New York womenswear: Outsiders embraced

For a city – and a fashion week calendar – increasingly crowded with clones and conformists, a rapturous response from New York to maverick talent is a welcome sight.

Such was the case on Monday evening with Thom Browne, whose spectacular show capitalised on his post-Michelle Obama-inaugural fame. Mr Browne’s first collection was fully devoted to womenswear – held amid a quirky, kinky set featuring faux snow, pine trees and besuited, blindfolded young men tied to metal hospital beds with blood-red ribbons.

Reworking the aesthetic of Marie Antoinette and dark Germanic fairy tales with contemporary tailoring and flair, the show featured bold silhouettes with a strong emphasis on volume: grey tweed coatdresses with nipped, feminine waists and vast, boxy shoulders were teamed either with full pleated skirts with squared-off pannier hips or structured 3D-style midis. Intricate floral lace embroidered on to sleeves and necklines lent a softer romantic touch, particularly to an ash grey fur and mohair overcoat look, while the show-stopping finale gown – a long, multilayered peplum jacket fitted to a train that cascaded like falling rose petals in lashings of stiff scarlet taffeta – had critics leaping with delight.

The “outsider” label is also coveted by MM6, the youthful Parisian offshoot to Maison Martin Margiela, whose quirky oversized outerwear – think quilted capes with funnel necks or artfully layered, fur-collared tweed puffa jackets – clearly held enormous appeal to an adoring alternative cult crowd, despite a dodgy colour palette.

Theyskens Theory meanwhile, also popular with downtown urbanites but positioned more for the mainstrean, offered transitional day-to-night dressing with bursts of stylistic flair. Highlights included a cream, cocoon-shaped angular A-line minidress made out of quilted neoprene, the brand’s signature loose-fit, drooping shoulder blazers in ochre, black and grey plus a pretty selection of elegant lattice-esque knitwear – all perfect for those happier on the sidelines when it comes to sartorial experimentation (though they might eschew the myriad leather shorts).

Philip Lim, likewise, paid homage to the stylish social bystander; in particular, the “Sonomama” women who stand in the pit lanes of Japanese motocross championships. Hence the plethora of traditional biker jackets and racer-back dresses diluted with pops of bubblegum pink, orange and chartreuse in layered looks that mixed PVC leather minis or trousers with fitted, texture-blocked sweaters, hooded parkas and shredded stonewashed denim for an off-duty appeal. Being sidelined never looked so good.

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