Editorial: An ‘Oscar’ Worthy performance?
New York Fashion Cool-Aid™: Charles Harbison
Designer Charles Harbison must be one of those fortunate people who manages to be in the right place at the right time. I’m sure hard work had as much to do with it as luck but when Beyonce wears an entire outfit from your line to a high profile event such as the showing of Kanye West’s Fashion Week collaboration with Adidas just four days before your own NYFW presentation, the stars, both human and celestial, have aligned for you. I attended the Harbison Fall/Winter 2015 presentation at the Standard Hotel yesterday and it definitely put a smile on my winter worn face to see the bright color-blocking (even if it did call to my mind sail racing flags),imaginative concepts, layering and easy silhouettes. In his fourth womenswear collection the North Carolina native who now resides in Manhattan counts many influences on his work; some that he’s always had and a few new ones.
These include Minimalist artist “Brice Marden’s rhythmic renderings, the gravity of Alexander Calder’s sculptures along Storm King’s landscapes, the simplicity of a 90s approach, and not to mention Beverly Johnson’s late-70s insouciance: it has all found its way onto my mood board–the “normal of now” if you will.” cites a card in his gift bag. The presentation was called for 1 PM to 3 PM however, judging by the look of things, they were running late and caught unprepared. I’ve heard some horror stories about the disorganization of MADE Fashion Week and suffice it to say it doesn’t sound like the most well oiled machine. Not to bore you with the details (they were sending attendees and even designers to the wrong locations!) but when a large crowd assembled early we waited and then were finally ushered up to the 3rd floor only to find exactly two models that were dressed, ready and standing on their pedestals. I don’t imagine that this was the intent but it became like performance art watching each successive model, including two males, being readied and then finally taking their places. It was a little surreal to watch as everyone would rush to snap the latest model instead of waiting until they were all assembled as per usual.
Harbison honed his skills at Luca Luca, Billy Reid and Michael Kors. He was originally interested in architecture but pretty soon became aware that his real love was working with fabric instead of bricks and mortar. “My collections have an intellectual skew and a touch of irony.” he told the New York Observer last year. It was clear to me from viewing his designs as well as his models that he embraces the concept of androgyny and cites Patti Smith as another of his muses. Before I even found this out I had noticed that one of his models looked a lot like the singer circa the “Horses” era. He is a black designer and is influenced by his culture but doesn’t feel that he designs “black clothes.” “I like to design for a woman who embraces her contradictions” he said.
|Photo from Robin Givhan’s twitter of Harbison show|
Attendees at the show included Robin Givhan who posted this to her twitter: “Those color-blocked trousers. #harbison #nyfw joy”, Mary Alice Stephenson, Fern Mallis and Zanna Roberts Rassi, just to name a few. I enjoyed the cheery colors as well as the layering aspect to Harbison’s clothes, particularly the idea of a looser pant under a dress as a new play in proportion. I do think one must be model tall, or close to it, to pull off this look however. The other problem I’ve been seeing inherent in quite a few collections is that, except for possibly some of the gray knit pieces, these clothes do not look like they will keep you warm in a northeastern winter and appear to be much more spring or maybe early fall transitional weight and colors. The designs were accessorized with some interesting hammered gold jewelry pieces including large arm cuffs and what appeared to be button covers in the shape of a hand.
|Beyonce in Harbison Spring 2015 at Kanye West Show|
Harbison’s clothes are sold at Ikram in Chicago and of course, he says he would love to dress their most famous client, Michelle Obama. Harbison was one of the six (lucky) new designers who attended the Fashion Workshop at the White House last year so he’s definitely on the right track to the FLOTUS closet. Now, if he can just get some of the Beyonce magic to hold its course. That, along with his hard work, means expect it to happen at the exact moment when he will gain maximum exposure