion-forward and homeless person. The problem this time was theme and fabric composition. Using George Lucas and “Star Wars” as inspiration is interesting, but was ultimately poorly executed, with rich fabrics being overloaded and clashing terribly with one another.
The Thakoon collection was much, much too much. Every color in the rainbow was used, from neons to moody jewel tones to regular ROYGBIV classics; proportions were all over the place, with sweaters that covered only the neck on display alongside bizarrely short ponchos. Most heinous was the use of floral print, a pattern that is reserved for spring luncheons and your grandmother’s closet.
3.1 Philip Lim’s collection was more of the same, with a confusing amount of flowers on silken fabrics that are better suited for resort collections. The addition of fur, corduroy and leather made things even more complicated, as it was hard to see if there was any coherent theme to the looks coming down the runway. Bad color-blocking topped off this flop of a collection.
Zac Posen is hands down one of the best American fashion designers of all time. His fall/winter collection is a testament to that, with both gorgeous colors and fabrics making his architectural gowns the most beautiful of all. Even his smaller project Zac Posen was a delight, with tailoring in each ensemble done exceptionally well.
Thom Browne went for his standby British aesthetic and employed herringbone, tweed and felt for his couture-level designs. Browne took a risk and went more avant garde with this collection and it absolutely paid off: sleeves were dramatic and striking, details were subtle with big payoff and there was a definite Victorian feel throughout the collection. It was museum-level quality clothing for the office and streets and it was a revelation.
Diane von Furstenburg proved that her wrap dress standby is no one-trick-pony. She amped up the drama by using metallics and vibrant details to make cocktail dresses that would make for conversation starters all by themselves. I am also biased towards any DVF collection; Mrs. von Furstenburg is fashion royalty and a revolutionary for promoting healthy modeling standards.
Special mention goes out to Coach, who staged its first fashion week show and proved that classic doesn’t mean boring. More importantly, Coach showed off its apparel collection; for a brand that is known for their luxury leather goods, it certainly did well with jackets and skirts that would be warm and chic.