New York Fashion Week: Designers return to their roots for a weekend of strong shows
To thine own self be true, Shakespeare writes in Hamlet, and, half way through the New York current New York catwalk season, designers are certainly heeding the Immortal Bard’s advice.
Creators here in American have concentrated on respecting their own private DNA, and going back to the roots of their brand and the result is one of the strongest seasons in many years. And while the weather has been muggy, dank and wet, the clothes are generally hyper bright and colorful, in a season where multi-ethnic casts were the rule.
Being faithful to one’s origins has been true about long-standing brands or fledgling fashion houses. A good example being Kate Spade, where the house staged its first collection since the tragic death of the founder last June. The show, held inside the New York Public Library, also marked the debut of new creative director Nicola Glass, who succeeded Deborah Lloyd.
Composed of a series of charming, candy-colored prints, and coherent forgiving silhouettes, all softly illuminated by film lighting balloons.
The show’s leitmotif was the light-handed use of Kate Spade’s noted spade-shaped logo, seen in perfectly judged summer frocks; fluid silk dresses or mid-thigh skirts and a marvelous Alpine prairie flower trench coat. When Glass did finally send out a mono-color look it was a sensational deep lilac silk wrap dress with matching skullcap, boots and logo clutch worn by a black model.
Pre-show, Glass explained to editors that she was struck in the wake of the founder’s death by how much nostalgia there was for the brand. So, she wanted to focus on the house’s foundations and color scheme, though carefully avoiding any sense of vintage. Contemporary clothes for busy modern women, or the Neighborhood Girls heard about in the main song in the show’s soundtrack, Suzanne Vega.
New York Fashion Week really needed a fashion moment, and in a drenched cemetery in the Lower East Side it got one in a brilliant show by Los Angeles-based fashion house Rodarte.
Staged in the NYC Marble Cemetery, a little-known yet beautiful verdant space, with early 19th century tombs, headstones, vaults and plinths. Adding to the atmosphere, the rain fell steadily throughout, as the cast marched solemnly in semi-transparent, multi-layered fantasy dresses; or gravity defying, mega-ruffled metallic leather gowns; or dense yards of puckered chiffon. Many finished with Spanish lace mantillas, decorated with scores of fabric flowers or real roses.
Ethereal eccentricity or dark beauty rarely has the genius of the house’s founders and rarely has the work of design duo Kate and Laura Mulleavy seemed more beautiful.
In a completely different register, Christian Cowan pulled off a great show at Spring Studios, the main runway space of the season in Tribeca.
With Christina Aguilera in the front row, Cowan sent out a great rock-star, street couture collection; from a silver-surfer sequined mini cocktail finished with a black hoodie top, upon which was written Christian Cowan SS19, to the checkered flag jumpsuits or the fantastic emerald green, metallic-link, slashed-at-the-side cocktails. Though the standout look was the golden zebra sequined party-gal cocktail combined with a mini black leather bomber jacket finished with sleeves encrusted with scores of gold watches and wristbands. Everything anchored by a first-rate collaboration with Italian shoe designer Giuseppe Zanotti, who sent over metallic fantasy high heels with goddess-like feathers. Reminiscent of the glory years of Gianni Versace, quite frankly. Come to think of it, the next time the question comes up about whom might one day succeed Donatella, the answer is obvious. Christian Cowan certainly has the design chops.
The latest new downtown designer favorite in Manhattan is Jonathan Cohen, a creator born in San Diego to Mexican parents, who is a finalist in this year’s CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award.
Blessed with a subtle eye, a gift for the theatrical and a love of performance art, Cohen staged a rather brilliant wee fashion show Thursday evening in downtown gallery on the Bowery.
Barely a hundreds souls packed into the raw space, as a short, intense downpour descended outside on another draining day in New York.
Inside, a marvelous string quartet called Sterling Strings, made up of four black professionally trained classical musicians played dramatic versions of famous pop and rock songs, as a cast of some 15 models paraded about.
“I was inspired by four of my favorite musicians and bands: The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Lauryn Hill and Kate Bush,” explained the lightly bearded Cohen, who even printed lyrics from his musical heroes on dirndl skirts and frocks.
Cohen develops his own fabrics – notable in some marvelous blotch petal silk dresses; and also showed clever gray chalk stripe mannish blazers and some marvelous shirt dresses, weekend looks for an Indie musician at ease. Cohen staying true to his aesthetic concept, like all the best designers in Manhattan this season.
And, to complete Polonius’ famous quote from Hamlet:
And it must follow, as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
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