In advance of our New York show reviews, which will be decidedly skewed toward the new this season, we preview several debut brands that are either taking their tight vocabularies and original wares to the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week for the first time or busy making major strides off the runways.
Labels to Watch
If you were among the many who swooned at the delicate rosettes featured in the 3.1 Phillip Lim s/s ’07 collection, you have designer Koi Suwannagate to thank. The Thailand-born, LA-based designer collaborated with Lim on that collection’s signature details, and now Suwannagate is seeing her own star rise as a finalist for the 2007 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award. Suwannagate is known for hand-sculpted cashmere tops, cocktail dresses, and evening gowns that deftly bridge the art/fashion gap. She debuted her label in 2001 and her pieces were immediately snapped up by retailers such as Ron Herman and celebs including Gwyneth Paltrow and Nicole Kidman. Her pieces are now stocked in exclusive shops across the country including Barneys New York and Fred Segal. For s/s ’08, look for Suwannagate to integrate silk chiffon and organic and recycled cotton into her collection.
Considering the fact that she grew up in a family of tailors, it’s no surprise that Vietnam-born designer Thuy Diep ended up in fashion. After stints working as a patternmaker for some of New York’s highest-profile designers (Herrera, Posen, Som) as well as United Bamboo, the cultish downtown label with a huge presence in Japan, Diep has now launched Thuy, her own line, which is showing its second spring collection. It was clear from her first collection — in which easy, drapey dresses in light chiffons were spiced up with a dollop of cascading ruching — that she would not rely on tricky details to make her mark. Soft futurism and sculptor Constantin Brâncu?i serve as intriguing inspirations for her s/s ’08 collection.
JF and Son
What do you get when you cross a military-tech pedigreed Brown University grad and a Parsons alum? JF and Son is a new label by Jesse Finkelstein and Robert Cordero (our own style editor) whose modern take on urban femininity completely belies its partners’ somewhat unconventional pairing. For its s/s ’08 collection, JF and Son offers architectural dresses and color-block details that fit perfectly with the deathless ’80s infatuation — although here they feel new rather than redone. Also look for refreshingly easy separates like shells, washed silk shorts, cashmere sweaters, block-printed pieces from India, and metallic coated linen skirts that are sure to become regulars in your summer ’08 rotation.
Cora New York
The hat trend comes and goes. A quick glance through the a/w ’07-’08 collections, however, yields one important truth: a polished, put-together look is in, and hats are a major focal point. But if the cloche is too uptown for you, check out the work of milliner Nashay Morris of Cora New York. Morris is one of the city’s unrecognized style leaders and we’re hoping that her foray into hats will bring her wider attention. It’s all in the nuances of her Cora designs — Morris’ hats feature classic shapes with a slight edge. The most intriguing piece is the "Anna": a black hat of suede and felt with a decidedly downtown flipped brim and an embroidered skullcap attached underneath. The line is available at Label in New York.
Anne Valérie Hash
Fans of cult designer Anne Valérie Hash will have much more to cheer about come spring when the Paris-based designer launches her new line of dresses for the s/s ’08 season. Named Dress Me, Anne Valérie Hash, the special capsule collection consists of ten luxurious designs with the throw-it-on-and-forget-about-it ease of spring dresses (a feat for AVH, who’s prone to complicated confections). Designed to address the needs and desires of the modern woman, the collection ups the ante on the traditional frock’s refined satins and crepe silks.
Warhol Factory X Levi’s X Damien Hirst
Amid the explosion of premium denim lines, Levi’s has always held its position as the quintessential workhorse jean. The most iconic of the Levi’s line, the 501, is about to get a major overhaul courtesy of acclaimed British artist Damien Hirst. Launched in 2006, the ongoing Warhol Factory X Levi’s project is part of Levi’s partnership with the Andy Warhol Foundation, honoring the lifestyle and legendary career of Warhol and the Levi’s brand. Hirst’s collection is called Warhol Factory X Levi’s X Damien Hirst, and makes its debut with a runway presentation at the Gagosian Gallery featuring reproductions of original works by both Hirst and Warhol, including a pair of Original 501s adorned with crystal skulls, a favorite motif found consistently in the work of both artists. The Hirst line of Levi’s lands in stores in January and offers styles for both men and women.
From Abba to Ane Brun, the Knife, and the catchy tunes of Peter Bjorn and John, Scandinavians have made significant contributions to the global music scene. Instead of becoming a musical sensation, however, Norway’s Elise Øverland became the go-to designer for rock stars including the White Stripes, Gwen Stefani, Alicia Keys, and Steven Tyler. In 2006, with a more toned-down look seemingly fit for the streets, Øverland presented an a/w ’07 collection that did not neglect the stage. Featuring taut leather leggings under georgette frocks, metallic corsets, and garters on ruched dresses, as well as motorcyle jackets and calfskin boleros with custom hardware, it hit just the right rock ‘n roll beat. Øverland describes her s/s ’08 line as coming from a "feeling rather than a specific image — the powerful, soul-filled warrior that exists in every time — blood and magic."
Fashion Week Debuts
If you’ve found yourself within striking distance of a fashion magazine anytime during the last decade or so, chances are you’ve heard of Katy Rodriguez. Her bicoastal vintage emporium Resurrection was (and still is) the place for high-end, covet-worthy vintage finds. She recently turned her attention to ready-to-wear, launching her highly praised namesake label in 2005. This fall, Rodriguez makes it official with her first Fashion Week appearance at the s/s ’08 shows, displaying a collection that refigures the classic American pin-up girl for today’s woman.
We lauded his fantastically futuristic a/w ’07-’08 collection at London Fashion Week and it wowed us again on our spring trip to Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week in Delhi. Now Manish Arora is launching his label in the US at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week with an s/s ’08 collection. Arora debuted his label in 1997 in India with a "traditional with a twist" aesthetic, combining the bright colors of Indian dress with off-kilter, out-there styling involving boldly patterned tights and trainers. (He now has a major development deal with Reebok.) Arora’s deeply personal style has earned the praise of some of the industry’s most well-respected critics, including Hilary Alexander and Suzy Menkes. The designer takes his road show to Paris next month.
-Jennifer Smith Tapp
Koi Suwannagate a/w ’07-’08
Thuy a/w ’07-’08
JF and Son s/s ’08
Cora New York s/s ’08
Anne Valerie Hash a/w ’07-’08