With the industry working hard to define the next generation of American designers, Richard Chai is a label many have been expecting. After five years as Marc Jacobs’ design director and two years at the helm of TSE, Chai finally felt ready to start his own womenswear line, which he debuts this weekend in the Bryant Park tents. Previewing his collection for JC Report in his sprawling Tribeca atelier, the signs show that Chai is entering the business with big plans and on “very personal terms,” he explains. Buoyed by the success of his final TSE collection, which found his pieces on everyone from Kate Hudson to Oprah to the cast of Sex and the City, Chai’s debut collection is a fusing of cool femininity and urban practicality that he hopes will have equally broad appeal. Look for a play with structure and fluidity, where dressmaker fabrics offset hard tailoring in pants and jackets, further softened by skirts and tops of silk georgette, satin, and cotton. Comparisons to his former employers will undoubtedly crop up, but what we can expect is a design language steeped in ideas the designer has been itching to show on his terms.
Brother Eddy’s route into fashion via graphic design was decidedly less direct — but as co-owner of Odin New York, a two-week-old East Village menswear lifestyle store — he’s making his own impression on the industry. “The East Village needs it, there only seems to be vintage clothes for men here,” says Eddy. And his very clear designs on what he believes men of the East Village and New York need doesn’t involve clobbering them over the head with fashion. The masculine lifestyle that Chai proposes is a fine line between the wearable and the fashionable, and the result is an eclectic mix of elite sportswear brands (Unis, Nice Collective, Salvage, Penguin}, hard to find colognes and skincare lines (Korres skin, Beth Terry, and Sharps) and lifestyle accessories (Ross Menuez animal shaped pillows, Hurley sunglasses, and Kenzo Mirami watches) among a host of other little surprises throughout the clubby store interior.
The Chai tree grows new branches this fall.
Photos: Odin New York
Richard Chai spring 2005