Spring may conjure up images of Easter egg pastels and bright floral prints for most people, but for March Pisceans like myself, spring has a moody side to it too. This past New York Fashion Week for Spring 2011, more than any other in recent memory, designers seemed to tap into the blustery transition between arctic winter and equatorial springtime for their inspiration.
Light layers promise to carry us through the seasonal transition. Dark hues swirled though the collections like the March winds carrying us gently forward into the brighter hues and patterns of the main spring deliveries that we have come to expect. Even the customarily vivid Custo Barcelona collection was shot through with somber-toned tie dye patterns, ever so slightly dampening the shock value of the feathers featured prominently in the collection. Strategically placed black feathers gave the impression of a phoenix just shaking off the ashes of its rebirth, not quite fully resplendent in its multi-hued plumage – a not-so-subtle metaphor for the American fashion industry as it struggles to break free from the recent recession. Regardless, the collection overall was a delicious reprieve from the play-it-safe offerings of other designers aimed at gun-shy buyers and not fashion editors and creative directors starved for riotous exuberance. Bravo Custo!
Conceptual fashion has long been regarded as the prime export of northern climates. Thankfully, Fashion Week provides the forum for these designers to showcase their offerings to those of us who live ever-so-slightly closer to the equator. Kaelen Farncombe may have come to New York for her formal training, but her designs belie a sensibility that can only be Canadian. Her Kaelen collection for Spring 2011 was inspired by a recent trip spent not sunning at some coastal resort but rather tornado chasing in the Midwest. The subtle color palette of white, grey and peach is shot through with ominous clouds and glass shards in blacks and blues, the perfect complement to her thoroughly modern layered aesthetic. A perfect storm indeed!
Mackage, that much loved purveyor of outerwear, has been easing itself into the ready-to-wear market. This season, the collection featured chic separates that will travel well with you wherever the destination. The highly collectible â€œpackablesâ€ – lightweight nylon jackets and coats – will be offered in a new range of neutral colors, the better to coordinate with the other pieces in this highly wearable collection. The famously lightweight leathers are offered in the season’s hottest silhouettes.
Angeleno Kimberly Ovitz came east to present a dramatic collection that firmly plants her in the context of a global designer, elevating her well above the celebrity red carpet panderers from the West Coast who merely purport to be designers. A true talent and a brilliant conceptualist, her futuristic vision seems perfectly attuned to the modern sensibilities of fashion’s avant garde. Looking past the futuristic hair and makeup and the space age installation itself, many of us who attended her presentation felt the same palpable excitement about the future of fashion that I imagine our counterparts must have felt in the 1960s when Pierre Cardin, Mary Quant, and Courrege put an end to the gloom of the mid-century post-war period.
Betsey Johnson‘s hotly anticipated show took us on a bike rider’s tour of New York City. She even began her appearance on the runway with a brief bike ride – followed by a perfectly executed cartwheel! From the gritty streets of the Lower East Side to the polished Madison Avenue of the Mad Men era, Ms. Johnson brought her effervescent humor and panache to our little guided tour of New York’s many neighborhoods. Showing us that women from all walks of life â€œjust wanna have funâ€, her runway show was full of its usual girly flourishes and undeniable charm. My favorite look was a classic sweetheart neckline, tiered ball gown that looked like it had been â€œtaggedâ€ in dayglow spraypaint by urban graffiti artists, its inky petticoats street stained in the endless pursuit of fun and fashion in some of the seedier neighborhoods of the city. A true delight to behold and a great tribute to the city that never fails to inspire – ride on Betsey!
For me, what felt fresh as a hyacinth-scented breeze was asymmetry – a much welcome reprieve from the strict tailoring of Recession-era offerings. Rubin Singer, a third generation master of tailoring, punctuated his collection with artfully draped asymmetric pieces. A steely one-shouldered cocktail dress with just the perfect amount of embellishment was quite simply perfection! Parisian Jose Duran brought a similar sensibility in a completely different context. From the future of fashion, he brought us textiles normally reserved for conceptual – but utterly unwearable – Japanese designers in wearable silhouettes. Stayed tuned to this one as his Western fan base grows!
The breakout local designer of the season was New York’s own Suma Chander. Having broken free of the â€œGreed is Goodâ€ tyranny of a Wall Street job, Ms. Chander and her Suma C Collection have emerged on the New York fashion scene as the go-to designer for women who are conservative in their day jobs but want fashion forward clothing in their personal lives. Her Indian heritage informs her fabric choices subtly, in the way that jet set travelers of yesteryear threaded their global travels through their Western wardrobes – in light accents, without looking like the native costume portion of a Miss Universe pageant. Her draped pieces are sensual without being overtly sexy. Her embellishment is strong enough to stand on its own, yet subtle enough so as not to compete with statement pieces – just in case you spent last year’s bonus money on something sparkly from Harry Winston!
The endless parade of fashion continues in the world’s fashion capitals. Check back next month for my report on the best that Europe has to offer. Until then, have faith that the future of fashion is upon us!
1. Custo Barcelona Spring 2011 RTW
2. Kaelen Spring 2011 RTW
3. Mackage Spring 2011 RTW
4. Kimberly Ovitz Spring 2011 RTW
5. Betsey Johnson Spring 2011 RTW
6. Rubin Singer Spring 2011 RTW Rubin Singer Photo
7. Jose Duran Spring 2011 RTW
8. Suma C Suma C Photo
Image Layout: Laura Funk