New York Fashion Week Wraps Up Its Forecast for Spring 2015

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

c.2014 New York Times News Service

NEW YORK — The fact that the final day of the New York collections also happened to be Sept. 11 is the sort of jarring coincidence that portends a collision of worlds: On that day, in this city, a tragedy occurred. Remembering it, how can we sit merrily by and look at skirts? It seems an impossible disconnect.

Except that fashion week and 9/11 have always been intertwined: On that day, in this city, the collections had already begun. That season, they did not continue. Some businesses never did. What happened here also happened to this industry.

And while fashion has a strange discomfort with acknowledging any sort of historical memory that it cannot redesign (don’t expect any memorials on seats or in program notes; the show must go on!), this season felt less willfully ignorant about the time-space-product continuum than others have.

The past becomes part of the present. The question for designers is the shape it takes, literally, when it does.

In some cases, it leaked out in strange and oblique ways. At Boss on Wednesday, for example, the artistic director, Jason Wu, chose to hold his sophomore women’s collection on ... the 56th floor of 4 World Trade Center.

It is possible to read the setting as a glaring case of stiletto-in-the-mouth (it was only the line’s second season in New York after a 20-year hiatus), but it’s also possible to see it as a pointed statement of intent: Things are still working. Especially given the mood of the collection, which was a step away from the clichés of corporate uniforms and toward a new, more personal kind of professional dress, like the neat 1960s-inspired shirtwaists cut by graphite lines, the geometric T-shirts and leather miniskirts, and a crisp white button-down paired with a slither of silver-beaded pencil skirt.

A few hours later, the Proenza Schouler show took place on Wall Street, and as guests spilled out of the building, they were met by the wrenching, elegiac sight of the annual twin beams of light shooting up from the plaza to the sky.

The brand was founded in 2002 (it is a child of the post-9/11 world), and the collection itself felt sort of purposefully uncomfortable and awkward, full of the wrestling of the next generation with the heritage of the last, with all its strange juxtapositions and uneasy alliances: between sportswear classics and complicated fabrics; vests and shirts and big skirts; orange and black, and forest green and white.

There were good ideas, like a terrific white anorak; argyle inflated into an idea of a graphic pattern; and a plain knit polo dress, with a band of python inset at the breast. And there were bad ones: paper leather trousers, one leg black, one orange; unfriendly shapes in the form of collars that choked the neck; and belted leather dresses that bunched at the waist. But while it didn’t seem particularly enticing, it was hard to look away.

Interestingly, Reed Krakoff also played on the same basic themes — muddy colors (plus one terrific cobalt blue), mixed media (perforated leather, python, cotton), sportswear elevated through surface treatment — though his silhouettes had a more timeless feel. There’s an artiness to the effect of these clothes that can seem forced, but that also has a niche of its own.

Designers don’t get to choose the date of their show; they choose their day of the week and then tend to get locked in. So happenstance plays a role in all this. But by the time the Ralph Lauren show opened on Thursday with a parade of Gurkha (the brand’s word) toned cargo pants and shantung safari suiting, and then segued into paratrooper jumpsuits in washed cotton and military-fatigue-green gowns in beaded tulle, it was hard not to feel some sense of convergence.

Though Lauren leavened the palette with pops of tangerine and citrine, and tops embroidered with dazzling ropes of costume jewelry beads, and though a pair of evening extravaganzas in gem-bedecked pink and yellow looked as if they had been teleported in from the Taj Mahal, the overwhelming message was utilitarian and toughened-up. It stood its ground.

And then Army gave way to navy at Calvin Klein.

Building on an elongated, narrow silhouette, the designer Francisco Costa layered “marine” midthigh tank dresses and tunics and leather jackets angled on a knife-edge over tone-on-tone flyaway wisps of skirts or cropped trousers, creating a false high waist by way of a belted sliver of stainless-steel tubing to reinforce the proportions and the purity of line.

The only decoration came in off-center exaggerated geometric shapes — rectangles or circles — appliquéd on the side of the topmost garment, and the only shift in color came from the addition of white or black, with a shot of red leather in the middle for spark, and a final step into the light via iridescent silver and cream.

Fashion may be bad at introspection, but one thing it does understand is moving forward.