Sunday 26 February 2017

New York finds its legs again on the catwalk

Not since the heydays of the early Eighties has the Big Apple shown such energy and skill, says Constance Harris

Constance Harris

Marc Jacobs
The Row
Diane Von Furstenberg
Donna Karan
Marc Jacobs
Donna Karan
Tracy Reese
Tommy Hilfiger
Diane Von Furstenberg
Diane Von Furstenberg
Prabal Gurung
Jill Stuart
Prabal Gurung

New York Fashion Week, featuring the collections for autumn/winter 2011/12, has been a triumph, showing that fashion-centre New York is still a force to be reckoned with.

Not since its heydays in the late Seventies and into the early Eighties, when design greats such as Perry Ellis, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Diane Von Furstenberg emerged, have we seen so much energy, commercial skill and desirable fashion from this great nation.

What is always interesting is how many of those names are still on the catwalk or prominent in our retail lives today.

But a big part of New York's current energy and success is not due to the presence of golden oldies, but the ongoing survival of those names that emerged in the past 10 years, such as Marc Jacobs, Tracy Reese, Derek Lam and Rodarte, coupled with newer labels such as Rachel Comey, Rebecca Minkoff, Christian Siriano (who won the fourth season of the US reality show Project Runway) and Costello Tagliapietra, all of whom bring a welcome, fresh feel to the catwalk and, therefore, a fresh perception of New York's abilities.

In the late Nineties, and into the early Noughties, New York fashion hit a low. London and Paris were wiping the global fashion floor with their energy and talent, mainly due to London's nurturing of young talent and Paris's maturing of it.

Even the influence of TV shows such as Friends, Sex and the City and Ugly Betty, all set in New York, could not help. For quite a while, New York Fashion Week was relying on emigrants, especially from London, to give them a bit of fashion verve.

For the past several years, however, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, with support from people such as Anna Wintour in Vogue and Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune, has actively been trying to support new talent, get them showcased and mentored, etc. And the proof of the pudding is now in the eating, which, in our case, is the catwalk.

It is also a salutary reminder to our market of what can happen if we neglect to nurture our own indigenous talent. The ongoing vibrancy of our fashion market requires support of Irish design students and new graduates. Corporate sponsorship, be it Persil or River Island or Peter Mark, still needs to continue to step in and help out, retailers still must commit to good Irish design for at least a part of their buy, and good Irish companies should continue to mentor new talent as a long-term investment.

In New York, old reliables such as Carolina Herrera and Max Azria showed what they are good at. Karan, whose summer 2010 neutral palette of layered and crunched garments did not impress me, presented a stunning collection of sublime tailoring and form in elegant soft hues. There was a little of the early, sophisticated, sexy Sixties about it. I loved it and hope to see it in Ireland next autumn.

Von Furstenberg's collection, too, danced around the Sixties -- but the latter part then disco-ed into the Seventies, Vogue-ing into the Eighties, and it looked fabulous. While being playful, it was also sophisticated and wearable, with lots of great colour combinations, such as jade with teal, and metallic details, giant polka-dots, or striped bands.

I felt like putting a call in to Shelly Corkery, of Brown Thomas, to make sure she bought loads of it -- and the Donna Karan. I am sure she needed no prompting when it came to the Victoria Beckham collection, which was sexy

and sophisticated as usual.

The silhouette was a key issue at New York. Designers such as Jacobs, Karan, Beckham, etc, opted for a ladylike, sophisticated hip, bum and thigh -- grabbing silhouette, a la the wiggle dress -- while designers such as Yohji Yamamoto's Y-3, G-Star and several of the younger designers went for cocoon shapes with lots of parachute straps and utility.

The middle ground was held by designers such as Reese, who does the Seventies vibe of maxis, midis and wide trousers so very well, and Tommy Hilfiger, who dabbled with Seventies-slouch looks but seemed more excited by the sharp tailoring in Jimmy Cagney-esque double-breasted suits on women. As was I.

So what's hot for next season? Fabulous and striking red was a key trend, with all shades between gold, rust and brown growing legs.

Separates were back on the agenda for daywear, especially the short, fitted jacket, knee- and midi-length skirts, and cropped, as well as slouch trousers. Plain, solid-coloured knitwear featured strongly. Fur trims abounded. Elbow-length gloves for the day looked fabulous. Prints/motif wise, polka dots were everywhere, some animal print and quite a lot of metallic hues or details. The elongated rectangular clutch was strong, as was the small, very Seventies shoulder bag. Shoes ranged from wedge, tassel loafers (which I loved) to elegant Manolo Blahnik T-straps (which I also loved).

And the best news yet? I think we are finally saying goodbye to the skinny, low-rise jeans -- yippee. I just know I am going to rue writing those words ...

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