February 10, 2014 3:04 pm

New York Fashion Week: Runway report 4

Fashion is, among other things, a group conversation that explores through design a moment that we are living in. Trends allow us to sartorially identify ourselves both with and in relation to others; at the same time, unique style gives us a means of standing out from the crowd.

What the clutch of brands showing on Sunday proved was creating collections that encapsulate both ends of this sartorial spectrum can often be far easier said than done.

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DKNY for example, now in its 25th year, constantly tries to anchor itself firmly to the latest bevy of bright young things adorning the streets of New York. But rather than walking the talk, the latest offerings felt more like a tired retread. Slouchy hooded parkas laden with furry texture and bulk, sequin-encrusted sweater dresses or oversized neoprene bomber jackets and grungy calf-length skater skirts have been seen so many times before. The label needs to open more than its eyes, but also its mindset, to find something new to say.

Far more relevant to this city’s latest incarnations of real contemporary cool was the second collection from Opening Ceremony, a brand that started a decade ago as the hip SoHo clothing boutique beloved by every young urban creative or savvy industry insider.

“We are known for exploring new destinations, although often these trips are not represented by a place on the map, but by a state of mind,” said buyers-turned-designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, who are also masterminding a turnround at Parisian fashion house Kenzo.

Ponderings on the impacts of time and technology, for example, found voice in recurring emblematic patterns and cuts: think the graphic etchings of a fingerprint emblazoned across long white woollen coats and customisable cutaway dresses, or classic tailored shapes disrupted via a self-conscious and deliberate asymmetry.

It was pleasingly fresh and provocatively clever, the same of which could be said for LA cult brand Band of Outsiders – albeit in a very different way. Scott Sternberg cited Lee Miller, Man Ray and Elsa Schiaparelli as key influences on his collection this season, which was playfully subversive with its endless trompe l’oeil trickery: a fitted black sweater with eyelashes, or a tapered pencil skirt etched with the characteristics of a pair of denim jeans; a PVC cape printed with pockets and duffel togs; and a 1940s-style flared tartan skirt paired with an angora jersey combo – the latter with a funnel neckline fashioned out of faux sweater arms.

A lighter touch would have worked well at eco-label Edun, where superb technical dexterity often felt swamped by overly heavy, layered clunky fabrics. A teddy-coloured, furry-blocked alpaca coat with tonal suede patched pockets and a bone encrusted belt for example, took a strong feminine silhouette yet looked thoroughly unflattering – so too did flared, knitted tunics teamed with sneakers and oversized trousers.

Despite this, the show had a clear point of view and fell neatly in sync with the broader “crafts”-style aesthetic that has grown in momentum over recent seasons. And it also had the most rubbernecked celebrity front row of the week so far – with Bono, Colin Farrell and even Chelsea Clinton excitedly chattering away.

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