WHY, NYC, WHY? I’m sure I am not the only one asking this question after what has been a disappointing and lackluster New York season of showings for Fall. Not all are completely dull though; however, most looked, as Cathy Horyn described, ” more merchandised than designed.”
Alexander Wang was the talk of the town this week, and rightfully so, since we will see his debut for Balenciaga in the coming weeks ahead. Wang needed to prove that he could master the French house’s affinity for structure and architecture, something almost completely foreign to Wang who prefers the long and languid to the manipulated and exaggerated. While, Wang gave us his streamlined take on structure, which included built up shoulders on sweaters and outwear, as well as plays on the drop-waist, the real story here was texture. Wang gave us glossy leathers, long mohair and alpaca, bulky wools, and fluffy cashmere socks paired with Wang’s new take on his ever-popular Alla wedge from Spring 2010.
The majority of the collection came off as decently sculpted outwerwear in various hues of gray and black, but what stole the show was Wang’s take on evening wear. White and Black duchess satin manipulated into boxy tops, sliced to reveal the shoulder, and perfectly cut pants, made most successful when paired with a tapered yet open skirt, to reveal the pants in their entirety. But then again, one could draw a direct parrallel to Raf Simons at Dior for that idea. All in all, Wang’s collection was taking a step in the right direction for Balenciaga, but not necessarily one for his namesake client.
Speaking of clients, Prabal Gurung continues to demonstrate that he has mastered his. After a disappointing Spring outing, Gurung revitalized himself with his fall outing. As Joseph Altuzarra’s Fall collection did last year, this collection elevated Prabal to a more mature and profound level.
While it’s difficult to not view the military warrior theme in fashion as a tired cliche, Gurung just may make a believer out us yet. The obvious olive was injected into the majority of the collection, but was made more successful when paired with Nepali prints in deep reds and subtle mustards. Peplums were also a statement point for Gurung, which is hard to accomplish when it is all we have seen the past year. Large and softly structural made for a more powerful statement than the normal mere ruffle.
The real standout was evening wear and dresses. Silks and crepes scantily manipulated around the body and slashed to reveal subversive sections of the body were made successful by juxtaposition via structural and stiff skirts. Gurung’s most powerful message was in a trio of printed and draped white silks. Two of them utilizing the digital prints Gurung is so fond of, but more powerfully in a draped away from the body number with precise bishop sleeves made graphic by contrasting fabrics. Gurung’s powerful closing number, a navy long-sleeved open-back gown with fly-away skirt was refreshing and restrained. That restraint is what made this collection a step forward for Gurung. It would be nice to see him pull of a show where he utilizes this new found restraint in its entirety.
Pushing the boundaries of restraint is nothing new for Joseph Altuzarra, who had quite the challenge to pull off after two consecutive seasons of masterful and mature work. Unfortunately, Altuzarra failed to stand up to the power of his collections past this fall, reverting more to his old ways of aggressive tailoring and lack of clarity. While the designer showed some impeccably fit and precise pieces, the collection fell flat. The most exciting idea here was the layering of outerwear, which while it looks great for the runway, seems pretty impractical for the real world.
It is as if designers this season are too concerned with retail-appeal, so much so, that they compromise their extraordinary visions. Altuzarra is a master of his craft, and one to constantly watch. It really is a shame to see a designer elevate himself to such a profound level and then watch him fall.
Rag & Bone had a strong outing with intriguing takes on aviation and English menswear paired with bold textures and pops of color. The duo best succeeded when injecting their takes on masculine silhouettes with sophisticated sporty elements, a Rag & Bone signature.
Jason Wu channeled his young Park Avenue client (contradiction, perhaps?) and injected luxurious fabrics and furs into his modern sportswear. The designer stated that he was starting to grow-up and mature with his designs, Stephanie Seymour sitting front row did all but cement this notion; however, one couldn’t help but feel a little tired when watching Wu’s broad-shouldered warriors walk down the runway. Wu needs to learn how to progress his designs, but not lose that youth factor that has made some of his previous collections so cool and memorable. Highlights from this season include crisp white oxfords with oversized collars buttoned-up so high that they nearly skim the chin and creative takes on the parka, complete with mink patch pockets. Wu succeeds when he combines his affinity for luxury with practicality, but too often he pushes too hard. Restraint can be a powerful tool to exercise, and one that would surely clean his collections up a bit.
Presentations seem to be the trend this season, especially from mass retailers. J Brand, showing for their first time, was surprisingly one of the best shows yet. The denim label stepped up their game and range this season utilizing impeccable tailoring techniques and new fabric innovation. Bonded leathers were used to create of-the-moment tops, tailored pants, and beautiful outwear. Shaved shearling was manipulated into the standout piece, a boxy and slightly bulky riff on the motorcycle jacket. Luxury is shifting, and it’s nice to see a mass retailer comprehend it.
Thank God we have Prabal and Alex Wang to look forward to this afternoon, as well as the best of the best yet to come.
Where do I begin? In a year of truly standout collections from New York it seems nearly impossible to nominate only three designers in each category of the CFDA and Swarovski annual awards. Nonetheless, this year’s nominations seems to be dead-on with the exception of the standout category of Womenswear Designer of the Year, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Let’s start with the award announcements, shall we?
Each year, five standout and honorary categories are announced as opposed to being assigned nominees: The Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award, The Media Award, The Founders Award, The International Award, and the Board of Director’s Tribute Award. This year all five recipients more than deserved their honors with highlights including that of Ricardo Tisci, Tim Blanks, and Oscar de la Renta.
Tisci has been at the top of the industry for a few years now combining his affinity for religion and purity with his obsessions for detail and gothicism. Tisci meticulously creates the most subversive, cool, and standout looks season after season so it is only fitting that he be awarded the International Award for his brilliant work at Givenchy.
A true love of mine is reading fashion criticism mere hours after the world has taken in designers’ visions for the coming seasons. With the internet taking charge and truly transforming our industry, it is rare for one organization to standout and be as vital and influential as Style.com/. Leading the way of review for this site is the visionary mind of Tim Blanks. Blanks’ words are vivid, poetic, revered, and always spot on. Not only is Blanks a fashion revelation, but a mastermind in that of pop-culture, history, and the arts. This Media Award was a long-time coming.
Oscar de la Renta needs no introduction. Even though he truly had his hey-day in the 80’s, ODLR has managed to stay relevant and an important industry fix, especially in New York. De la Renta’s work is precise, elegant, and always mesmerizing, but more importantly, his precision and careful eye to detail make him stand above the rest, and after 30 years later. No easy feat indeed.
Swarovski Awards are for the up-and-coming talent in NYC, which in my mind can be just as important and interesting as those in the “big-leagues”. I think it will be no surprise when Jen Meyer takes home the award for accessories. Her rapid reach and frequency in the media and on the bodies of celebrities around the world will without a doubt cement her this honor. Menswear will most-likely go to Public School, but let’s get to the Womenswear shall we? This will be a close race between SUNO, Creatures of The Wind, and Cushnie et Ochs. My guess is that Creatures will take home the prize after two spectacular seasons this previous Spring and Fall. Suno will be the close second for their growth and progression over the course of the year.
Now to the real excitement. The three big awards. Menswear Designer of the year will be close, but my inclinations are telling me that Thom Browne will be victorious, with Bastian as a close second. Accessories Designer of The Year will most likely be between Proenza Schouler’s Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough and Alex Wang. This will be one of the closest races of the night come June. Wang’s Spring assortments including those stunning cut-out boots in black, white, and glow-in-the-dark will be hard to beat. Pair that with his textural take on Fall with the revamp of his ever-so-popular Alla wedge will give Proenza a true run for their money. In the arena of handbags Proenza most assuredly wins, and how can one forget the snakeskin and bonded perforated leathers for Spring? Not to mention their absolute perfectly minimal shoes for Fall? This one is probably too close to call, but I’m thinking Wang may inch out over P.Schou come June.
Now for the big award of the night: Womenswear Designer of the Year. This year it is dominated by three of the most known and recognizable designers in NYC: Marc Jacobs, Alex Wang, and Proenza. In my opinion, I can easily see why Proenza was nominated. Their clever, intricate, and innovative collection for Spring was great, but Fall may be the duo’s best collection yet. Their fabric innovation alone makes them worthy of this nomination year after year, but Fall’s restraint and minimal facade really elevated them this year. Marc was great this Spring (the best I’ve seen him in years) but Fall felt irrelevant and blase. Wang was incredible for Spring. His suspension technique was astounding as were his textural accomplishments come Fall. But once can’t help but feel that a few honorable mentions were missing, and possibly got overshadowed by the bigger brands this year.
Most notably missing from the list is Narciso Rodriquez, who truly took his brand to new heights with controlled, precise, alluring and progressive outings for both Spring and Fall, not to mention Pre-Fall as well. It’s sad to see a designer finally reach his full potential and not be rewarded for it due to other brands recognition and star-power. Also missing from the nominations was Altuzarra, whose Fall collection was more than disappointing, but whose Spring collection was one of the global standouts this year. That collection alone deserved a nomination, if not an award, and it’s a shame to see someone beat him out based upon name-recognition and celebrity. Nonetheless though, these are the nominations. I can only hope that Proenza wins for Womenswear this year, if not then hopefully the technical craft and skill of Alex Wang will prevail.
Then again, we could be surprised. The CFDA have been keeping us on our toes this year with The Elder Statesman winning the CFDa/Vogue Fashion Fund, who says that the shock should be suspended come June? Until then…