On a sunny yet bitterly cold Tuesday spent battling the elements and racing up and down the length and breadth of Manhattan, it became apparent that the gaping spectrum under which the day’s contemporary shows fell was as vast aesthetically as the presentations were scattered geographically.
At one end, uptown, Tory Burch unveiled considered, ladylike offerings inspired by suits of medieval armour. A flirty, feminine touch and 60s-tinged approach to silhouettes – think short and boxy – saw her produce chic, wearable attire for the stylish urban warrior: a metallic plissé miniskirt with a grey, foiled woollen sweater; a stiff-shouldered, latticed wool and ring tunic with a matching sheath midi; and airy, equestrian-inspired chiffon blouses and tunics accessorised with chunky gold insignia all evoked a tough exterior without burdening weight or bulk.
Tapestry style-knits and long, gathered gowns in earthy greens and rich berry reds also continued building on the theme of Park Avenue princess meets Arthur’s Lady Guinevere, deftly managing to avoid crossing into clunky sartorial cliché.
A dash across the icy Lincoln Plaza to J Crew revealed a presentation that took romantic and decadent cues from the Weimar-era Berlin cabarets of the 20s and 30s. Homage found form in a penchant for lush scarves and dropped waists, silky and elegant cropped cigarette pants and a terrific array of oversized, androgynously-tailored coats in stiff tweeds and woven wools. These offered the same timeless elegance of many rivals at five times their price point.
Over in Midtown, the team at Diesel Black Gold endeavoured to look forward, not back, with an ambitious exploration of “a cosmos shimmering with unknown possibility, travelling into space … as pioneers of the next frontier”.
Basically, it is pretty tough to do that in a pair of jeans although boy, did they try. Efforts also took flight in the form of silvery, astronaut suit-inspired leather pants and hooded parkas, and constellations of bejewelled paillettes on charcoal black and white panelled minidresses. They never really achieved lift off.
On the other hand, downtown near Wall Street, a brave new world was well and truly being explored at Marc by Marc Jacobs, which is not by Marc Jacobs any more (if it ever really was). The brand’s eponymous founder made the dawn of a new era clear by parking himself in the front row and looking on as the two new British designers at its helm, Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier, made their New York debut.
For their first season the duo primarily found inspiration in youth-driven Japanese pop culture – be it motocross ninjas, Harajuku kitschiness or logo-led anime. An army of models in pigtails and retro platform-style trainers sported playful, grungy pieces with a colourfully slapdash – and very London – approach to cool, accessible street style. Think a holographic nylon T-shirt dress commanding you “Be Nice” and “Bunny Hop” over a red long-sleeved biker’s tee; top to toe tartan print combos with clownishly oversized bows; and a stream of thickly belted culottes and buttoned kimono jackets – fashion-conscious, consumer-friendly updates of the traditional karate uniform.