New York fashion's elegiac moment
The key word that kept on of throughout the New York season was Me Too. The founder of this movement against sexual abuse and assault Tarana Burke even sat front-row at one show, Prabal Gurung.
Though it was designers who didn’t overtly mention Me Too who best captured one of the results of this new heightened consciousness. Their response: an elegiac mood of gentility through elegant and protective fashion.
Nowhere was that better expressed than in a great show by The Row, in a collaboration with a legendary Japanese-American sculptor. Models walked past 13 works by Isamu Noguchi, who was noted for his close friendships with non-conformist women of the first half of the 20th century: Martha Graham, Berenice Abbott and Frida Kahlo to name a few.
The result was a series of sculptural clothes; elegant coats that shielded the models as much as dressed them. Their twisting forms, where swathes of fabric wrapped, undulated and curved around the torso, echoing the galvanized steel and bronze plate statues in The Row’s West Village headquarters. The look was regal and refined. Visually it also said no one should even dream about harassing these women or suggesting they are not the equal of men. The key goal of Time’s Up, the movement founded in Hollywood on Jan. 1, 2018 which has already raised $20 million for a legal defense fund of women who have been assaulted in the workplace.
A fellow lady designer, Victoria Beckham, kept it elegant yet also sporty. And functional – seeing as many models wore leggings and men’s shoes – just like in The Row.
Beckham’s selection of double-layer trench coats of boiled diagonal wool; military coat-dresses; and dropped shouldered men’s coats in Joseph Beuys-style felt all suggested a patrician yet practical sense. Perfect statements of contemporary urban sophistication, which also underline the demand for gender parity in any career.
That sense of polish was also apparent at Jason Wu. His languid and shimmering pajamas, whose tops extended below the knee; crushed Fortuny plissé coats and Swarovski crystal prairie flower encrusted gala dresses all suggested class, finesse and a sense that this lady would only expect the most civilized behavior.
The ladylike mood extended into Brooklyn, where Adam Lippes presented his latest ideas over Hibiscus flower tea and scones at breakfast inside his beautiful neo-classical apartment with views over New York harbor. Inspired by Scotland, even though Lippes has never visited north of Hadrian’s Wall, the mix of beautifully soft Paisleys and tweeds, breaking new ground by bonding the latter with lace, taking Scottish mills into new territory.
Posed amongst the designer’s antiques and architectural models of Ancient Rome, it was the epitome of modern fashion understatement.
Not that this season’s woman is anything less than self-assertive. That was clear in the New York’s traditional finale – the Marc Jacobs show, where a sense of grandeur was apparent in the over-sized silhouettes, an homage to mid-career Yves Saint Laurent, with swirling capes, cacti-shaped bows and massive puff sleeves. The Eighties when women first began appearing as the protagonists and professional stars of drama TV series and power shoulders – which dominated this collection – were born.
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