New York Fashion Week: Beckham gets playful while Public School designers get political
The collections and locations couldn’t have been more different, but once again identity and politics have been at the forefront of this year’s NYFW
On the fifth day of New York Fashion Week, Victoria Beckham presented a lighthearted collection that relied on colours inspired by play dough and ice cream. The Public School label offered a pointed message on immigration, while a night earlier, Alexander Wang brought guests to a dead-end street in Brooklyn for a show bidding thanks to New York.
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A playful vibe at Beckham
Victoria Beckham has a 6-year-old daughter, which probably explains some of her whimsical colour inspirations this season. “It’s not too sickly sweet, but it feels fresh and happy,” Beckham says of shades like a bright pistachio that appeared on her runway. “I used to wear so much black, and now I really enjoy wearing colour.”
After a night of two glitzy shows – Alexander Wang’s outdoor event and Philipp Plein’s extravaganza that included a striptease in a giant martini glass – Beckham’s Sunday morning show felt like a peaceful trip to a tea salon. And in fact, tall glasses of ginger iced tea were offered to guests as they entered.
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With husband David and son Brooklyn looking on, the former Spice Girl, who launched her label nine years ago, served up a collection that featured light, summery fabrics and even a little glitter on the shoes and on the ankles, in the form of sparkly ankle bracelets. “I love the sparkly shoes,” she said. “And the little anklets. They are just so cute. It’s like a fresh way of wearing jewellery.”
Her main goal, she said, was to create clothes that are easy to wear. “For me, that’s how I want to dress,” she said. “You know I didn’t want to create a collection of showpieces. These are clothes that you can wear, and that’s important. Yes, fashion is fantasy – but you can really wear these clothes.”
She also wanted to stress that light doesn’t necessarily mean weak. “I wanted to show how delicate can be strong,” she said.
Celebrating immigrants at Public School
For their runway show in lower Manhattan, Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne of Public School chose a spot with significance to the history of immigration in New York: the 19th century Five Points neighbourhood, occupied by waves of immigrants from different origins.
Asked if the design duo had been thinking about the current political situation, Chow simply pointed to his cap. “DACA Dreamers,” it read, expressing solidarity with the young immigrants who came to the US as children and are living in the country illegally under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.
“It was symbolic that we meet here to celebrate the immigrant experience in New York,” he said, “and their contributions, what they bring to New York and to the world.”
How was that reflected in the duo’s designs, which were displayed on a runway in a long, narrow alleyway? Through the depiction of everyday items that are often tossed aside, Chow explained after the show.
“The plastic bag, for example,” he noted, “[is] something that people may discard or overlook. When you think about immigrants and their contribution, they’re overlooked.”
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A succession of plaid garments – shorts, shirt dresses, skirts – resembled those ubiquitous square plastic laundry bags with zips. A number of garments were covered with loose-fitting translucent tops – trenches, jackets – resembling clear plastic bags. There were “shopping bag” tops, and orange garments that looked exactly like the plastic bags sent out as the invitation to the show.
Also on display: the design team’s knee-covering sneaker boot, a collaboration with Jordan that was released on Sunday at a pop-up shop outside the runway show.
Alexander Wang’s fashion show for the people
By the time the big bus arrived in a street in Bushwick, Brooklyn, late Saturday night, the crowd had been waiting for an hour or more behind metal barriers in the street, rows of people jockeying for a decent view, some even perching on garbage dumpsters. It wasn’t a good night to be claustrophobic. Or short.
When the bus doors opened, some of Alexander Wang’s favourite models from over the years stepped out and strutted down the dead-end street. They didn’t do the usual finale, and the entire thing lasted just five minutes.
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Wang has chosen unusual locations for his runway shows before; in 2014, he held one at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on a frigid February night, setting up some major traffic jams. The weather was fine on Saturday, but there was some frustration for those who didn’t get to see the models very well.
But you can’t say the venue wasn’t evocative and different. Wang explained afterward that he was going for a sort of “thank you tour” of New York locales that were significant to him. Before arriving in Brooklyn, the bus of models had made two other stops in downtown Manhattan, performing the show for the public.
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“This was really about giving back to New York,” said the designer. Wang said it was liberating to be back in New York full-time, after he spent three years splitting his time between New York and Paris when he was creative director at fashion house Balenciaga.
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“The great thing about New York is that it enables you to do whatever you wish, if you want to break free a little and do something different,” he said. “It’s not rigid, it’s not formulaic.”
After a number of collections in which he tried new and different techniques, Wang said his focus this time was going back to basics, and finding new reasons to fall in love with them. “Sometimes the audience isn’t ready to move so fast,” he said.
One whimsical theme was the use of extra sleeves everywhere, especially around the waist, for a sash-like effect over trousers or skirts. Jackets, seemingly cut in half, turned into skirts. There were also cut-off jean short shorts over tight leather pants.
Wang said he’d had fun turning back to elements like zips and studs, exploring them in new ways. A pair of leather pants had one entire leg covered with studs. Several pairs of trousers had extra zips in intriguing places.
And there were party headpieces, designed by expert milliner Stephen Jones. One, worn by model Kendall Jenner, said “Wangover.” Jenner’s half-sister, Kim Kardashian, was on hand to watch the show, with her mother, Kris Jenner.
“I wanted this collection to be about optimism, playfulness,” Wang said. “You go into your closet and just play dress-up. Maybe you don’t know where to go or what to do, but putting on the clothes and styling yourself inspires you to do something.”