New York Fashion Week has seen passing trends in the past few years, but this season’s mostly restrained propositions heralded a return to straightforward American fashion that’s less about making a statement and more about functionable clothes. As such, New York’s autumn/winter ’10-’11 style vision is about moving forward by taking a few steps backwards.
Marc Jacobs distilled his experimental, statement-making ways into simple, yet utterly beautiful wares. Having already built an empire conflating ideas, decades and references into cool American sportswear, Jacobs sent down easy A-line wool skirts and dresses, coats with sloping lapels and large buttons as well as serious three piece power suits. He hit on important trends of the season such as beige and grey colors, fur (as accents to many of his coats and bags) and velvet (in trousers, skirts and floor length gowns).
Ohne Titel was also in a pared down mood, resulting in a modern combination of commerce and creativity. Although trousers, military jackets and coats were relatively more wearable last season, there were unique flourishes such as silk dress made from different, randomly arranged materials and swingy dresses made from power netting. The duo behind the label, Alexa Adams and Flora Gill, also produced some of the most covetable accessories this season with geometrically paneled leggings and wide leather belts.
While Adams and Gill used leather as accents, Joseph Altuzarra used the material to make a loud and sexy statement. Leather dresses, pencil skirts and body suits evoked Catwoman with panels that seemed to be sutured together. Altuzarra’s fall collection is a departure from the softer, feminine wares of last season, but it is certainly a welcome shift judging by Carine Roitfeld’s approving nod by show’s end. Alexander Wang also recieved kudos for reworking the pinstripe suit into mini dresses with lace, long skirts featuring geometric, peek-a-boo cutouts (a huge trend this season) near the waists as well as tailored cropped tops. Nonetheless, the enterprising designer—whose business is already worth $25 million—had less than favorable responses overall.
Thakoon, meanwhile, presented a winning combination of voluminous fur, luxe wool and textured fabrics in carefully arranged layers for each eye-catching outfit. The beauty of this collection lies in Thakoon’s skill at making layers—an important trend when not overdone—look effortless. This dexterity marks his return to top form after an erratic last season.
After years at Bill Blass, Nepal-born Prabal Gurung proved that his aesthetically accessible take on high-end womenswear needs to be taken seriously by the gatekeepers of fashion. This coveted acceptance was also sought after by Victoria Beckham, who produced glamorous clothes that stand on their own merit rather than relying on her celebrity status.
After several seasons absent from the fashion scene, Pheobe Philo’s return to Celine was certainly welcomed by fashion folks last season in Paris. Philo has a way of designing what women want at a given moment, providing utterly chic and modern wares for her loyal customers. And, as Cathy Horyn pointed out in a recent New York Times article: “behind every good collection is Phoebe Philo.” Even designers such as Phillip Lim, Reed Krakoff and Derek Lam came a tad too aesthetically close to Celine’s spring/summer ’10 outing, hinting at percolating trends toward a straightforward, frippery-free manner of dressing.
The Olsen twins’s tightly edited collection for The Row was uncomplicated yet irresistibly hip—keeping in tune with this minimal design spirit. Marios Schwab, meanwhile, gave Halston’s signature draping a decidedly younger luster, and Matthew Ames used leather and soft colors to anchor voluptuous silhouettes.
Some designers, however, simply stuck to what they know best. Sophie Theallet didn’t veer away from the reliable femininity that helped her clinch the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, while Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein used form and materials to convey his sculptural turn. Proenza Schouler’s J Brand collaboration yielded painted graphic jeans, which, along with updated American classics such as bomber jackets, toggle coats and cocktail dresses, have sustained the brand’s desirable status among the hip, deep-pocketed set.
American style can mean many things to many people, but New York Fashion Week’s varied new look is both grounded in its past and compelled by its future.