Highlights from New York Fashion Week

Reconstruction, nautical themes, church service, instant gratification and horse riding among the themes and inspirations

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 February, 2016, 2:01pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 February, 2016, 2:01pm

American highlights from the New York runways, as fashion season kicks off and “normal” fashion show formats are being disrupted:

DIANE VON FURSTENBERG PARTIES WITH HER SUPERMODELS

No one ever accused Diane von Furstenberg of not having fun at her shows.

The designer known for her joyful victory laps at fashion shows took it a step further, joining a bevy of models – a who’s who of cover girls, including Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Karlie Kloss and Irina Shayk – in an onstage disco house party during the presentation of her autumn 2016 collection.

It was a new type of fashion show for DVF, which usually puts on a formal runway show. This time, at her own offices, von Furstenberg presented five vignettes in different stage areas. It allowed guests to spend as much time as they wanted looking at a particular garment.

“This year we’re bringing the people back into our house,” von Furstenberg said in a pre-show interview.”

The vignettes were meant to convey different parts of a woman’s life: travelling, working or getting ready for a party. The party was clearly the main attraction; at one point the models made what seemed to be an impromptu conga line and powered their way through a crowd of guests.

Jocelyn Noveck and Nicole Evatt

ALEXANDER WANG GOES TO CHURCH

Perhaps part of the reason Alexander Wang was grinning as he made his post-show victory lap was the phrase emblazoned on the pockets of his black shirt: “HOLY SMOKE”.

The words had, at the least, a double meaning: Wang’s runway show had just taken place under the stained-glass windows and mosaics of St Bartholomew’s, a church on Manhattan’s Park Avenue.

That was the “holy” part. As for the “smoke”, some of Wang’s typically racy outfits bore what appeared to be a marijuana leaf motif. If that was an odd thing to see in the pews of a church, even more so were the totally sheer tops worn by a few of the models. Wang is well known for his edgy urban streetwear, mainly in black, with lots of studs and metallic details. His collection held true to his style, which he described in his production notes as “deliberately opposing standard definitions of beauty and taste”.

THOM BROWNE ON THE ART OF REPURPOSING

Guests at Thom Browne’s runway show entered a Chelsea gallery from the snow-dusted streets of New York. Inside they found, well, the snow-dusted streets of New York. But it was the New York of the 1920s, and the location was Washington Square Park.

A succession of intriguingly dressed women came to stroll under the streetlamps in this park. They wore elegant combinations of coats, jackets and skirts, all bearing the very detailed tailoring that Browne is famous for. But increasingly, it was obvious that these outfits had been deconstructed and then reconstructed as something else. A jacket could be seen in its new incarnation as part of a skirt. The fur-trimmed arms of a coat became part of a dress. Sleeves hung artfully from a waistline.

READ MORE: Thom Browne talks American tailoring, in Hong Kong

Despite all the art involved, the theme was actually quite practical. “It’s really taking your existing clothing and making new clothing out of it,” Browne said afterwards. “Really reappropriating.”

Jocelyn Noveck

TOMMY HILFIGER SETS SAIL

At last Monday’s nautical-themed runway show, his models strutted the decks of a steam liner – with actual steam coming out of the stacks.

The clothes displayed on the, er, T.H. Atlantic combined formal nautical wear – navy jackets with gold buttons and brocade – with more feminine elements, like delicate print dresses and sheer navy skirts through which one could see sequined short shorts.

There were plenty of sailor coats and dresses, Breton striped tops, wide-legged pants with gold stripes down the side, even nautical overalls. Footwear included chunky-heeled loafers paired with ankle socks.

Hilfiger’s production notes describe a sensibility where the designer’s “signature love of nautical” is “seen through a nostalgic filter where formal naval influences collide with the romance of a bygone era”.

The show closed with some of that cinematic flair, sending its marquee model, Gigi Hadid, down the runway in a sparkling gold-sequined sailor dress.

Jocelyn Noveck

VERA WANG MASTERPIECE

Vera Wang shored up her artistic clout by sending models down the New York runway in towering platforms and elongated cuts inspired by Modigliani and Giacometti.

Wang, known for designing wedding gowns for the rich and famous, presented a collection steeped in the lean, sculptural image of the European artists, whose modernist masterpieces fetch record prices.

“I wanted to find my own new proportion and my own new silhouette,” said Wang backstage.

The strap and buckle accessory was dominant, stretching between shoulders and sitting on hips. She presented shorts, hemmed with lace, paired with sharp blazers and knee-high boots, floaty barely-there chiffon print dresses and pleated skirts slit to the thigh.

“The precision, the elegance and the control of fencing and the beauty of fencing, see the way those plastrons are cut and how it shapes the arm hole and the body,” says Wang.

LADYLIKE AND LEATHER AT OSCAR DE LA RENTA

Peter Copping, the British creative director of Oscar de la Renta, presented his third seasonal show for the label since its founder’s death in 2014, offering a studied tribute in timeless elegance.

He sent out a typically ladylike collection with copious amounts of Spanish-style lace in stone, black and wine, and with fine attention to detail such as lace cuffs on ribbed jerseys.

The clothes featured fur babydoll collars and giant bows at the neck on plunging ballgowns. Copping included a leather bubble skirt, a red leather dress and a gold lamé trouser suit.

TORY BURCH EQUESTRIAN

Uptown, newly engaged billionaire Tory Burch showcased a bright, preppy collection inspired by her childhood love of horse riding – and a scene from a French movie about marital fidelity.

The show opened with a vibrant jockey pattern used in patchwork effect. There were colourful woollen coats, crisp white shirts livened up with jockey-print satin sleeves, and a diamond-patterned sequin and satin dress.

Burch said it was a refined take on sportswear classics.

“The tomboy in me really loves it. I think it’s how I want to dress,” she said.

Instant gratification: the fast fashion revolution

New York Fashion Week this season has put “click and buy” on the map, revolutionising the antiquated global fashion calendar with clothes that now can be ordered straight from the catwalk. For more than 100 years, the world of high fashion has been divided up into seasons – spring/summer, autumn/winter.

Designers debut their collections at fashion week, fashion magazines write them up and the stories go to print a few months before the clothes are available in boutiques – six months after they grace the runway. But gone are the days when only magazine editors, socialites and the in-crowd grace a fashion show. Through Instagram, Snapchat and live feeds, bloggers now zap images from the catwalk across the internet in real time.

That means the average high-end client no longer wants to burn thousands of dollars on an outfit that has been plastered all over the internet for six months. She’s bored, she wants something new.

“The younger customer does not want to wait any longer, they want to see it and wear it that day or the next day. So we’re going to change the rules,” says American designer Tommy Hilfiger.

In September, Hilfiger customers will be able to buy his collection straight from the catwalk.

This season New York designer Rebecca Minkoff launched #SEEBUYWEAR, offering 70 per cent of the items featured in her show for immediate purchase.

While the vast majority of New York shows have focused on autumn/winter 2016, Minkoff’s collection was more immediate – spring/summer 2016 .

Tory Burch, Diane von Furstenberg and LaQuan Smith all offered items from their collections for immediate sale. As with Hilfiger, British luxury label Burberry and Tom Ford are scheduled to follow suit in September.