A week that put the new back in New York
The Big Apple's fashion week ditched its old neutrality for a sexual freshness full of colour, says Constance Harris
I regularly complain that New York Fashion Week is never going to set the world on fire, such is its attachment to neutral sexuality, sportswear and a passionless beige/ grey colour palette.
But spring/summer 2011 may be the season that proves me wrong. The catwalks were ablaze with colour, sex appeal and newness, making this fashion editor sit up and appreciate the sweet fragrance of optimism and change.
Despite the 9/11 anniversary and Koran-burning theatrics, New York's fashion industry was declaring itself the business. Even Anna Wintour defrosted that infamous hauteur of hers and allowed randomers to snap shots of her with their phones.
There were big store openings -- Chanel in downtown SoHo was star infested. As was Tommy Hilfiger's superb 25th anniversary show and celebratory bash.
Tommy has always embraced change. He loves his country and he loves his customers, and he is constantly celebrating them both -- regardless of whether it wins him the approval of the notoriously snooty, international fashion media.
A decade ago, when he announced his intent to do high-end fashion (at a time when he was adored by the hugely successful hip-hop movement), the fashion pack declared him "not quite our thing" and said he would never make it into their lofty echelons.
But Tommy always does what he sets out to do. He came and he conquered. His collection for next spring, including his new Icon collection, which will be on sale in his flagship store in Dublin, is sexy, sassy, richly colourful, with much to appeal to the European consumer. Think body skimming, yet sophisticated, separates for day; striking, flowing, long gowns for evening; natty jackets; city shorts; and lots and lots of bright, vibrant, flattering, colour -- including a stunning royal blue.
Though he was not giving formal interviews at his show, Irish designer Claire O'Connor -- attending New York to show her own collection -- succeeded where no one else did and got to have a few words with Tommy. What was the best part of the last 25 years she asked him. "The start, when I did it all myself," Tommy said. "I sketched, I drew, I did everything."
But I did manage to get the man himself a few days later, when he told me about his Icon collection -- as well as how much he loves Ireland.
"I wanted to celebrate 25 years of the Tommy Hilfiger brand by creating a special collection inspired by my personal style icons," he said. "This is how I came to design the Icon collection, comprising my all-time favourite American classics, such as a classic blue blazer, a pea coat and a white Oxford shirt. These are timeless pieces."
Uptown, in his Madison Avenue store, Tom Ford, another of fashion's great survivors, was putting some boundaries up to the media. Only 80 representatives were invited to attend, and on the condition that no photos were taken. So, we have no shots of his collection on our pages.
Constantly reinventing himself and his work, Tom always has his finger on the pulse of where we are all going in fashion. And he has always been the champion of older women. His catwalk models included Amber Valletta, Julianne Moore (star of his film A Single Man) and Lauren Hutton. The looks were sophisticated and flirtatiously sexy.
Sadly, the woman who built her reputation on making real clothes for real women, Donna Karan, showed a collection that was old-fashioned and, well, past it. A bland palette of beige, cream and putty, featuring crunched fabrics, layers, ties and frayed edges -- this was clothing for women not just post-menopausal, but not interested in life at all.
And Victoria Beckham, who has been making great inroads into wealthy working-women's wardrobes, also delivered a collection that was less than what we have come to expect from her.
Thankfully others were making clothes to make people feel happy. Marc Jacobs' collection was gorgeous. Playful, soft, colourful and evocative, Jacobs is still playing with the Seventies, but his was a place we would all want to go. Lots of fitted, patterned sweaters, high-waisted, wide-leg trousers, maxi dresses, playful trench coats, playsuits and such.
I liked the quite dark, contemporary sexuality of Sophia Kokosalaki's collection for Diesel Black Gold. Also quite Seventies in feel, hers featured lots of brown leather and gold fabrics, and had a mature sexuality about it I admired.
Diane von Furstenberg also was playing, showing that she does what she believes in -- and it works for her. It works for this editor, too. She is the one designer who really does create flattering and exciting clothes for size-14 women.
Thakoon also was doing the Seventies thing, but in a dreamy, gentle way. I liked Michael Angel's collection, as well as Derek Lam's. Carlos Miele was the man of the week for event dresses, while at the opposite end of the style spectrum, Y-3, by Yohji Yamamoto for Adidas, showed how street wear should be done.
His collection of black, grey and blood-red soft jersey pieces, in a series of layered flowing tops and chains worn over figure-hugging bra tops, teamed with soft bottoms in all shapes, proved to be a nice contrast to all the American sportswear looks that are so much a feature of New York Fashion Week.
From an Irish point of view (apart from the fact that Tommy Hilfiger's mother was Irish, so we can bask a bit in his success), Edun, of Ali Hewson/Bono fame, presented its first catwalk show since Sharon Wauchob took over as designer. The autumn collection on sale in Brown Thomas Dublin has some great pieces that already hint at good things to come.
Edun for spring/summer 2011 is true to Wauchob's design signature -- and strength. It is a dark, quite complex collection featuring nothing that is usual, with plenty of coverage and depth. One to watch, I believe.
Congratulations, Ali. This time, I think, Edun is going to take off. As has New York Fashion Week. London is going to have a tough act to follow.