In 1971 Andre Courreges made this astute observation: “Major trends which impact society for 7 years or more always begin after a major calamity or a scientific breakthrough. Fashion flowered in the ’30s following the stock market crash. Christian Dior’s New Look of 1947 emerged after WW2. The youthquake of the ’60s followed the introduction of The Pill. The pants revolution followed man’s landing on the moon”. There’s never been a more calamitous time than now. But unfortunately, there was no explosion of a new direction during the 5 days of predominantly live showings during NYFW.
In general, fashion is everywhere. There is everything from sweats to sequins, minis to maxis. Not that there’s anything new about that. But, there is far too much repetition and sameness (for example, asymmetrical cutouts and bras are practically ubiquitous) and nothing to move the fashion needle forward as far as I could see. And it’s all so obvious; it’s as if the designers are saying, it’s been a horrible 18 months, and it’s spring, so let’s be sexy, joyful, and get happy in optic white (which I think looks better than ever), flowers and floral prints, cheery gingham, colorful, shiny clothes, hand-knit crochets, feathers and of course, playful fringe (FYI, Daniel Lee for Bottega Veneta was all over the runways.
Let’s face it, not everyone wants to run around in clashing patterns and eye-popping colors. You need sunglasses to get through Tom Ford’s high octane collection. If it worked at all despite the apparent garishness, it’s only because Tom focused on easy, sporty separates, which brought it down a notch. Brandon Maxwell isn’t as fortunate. The designer also relied primarily on sporty separates, but he was trying too hard, and it just looked overly tricky. Gingham and appliqued flowers on one outfit? I think not!
If you are going to do color, it has to be done well, and luxuriously, as it was at Tory Burch (who also proved sometimes all you need is a colorful shoe), Carolina Herrera, Altuzarra, Proenza Schouler, and Gabriela Hearst (the latter three houses exemplify a luxurious artsy, boho vibe that seems well suited to the times). And what a great time for Carolina Herrera’s Wes Gordon to shine; the designer, who imbued the iconic label with some youthful zest, is set to receive FIT’s Couture Council Artistry in Fashion award on Wednesday at Casa Cipriani at the South Street Seaport.
Tory Burch’s beautiful collection, her best in a long time, was inspired by Claire McCardell. Burch mixes a rugged individualism from the past with a distinctly feminine, modern vibe. Relatively understated yet hardly starkly minimal, it is perfectly proportioned and accessorized, and the effect is graceful, chic, and elegant; three words that have almost all but lost their meaning these days. It’s all about shock value. Who can grab attention with the lowest cut, the highest cut, show more skin, etc.? It’s really getting old!
Thom Browne, who returned to New York this season, showed more color than usual. Thom’s creative presentations and superb couture-level workmanship are always at the highest level. But this collection was a bit of a disappointment; it was just not as joyful and resoundingly creative as in the past. It’s great that Thom seeks to try new things (this season he is inspired by ancient statuary), and I love his individualistic approach to trompe l’oeil, but I miss Thom’s fantastic fabric and pattern combinations and superb tailoring this season. I can’t imagine who the long shapeless dresses in institutional gray, with tricky asymmetrical sleeves, would flatter.
Thankfully, Peter Do, who is up for the 2021 CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year Award, is not giving up on his signature urbane, razor-sharp tailoring which, mixed with a touch of streetwear, looks sophisticated, smart, and on point. I’ve been a huge fan of the talented young designer ever since he launched his collection in 2018. For Fall 2021, Do used massive feather brooches to feminize and add a touch of whimsy. This time, the designer embroidered enormous peonies onto his oversized mannish coats and jackets as an homage to his Vietnamese roots.
Between the American collections, the MTV VMA Awards, and the Met Gala, all of which happened this past week, I feel as though, if I see one more boob, derriere, or any other part of a female’s anatomy that is better left covered, it will be too soon. Even Kim Kardashian is bored with all the gratuitous nudity. There is nowhere to go from there.
The body and face obscuring black Balenciaga Kim wore to the Met Gala is telegraphing to the world, “Been there, done that.” And by the way, let’s not forget that the gala was to celebrate American design. “American Independence” was the dress code, to be exact. In past years, attendees made complete fools of themselves, trying to stick to the theme. This year, more than half wore European designs. What’s that all about??? Was it really so difficult to find something spectacular from an American designer to wear?
“The greatest concubines in history knew that everything revealed with nothing concealed is a bore”- Geoffrey Beene
Okay, so not everything on the recent runways of the American Collections was stripped down to a bra and underpants, or something you might wear for your more intimate moments at home but it certainly felt that way. The overall heading for the week could be “Sex and the Naked City.”
At Vaquera, a label that always likes to make a social commentary, the underwear as outerwear trend was handled in a purposely exaggerated yet amusing and streetwise way. Michael Kors made his bras look classy. That’s not the case at LaQuan Smith, who is known for his brash, overly revealing, and very costly designs. If you’re going to bring press and buyers up to the top of the Empire State Building for a runway show, as LaQuan did, focus on fashion and leave the crude stuff off the runway.
Nensi Dojaka believes in designs that reveal and conceal in an elegant way. “The idea is to keep it very minimal and chic and avoid anything vulgar,” says the young designer who presented her spring collection in London on Saturday. Coincidentally, the Albanian-born Central Saint Martins graduate was awarded the LVMH 2021 Prize on September 7th, just as NYFW was getting underway. It’s impossible to not see the touches of Helmut Lang, Geoffrey Beene, and Ralph Rucci, in her work. These designers know a thing or two about keeping it sexy and alluring, rather than raunchy.