NY Fashion Week: Brands that follow fashion, rather than create it

The fall of Lehman and the recession that came afterwards thrust brands with the ability to combine trend-savvy and price point into the spotlight and created an entirely new category, known as contemporary, that has been asserting its runway cred ever since.

So this season there was Tory Burch, mining a 1960s Riviera vein with botanical scarf prints on little shift dresses, silvery brocade bottoms with lacy tops; here was J Crew, doing much the same (possibly too much the same), with bright floral capris and sequinned hibiscus pants, Moroccan print T-shirts and lemon yellow duffel coats.

There was Rag & Bone, where cricket sweaters met satin skirts and leather midriff tops came under men’s jackets; here was 3.1 Phillip Lim, with easy trousers embroidered like the inside of a geode under neat, curving jackets.

And there was Theyskens Theory, tripping a bit on its own styling with biker shorts under long sheer split skirts – though the elongated layering of tank tops and skinny skirts and underskirts was effective – while here was Helmut Lang, taking a step up with elegant hip-slung skirts and curving collarless jackets, colour-clocked tone-on-tone slipdresses and a restrained asymmetry.

In other words, the clothes were mostly good, and certainly customer-friendly. But in the end, while these brands follow fashion – in fact, they follow it very closely – they don’t create it; their skill is in recognising what to remix for their own ends. And perhaps, like the move afoot to separate commercial and investment banks, fashion week should recognise the difference.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.