In keeping with the election theme of Fashion Week, Marc Jacobs should run for office. He certainly has the power of the people on his side, with an even deeper pool of celebrity followers than Obama! Marc debuted his Spring 2009 collection last night and the scene on Lexington Avenue could have been mistaken for a box office movie premiere (by anyone oblivious to fashion week). Traffic was jammed by the Armory as the street was blocked with limousines, press and loads of onlookers trying to catch a glimpse of the action and the celebrities. This event draws them like no other at the tents (or off site shows), and last night proved not to disappoint. The major players were there of course; Anna Wintour, Glenda Bailey, Hamish Bowles, Sofia Coppola, Helena Christensen, Padma Lakshmi and Lauren Hutton just to name a few. I didn’t have a lot of time to scan the venue, because the show nearly started on time (O.K. approximately half past nine, but I think that’s a record)! I arrived at 8:55, went straight inside, and after a fairly quick “airport security” bag check complete with chugging my Evian and tossing it into the trash, I proceeded to the main stage. After passing the blinding flashes of the cameras and squeezing my way through the mob, I made it to my seat on the metal bleachers and regretted wearing my micro shorts. It was 9:05, not bad; certainly better than JFK.
Shortly thereafter, the first model strutted down the catwalk. If one didn’t know any better, one could have assumed that Jacobs was showing a Fall line, featuring hues of burgundy, magenta, jade, navy, brown and mustard. In fact, mustard was used quite liberally throughout. Models were wearing men’s straw skimmer hats during the first half helping to create a spring-like vibe. About half way through, the disc shaped hats were replaced with navy turbans neatly covering the head. Fabrics were ornate and detailed in most cases, consisting of dark ground, multicolored jacquards, bright patterned knits, and soft woven plaid shirting. Leather, jersey, sheer mesh and metallic blend knits were also represented. Somehow, Jacobs managed to marry odd combinations of fabric, pattern and color to create beautifully balanced ensembles. He used wide banding (looked like 5/8” width) in solid black to outline, border, cut up and separate the various prints. He also utilized a wide belt to break and divide the top and bottom half of the body, allowing for two completely different palettes or patterns to occur simultaneously.
The Spring 2009 collection mixed glamour, luxury and high society with the working class. The apron appeared to be an inspiration with crisscrossed back straps repeating in many different pieces, and the bow tie in the back consistently surfacing as a detail. Variations on the bib overall also played into the mix and further conveyed the spirit of blue collar. Even the turbaned head piece could have been interpreted as a babushka or handkerchief. However, the elegance was not overwhelmed by the humorous twists. Feminine, pretty pieces flowed down the runway, reflecting in the mirrors stacked like dominoes down the center of the runway.
Jackets were an important component in the collection. Shoulders were strong, sharp and crisply padded with an emphasis on the cap. Jacobs repeated the use of the cap sleeve throughout, adding a narrow, rigid piece to an otherwise sleeveless jacket or top. He also used it on long sleeve jackets where it was seen jutting out slightly past the natural shoulder. Marc showed classically clean jackets in solid black and navy, one being a double breasted, notch collar paired with narrow bermudas. A good amount of the jackets gliding down the runway were longer, and cut in more ornate fabrics. Most of these beauties were shawl collared, and all of them belted with cummerbund-like wraps. The emphasis on the waist was apparent, as the cummerbund cinched the majority of the models.
Skirts were mostly long and narrow; however, they were far from simple. Many were multicolored and patterned, and one silhouette (which appeared several times) was ruffled along the bottom, crossing diagonally up along the back to the waist, with fabric being drawn into a bow, creating a lovely package. Other skirts were multilayered with different prints on the layers. One marvelous piece was cut shorter in the front than the back, with solid color in front and a bright print decorating the back layers. Even the jade, leather pencil skirt was folded and pleated in front with a bow tied at the back waist. Pants weren’t featured, but the silhouettes present were narrow Bermudas or tapered cropped, with a wide cuff finishing a couple inches above the ankle. Oh, I almost forgot one other pair of bottoms – plaid patterned undies worn with a belted jacket.
Draping, gathering, ruffles, ties and manipulated excess fabric translated into shapes. There was definitely a sense of soft versus hard as the strong shoulder offset the lighter pieces. Softness and fullness was controlled by the use of a belt, a bow tie, even by neatly shirring fabric into a back yoke piece on a blouse. There was a lovely gathered, asymmetric top that seemed to come together in a bow at one shoulder. The last few dresses to grace the runway felt a bit out of place, though they did deliver the clear message of spring. Navy/white and red/white fine stripes in what appeared to be heavy jersey generously draped the body with an excess of fabric to create long, languid dresses evoking Madame Gres.
The collection was artful, complex, bold and daring – just like the women who possess a passion for Marc’s clothes. So, remember in November: Vote Marc.
As I was saying about ‘change’… at a time when the debate about anorexic models, unhealthy body weight, and eating disorders continues, it seems rather apropos that as the spring 2009 season unfolds, one ongoing trend appears to be the idea of an eased up silhouette and the use of volume and structure (the models may not be actually gaining weight but their clothing is giving the illusion of putting on some much needed pounds). Such was the case at Proenza Schouler, shown fittingly at the Park Avenue Armory. I say fittingly because much of Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough’s 34 piece collection resembled armor thanks to the reliance on stiff couture like fabrics (bonded cotton, bonded silk, coated gazar, glazed aluminum, glazed silk, silk mesh, and leather) that held their shape in an almost exaggerated way, and that includes sleeves. (I especially loved the white bonded cotton ‘trench’ jacket and coat with a lowered waist, both shown with an ivory silk batiste ‘jogging’ pant).
The color palette was pared down and minimalistic: white, optic white, ivory, ecru, (often mixed together), and black, with just a few hits of green and purple and while there were some great silk laser cut dresses, the emphasis was on utilitarian sportswear (expensive utilitarian sportswear at that). A take off on the jogging pant was shown throughout, there were jumpsuits (overalls really) for day and evening (the finale featured a group of heavily beaded white, black, and silver jumpsuits), and there were details like harness straps, zippers, touches of silver, and clear, porthole type cut out embroideries which found their way on the hem of a pair of pants and several dresses. The feeling of dressed up sportswear, the importance of the pant, and the idea of ‘day for night’ was exemplified in the slouchy black viscose linen jacket shown with an embroidered viscose knit top and silver beaded cropped full pants.
Earlier in the day, Carolina Herrera did a complete about face from last season, getting off her ‘high horse’ and leaving fall 2008’s overly theatrical equestrian romp in favor of something far less contrived (nary a pheasant feather in sight). The emphasis was on texture (through the use of tweed organza, textured silk, lacquered raffia) and on contrasts: tempering the overtly feminine with the masculine (best were the menswear inspired black jackets thrown over beaded or ruffled gowns), and playing color (persimmon hibiscus, marigold, teal) off black and white. There were floral prints, tiers, ruffles, ruffles, and more ruffles (what else is new?), strapless dresses, bustier tops, and peplums, (recurring themes elsewhere), and Carolina offered variety in terms of ‘skinny’ versus volume. A black textured blouse shown with a raffia pleated skirt had the ease of a kimono top but then several black tuxedo pantsuits, including one in raffia, featured fitted, almost shrunken jackets and cropped cigarette pants. And then there was the stunner shown on Agyness (an off white duchess satin jacket which was fitted in front but featured a flyway back) shown with black duchess satin cigarette pants, which seemed to straddle both worlds.
By the way, when all was said and done, it was the grouping in black and white, the more simplified and subtle pieces, that were in the end, the most successful. This was exemplified by the slim, back buttoned, short sleeved vanilla and white silk gown, cut with the ease of an elongated t shirt, but decorated with a delicate spray of ruffles on the top right. In a veritable sea of ruffles, this is the dress that stood out.
There is nothing cookie-cutter about any of the clothes Yeohlee designs. Each is individual, inventive and not like anything else you see presented in other designers’ shows or hanging in any store”s racks. Each piece is an adventure and this collection is one of her very best. It makes other shows of the season, even the good ones, look, well, primitive or derivative.
As usual, Yeohlee ls fascinated by architecture. And the terms she uses to describe her collection are parabola, the cube and the crescent. But don’t worry about it. Her clothes work as fashion. Expanding her source of inspiration to include the ocean, she mentions the jellyfish, which refers to a soft, gentle shape altenating with the more severe ones. The shape is perfectly acceptable, though I have some reservations about the name.
Throughout the collection she has unusual ways of cutting her clothes. Tops are often soft and blousy, like bubbles. This contrasts with the bottoms, which can be strict, but not symmetrical. Hemlines vary. They often slant in diverse ways. Fabrics include a translucent jersey, which has a built-in glow and some fish-net effects, which refer again to the ocean theme.
Colors are white and stone shades with an occasional brick red. That is part of the architectural inspiration.