Spring 2018 NYFW Highlights
The Park Avenue Armory on Manhattan’s upper east side bookmarked the American Spring 2018 shows commencing with Tom Ford’s collection of super glam power women and ended last night with Marc Jacobs’ kaleidoscope of colorful and exaggerated clothes derived from an imaginative summer vacation.
Both Ford and Jacobs were stellar shows that delivered major fashion period and their respective collections clearly reflected deep personal convictions as designers and through their work, they have both created cultural shock waves by consistently adhering to their own sense of aesthetics.
Love or hate these clothes – cinched stretch cut out jersey dresses, large shoulder jackets over silver metallic tanks and hot shorts or orange leather sweat suits – they are purely the kind of clothes from the Tom Ford we all knew since the mid 90’s Gucci era with practically little or no influences fueled by external trends. Even those muscular models wearing 70's nylon black running shorts were carefully casted by Ford to hand out potatoes chips and beef or fried mushrooms burgers and vodka soda and champagne at the cocktail party immediately following the show.
But the contrast between the moods of these two shows that bookmarked the New York season could not be more apparent. Whereas Ford deployed high energy music – David Bowie Fame to Coeur de Pirate’s Pilgrims on a long journey - to go along with his micro sparkling beaded long sleeves dresses and languid evening column dress with alligator pattern sleeves, Jacobs models strode in total silence with the sound of their slippers foot steps and the movements of the oversize coats with fur collars or transparent long anoraks that merged active wear with couture silhouettes. Only when all the models emerged in the finale was opera music came over the sound system.
Seeing the entire parade of models together strolling en masse on the wooden floor – the white peacoat, the fuschia cape coat, the orange-yellow print one shoulder dress, and the acid yellow embroidered sleeveless belted long dress – is like seeing these Jacobs classics coming alive again in a different setting and a different mood this time as the program notes defined as “reimagining of seasons past somewhere beyond the urban landscape of New York City.”
Even before these shows started, the New York show season had been pushed to its existential limits with the most creative talents Rodarte, Proenza Schouler, Thom Browne and Altuzarra all of whom have built their business here and all have provided firm anchors to the bi-annual shows departing for the Paris catwalks. But talks of the demise of New York seemed premature. How do the designers respond to these departures? Simply by embracing the American roots in their collections.
President Trump’s America First motto seemed to have an enormous effect on fashion designers this season where explorations of American roots and heritage dominated as the pervasive inspiration at many of the runway collections.
At Calvin Klein, Raf Simons continued his discourse through the language of clothes that he had started last season with the amalgam of the contributions of a diverse population to the range of unique styles from work to ranch wear. This time the designer explored Americana and its pop culture through the prisms of cinema with its power to evoke both the horrors and the all-powerful American dreams via satin cowboys shirts and cigarettes pants, denim jackets and jeans embossed with Warhol 60’s prints Electric Chairs and Ambulance Disasters as well as the Knives series now printed on off-white denim pants worn by models walking under Ruby Sterling’s ‘Sophomore’ installation of pompoms and banners hanging from the concrete ceiling.
The Warhol connect since Simons’ arrival is an embrace of the artist’s democratic approach to making art available to a wider audience and perhaps that’s also the designer’s mission to make his more artistic approach to Calvin Klein palatable to more consumers especially with the 205W39NYC collection. Well the rubber dresses or the rubber tee and wool pants on a male model and the series of evening sheath dresses made of colorful fringe yarns all hanging out like a Sterling sculpture were a sure footing in the art world but these looks seemed to skewed the Warhol dictum of art for the mass.
In another nod to that famed Warhol era, Stuart Vevers transformed the enormous Basketball City at the edge of South Street Seaport into a black cavernous subterranean playground where black sand and glitters covered an old Chevy, a large mailbox, and a black TV showed a clip of the graffiti artist Keith Haring at work in the New York City subway in the early 80’s for the Coach 1941 show. Haring’s familiar graffiti drawings now embroidered on tees or emblazoned on the back of a cropped leather baseball jacket, yellow satin slip dress, varsity leather jackets now embroidered with Haring motifs, or the western pearl snap cowboy shirts and fitted leather pants for men. Vevers’ mission is to bring Coach to a new generation of younger consumers via connections to the underground culture expressed in velvet slip dresses with outlines of Haring’s cartoony figures.
Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia showed inside a basketball court inside the gym at the posh condo The Eugene in West Chelsea where a large letter M was encircled a ring of letters Monse, their baby label now in its fifth season. There’s nothing more Americana than a high school gymnasium where preppy stars and stripes adorned a more sporty clothes of track pants, big shirts, and those varsity jackets. Their signature blouse now came in blue and white stripes with puff sleeves. Later in the week at the Oscar de la Renta show at the posh Sotheby’s headquarters, the duo excelled in their own manner of renovating a classic American brand but with a full attention to how their new customers are deconstructing the brand know dressed up heritage to a more casual reality by infusing many streetwear elements – crisp white denim decorated jacket and split skirt, white shirt with silver splash paint and jeans, or denim worn with mink coat. Even the evening offerings were light in approach as well as decoration – white strapless cocktail dress with metallic letterings or a white version with black hand-written logo circling the layers tulle. It’s clear Kim and Garcia know the range of their customers well.
And no designer does city dressing with such ease the same way Michael Kors does. Caroline Murphy opened his show in a white dyed pink cashmere sweatshirt-dress and flip flops and led a procession of big prints like palm trees and leaves on cotton dresses, trench coats and the occasional swim suits worn by former supermodels like Kristy Hume and Maggie Rizer. The same can be said for Anna Sui who has always imbued her clothes with historical and pop cultural references this time to ‘counter cultures’ from an exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York with a series of colorful decorated denim jacket and skirts as well as flower embroidered denim jeans and iridescent floral coat for men. Sui knew what her customers demand as she operated her own store for over 25 years first on Prince street and now on Broome in Soho.
Elsewhere around the New York shows, it wasn’t exactly the apocalypse that many had predicted would happen but there was definitely a large creative void with the absence of the Proenza et al group, a void that at times filled by a younger generation in their first few seasons. Eckhaus Latta, which had cultivated a large cult following like those of the late 80’s club kids era, showed a more polished collection that feature tailoring details like fitted broad shoulder blazers and a nice offerings of knitwear. Shayne Oliver, a guest designer for the Helmut Lang relaunch mixed the remade HL classics with the wild fetish wear he is known for at his own brand, Hood by Air, now in suspension. And Scott Studdenberg and John Targon’s Baja East show had the right feel of chic and urban carelessness from beach cool straight to dinner table where each pieces can be remixed into different wardrobe situations. Perfect example is the opening look - white one-piece bathing suit with white shirt-coat and white track pants worn by none other then Karlie Kloss.
Written by: Long Nguyen