September 13, 2012 1:27 pm

New York Fashion Week: day six

Proenza Schouler, Naeem Khan and Nanette Lepore take inspiration from their heritage

It’s arguable that the biggest fashion event of day six of New York Fashion Week didn’t take place in New York at all, but across the country in San Francisco, where Apple unveiled its new, longer, skinnier and shinier iPhone 5 to general consumer hysteria.

Personally, I don’t see this as a coincidence of timing, but rather a canny insinuation that these days our gadgets are as much style accessories as practical tools. Besides, in some ways, the cross-country distraction was useful; it diverted attention away from some pretty problematic fashion happening in NYC.

At Reed Krakoff, for example, an interest in “make-up colours”, lingerie and athletic clothing came together in an unsettling amalgamation of flesh-coloured layers of oily “stocking jersey” (think your mother’s old nylons), technical silk and slithery satin that ultimately resembled nothing so much as potential costumes for one of Matthew Barney’s Cremaster films.

It was too bad, because the architecture of the garments, especially a dress in white cotton with a slicing insert of brown and seams that twisted round the body, was interesting. As was the trompe l’oeil layering, which merged the idea of T-shirts and sweatshirts and elastic-waisted warm-up trousers with a sense of the soigné. Aside from a great patent red and grey snakeskin skirt, however, and a slip dress in blushing shades, the colours and fabrics sent the end result from the realm of creative to kind of creepy.

Meanwhile, Marchesa went in the opposite direction, from the abstract to the ridiculously literal. Designers Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig said their inspiration was “the spirit of India in the 1960s”, which in practice meant . . . surprise! . . . sari fabrics reworked as strapless cocktail numbers, a silver brocade cropped belly dancer top over low-slung brocade shorts veiled by a long magenta chiffon skirt and an empire-waisted draped white tulle gown over jewelled tights.

It looked like an audition for the Bollywood red carpet and by comparison made Gilles Mendel’s parade of very predictable, but pretty, pastel pleated silk chiffon tea dresses at J Mendel look almost original (granted, the mink hot pants look was original, though in a “what-was-he-thinking?” kind of way) and Michael Kors’ 1960s-esque jolie madam sportswear in primary Crayola colours look positively genius.

They weren’t as it happens (it’s rare for clothes to be genius, fashion hyperbole aside), but they were very clever. They mixed a dose of wit (day coats with circular pockets and hip-slung belts; little navy leather dresses paved by grommets) with recession-era strategic smarts: pieces that were almost entirely seasonless. As Mr Kors said, this collection goes into stores in February when it is cold on the east coast, cool in the evening in the west and summer in another hemisphere, and thus needs to be a year-round investment.

The most convincing case for east coast creativity, however, was made by Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez at Proenza Schouler, who remixed familiar fashion tropes into – not hippie deluxe, but hipster deluxe. Patchworking iguana and python, perforated leather and satin, neon green and black and white and orange in a series of biker vests, little jackets, A-line skirts and halter dresses. They merged uptown and downtown stereotypes and the result was more than the sum of its parts.

In fact, you could almost call it a new New Thing (apologies to Michael Lewis). Silicon Valley would understand.

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Inspiration from the past shapes the future

New York has long been considered one of the world’s most dazzlingly multicultural and ethnically diverse melting pots, writes Elizabeth Paton.

From bustling restaurants, food markets and the cacophony of languages reverberating around subway lines, to street names, shopfronts and the vibrant mosaic of mini-nations within the five boroughs’ neighbourhoods, this city’s colourful past, present and future has long been steeped in the success of those arriving with big dreams and from far away foreign climes.

Nowhere is this truer than at fashion week. Several of the big name designers showing on Tuesday and Wednesday hailed from abroad, despite now calling the city their adopted home. And for many, heritage and upbringing played an impactful role in the inspiration behind their collections.

The latest Philosophy offering from Italian Alberta Ferretti exuded an aura of unashamedly sexy Sicilian va-va-voom

Indian-born Naeem Khan for example, famed for his exquisite evening wear, unveiled a line dripping in the exoticism of the subcontinent. A sumptuous floor-length red kaftan, replete with fanning trimmed sleeves and shimmering in embellished silver paillettes was a particular highlight; so too were the full-skirted organza frocks depicting the cascading colours of a sunset. A duality to Khan’s designs made them seem at one both with the east of his origins – and the Upper East Side of his customer base.

Osklen, the eco-conscious Rio luxury brand, also evoked a similar jet set glamour and oomph to the contours of its cleanly cut line.

The sun-soaked ethos was “Brazilian soul meets California dreaming”, which meant palm tree prints, neoprene dresses and slim fit trousers, plus sexy little capes in a raw organic silk straw.

It was neatly tailored while also being seductively body conscious; much like the latest Philosophy offering from Italian Alberta Ferretti, where structured bra tops matched with tightly form-fitting pencil skirts exuded an aura of unashamedly sexy Sicilian va-va-voom.

So too did a delicate periwinkle blue cropped bustier with low slung pyjama shorts, finished with a long and fluid double-lined cotton coat in the style of an oversized man’s shirt – a boudoir style step up for last season’s pajama trend.

Both used the overtly masculine patterns and fabrics traditionally associated with gentlemen’s ties, a subversive twist to the uber-feminine silhouettes that Ferretti sent down the runway.

It was a cheeky, tongue-in-cheek aesthetic and a similar playful irreverence was on display at French fashion doyenne Nanette Lepore. Her collection was the love child of a holiday on the Fifties’ French Riviera and a quirky museum pottery collection, full of zest and floral prints.

Shorts and tailored jackets gave way to bikinis and flowing halter dresses – all composed mainly of bright greens, corals, black and white checks and accessorised with a series of pretty woven raffia belts.

But what of the Brits?

Unlike Jenny Packham, favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge, whose Vegas in the Sixties-inspired evening collection was fun-fuelled if a little chintzy, recent immigrant and former darling of the London fashion scene Louise Goldin kept things serious in her first show on the NYFW calendar.

Knitwear, her real forte, took central stage alongside layering and texture blocking. A structured, oversized pom-pom sweater with a fine-knit pencil skirt and diaphanous hem was full of rich contrast despite an all-white palette; as was a metallic silver sheath skirt with a tailed, sleeveless cream sweater vest.

The show had a smaller audience than others earlier in the day but excitement at a new arrival on the scene was palpable, as yet another brand took a bite out of the Big Apple with hopes of the all-American dream.

If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, sang Frank Sinatra. It seems like there are plenty in the fashion world willing to step up to the challenge.

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