Showing for the fourth time at the Bryant Park Tents, the prestigious San Francisco institution, The School of Fashion at Academy of Art University, presented the fall 2008 collection of its recent graduates. On stage was the creative, inventive and highly technical work of seven womenswear collections and two menswear collections, from ten graduates of the Fashion Design, Textile Design, and Knitwear Design programs.
Highlights were the Swarovski Crystal sponsored team of Sherise Eways and jewelry designer Melissa Christensen, a Fine Arts Sculpture major, whose collaboration was defined by strictly tailored tuxedos and petal dresses in a strict palette of black and white, with the emphasis on an extreme shoulder line; Jee Hyoung Jang’s architectural designs which made inventive use of organza quilting; Soo Jung Sung and Ivanka Georgiev’s highly structured, coated, marbleized paper trenches which seemed to be crafted from remnants of ancient ruins; Marie Potesta’s whimsical knitwear (sweaters, skirts, draped knitted dresses, pleated shrugs, tights, pleated shrugs) which mixed graphic black and white patterns; BoKyung Cha’s architectural and structural conception with its emphasis on sculptural bows and arresting back interest (rendered solely in black with hits of shocking pink); Juhee Chung’s braided and metallic yarn knits which recalled medieval chain mail.
And speaking of the Middle Ages, medieval, and chain mail, this exact theme was touched upon just minutes later at the Abaete fall 2008 show. Designer Laura Poretzy admitted to having been inspired by “the Middle Ages, intricate Grecian draping, and the work of Madame Gres” for her well done collection of “perfect separates” for the modern customer. Elaborate metal work, pewter flower detailing, and knightly armor inspired construction were key elements of the former, while short, floaty dresses in braided crinkle chiffon defined the latter (I suppose one could arguably describe them as ‘Youthquake’ Mme. Gres). By the way, how timely, since the iconic and revered designer is currently being honored through an exhibit at the Museum at FIT, “Madame Gres, Sphinx of Fashion”, February 2 to April 19, 2008. And as if to remind the audience about Ms. Poretzy’s shoe ‘connection’ (she designs a very successful line of bags and shoes for Payless)…upon leaving the venue, every show attendee was handed a large natural canvas tote bag imprinted with the slogan, “I love (a large orange heart) Shoes”.
Showings by Araks and Mara Hoffman, were presented back to back at the same Tent venue, though the design philosophy and aesthetic of each label could not have been more different. The fall 2008 Araks collection speaks to an unfussy, unfrilly, somewhat intellectual woman (hence, the bespectacled ‘Lisa Loeb’ type models who strode down the runway) who wants subdued clothes that don’t scream or shout, “Look at me”. Shorts, Bermudas, knee length knife pleated skirts (worn with knee socks and oxfords, both flat and mid heeled) were paired with well tailored two button lapel jackets, elongated vests, and intarsia sweaters (several elongated pullovers with sweet trompe l’oeil peter pan collars were standouts). Several highly structured coats in black moleskin were notable. There was a decidedly boy meets girl attitude throughout, and the body was all but obliterated - until the final that is. Playing with the idea of sheer versus opaque, black cotton bras and hipsters were exposed beneath a black or charcoal silk organza elongated vest, t shirt dress, and feather trimmed coat. There was something refreshing about the anti fashion nature of the collection, though as one show attendee exclaimed (she happened to be a very young daughter of a publicist, who was sitting and watching the show on her father’s lap): “These clothes aren’t pretty at all”…and this said it all.
By rather sharp contrast, there was something rather sexy about the unabashedly 70’s ethnic inspired Mara Hoffman collection which quickly followed. Collaborating with Klee Van Schoonhoven, Ms. Hoffman scored with a group of outstanding graphic black and white serape-like blanket coats which looked warm and comforting. Prints and patterns (from abstract Rorschach scribbles, to colorful ethnic Moroccan arabesque incarnations) were another strong message and they showed up as leggings and tunics, or worn beneath belted elongated jackets, or mini dresses. Several fluid jersey floor length dresses which closed the show, in beautifully colored over scaled abstract prints (with attached hoods) were crowd pleasers indeed.
While I’m on the subject of abstract prints and patterns…some of the best and most inventive thus far were seen on the runway of print loving Alexandre Herchcovitch who always loves to surprise. The Brazilian designer’s ‘schizophrenic’ collection began with a somber group in all black (sculpted dresses, baggy jumpsuits, and separates) which mixed fabrics and textures and referenced the Japanese through their reliance on experimental shapes, plays on proportion, and volume. It ended with a joyful explosion of color via a group of floaty silk dresses both long and short, rendered in arresting colorful abstract prints (stripes, bull’s-eye patterns, geometrics) sometimes mixed together.