New York delivers a memorable season celebrating the return of optimism
In an America dominated by angry tweets and conflict, designers produced one of the most memorable NYC seasons in living memory with optimism and elegance and positivity.
New York fashion week celebrated civility and class this season, with runways that were populated with polished, exaggeratedly ladylike clothes.
While the season’s casts have never been more diverse – multi-ethnic selections of models, as designers pointedly picked performers from wide ranging cultures. No walls anywhere.
And, while designers never really mentioned Donald Trump’s name throughout the season, the rarefied and elegant clothes often felt like a counterblast to the president’s coarse discourse and caustic speeches.
Polite and polished fashion
Several key designers emphasized hyper-polite fashion, rarefied clothes that seemed designed for supremely ladylike clients. Take the Mulleavy sisters at Rodarte, who embroidered most of their cast's heads in fabric and real flowers; and dressed everyone in hyper-refined, ethereal and gauzy evening dresses. Or consider Marc Jacobs, with his over-sized gowns and glamorous 1950s puffy dresses. All very coiffed. And don’t forget Tory Burch, whose choice of Amish dresses and lightweight versions of the djellaba were inspired by her mother Reva, a very refined lady who taught her daughter to love foreign and exotic cultures. While Jason Wu added a touch of gravitas, with some beautiful chalk stripe evening gowns.
From the moment Ralph Lauren took his bow at his 50th anniversary show, with two mixed-race pre-teens with huge dreadlocks on either arm, the NYC season was all about respect for different races. His collection, a brilliant revamp of his canon – preppy chic, Old English elegance, cowboy cool, Four Corners funky and natty Navajo – worn on models from a multiplicity of cultures.
Or Brandon Maxwell, who managed to marry the diverse with the refined. Take his stand-out look, a grand kissing pink faille gown worn with a matching trucker jacket by model Imaan Hammam, the Dutch beauty of Egyptian and Moroccan descent, and cover star of Vogue Arabia.
Michael Kors said it best: there was a huge casualization of eveningwear and, in the opposite direction, a glamorization of casual clothes. Seen most prominently in Kors' own collection with glimmering emerald and gold jacquards made into beachfront picnic dresses and not grand gowns. Or in a brilliant display by Proenza Schouler in their return to NYC, with an entire collection of rather dressed-up clothes ideal for an art gallery opening, yet practically all composed of Japanese denim or cotton.
Athleisure still present
Athleisure has never gone away, and this season could be alternatively funky, fanciful and grand. Like at Christian Cowan; where in a brilliant display, he sent out triple-layer baseball caps worn over sizzling little black velvet dresses, worn unexpectedly with silver Pinball Wizard platform boots and fanny packs done in green zebra stripes.
And it was telling that Boss even sent out a whole series of tracksuit pants with wide side stripes. That said this was a less than convincing collection, in the oddest color palette of New York, led by endless garments in deeply unflattering burgundies.
A rare duff note in a season of otherwise great distinction.
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