New York Fashion Week Review: Mean Girls

September 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

Looks from Jason Wu

This season’s new woman is tough, and she’s not afraid to let you know it.

Jason Wu sent out his usual parade of pleasant dresses and easy-breezy daywear, but this time he infused his collection with a hint of street-edge. At a preview of his show, he cited KAWS, the graffiti artist who rose to prominence in the 90s with his subversive reworkings of popular advertisements, as his inspiration. This took form in a series of looks printed with melancholy grey and blue flowers designed by KAWS himself. The pattern closely resembled the monochromatic rose prints from Miharayasuhiro’s S/S 11 collection and also embraced its mood; they had a seductive quality that bordered on sinister.

Wu looked toward another designer, Raf Simons, for other looks in the collection inspired by “pop art and couture,” specifically a white top with a bubblegum pink skirt and matching peplum. I can’t blame Wu for showing Simons some love – I’m a big fan of his too – but I think Wu could have reinterpreted Sander’s look in a way that felt more original.

Looks from Altuzarra

After his preppy-meets-grunge F/W 11 collection, which showed a series of luxe parkas and slouchy sweaters, Joseph Alturazza decided to take his woman to an urban jungle. I’m absolutely wild for his tropical print that covered everything from suits to dresses to narrow panels on sweaters. They were explosive, fun, and added an element of celebration to the toughness of some of the looks; It was like a fiesta in the midst of a thunderstorm. I also enjoyed the leather elements of this collection, in particular a below-the-knee frock coat with matte panels. Something about it channeled the Matrix’s futurism and severity, but it also possessed an undeniable femininity and softness. Overall, though, my favorite look of the collection was a multicolored, short-sleeve dress accented with tropical print on the sleeves, hips and hem. It was deceptively complex and struck the right chord of everyday and avant garde.

Looks from Prabal Gurung

Prabal Gurung reinvigorated the color purple this season by using it in a psychedelic floral print inspired by the work of Japanese artist Nobuyoshi Araki. He used the pattern to give everything from cocktail dresses to short shorts to pantsuits a kick of hard, space-age appeal that contrasted with some of lightness of the silhouettes. This was most evident in the first look of the show: a flouncy, above-the-knee dress with transparent cap sleeves and cutouts at the hip and thighs.  Something about the ethereality of the look recalled the fantasy dresses associated with Japanese manga culture (you know, the ones that Japanese women wear when they want to look like wood nymphs or dolls come to life?), but Gurung’s slick styling and lurid print gave the look an edgier, more adult appeal.

Cathy Horyn of the New York Times pointed out that the styling of the Gurung show references Givenchy’s F/W 11 “cat” collection, which I see in the finale look: a floor-length dress with sheer panels at the knees and elbows. Unlike Wu’s reinterpretation of Miharayasuhiro and Raf Simons, it’s clear that Gurung made his Givenchy-inspired looks his own, creating a wholly unique aesthetic and tone.

Looks from Alexander Wang

I’m not too sure I love the Alexander Wang girl – she’s a bit too hard-edged for my taste – but there’s no doubt that she’s executed with a clear point of view. This season, Alexander Wang outfitted his models in an array of mesh, sportive items: hoodies, knee-length shorts, bandanas. Despite the overall casualness of these looks, however, they carried a subtle luxury as seen in a laser-cut mesh leather skirt worn with a leather crop top. It was sporty without reading Nike. I also enjoyed Wang’s geometric prints that appeared toward the end of the show. Some might argue they were a digitized rendering of Native American motifs, but I see them more as a contemporary interpretation of pixelated Atari games from the 90s. They were fun and dynamic, and the chevron stripes made your eyes go every which way. I think Wang could have done without the peplums he attached to trim bombers and velour warm-up jackets. I’m all about utilizing couture shapes in sportswear, but this seemed like too much of a disconnect for me.

Looks from Rag & Bone

Rag & Bone followed in Wang’s footsteps, showing a collection of sporty looks elevated by some impeccable tailored pieces. Honestly, I could do without the sporty elements – I prefer their more classic air of seasons past – but judging from their presence in other heavyweight collections, it seems that for better or worse women’s fashion might be heading in a sports-oriented direction.

I love the one-button blazers that hung atop mesh sweaters and nylon hoodies, especially one done in pumpkin marled yarn. Perhaps it was out of season in the way in conjured an autumn harvest festival, but it had a warmth and earthiness that seems elusive, yet fresh this season. I also loved a pieced blazer that was space-dyed in tones of turquoise, light grey, and slate and paired with a turquoise pencil skirt. The coloring gave the classic women’s suit a playful update.

Rag & Bone were wise to introduce some prints into their collection, but in light of Goyard’s “it” bag from this past year, I think they’re “cubist inspired” pattern was a bit too Louboutin v. YSL. How could they not notice? Perhaps they just don’t care.

I love that New York designers are imagining a woman who’s tougher, stronger, and sometimes, less feminine for next spring. In a way, they are expanding on conventional ideals of what a woman should look like and essentially, who she should be.


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