February 14, 2014 1:59 pm

Marc by Marc Jacobs, Hugo Boss and Coach in the NYFW spotlight

Marc by Marc Jacobs, Hugo Boss and Coach showcase new talent
The Marc Jacobs Fall 2014 collection is modeled at Fashion Week in New York, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)©AP

Marc by Marc Jacobs show at New York Fashion Week on Thursday

There is another way to get attention during fashion week, of course: hire a new designer. All the industry’s antennae immediately go “bing”!

This time round there were three brands in the spotlight: Hugo Boss, where New York designer Jason Wu (he of Michelle Obama inaugural dress fame) was making his debut as artistic director of womenswear; Marc by Marc Jacobs, aka the powerhouse of the possibly soon-to-be-public Marc Jacobs empire, where the man with his name on the label ceded the design reins to Brits Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley in an attempt to re-energise and differentiate the line; and Coach, where another Brit, Stuart Vevers, unveiled his first collection, which also happened to be the handbag brand’s first ready-to-wear initiative.

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Vanessa Friedman

The latter was the most under-the-radar of the three, being a presentation and not a show, perhaps wise as the concentration on sheepskin and boxy 1960s shapes, while an engaging start, did not quite feel like a whole new identity.

At least it did not create the same expectations for itself as Hugo Boss, however, where the front row was packed with celebrities – Gwyneth Paltrow, Diane Kruger, Reese Witherspoon, Gerald Butler, Benedict Cumberbatch – and the show was packed with standards, from neatly tailored flannel suiting to flyaway bias dresses, all of it inspired by the geometric constructions of the Bauhaus, all of it perfectly fine, and all of it disappointingly bland. In his own line Mr Wu at least threw in some power shoulders, power jackets and power pantsuits for oomph.

A little colour, some rethinking of the form an office wardrobe should take, would have been welcome. That is what Hillier and Bartley did (the rethinking, not the officewear) at Marc by Marc Jacobs, which it turned out was renamed MBMJ. It made for interesting viewing: BMX-style slogans on trousers and sweaters (Bunny Hop; Uprising), wide military-leather belts, cossack trousers, flight suits, tartans and crinolines. If the mix owed a debt to the London club scene and Japanese skate style, it also was cooler and more coherent than MBMJ has been in a long time. TBC (to be continued), you know.

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