New York Fashion Week: Jason Wu, Coach, Brandon Maxwell and Rodarte
The continuing pandemic, visa rules and vaccinations unapproved by U.S. authorities prevented European editors from attending New York Fashion Week this season, even as dozens of brands returned to the runway for the first time in 18 months. But Instagram, Zoom, Twitter and the CFDA’s oddly erratic platform meant one was able to grasp and garner a good deal of what was new and novel in American fashion.
A somber weekend on the 20th anniversary of the infamous 9/11 attacks. Which took place in the middle of another NYC runway season, the morning after a Marc Jacobs show and party on a Hudson River pier, where scores of fashionistas posed for midnight photos with the Twin Towers in the background.
New York this fall has so far been a season of optimistic nostalgia and sporty glamor blended with a hint of spiritualism. We look at four key collections from three vital independents and a mega label.
Jason Wu: Offbeat impressionism
A lot of private time in the pandemic was clearly useful for Jason Wu, who unveiled one his best shows ever on Friday at lunchtime.
Jason staged his latest show in a downtown gallery, bedecked with extended plants and flowers, around which his cast walked. Continuing that theme, a trio of black and anthracite floral-print looks, with the details sponged on – a suit made of a bolero and cardigan, a curvaceous gown, and a sheath – were all rather marvelous.
Wu’s boldest ideas were the abstract expressionist tie-dye prints, seen in grand crinolines, or some really great cutaway cocktails, that exposed acres of leg. As did a combo of lilac cashmere sweater and sequined skirt.
All together this was a Gone-with-the-Wind-meets-the-urban-jungle collection that managed to be romantic yet also punchy. Other versions of the modernist Vivien Leigh dress came in canary yellow or faded black.
Indeed, Jason’s decision to work with fabric-maker Cara Marie Piazza and her offbeat impressionist ideas took this collection to another level. Wu is normally a better winter than summer designer, whose jazzed up parkas are must-haves in the bitter cold days of January and February in New York. But this was a fine statement, and probably Jason’s most memorable expression of springtime fashion ever.
Coach: Bonnie Cashin Buffalo Gals
Few designers anywhere have a more acute sense of the visual pun than Stuart Vevers at Coach.
His latest show for the giant brand was preceded by all sorts of wacky shows on Coach TV, available on Instagram, starring camp comperes and all shot in retro Sony Trinitron 1970s hues.
While his take on the latest version of the Bonnie Cashin bag, named after the house’s original designer, came with recycled or faux leather strap or trompe-l’oeil sketches. There was also a great loose cotton sweatshirt, over which was written "Coach Leatherware." The mini-clip of that look, came with the tagline, "Subverting American Classics Since 1941."
"Spring presents my vision of a new vocabulary of American fashion. It’s a celebration too of the colorful, upbeat optimism of Bonnie Cashin," explained Vevers.
Which was apparent in the great parkas and raingear made in giant houndstooth or windowpane checks – all worn with micro sporty bras, bovver boots and denim dude shorts with jockey pant tops exposed.
In a coed show, guys wore bright-hued, big-pocketed parkas; checked dhotis and t-Shirts that read, "Super Grump."
What’s great about UK-born Vevers is that, while so many designers who live in New York retreated this past year to the Hamptons or their cottage in the Berkshires, Stuart got out there and embraced New York. He really rubs shoulders with New Yorkers, and that shows in his collections, especially this one.
Hence his intro clips on Coach TV featured four lasses marching out of a subway station on the No. 1 line, to the tune of "Buffalo Gals," by his fellow Brit, the late great Malcolm McLaren.
Its tagline read: "Real New Yorkers know the best way to get to where you need to go is the subway." Dead right.
Brandon Maxwell: Sporty entrance-making glamour
Gigi Hadid really does get all the best looks. Case in point, the all-silver statement the new mum wore Friday night in the latest show by America’s reigning master of classical glamour, Brandon Maxwell.
Made of a silver cloud print, the pantsuit with peak-shoulder jacket was, well, perfectly cut. And given even more attitude by Gigi placing her hands in the trouser pockets, with the jacket fully opened to show off a matching bra. Talk about an owning-the-room entrance-maker of a combo.
Hadid’s fan clubs on Twitter and Instagram instantly celebrated with mini videos of her returning backstage amid prolonged cheers.
Born in Texas, though very much a New Yorker, six years after founding his house here, Maxwell began his fashion career as a stylist. And those stylist’s habits were very evident in this collection.
Maxwell, 36, likes his glamour served straight up, with not too many frills – from the Japanese setting-sun posh hippie print column in orange and purple, to the ruched-up zebra-print cocktails. Though his most refreshing ideas were psychedelic dresses and tops that added an unexpected twist.
Put together, this was a sleek and savvy statement by Maxwell, yet one could not help wishing that there might be a little more of Brandon’s boyish origins in East Texas and a little less urban glamour next season.
Rodarte: Amazon Live from Bank Street
Rodarte streamed their show directly on Amazon Live, capturing their runway show staged at 155 Bank Street at noon on Saturday. Models marched inside a West Village sculpture garden located, just 20 blocks north of where the Twin Towers once stood.
It turned out to be by far and away the most arresting collection in New York so far.
The Los Angeles-based duo of sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, who founded Rodarte, cut with exuberance, most notably their great deep-gorge blouses with superhero shoulders – but made of Victorian schoolmarm lace.
Beautifully ruched and draped dresses preceded elongated caftans over matching pants, while for racier moments, there were boudoir semi-sheer guipure dresses showing lots of lingerie, in black, virginal white and sinful red. For awards ceremonies – superb floral print blazers or eye popping sequined cloaks of sunset
Dangling sequined strip screen goddess looks wowed, as did acid floral cheongsams, worn on models with gothic arch eye makeup.
Not everything clicked into place – the accordion pleat shirts looked rather old fashioned – but overall this was the most intriguing show in the American season.
And subtly considered in the finale, where the entire cast appeared like priestesses in pure sheathes of ecru, vanilla, rose and yellow, each model wearing a slim gold necklace, to end posing on concrete columns. Carefully poised on a day where the world recalled the almost 3,000 souls lost on that day of infamy.
With a solemn soundtrack playing Dallas Acid’s "Spa Hunter," the sisters took their bows almost gingerly in floral pajamas and western shirts, after a moment of grace on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
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