Behind the glitz and glamour, the founding purpose of New York Fashion Week is to sell designs to buyers. But with designers parading the most practical, rational collections of recent memory down runways last season, this intention seemed to eclipse everything else. Fortunately spring/summer ’10 seems to offer excitement again, although the question still remains: how will designers sell the clothes, and how will the consumers pay for them? “All you really need is passion and a point of view,” Lazaro Hernandez, one half of the design team at Proenza Schouler, optimistically argued at a seminar on the future of fashion at Milk Studios during the last day of New York Fashion Week. With this is mind, JC Report lists the ten best New York collections of the season, all of which defy a temporary economic environment in favor of enduring aesthetic appeal that’s also functional.
Joseph Altuzarra’s presentation last season was an intimate affair among industry insiders, including Carine Roitfeld of French Vogue. But this season, the Swarthmore educated and Givenchy trained designer saw his star power grow among the young Hollywood elite, which included having Leighton Meester and Rachel McAdams sitting front row at his presentation. Most designers try to marry European sensibility with New York practicality, but more often than not this approach falls flat. Altuzarra’s work for s/s ’10, by contrast, is pitch perfect. As one of the best presenters at New York Fashion week, he offered patchworks of luxe eyelet fabric with silk, gathered suede skirts (which Roitfeld would love) and flirty dresses that had assymetrical hems. Unlike his peers, the shy Altuzarra is relatively quiet in the media—fortunately for him, he packs enough talent that his work does all the talking.
Hervé Léger by Max Azria
While we understand the easy currency of a fitted, banded dress, after the one thousandth viewing, Hervé Léger by Max Azria’s go-to status for modern sexy had lost appeal. Fortunately, the brand bounced back to life with the s/s ’10 collection, which evolved beyond its one-trick pony status. The banded dress picked up new features such as braided denim and crochet, while much of the collection appeared in soft neutral tones and black, which will have women (including hardcore fashionistas) dashing to score their fitted dress of the season.
Oscar de la Renta
In some circles Oscar de la Renta is known as the godfather of American fashion. While our tastes lean to the more progressive side, it was hard to ignore the drop-dead chic of De la Renta’s s/s ’10 collection: daytime safari jackets paired with pencil pants, off the shoulder nautical knits and culottes or criss-cross bib front dresses rendered in a to-die-for palette of jewel tones, sand and graphic black-and-white. Let’s just say, when it’s good, it’s good.
Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, the duo behind Proenza Schouler, showed a youthful collection brimming with optimism. The label, which in recent seasons took more experimental turns, returned to its past glory with a collection that conjured up pieces every well-moneyed cool girl could want. There were colorful short dresses with the label’s signature breast cup shape, fun tye-dye tight shirts, mini skirts with metallic, lace and marabou embelishments as well as a series of beautiful printed silk shifts with blockbuster sell through potential.
Marc by Marc Jacobs
One of Marc Jacobs’ best skills is his ability to capture the zeitgeist with a masterful mix of divergent references that seamlessly coalesce in each collection. Jacobs’ recent s/s ’10 collection harnessed an infectiously vibrant energy seen in African prints and bright colors on large voluminous skirts, onesies, rolled up trousers and flirty dresses with tiered skirts. There were also pieces from the early ’90s such as slouchy knitted sweaters and oversize electric yellow t-shirts with zebra prints that make fantastic daywear staples for young fashion folks. Though Marc by Marc Jacobs hinted at the brand’s collection line, the retail friendly and less convoluted interpretations earned more points.
Donna Karan also returned to the functional, yet utterly feminine fashion beat that her multi-national company is built on. She’s already known to flatter women’s curves and accentuate all the best parts without being too overtly sexy, so naturally the latest collection featured gorgeous body-hugging jersey dresses. The pieces showed off the shoulder (the most beautiful part of woman’s body according to Karan’s aesthetic) with drapey tops that had a Kimono vibe, which allows for a shoulder cover up thanks to asymmetrical sleeves and buttonless jackets with clever crinkled ruching. With this outing, Karan reminded us why she’s a true Seventh Avenue stalwart.
Sophie Theallet’s shows are always attended by power industry players who are never disappointed by the French, Brooklyn-based designer. For ladies who are more concerned with looking classic rather than trendy, it doesn’t get any better than Theallet’s unforced feminine offerings. For s/s ’10, Theallet served up easy cotton dress shifts with drawstrings that slightly tug at the waist, silk tops with biased cut shoulders and chic cotton wrap dresses with a deep neckline and puffy sleeves. Though rudimentary in theory, these pieces easily fill a wardrobe and are made with precision and luxurious fabrics.
Geometry isn’t the sexiest of references, but Jeremy Laing used the subject as a starting point for his technically sound collection. The visually appealing grouping rid the staid topic of its nerdy connotations, but employed its structure to effective ends. There was striking perspective on draped dresses, panelling on taut pants that added a visual lift on one’s height and sharp jackets that were at once fashion forward and wearable. But Laing also used soft fabrics to counter the rigidity of his lines with drapey dresses that appeared to be just put on the body, cropped tops and a gorgeous black lace dress with a nude under layer. Though Laing has been showing for a few seasons now, this is easily a break-out collection that will take him to new heights.
There was electricity in the room at Rad Hourani’s collection as one giant model after another took to the runway in skinny black, white and metal unisex combinations. It easily could have been one of Hourani’s past collections, but instead the s/s ’10 style worked in the designer’s favor, helping to clarify his lazer sharp focus on a new modern uniform. We liken his approach to the original Helmut Lang and are closely watching his brand’s evolution.
The consummate underdog, Phi may not get all the love that it deserves, but with Andreas Melbostad at the helm, the label has turned out stellar collections season after season. Naturally, s/s ’10 is no different. Continuing in the tough girl chic, bodycon vein, Melbostad kept us riveted with banded leggings, some of which sported plaiting up the sides, re-worked military buckle details wrapping the waist of corset-like fitted tops, dressed up by loose fitting and cropped blazers. Phi’s collection featured tons of ideas that will no doubt inspire many others for the coming seasons.
—Jason Campbell, Robert Cordero, Michael Miller