It’s a city that envelops and excites with its constant state of flux and evolution. Yet when it comes to fashion week in New York, more often than not, you know exactly where you stand.
For what the opening shows of NYFW’s contemporary brands sometimes lack in sartorial innovation or visionary brilliance, many more than compensate for with consistent flair – and a confident nod of recognition to someone often forgotten on the gilded front rows: the consumer.
The stylish Rag & Bone woman who stalks the streets of Manhattan and West London, for example, will love the latest 1980s-infused collection delivered by David Neville and Marcus Wainwright to chattering crowds on a bitterly cold Friday night.
The show was packed with looks that married form with function, particularly chunky urban outerwear with an edge. Classic menswear pieces got an updated feminine twist: think a collared workman’s jacket with boxy shoulders and a nipped waist in slinky, synthetic indigos and greys; or an oversized, tailored tweed jacket with shocking silky streaks of pillar box red lining, teamed with hot pants and knee-high boots.
The collection exuded effortless wearability, which could also be said about Helmut Lang’s latest offerings, inspired this season by “Rough Terrain”.
Lightweight trans-seasonal fabrics in predominantly earthy hues gave body without weight to the sharp lines of the label’s hallmark silhouettes. Proportions were predominantly top-heavy: oversized and fluffy funnel-neck angora sweaters with tapered pencil skirts or leather leggings were a recurring look. So too were softly tailored blazers with clean, diagonal lines.
Even with the slightly odd Martian inspired prints that closed the show, there was something consistent and grounding afoot on the catwalk – the reassuring emergence of a label’s aesthetic DNA that keeps a customer coming back again and again.
The same could be said for Moncler where, as usual, one-dimensional fashion met with spectacular performance art. Season after season, the recently-IPO’ed luxury outerwear brand goes to great lengths to enliven what would otherwise be a packed stage of ultra-luxe ski jackets, and this season did not disappoint. The curtains of a Midtown theatre rose to reveal a gaggle of operatic tenors revolving on robotic stilts, clad in black tie and cleverly streamlined puffer tuxedos. Soaring behind them were sixty models in monochrome ensembles where the devilishly sleek design quirks inevitably lay in the detail: contrasting, diagonal zipping, cinched in waists and irresistibly furry collars and cuffs.
Over at Lacoste, modern sportswear was also the name of the game – albeit fused with the nonchalant elegance of 1920s golfing gear.
Some of the highly structured pea coats and sleeveless tunics seemed more rigidly stiff than chicly formal. But efforts by designer Felipe Oliviera Baptiste to mix street with slouch in a palette of olives and rich burgundies were better – logo-emblazoned varsity jackets teamed with loose menswear pants, or sweater and skater skirt combos with retro style shoes and gloves felt far more relevant, flirty and fun for a brand that should keep looking forward, not back.
At Creatures of the Wind too, there was nostalgia in the air – as evidenced by the slightly cluttered and confusing array of influences on show. The standout first look – a long, lapelled and broad-belted mohair coat in zebra print gave way to similar silhouettes, but with more muted punch. Overly heavy layering often overwhelmed pretty, textured fabrics, though an off-white cropped top, shirt and lattice-patterned skirt combo towards the end was charming – without clear definition of what its designers wanted it to be.
The boldest attempt by a brand at vivacious experimentation while staying true to a distinctive core – and customer – was seen as Suno, fast becoming one of the most hotly anticipated shows on the NYFW calendar. Erin Beatty and Max Osterweis were inspired this season by the rags to riches tale of Romanian gypsies in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Quirky, colourful pattern-blocking infused bohemian richness within girlish three-tiered tunics or robe coats in shades of cobalt blue and brushed berry red; meanwhile the chintzy, embroidered cocktail dresses in confidently roomy, contemporary cuts had chutzpah with both uptown and downtown appeal to the aspirational urban-dwelling twenty-something with elevation on her mind.