Traveling, be it to a real place with its multicolored sights and patterns, or to an imaginary realm of literature and more abstracted ideas is always a popular theme with designers. The second half of New York Fashion Week saw designers explore the idea through various lenses.
An Ode to Craft From Tory Burch
Tory Burch’s collection drew on handcrafts such as needlepoint and even crochet. A few saffron yellow and blue dresses paid homage to crochet, which of course they weren’t. What they were was almost as light as lace, yet graphically as striking as crochet. Caftans and tunics over wide-leg trousers imbued the collection with a holiday feel that did not compromise elegance and catered for both young and old. Lacy shorts peeked through the high split of a striped blue cotton caftan or from under a scintillating organza dress. What was harder to imagine was where one would wear such lovely creations. Perhaps the Tory Burch lady has less of a problem creating the event around the outfit.
Rodarte’s Poetry in Lace
The Mulleavy sister designers of Rodarte would have us believe that their 2016 Spring collection is all “about poets over the ages.” Yet, from the first Lurex suit-clad model perched on gold booties, what flashed across our fashion-aware collective memory was “the 1970s all over again.” This suspicion was further intensified by the apparition of cropped leather and suede jackets combined with tweed trousers. Perhaps it was the melancholy of poetry that compelled them to visit the Ghost of Fashions Past. And nothing says melancholy like lace does.
The result of such imaginings was a kind of modern nymph wearing a bias-cut lace gown embellished with salmon pink sequins. The collection had plenty of knee-length dresses for the urban girl in love with lace as well. In fact, these shorter pieces allowed the designer duo to show their prowess in combining an already ornate material such as lace with beading, fringing, sequins, and embroidery—sometimes all in the one garment. Oh, and let’s not forget the lace tights and Mongolian lamb coats. Did it work? Yes it did. It’s just that as a Rodarte nymph, you’re not going to blend in with the crowd.
Cactus Blooms at Alice + Olivia
Alice + Olivia designer Stacey Bendet took to the desert in Mexico where the soft tones of the sand set against the pale blue sky are suddenly transformed with a violent burst of color emanating from the cactus flower. A striking motif was red, yellow, and pale blue embroidery set against a black background. The collection included bell-bottom jeans embroidered with flowers or laser cut with a leaf pattern. Although they might not be everyone’s cup of tea, there were also high-waisted wide leg trousers in black, white, red, or beige that are destined to be timeless staple pieces.
The collection was very diverse in terms of appeal. The A-line flower print skirt or maxi dress may not appeal to the same customer who is drawn to a dark blue chiffon gown with a high-low hem and layers of ruffles. Same goes for the wide-leg jeans. But this is part of the strength of the collection.
Far from being boho-chic, perhaps this collection necessitates a re-thinking of the term to better reflect the clean cut lines, as well as exuberant floral elements that Bendet combined so artfully.
Naeem Khan’s Sheer Exuberance
Naeem Khan’s idea of ready-to-wear is clearly “ready-to-crash the Oscars in the ball gown to rival all ball gowns.” The sheer exuberance of the collection was heightened at the end of the show when the models walking out onto the catwalk together was equal to a fireworks display in terms of color and sparkle. This was a fitting antidote to all the black and white that permeated the collections of more minimalist designers who presented during this New York Fashion Week.
He is not a designer for the faint-hearted. In fact even when he works with a more restrained color palette—such as his Fall 2015 collection, one’s heart skips a beat at the sight of his creations.
Khan told The Wall Street Journal in 2009 that it took about 40 people and more than four weeks to make Michelle Obama’s “Priceless” first state dinner dress, in his father’s workshop in India. With that in mind, his Spring 2016 collection must have taken the most part of Mumbai’s beaders and embroiderers to bring Khan’s vision to such intricate fruition. Perhaps it explains why his customers are more like devotees.
Should this be the end of New York Fashion Week, it would be fitting. It’s hard to imagine a more climactic moment. In a sea of black and white separates, it’s good to know that one can always go back to Kahn’s visual feast and dream of a place where every woman is queen of her realm and dressed to show it.