It’s (Not) Just An Illusion

Prabal Gurung Spring 2012 Collection
(click on image for larger version)

Prabal Gurung, may have used illusion, among other things, to great effect for his spring 2012 collection, but there’s nothing at all illusionary about his formidable talent.The fashion world is understandably going gaga over this relatively new, young talent, and for good reason. And apparently, Lady Gaga herself (of whom Prabal is an avowed fan) is similarly besotted, as she showed up dressed true to form (not at all like her male alter ego at the recent American Music Awards Show) for his noon show at the IOC Building on West 18th Street. Let’s put it this way, I can well imagine LG wearing many of the designs shown yesterday, both on stage, as well as for personal appearances.

Prabal Gurung Spring 2012 Collection

It was a supremely feminine, purely masterful, and exuberant collection: sculptural, colorful, graphic, filled with flights of fancy, imagination, creativity, and technical know-how, and it perfectly illustrated why PG was most assuredly deserving of his 2011 CFDA Swarovski Award for Womenswear. As in past seasons, but perhaps even more so, Prabal’s fabrications were beyond amazing, and just reading the program notes whet your appetite for what was to come: engineered surreal floral print hand pleated silk chiffon; air brushed ombre latex, floating hand embroidered silk chiffon, hand painted latex razor pailletes, ombre filigree cloque, hand cut recycled rubber paillettes, laser cut mesh fused lambskin and more.

Prabal Gurung Spring 2012 Collection

Once again, Prabal proved himself to be a masterful tailor and a skilled dressmaker, as evidenced by the black silk and wool tailored jacket with sculptural white cotton faille lapel and peaked shoulders, shown over a draped back violet floral print crepe de chine shirt with black collar; and the black white silk chiffon hand embroidered mille-feuille coat with graphic tulle inserts shown over a violet surreal floral print silk georgette tee over violet engineered surreal floral silk and wool track shorts. In addition, his blouses are some of the prettiest in town. This is exemplified by a white silk sleeveless shirt with violet engineered surreal floral print hand pleated silk chiffon panels and long hem shown with an ash white techno cotton pant with black grosgrain ribbon tuxedo stripe.

Prabal Gurung Spring 2012 Collection

If the sound of flutter sleeves, floral prints, silk chiffon flowers, and accordian pleats immediately conjure up something demure and overtly ladylike, you might want to think again. It also included two of the fiercest, yet most elegant, black dresses I’ve seen in a while — a black illusion tulle hand embroidered dress with hand cut recycled rubber pailettes and whirlpool crystal beading, and a black silk georgette halter gown with athletic graphic tulle inserts.

While I may not like the word “trend” (as I have said, it’s more of a tool for magazine copywriters and retailers and, as we all know, it doesn’t have a thing to do with personal style),  there have been emerging themes from the collections shown these past few days. Among the three that are hard to ignore are floral prints and patterns; the use of strong upbeat color, especially in clashing, jarring combinations (is it me or do several designers seem to have Howard Johnson’s on their minds, what with all the brash combinations of orange and turquoise?); and, perhaps most importantly, the infusion of active sports and athletic wear in streetwear, as seen in shapes, colors, and details (ponchos, anoraks, hoods, sweatshirts, tee shirts, zippers, snaps, mesh insets, track pants, shorts, leggings, sneaker type lace up footwear, etc.).

Cynthia Rowley Spring 2012 Collection

On Friday, Cynthia Rowley, showed a collection that was a study in black, gold, and sports themes, as well as Rag & Bone, a label that always infuses impeccible tailoring with active sportswear and a host of other eclectic touches. Throughout Prabal Gurung yesterday, there were scuba track shorts, athletic graphic tulle inserts, and racerbacks. Earlier that morning, there was the Lacoste runway show, perfectly timed with the semifinals of the US Open. It also marked the debut of a new creative director at the helm, Felipe Oliveira Baptista, whose mission was to restore the house to its utterly French (très Parisienne), purely chic, effortlessly elegant, luxurious sportswear roots. To that end, he kept the color palette mainly neutral with an occasional splash of red or orange; played with and often stretched proportions; re-imagined the signature pique polo dress (it came short with dropped armholes or to the floor and cut out on the side); turned rubgy shirts into graphic, color blocked dresses, and sent out a lineup of desirable and classic outerwear. By the way, I have to mention the utterly chic and très useful bags which were on every seat; a mini version of one of the handsome hand held bags used on the runway, they came in black, black and white, and camel suede with red and black patent trim.

Alexander Wang Spring 2012 Collection

But by far, the most definitive, modern, eye catching, techno sportswear collection thus far, was shown by Alexander Wang last evening at the vast Pier 94 . No surprise there, as these have been constant themes throughout his collections, though for spring 2012, he was obviously inspired by motorcross and Nascar racing, not to mention the street style that has always been a major undercurrent in his work. His stellar lineup of silk parachute dresses, sheer sweatshirts, racing suits, color block leggings, and body conscious intarsia knitwear in strong shades of tangerine, violet, teal, black and white; while his footwear of choice was a pointy toed ankle strap shoe on a sculptural heel in optic white.

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Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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