New York Fashion Week Review: American Sportswear Updates

At New York Fashion Week, designers eagerly sought to define the aesthetic direction of the autumn/winter ’11 season collections. Although we’re bound to see a variety of diverging stylistic directions at the subsequent London, Paris and Milan showings, New York set the sartorial stage with reinterpretations of quintessential American sportswear. And the results were as diverse as they are appealingly practical.

Designers adopted dramatic hemline lengths to dictate a departure from skinny minis, a trend that was echoed on the city streets with skirts ranging from urban romantic (long and languid over sturdy boots) to sweetly feminine (ankle length chiffon). Mandy Coon featured a floor sweeping iteration in black, Gregory Parkinson adorned his in dizzying prints, Y-3 channeled Yohji Yamamoto’s ’80s-era fullness and Thom Browne‘s eccentric collection yielded bold skirts in bulbous shapes and graphic, geometric layers. While Browne heavily translated his menswear approach into this womenswear outing, other designers translated the equally androgynous, fashionably disheveled looks of early ’90s grunge. Richard Chai‘s contemporary line Love featured long and lean skirts paired with slouchy tops, Jeremy Laing‘s floor-length chiffons seemed slightly worn-in and Band of Outsiders layered skirts over additional skirts as well as trousers. Marc Jacobs, who was famously fired from Perry Ellis for promoting the grunge look in the early ’90s, interpreted the long skirt trend with a high-wasted, lean and conservatively cut silhouette.

Dresses also took some cues from this prim approach to skirts, but for the most part cultivated a separate stylistic message. Prabal Gurung’s devil may care take on glamour produced washed silk dresses with worn-in appeal, while Erin Fetherston’s new contemporary line, Erin, is designed to ensure that her sweet dresses are available in more closets. Victoria Beckham, on the other hand, is sticking to her upmakret clientele, which this season will have some beautiful, minimally rendered marigold and red dresses that are perfect for red carpet and cocktail affairs. Kevork Kiledjian also had sexy short frocks with fringes in velvet and leather, while Jason Wu produced polished dresses perfect for conservative formal dinners and red carpet flashbulb glamour.

By contrast, American outerwear also received serious attention this season. Alexander Wang worked tough looking jackets into cape-like proportions and placed padded panels into jackets, a technique that was prevalent throughout many collections. Rad Hourani, who has been forging an androgynous look with severe geometry, loosened up his lines to produce delightfully angular coats with wide lapels, while Altuzarra paired utilitarian parkas with floral printed skirts and slip dresses. Moncler Grenoble‘s flash mob presentation at Grand Central Station, meanwhile, gave slope-ready apparel a decidedly urban appeal. Elsewhere, Rodarte‘s long, quilt-like coats had a quiet elegance, Reed Krakoff modernized the toggle coat, Calvin Klein distended overcoat shapes and 3.1 Phillip Lim featured some cool lapels (one of which looked like a bow).

Rag & Bone‘s winterwear begged to be noticed, but the label’s mixture of bright blue and orange into several paneled pieces was the most visually compelling. Similarly, Suno told a high contrast color story with grandma-chic designs in artfully mismatched fabrics that will be utterly irresistible to in-the-know urbanites. Edun’s abstract prints in rich saturated colors exceeded its humble sustainability-based roots, and Thakoon’s use of bright Masai plaids (a big trend this season) in a belted jacket and dresses was a perfect fit for city slickers. Proenza Schouler, however, created digitally rendered Navajo prints to make beautiful patterns that showed up on many of its achingly cool, yet luxe pieces. Preen dabbled in prints too, exploring a cubic theme that proved most winning in knits.

Libertine, which has been on hiatus, is back with tailored suiting that was splashed with shocking, electric hues like blue and pink. By contrast, ever-present Ralph Lauren turned out masculine trousers, suits and pinstripe workwear pieces, which exuded the inherent utility at the heart of American fashion. Narciso Rodriguez, meanwhile, lent his predilection for taut, architectural dresses to mannish jacket and coats.

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