Monday, January 07, 2008

Heroic’ Efforts


Yeohlee's Trilogy (The Three Elements of E's)

Okay, so I guess I am just a tad obsessed with the subject of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s upcoming spring exhibit, “Super heroes: Fashion and Fantasy”. Continuing on with that train of thought, what could possibly be more valiant, noble, or heroic (from a customer point of view), than an innovative fashion designer who strives to make our lives just a little bit easier while helping us look a whole lot better? (Talk about the perfect mix of form and function). One whose design credo is based upon “a trilogy of e’s” (“efficiency, energy, effective”). One who understands that getting dressed quickly is one thing; looking “pulled together” is another. One who always keeps in mind the needs of an “Urban Nomad” (a term she coined by the way). One who is so focused and so beautifully consistent in her aesthetic, it prompted noted author Bradley Quinn ,“Fashion and Architecture”, (who also curated the January 2007 AIA Show on Fashion and Architecture) to observe that her last four collections appear to be “one layer”. One whose signature architectural designs are thoroughly eye catching and arresting without being so obvious and over the top that they literally hit you ‘over the ‘head’ (these are not ‘costumes’ for fictional ‘heroes’ but beautiful, thoughtful clothing for modern day heroines: intelligent, modern women). One who strives to give women “what they want” while continuing to experiment with shape, texture, fabrication, and proportion so as to keep herself “engaged”. Oh, and the fact that she routinely Teflon coats her white fabrics to ensure that they are stain resistant doesn’t hurt either. (For anyone living the city, who tries to keep that pristine white coat clean, that’s practically a ‘life saver’).

By now, I guess you’ve figured out that the designer I am referring to is Yeohlee Teng (www.yeohlee.com), who, since 1981 (when she started her eponymous collection), has ‘quietly’ honed and perfected her craft (and aesthetic) while gaining respect, praise, and kudos, from members of the press, retailers, and her loyal fans. On second thought, I guess “quietly” is the wrong word since Yeohlee is hardly a well kept secret but a well respected and admired designer who has been lauded, applauded, honored and awarded. She’s also been the focus of major exhibits at some of the most revered museums and institutions in the world, not the least of which is the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, where one of her dresses is currently on display at their newly mounted exhibition, “blog.mode: addressing fashion”.

I recently visited Yeohlee at her sleek and architecturally chic (what else would you expect?) west 35th street showroom loft to view her well edited pre-fall collection dubbed, “In Transit”. It’s only her second time showing pre fall, further proof that this season has become more and more important. A study in black, cream, shades of gray, deep plum, and purple, it’s also a study in texture and surface interest, as well as contrasts, (another trademark, along with the use of geometry “which never goes away”.) This duality is seen in the use of both all natural and all tech fabrics, the use of both shine and matte, the use of texture and the very sleek.

Yeohlee’s outerwear is always ‘simply’ sensational (what “Urban Nomad” worth her salt does not constantly need a great coat to shield her from the elements and environment?) Two standouts from pre fall which I enviably eyed, are the black quilted funnel neck ellipse coat (quilting is a major theme), and the black nylon taffeta catenary coatdress, both of which are beautiful from every angle with their focus on an interesting hemline. Yeohlee revealed that the focus on hemlines will continue for fall, via her use of a “dowdy length”.

As for color, while the use of neutral shades (especially black, gray, white, and cream) is signature, strong vibrant color makes it appearance when it’s in keeping with the “mood of the collection”. And speaking of moods, Yeohlee is well aware that clothing can “change how you feel” and be “magical”. I’m looking forward to Yeohlee’s next “Magical Mystery Tour” – her fall 2008/2009 collection which will unveil during New York fashion Week in February.

-Marilyn Kirschner

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