c.2014 New York Times News Service
c.2014 New York Times News Service
NEW YORK — Manhattan was reduced to a skyline of high rises shimmering across the water. A tangle of transport gear covered the Brooklyn Navy Yard, while inside one of the vast industrial spaces was a set with silvered pillars.
And on the lips of the fashion crowd was one big, fat question: Could Alexander Wang justify dragging everyone out to the far reaches and pull off this fall 2014 show?
The answer came in the cheers for Wang as he ran a circular lap at the end of the show, his long hair flopping over his shoulders. This exceptional collection, built on 21st-century fabric technology and ending with heat-sensitive garments in colors like Day-Glo green, blue and purple, was a triumph of imaginative and practical thinking.
Here it was at last: a runway full of American sportswear, but not the usual yawn of jeans and leather jackets. Instead there were square-cut dresses with utilitarian pockets that also appeared on hefty leather bags. The models were women in control, striding out in wading boots cut away at the back calf, looking mannish with their sleek short hair.
“We started thinking about extreme conditions: the idea of survival, outdoor sports, camping, mountain climbing and temperature change, lifelines and survival,” Wang said backstage. “We wanted to see how far we could push it.”
The runway was rich in modern ideas, from embossed leather to printed neoprene. There was a 1960s feel, but it had been clicked on and dragged to now. The silhouette was sharp and angular, and even for a silk shirt and shorts, the geometry was drawn with a square, not a compass.
The excitement came with the space-age-style treatments: a yellow-splashed sweater with a surface crinkled like a plowed field or a dress with a dizzying up-and-down pattern. By the time the garments’ colors had changed with the models’ body heat, the audience was applauding.
Everyone craves a moment of fashion emotion, lifting the banal into something stirring.
In his search, Joseph Altuzarra used traditional craft, saying backstage that he wanted to create luxury that was not just skin deep. So the Altuzarra show opened with tailored double-faced wool coats, bright blue lapels standing out against the navy, and a shocking pink collar slicing through a gray suit.
So far so good, right down to long, slim dresses split at the front for movement, and sensuous fur coats in a puzzle of bright, Fendi-goes-Pop colors.
But there was arty craftsmanship, along with the fringe that is part of the designer’s vocabulary. One dress had an apron front, handworked with rough stitches and dangling loose ends, while the back was smooth and plain.
Luxury presented as creativity worked with human hands is in the fashion air. But do women today have the same breathless response to the idea of homespun work as they did in the hippie era of the ’60s?
Altuzarra is right to push forward, but it is hard to determine what he stands for. Even if luxury can have many facets, the designer has to decide which one to choose.
Prabal Gurung stirred some emotion with a backdrop of gilded drums announcing that he had been home to his native Nepal. From that mountain state he drew thick but malleable cashmere throws, woven knits, tribal ankle bands to decorate the shoes and, above all, the rich spice colors of yellow, rust and orange all beautifully brought together in one coat.
It was a rare example of an outfit relying only on incisive cut and richness of color. Other pieces were complex, such as solid tops set against wispy drapes, but the marriage of textured knits and silk chiffon skirts was subtly done.
And full marks to Gurung for sending out a collection so evidently from his heart.