It’s a season of experimentation and disruption within the industry. The “see now, buy now” retail culture within the industry has taken hold of the New York schedule. Many shows here are, in effect, presenting a second autumn collection as brands seek to find new relevance in a changing market place and the tension between exposure and exclusivity is curiously tempered. Where some designers, like Tommy Hilfiger, are staging vast immersive show experiences (for many brands the imperative is in noise-making, rather than product), others, like Jonathan Saunders at Diane von Furstenberg, have this season eschewed the show format entirely in favour of a more intimate presentation.
Yet some things in New York remain a quietly, pleasingly constant. With her absurdly photogenic husband and son seated front row at her SS16 collection, noise is one thing Victoria Beckham doesn’t need to worry about. Each of her collections creates a digital tsunami of content, she gobbles up front page editorial, Instagram and Twitter feeds with a casual insouciance that would make most other designers weep.
Gratifyingly, however, her collection merits proper attention. And in an arena more and more given to displays of show-stopping bombast and branding, this sedate, elegant show, staged within the very traditional parameters of a catwalk format was most welcome. If the industry seems increasingly panicked, it seems Victoria Beckham is keeping her cool.
That said, the fabrics and ideas here had a distinctly transeasonal flavour: crushed velvets, pleated leathers and knitwear, not to mention a slimline summer canvas knee-boot, are not things one always associates with high summer. And yet, with their sorbet shades, pretty draped details and gentle silhouettes they looked fresh and breezy. “I wanted the looks to have a thrown together quality,” explained the designer backstage, wearing a pair of fluid linen trousers with a thirties-style belted waist straight off the catwalk. “We took traditional fabrics and washed and creased them to lend everything a lightness and gentle femininity that still played with the classic silhouette of the brand.”
Where Beckham had explored her signature corset dress last season, this time she skimmed the silhouette again, using bra tops to lend the clothes sensuality and drapey details — a stray strap, hanging belt tie, silky messenger bag and cutaway folds — to create a looser line. They looks were revealing and a little risqué: Beckham was planning to wear the clementine velvet to a function the following day. Very sassy? “And why not,” she said.
The fabric messenger bags looked terribly fragile. Were they meant to be filled? “I wanted them to look like part of the outfit,” she said of the bag’s functionality. “I liked the look of a loose sleeve hanging on a model at the early fittings, and wanted to develop that same easy look with the bags”. The Show Don’t Fill bag is definitely a thing. Those looking to carry a bit more weight however, might prefer the colourful shoppers or a pillowy leather holdall in an arresting minty green. Meanwhile, the flat canvas boots, with black, tan or white leather detailing, were alternated with a soft slippery flat. Beckham really does seems to have left the heels behind.
It was a confident show, with a gorgeous palette and a breezy sensibility. Make-up came courtesy of the designer’s new range for Estée Lauder, which launches this month and was featured most prominently in a bold blue eyeshadow. That cosmetics collection, like this, is another quiet distillation of tastefully elegant pieces. And blessedly free of tricks.