Although the recent New York Fashion Week was a decidedly calm affair, the runways were teeming with frenetic colors, active experiments, dramatic fantasies and no-nonsense, American-style sportswear. The range of trends offered a promising horizon for spring/summer ’12, an optimistic outlook fit for every style and disposition.
Whisking our imaginations to lofty new levels, a fantastical narrative permeated many of the runway shows. Thom Browne, whose presentations are already notorious spectacles, used a surreal 1920s tableau of an all-girl social gathering to underpin his presentation of whimsical, menswear-inspired outfits. Similarly, Marc Jacobs, who showed on the last slot of fashion week, showed off his boundless creativity with hyper-realistic embellishments like shards of colorful plastics as trims, metallic surfaces as panels and cellophane-like encasings on skirts. While Jacobs was drawn to the superficial, other labels like The Row, Ralph Lauren, Gregory Parkinson and even Bebe (with Emanuel Ungaro vet Charles Benton as design consultant) seemed enamored by the ethereality of white.
Although white once again reigned as the season’s most prominent color statement (or subtle lack thereof), some designers reacted against the trend with intense look-at-me hues. Marc by Marc Jacobs lined up a parade of strong colors, opening the show with an eye-catching orange shift that affirmed the citrus shade’s prominence throughout the week. Orange also set the tone for Ohne Titel’s graphic outing, proved a fantastic complement to Thakoon’s use of turquoise and was used in its faintest iteration at Calvin Klein. Mark Fast’s Faster line gave his signature seductively taut dresses an even racier appeal with pink, while Vera Wang’s use of highlighter yellow and Yves Klein blue made her uptown take on dressing seem younger and Peter Som displayed exuberantly warm shades of yellow, pink and orange in his flowery leggings.
The interlink between flowers and colors was readily apparent from the week’s earliest shows onward. Along with Som, we previously noted the optimistic motif everywhere from Cynthia Rowley to Karen Walker. Carolina Herrera seemed to exult in the fantasy of a pastoral summer picnic with clean prints against crisp designs. Prints varied from bright yellow and green birds to sharp primary color lines, but the silhouettes possessed a liberated air. Jason Wu had his most elegant outing yet, proving to be the premier designer for ladylike dressing that manages to be simultaneously prim and sexy: high-collared shirts were paired with svelte shorts, subdued grays contrasted with pastel shades of pink and cleanly tailored separates exuded a swingy ease. In his most experimental outing, Prabal Gurung played with everything from sheer fabrics to geometric cutouts in unconventional lines, but tempered these edgy designs with innocent purples and detailed floral prints.
The activewear and sports theme proved to be a big trend this season with classic and unexpected labels alike taking on the American style tradition. Y3 is already a pioneer and master of athletic wear, but the brand injected an air of debonair to its collection. Although models emphasized Y3′s sporty vibe with sneakers and active designs, the collection also featured exaggerated menswear-style vests and grungy plaid prints across both genders. Lacoste introduced a more ready-to-wear interpretation of the genre thanks to new artistic director Felipe Oliveira Baptista’s updated vision for the brand. Though usually more of an elegant, uptown designer, Victoria Beckham managed to make sporty sexy by using the anorak (itself a popular piece this season) to describe her collection. 3.1 Philip Lim’s pastel outing balanced delicate silks and organza with a sporty motif seen in nylon anoraks—proof that there’s such a thing as activewear you can look chic in without having to sweat in. Alexander Wang opened his show with a seemingly all-encompassing mesh fabric overlaying his subtle designs. The hint of color peaking through the holes (and pockets!) made for a peek-a-boo effect that was both playful and dramatic, while blatant zippers, deep pockets and bandanas brought home the power of statement details. Like Wang, Altuzarra knows how to mix sportswear, which he cleverly integrated into classic daywear, as seen in pairings such as ribbed nylon vests with a flouncy skirt.
Above all, NYFW yielded a decidedly wearable array of options for next summer’s fashionistas. M.Patmos kept things simple with reliable knitwear that varied from sweet cardigans to long and loose ponchos and the occasional sheer top. Tim Coppens, a Belgian designer now based in New York, showed meticulously constructed menswear with a sporty touch, which has already won over Barneys New York. Proenza Schouler took a truly eclectic approach with everything from accessible tribal print details and slim-cut jackets to eccentric bondage-style pieces and ’70s retro-inspired shapes. Sophie Theallet somehow adopted both the white and bright color themes of the season with floor-sweeping dresses as well as smart, knee-grazing pieces that could easily transition from day to night. And Brooklyn label Creatures of the Wind presented a charmingly vintage-inspired collection that managed to be nostalgic yet fresh with contrasting prints, bold colors and gem-like hues.