Wednesday 17 January 2018

NY fashion just wants to be young. But is it?

BECKS: David Beckham and his children, and American Vogue editor Anna Wintour watch the show

Constance Harris

Youth was a huge focus at New York fashion week for next autumn. Whether it was pulled off, is the question.

To stay vital, to keep attracting new customers, Fashion has to over-haul itself and inject youth into its offerings. Think Saint Laurent in Paris two years ago, when they changed the house name, took up their hems by two feet, and made their collection all black and sexy, such as to appeal to young vampires. That is one way of doing it.

For autumn/winter 2015/16, designers at New York were styling up their collections to appear young by favouring a lot of black, hardware and tough-looking clothing. I wondered if I were back in my late teens, early twenties, would it have worked to convince me that this was clothing to reflect my generation? I kinda doubt it. But of course, that could be my age now talking.

Having seen Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier's third season at Marc by Marc Jacobs, I am even more confused between what is age-relevant in a collection and what is bad design. What I do know is that the label has lost me as a customer since they took over. Under Bartley and Hillier's stewardship, Marc by Marc is an eclectic mix of old fashioned print, netting and crushed patent leather in a mix match assembly of pieces and silhouette.

I can see that the eclectic, anti-beauty nature of the collection is beloved of youth today - but not so much that they'd wear this. And Marc by Marc has always been a mid-twenties to late thirties, label. Will they wear this, I wonder? The proof will be in the sales figures in nine months time. I am prepared to eat my hat and be wrong.

At its heart, New York fashion is always about successful women, be they working or not. For that reason, I loved the collections of Donna Karan, Prabal Gurung, Derek Lam, Alexander Wang and 3.1 Philip Lim because they were all targeting a very real market - that of the urban-sophisticate woman.

I loved the modernism of Prabal Gurung's collection, which also was beautifully sensual. I appreciated the simplicity of Derek Lam's collection, which featured plain, solid items of clothing, worn simply, unlike many of the other designers who were layering up big-time. Lam put a sweater with a skirt and perhaps put a coat on over it. This is a collection for people who like their style knocked back, like Margaret Howell wearers, but new generation. Not a very Irish favouring though.

Black was definitely the colour of the season. Alexander Wang was all black leather and chain mail, with a strong vibe of dark, gothic, youth. Zac Posen's collection was appealing for its enthusiasm and palette of Bordeaux and black.

Though Donna Karan, too, favoured stiff, black fabrics in part of her collection, there was beauty in it, as opposed to the defensive nature of it in others' collections. I adored her shades of grey lace-knit dress, her fabulous trench coats that came in beautiful, fern green fabric and luxurious, off-white shearling. This was the collection of a consummate wardrobe mistress who knows how to take care of modern women.

Philip Lim also was part of the black and Bordeaux brigade, though I loved his for being grown up, urban and beautiful. Black with mustard/old gold featured in prints and checks. Shag-knit sweaters were worn with salt and pepper tweed separates with black leather jerkins. Layering featured strongly with sweaters worn over tunics, worn over shirts, worn over trousers.

Victoria Beckham seems to adhere to the adage that you update your good sellers and you add a percentage of new pieces each season. She changes her collection just enough to keep the conservative customer feeling safe and the design-savvy interested. I was very interested.

For next autumn, Beckham showed garments that flattered the figure and were sexy, but not sexual. Then there were the pieces that sat away from the body and were edgier. I loved her chunky ribbed, sweaters with cowl necks worn with figure-hugging pencil skirts, also her navy, belted coat, seen here.

Chunky, ribbed, knitwear was a strong trend at New York, as was patent leather, layering and the colour black. Body and sheer was another key trend, be it lingerie seen through clothing to actual underwear being the clothes on the ramp.

Rag & Bone designers, Marcus Wainwright and David Neville, did black with bright primary and secondary colours. I loved their patent leather pieces and chunky, high-neck, rib jumpers. They were layering skirts and dresses over trousers and putting zips on necklines.

Sports wear was an important feature in New York with actual sports brands doing the presenting. From the sublime collection by Felipe Oliveira Baptista for Lacoste, to Kanye West's Yezzy Boost shoe line for Adidas.

Tommy Hilfiger went off site and created an American football field for his models to strut their stuff. The venue was huge and packed a similar-sized crowd. Always inspired by classic American heritage the collection was a mixture of checks and stripes, box pleat skirts (a la cheerleaders), in a colour palette dominated by mustard, wine and red. I loved the tartan long shorts, Mongolian fur jackets and the oversized 'footballer's jersey' coat. A mid-to-late 1970's silhouette ran through the collection, including shoes, which is very flattering.

I guess, Diane von Furstenberg, too, was on the youth-market attracting band wagon when she asked Kendall Jenner to walk for her. The collection was very eighties, favouring two-tone, in red with black and white with black, and showing a love of pinstripe suiting.

Though New York's designers were styling up their shows a storm, trying to look edgy, urban and cool, under all the chunky headphones, grungy workmen's boots and black opaque tights, the clothes were pretty straightforward. The urban edge was superficial.

As ever, New York was about commercial, wearable, good clothing.

Sunday Independent

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