Here's what you'll be wearing next spring - and the designers who do it best

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

(c) 2015, The Washington Post.

NEW YORK - In the final hours of this city's fashion week, designer Marc Jacobs had the task of putting a punctuation mark on the spring 2016 season before editors and retailers head to Europe in search of more trends. Fashion is a global business, but Jacobs is the definitive American designer. His is the voice that foreign editors wait to hear. He's the designer whose choices and eccentricities have the reach and volume to shift an entire season's dynamic.

Jacobs ignores what he preached last season - or the one before that. His antennae are on the alert for something altogether new or for the exactly perfect moment to delight in something considered dusty and old.

Jacobs' spring show was a Broadway extravaganza at the the Ziegfeld Theater, complete with concession girls plying guests with all the Junior Mints and Milk Duds they could eat. The models arrived via a red carpet rolled out onto 54th Street. Pedestrians pressed against metal barricades snapping pictures with their cell phones and models posed in front of a Marc Jacobs-branded step-and-repeat. And all of it was live-streamed into the theater.

As the models paraded into the building and into the auditorium, a live band began to play - the brass section blowing strong, the drummers pounding and sweating and a sunglass-wearing hipster turning his attentions to an electric bass.

The models wore a deliriously chaotic blend of '40s-inspired, strong-shouldered dresses and jackets dripping in sequins and embroidery, trousers and dresses with black-and-white photo prints of theatrical faces, baseball jackets pinned with medals and crystals, and flowing gowns with photo prints and contrasting panels of silk.

Some of it was loopy and exaggerated; perhaps it would only look at home in an actual theater. But it was show full ideas, spirit, surprises and, yes, great clothes. Putting all that together might seem like a easy feat, but it requires skill, creativity and no small amount of bravery for simply being willing to live in a state of constant change.

Jacobs' clothes always have an element of cool, and that is different from hipness or swagger or bravado. It is more complex and harder to achieve. But mostly it is rooted in a refusal to be stuck in traditions or play to expectations.

Jacobs affirmed some of the trends that have bubbled up for spring 2016 - from an emphasis on graphic prints and embellishments such as embroidery and feathers, to bold colors like orange, cherry red and yellow.

Designers have continued to blur gender lines with brands such as Hood by Air speaking most emphatically, but Public School, Baja East and others make the same arguments.

Latin flourishes - Cuba, Spain - have come to the fore, as have other ethnic ones from Nepal to Morocco. There have been a host of full skirts, wide pants and flat shoes. And, perhaps, there is even a resurgence of the tailored jacket. Individuality is the rallying cry.

The ebbs and flows of fashion rarely rock the world of Ralph Lauren. It is tightly contained within a beautiful, glistening glass box. His clothes exist as a tableau where everything is just so. His spring collection evoked memories of sailing - you've been sailing, right? - with his crisp white trousers and dresses, navy blazers, striped tops, as well as dresses and bags with prints inspired by nautical flags.

But one wishes that, just for a day, the designer would turn his collection over to some subversive stylist who would up-end expectations and mix and match his clothes in unexpected ways - injecting them with fresh personality and allowing them to be more beautifully imperfect.

In contrast, Francisco Costa of Calvin Klein is an experimenter. He deconstructed the classic slip dress - a heady examination of that cultural moment in the 1990s when Kate Moss and and Mark Wahlberg ruled the underwear billboards, waifs dominated the runway, a wispy slip of a wedding dress launched a million knock-offs and the name Calvin Klein was on everyone's lips.

The white slip dresses were disconnected from their bodice, reattached with fine gold chains. Sometimes a bra-like top was layered over the slip. Or the shape of a bra outlined on the bodice of a dress.

Intellectually, it was an intriguing exercise. But as clothing, it felt incomplete and aesthetically did a woman's bosom no favors.

If there was a singular business trend, it is that some of the best known American brands are in transition. Coach has seen sales drop precipitously, and designer Stuart Vevers is charged saving the ship. He mounted the brand's first women's runway show in a glass box set atop the Highline. He focused on boho miniskirts, bright suits, biker jackets and shoulder bags covered in leather flowers. All fine, but not especially dazzling, suggesting that a Coach turn-around will remain a challenge.

J. Crew, also in a slump, returned to its preppy roots with lots of gingham, plaids and stripes. But by losing so much of its fashion sense, it also lost much of its remaining sizzle.

And finally, that quintessential New York label - DKNY - was reborn under the direction of designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne. They presented their first collection for the brand in the bowels of the World Trade Center transit hub, known as the Oculus.

Guests trooped down the escalator into the PATH station, passing through turnstiles and into a long, dimly lit corridor where a series of angled beams stretched across the ceiling, creating an eerie abstract sculpture.

The duo set about reworking pinstripes and bankers' grays. They elongated blazers, used a black-and-white photo print of a busy Wall Street corner as a design element in dresses, and turned prim, pleated skirts into mini-aprons layered over dresses.

It may be a lost cause trying to make a case for the double-breasted blazer in the lives of young professional women. But using it as a starting point to create a new kind of professional wardrobe that speaks to the work lives of a new generation of women is a worthy undertaking.

It's not as dazzling as Broadway show. It isn't an esoteric intellectual pursuit. But it is an applause-worthy risk.

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