Marc Jacobs has been stirring darkness and volume in his fashion cauldron for the last three seasons. This autumn, the designer turned sartorial alchemist, setting the season’s mood of dark romance and confident opulence with remarkable proportions. For his main line, Jacobs dressed models to look like wealthy homeless shelter runaways, wrapping them in layers of fur, silk, and lace, and topping their ensembles with trench coats. But what enthralled was Jacobs’ clever juxtaposition of unusual materials — plaid wools paired with fur; huge velvet blouses and dresses (some in animal prints) styled with billowy wool pants; a metallic transparent blouse with a velvet skirt; and a sizeable nylon cowl-neck top with a sequined, black pencil skirt. At Marc by Marc Jacobs, dresses worn over striped shirts and baggy trousers with ’90s-raver-type proportions casually captured the spirit of disaffected adolescence, as did the Aeon Flux-looking damsel with the enlarged, black-nylon collar at Miss Sixty. In his first New York showing, Karl Lagerfeld‘s much-hyped collection championed layering and volume in black and murky colors with furs running along seams and cuffs. The bulky, seemingly random bunching of fabrics at the waist and cleavage wasn’t flattering, however, and seemed a little too challenging for New York. Zac Posen‘s strong presentation showed off rigid shoulders, bubble skirts, and awesome, spatially commanding ball gowns rooted in the ’80s. His was one of the strongest shows of the season and demonstrated the designer’s growing strength.
Even the usually sober Richard Chai went for proportional experiments this season, though not always successfully — the bulky waistlines on many of his skirts were unappealing. Luckily, Chai’s pleated dresses with roping, and coats and jackets with listless gathers, were winners. The sculptural constructions at Naum commanded attention with Amazonian proportions that surprisingly had sex appeal. Naum’s pleated gabardine pants, cut to perfection, and their crepe suits are two of the season’s most coveted looks. Technologically advanced fabrics with temperature control systems allowed Naum’s long wool and Lycra skirts to move effortlessly, while baggy, slouchy trousers hit on a trend seen among several other designers. Marc Jacobs had similar pants in brown; Derek Lam showed gunmetal-gray pants that were sparkled with gold; Doo.Ri‘s trousers were supremely airy; and the full gabardine trousers at Zaldy — New York’s most underrated designer — appeared almost liquid. Vera Wang‘s Mark Rothko-influenced collection delivered her signature pretty dresses in color-blocked earth tones, with an exploration of masculine fabrics giving way to voluptuous proportions. Doo.Ri’s tailoring turned wool meltons and plaids into cute, puffy bolero jackets and skirts that glided serenely. In stark contrast, Boudicca‘s strict lines, wonderfully captured in a pleated and outsized "high gloss tutu," gave the week a magnificent dose of rigidity. Belts counterbalanced these grand proportions and reigned in the bulk. The nipped in waists we started to see this spring exploded for fall. From obi-style bands at Donna Karan, to kicky renditions at Brian Reyes and Zaldy — where vinyl belts cinched only the front of the dress, leaving the back hanging — belts appeared aplenty.
Another big trend we saw for fall was ornate decoration — can you say Prada? Usually following the less-is-more mantra, Narciso Rodriguez refreshingly ventured toward the decorative with shimmering plastic adornments on his knee-length dresses. Francisco Costa at Calvin Klein reprised his ode to airiness with languid chiffon layering embellished with parallelogram tire marks, while skirts made of sturdier materials — jacquards and brocades — took on a hip allure at Rachel Comey. Behnaz Sarafpour‘s last three looks of full-skirted party frocks were fanciful in rich, lustrous velvets, and, in general, a dressed-up air peppered countless collections including those of Peter Som, Ruffian, Verrier, Nanette Lepore, Hollywould, and, most notably, Proenza Schouler. The boys at Proenza Schouler beautifully paneled the luxe fabric in above-the-knee, long-sleeved dresses, while purple velvet trousers were paired with tops that had lustrous metallic embellishments. The ornate pièces de résistance, however, were found at Thakoon, where a crocheted black singlet dress was shown, along with a full skirt worn with an ivory wool jacket with cutout flower petals.
A number of new and up-and-coming designers also bravely made their mark. Among the first to show was Jasmin Shokrian, who pushed the envelope with cerebral and promising ideas — unconventional ruching and seaming that produced random, distended puffs on satin and silk tops and dresses — but, in the end, the production of her garments suffered. VPL played with sizable shapes, captured nicely in a jacket fashioned from ballerina slippers, while Nathan Jenden‘s prodigious agenda was evident in dresses and tops with enormous puffy sleeves. Costello Tagliapietra stubbornly stuck to drapey jersey frocks in muddy colors, and Jeremy Laing used black wool meltons in skillfully tailored long jackets (with a slight bustle) that seemed to liquefy towards the ground. Straightforward prettiness also resonated among fashion’s young ones. Rounded sleeves and soft, oversized ribbons were seen at 3.1 Phillip Lim — an incredibly promising line that’s in the spirit of Chloé — and the crepe de chine dresses with lingonberry prints at Vena Cava were delightful. With no formal training, the Rodarte sister act showed tightly packaged, botanically inspired looks with meticulous, couture-like handiwork that were across-the-board hits. Brian Reyes toyed with sexy, tulip-shaped skirts, but the pervasiveness of sheer chiffon, despite some lovely looks, seemed ill-timed.
Reyes may be touted as "Oscar lite," but with de la Renta himself in consistent fighting form, it may be some time before Reyes can fill that spot. For Oscar De La Renta‘s celebrities, politicians, and Park Avenue beauties, there were chinchilla furs, brocaded and bubbled satin skirts, and a series of wonderfully embellished black cocktail dresses. At Tuleh, Bryan Bradley sent out put-together models in full-bodied, curly hair and deeply pigmented lips. Featuring tied at the neck printed dresses, formal column dresses, a Prince of Wales suit with a bow at the waist, a red satin coat, and fur jackets accented with rotund sleeves and large rosettes, it was a collection that punctuated the formality seen in several collections this season. With prim femininity and a nod to her Filipino roots, Monique Lhuillier captivated her Tinseltown glamour-pusses with a grandiose black Maria Clara-esque gown. Michael Volbracht mined Bill Blass‘ archives, which explains the solid suits and proper gowns that Blass himself might have done. Carolina Herrera, who appears to have found new energy in her line the last couple of seasons, used a bold color story, ending her show with a fuchsia bodice atop a voluminous, red, floral-printed ball skirt. And who could forget Ralph Lauren, another American institution who has been consistently on the money. For fall, hunting was his inspiration, with jodhpurs, layered plaid swing skirts, nipped jackets, and voluminous pants rounding out his look for the season.
Considered the city at the center of the world, New York fashion designers often experiment with ideas that are circling the globe, but their success or failure is ultimately determined by the masses. Let’s wait and see how some of the fashion forward suggestions seen in their a/w ’06-’07 lines play out come fall. As for the safer, tried-and-true clothes that many designers were showing, well, that’s just the New York state of mind.
-Robert Cordero and Jason Campbell
Marc Jacobs a/w ’06-’07
Marc by Marc Jacobs a/w ’06-’07
Naum a/w ’06-’07
Vera Wang a/w ’06-’07
Narcisco Rodriguez a/w ’06-’07
Behnaz Sarafpour a/w ’06-’07
Thakoon a/w ’06-’07
Ralph Lauren a/w ’06-’07
Boudicca a/w ’06-’07