A Mixed Bag of Looks

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

c.2014 New York Times News Service

NEW YORK — Coach has left the stable, and the horses are running wild down the road.

Long identified with a simple bucket bag into which women could stuff diapers, spreadsheets and a banana, then revved up to warp speed by Reed Krakoff, the American heritage brand is currently in the hands of a genial Englishman, Stuart Vevers. In his presentation Thursday morning, Vevers left minivan moms in the dust, in favor of kooky ex-wives thumbing a ride.

“Nastassja Kinski in ‘Paris, Texas,’ Patricia Arquette in ‘True Romance,’” Vevers said, ticking off some of his inspirations while sitting companionably in the audience before a background mural depicting Route 66.

And the clothes that followed conjured an extended, slightly disturbed childhood: “fluff” jackets in cotton-candy colors; cartoon creatures by Gary Baseman, the Californian animator; and metallic clogs, the kind that emit an audible squeak when their wearer stomps petulantly away from an errant boyfriend.

One might expect Shane Gabier and Christopher Peters, the young duo behind the feyly named label Creatures of the Wind, to also reach into the cute bucket. (Tavi Gevinson, the still-teenage fashion lodestar, was among their audience at the Pace Gallery.) But their clothes were bohemian and mature; I imagined a Scandinavian painter putting them on after a hard day at the canvases, maybe because many of them trailed cotton ties, like smocks.

Airy red, blue and white patterns, some derived from exotic tiles, looked beautiful and refreshing to this observer, wilting from the unseasonable heat outside. With shapes to accommodate every body type, these guys are clearly working for women, not against them, though a series of bandeau tops provoked some reproving iPhone snaps, perhaps from those tired of what’s been a multiseason focus on the so-called “core” area.

Peter Som threw an obligatory bandeau top into his show as well, maybe for the “Hunger Games” generation represented by one of that film’s stars, Willow Shields, wearing a topknot and bared triceps in the front row. But overall, Som’s clothes were a modest, even mannish mishmash, some with bold horizontal stripes, others in bold flower prints, with PVC raincoats for the lazy flasher.

He gambled big on green. Shirttails billowed in the back and pants were loose. (It was a relief to see here, and also at Coach, a reprieve from the stovepipe cuts that have had America in their grip for going on a decade.) Sandals with all of this were resolutely flat, even with the finale: a strapless, pocketed red silk faille gown.

Jason Wu’s place in history has already been assured by Michelle Obama’s patronage, but the announcement that morning that InterLuxe was buying a majority stake in his company suggested that he is headed for a berth in the commercial firmament as well.

Starting a half-hour late, prompting jokes that the designer was backstage counting his money, his show had the high production values of a Calvin Klein or a Michael Kors, and also some of the slick assurance of their best collections. Working with a neutral palette, Wu sent out shirtdresses, some slouchy, some crisply belted, deeply side-slit skirts and a plunging navy gown that seemed to float by itself down the runway (creature of the wind, indeed).

It was sexy, but never trashy — and though you probably won’t be able to squash a banana into the bag he has created with Diane Kruger, the Charlotte tote (after Rampling) should be able to accommodate it.