On the last day of New York Fashion Week, Suzy Menkes for The New York Times wrote, “The New York season closed with few remarkable memories.”
This sentiment ran counter to the complimenting T Magazine cover story on Phoebe Philo’s emphatically prodigious albeit unassuming work at the helm of Céline. The story suggested that Philo’s remarkability is in precisely how unremarkable, or rather, invisible, the chosen few who get to wear her clothes feel.
But Menkes is right — the most salient memory of New York Fashion Week was far too imbued with the snow and less with the shows to call itself a soaring success. Then again though, maybe the talent laid out last week was such that it will take marination time, in a vaguely Céline kind of way, to reach the full potential of its decidedly good taste. Maybe that’s just the way of the new New York.
And if that’s the new New York, is London, with its courage and nose perennially up at meekness, the old New York?
Sure, there are a handful of abiders whose aesthetics err closer on the side of streamlined than the boisterous spectacle over which London Fashion Week has built its reputation. I’m thinking specifically of Emilia Wickstead, Pringle of Scotland, Richard Nicoll and specific to this season, Topshop Unique.
Then there are the designers, like Christopher Kane, Mary Katrantzou and the duo behind Peter Pilotto who have championed their placements on the London roster so comprehensively that the success has spilled into international territory, marking their names as ubiquitous as those of a storied house’s like Valentino or Chanel.
Katrantzou and Pilotto specifically, with their erstwhile-print based collections, have seemingly walked just a few steps away from their look-at-me-now-here-I-come patterns to prove their proficiencies with solid color, too. It’s a move that will surely make for lucrative buying appointments stateside. Christopher Kane abided by the rules of paring down also, but only in the sense that he matched his near boundless creativity — mille-feuille layers of organza for dresses, lace petticoats for skirts and nylon tailoring for dresses — with humble suiting.
Thornton Bregazzi for Preen, on the other hand, went in the way of splashier clothes for fall, generating a useable pun for all with six full, mid-collection looks that confirmed “orange is the new black,” while J.W. Anderson kept his color palette dull in all the right ways (white, black, beige, blue) but spared no expense in the silhouette department, destructing and reconstructing what appears to serve as a very powerful note on the flexible configuration of not just a woman’s body but the connotations that circumvent it.
House of Holland was, for me, the greatest coup of the season, showcasing its unshakeable ability to get a rise out of its wearer without compromising commitment to good clothes (and great jeans).
But to understand what exactly makes London the old New York, you have to look to the offbeat ringleaders of the ceremonious festival: Meadham Kirchhoff, Ashish and Simone Rocha — who is the rare example of paradoxical genius in that she sells you on the notion that her art is not about commerce without your even realizing you’ve just been sold. Standout looks from fall included a black satin swing coat replete with inflated arm ruffles, a quartet of tartan two-pieces and the opening embellished trim.
Though this particular season proved slightly more consumer driven (if not also Chanel derivative) for Meadham Kirchhoff with its straight skirts and tweed jackets, the umph factor that makes watching Kirchhoff feel more like a performance than a show prevailed through a selection of what looked like head to toe veils and velvet/patent leather patchwork. Ashish resembled a twisted fairy tale — pink tulle and tiaras accounted for, layers of decadently folded denim, larger-than-life sweatpants and white sneakers notwithstanding.
And that’s the thing about London. Even when it proves that it can flex its consumer muscle, it also remains unapologetically fun with a capital F. It’s remarkable, really.