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.
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.”
CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Holds First Fashion Week Presentation.
The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, an annual competition that aims to bring funding, mentorship, and exposure to emerging fashion design talent, hosted its very first New York Fashion Week presentation on Friday evening at Milk Studios. Over the last ten years the fund, spearheaded by Vogue’s Anna Wintour and the CFDA, has nurtured designers as acclaimed as Proenza Schouler, Derek Lam, and Alexander Wang. And last evening was the 2012’s finalists’ turn to ramp up the heat.
Winner Gregory Chait of knitwear brand The Elder Statesman, and runners-up Jennifer Meyer of Jennifer Meyer jewelry and shoe designer Tabitha Simmons all showed their fall 2013 collections to swarms of eager buyers, editors, and executives from Milk’s 8th floor. “It’s ten years this year that the fashion fund has been going on and in the beginning the designer would win the money and a mentor and that was it,” the CFDA’s CEO Steven Kolb explained, “but what we’ve realized is that the value of fashion fund isn’t just the year that you are in it… it’s kind of like winning an award for a movie when all of the sudden all of this stuff starts coming your way. It’s raised the bar for New York fashion and added a whole new group of innovative designers. It’s a game changer for American fashion.”
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.”
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