Jason Wu Moves to the Grown-Up Table.
Jason Wu said he never gave the storm much thought. “What could we do?” he asked before his show on Thursday in a Park Avenue church. “We didn’t have a contingency plan.” In fact, looking around at the hairdressers and models backstage, you’d think it was a normal scene.
“Normal?” Mr. Wu said, sounding almost disappointed.
Twice chosen by Michelle Obama for Inaugural clothes, Mr. Wu picked a good moment to present a polished collection of feminine tailoring. There were few surprises in this collection, which opened with a black satin trench coat with fur pockets, stovepipe pants and peplum jackets (a bit prissy) with crisp white shirts. There were some froufrou bits, like feathery cocktail dresses and a well-done finale of pleated gowns in black, white and ink georgette, with belted waists, but tailoring was the main event.
Mr. Wu said he wasn’t interested in doing a theme this season, just giving a grown-up look. “Well, I’m more grown up,” he said. Themes are usually a bore anyway. Coats with a touch of military pomp looked great (especially in bright red), as did separates in wool bonded lace — a Wu specialty. The opening days of Fashion Week tend to attract young designers, so naturally one expects to learn something new about dressing, or at least see some decent troublemaking. Instead, we got socked with a dishwater palette of grays, greens and browns that was identical to the one in department stores last fall. Thanks!
Richard Chai chose those colors, brightened with dark purple, and drudged out a uniform look, with olive-drab pencil skirts, trousers and boyish tweed coats. This isn’t a new idea in any tone. Two-piece dresses with sleeveless tailored tops offered some relief, but again, the fresh shape winds up looking muddy.
Rachel Comey’s colors can also put you in a funk, but at least she puts some solid design in her clothes. Everyone always says her clothes are “quirky,” and I suppose a leather popover top and soupy men’s trousers qualify. But are they really so quirky, or is Ms. Comey just using her feminine instincts to propose something surprising? Women love odd pieces to mix into their wardrobe, like those pants or a denim work shirt with an orange and black leather bomber.
Like Lyn Devon, whose collection of tweeds, chunky knits and paper-bagged trousers in wool or cotton velvet was a woman’s version of her favorite guy pieces, Ms. Comey remains one of the girls. She knows what masculine bits she needs, and leaves the rest. Also, she can make a sexy dress in a silk print that doesn’t look tacky or retro. This was one of her stronger collections for those hard-to-find pieces. Call me quirky.
Once you get past the name of Chris Peters and Shane Gabler’s label, Creatures of the Wind, and embrace their awkward sense of femininity, things start to make sense. They’re great with skirts — boxed-pleated, dirndls — and even their more complicated collage effects, done with high-contrast fabrics and colors, manage to retain a sense of proportion. Their patternmaking is O.K.
But the overall result is murky. One of the nicest things they showed on Thursday was a brushed cotton minidress with a wide belt in the same fabric and elbow-length sleeves. You don’t want to tell the designers to narrow down their fabric choices or be more straightforward in their cutting, because that sounds horribly discouraging to a pair of designers who actually like to experiment.
But they ought to put more thought into what they want to achieve from a fabric or a design. You can’t improve on that little brushed cotton dress, or on a windowpane check dress, or a skirt in filmy red polyester. For now, though, too many of their garments feel like charming strays with no home.
If you see a woman walking around on the Upper East Side in a tent dress with ridiculously cheerful dots, the outfit is sure to be a Lisa Perry. You won’t get an innovative take on the ‘60s from Ms. Perry; she’s more interested in updating a style for her customers, who clearly are not down for dishwater green.
Among her new additions are double-face wool coats and suit separates, with a dot pattern on one side and glen plaid on the reverse. She has also put some waist in her tents, so all that exercising and dieting won’t be in vain. A long-sleeve, funnel-neck dress in red wool was a nice departure from her A-line shapes. Indeed, the more freely she interprets the ‘60s aesthetic, the more interesting her stuff becomes.
New York Fashion: Prabal Gurung takes cue from military.
Next-big-thing designer Prabal Gurung is in the army — and the navy — now. The Nepalese designer found inspiration in a surprising source this season: servicewomen.
“I just read the Time magazine article that one of the best inventions of 2012 was this invention of body armor for women in the military,” he explained backstage before trotting out his 36 military-inspired creations. “That kind of set me thinking, then I started reading more about it and I found out that all these women have been wearing men’s uniforms for the longest period of time, so now they’re redesigning them for women, and even the small-statured men are wearing that.”
The structured, but feminine looks featured bold peplums, sexy harnesses, asymmetrical evening gowns ans stick thin stilettos that came in black and shiny metallic gold. Some of the heels were even to-the-thigh sexy boot styles with rows of gold buckles.
Gurung said the word that summed up the collection is “empowerment,” which he defined in his own way.”The whole idea means not just being forceful, but embracing your femininity and being a woman in a man’s world and ruling it. You no longer need to look like a man to compete like a man. That’s the power and tool that women have that men don’t have: femininity.”
Saturday’s show is just the beginning of a busy 72 hours for Gurung that will see him launch his capsule collection at Target stores nationwide tomorrow and put on another show Monday for his lower-priced line ICB.
“I’m grateful that I’m busy,” he said humbly pre-show. “I feel good that I have a platform like Target that I can reach out to all these people. Even if they’re not able to buy (the more expensive designer line), they understand the passion and my story, and hopefully they’ll explore that and be inspired themselves.”
The evening served as a first wide-lens look at the designers’ development since their wins were announced in November—an initial view at how talent can fledge under the guidance of all-star mentorship and monetary support. For top prizewinner Gregory Chait, that meant dipping his Elder Statesman line further into the worlds of womenswear and shirting. “We’ve been developing these fabrics for a very long time,” Chait explained of the twill pashmina whose lightweight allowed him to cut tailored pieces and button-downs with a soft, drapey aplomb.
A classic eggshell suit for women was polished, yet still indicative of Chait’s articulated West Coast sensibility—he even scented the room to make guests feel as if they were by the ocean. But the sensory experience didn’t end there. Looming in the presentation space’s corner was a 12-foot, $100,000 cashmere teddy bear that Chait created because “The Elder Statesman is not just about how it looks but its also about how it feels. We were looking for a way to execute that short of 400 people touching the models.”
Love affair with Italian and French designers in China still going strong.
The Vice Presidents of both the China Fashion Association and National Garment Association, spoke at Mercedes-Benz fashion week in China on political ties through fashion, highlighting that the Chinese market continues to increase its demand for Italian brands.
Big brands make sure to make a big show of their presence in China.
The Louis Vuitton flagship store, for one, will celebrate its 20th anniversary in China with a grand re-opening after a year’s worth of remodelling.
Burberry hosted a world first holographic fashion show streaming it live in all their stores around the world.
In February Prada got none other than the Pet Shop Boys in Beijing to rerun their Spring Summer fashion show. Months later they took over four storeys at a Hyatt Hotel for a fashion show and after party.
Bulgari, Chanel, DVF, Louis Vuitton and Zegna have all made extra efforts to reinforce their history by displaying retrospective exhibitions.
Versace and Marni are also in the loop.
A typical scenario is that a brand goes to China either to have their goods manufactured there, or to expand their market, since many from China’s large and growing population quickly entered middle and upper incomes. Modessa is a prime example, whose Lebanese designers have their operations and stores in China.
“China’s been the clothing factory of the world for some time,” said Chinese designer Qi Gang, whose creations featured bright colours, sequins, fur and feathers.
“But as our economy develops, we are also becoming a country of famous brands, big brands. This trend is unstoppable,” he told Reuters TV.
In a funny twist, however, Chinese brand She Ji Sorgere seems to find the comfort and prestige of Italian tailoring more appealing and expressly has their clothes made there. Their name reflects their intentions: She ji meaning “nation” in Chinese and Sorgere “born” in Italian. Caruso, a luxury menswear manufacturer is their link in Italy.
She Ji Sorgere first revealed their collection during the Peking Fashion Week.
The concept behind She Ji Sorgere proves how much Italian and French designers and tailoring are appreciated in Asia.
Pierre Cardin, who is already quite established in China with multiple licenses sold there, opened a fashion show in late March to bring publicity to a huge project planned near Venice and possibly re-created in China.
His 240-metre-high “Light Palace” will be made up of three glass towers rising 780 feet high, linked by six giant discs visible from the outside. The premises will include gardens, lakes, swimming pools, ten restaurants, 1,500 apartments, cinemas, conference rooms, theatres, stores, a helicopter landing pad and a university, according to Mr Cardin himself.
Obsessed with he gargantuan project under the designers’ name, he expertly manipulated light in one of his designs (see hat in photo gallery above) and just for fun designed futuristic fluorescent lighting dresses.
The obsession seems mutual between French and Italian design houses on the one side and Asia on the other.