New Designer Fashion

Marco Zanini didn’t hold back with his second Haute Couture collection for Schiaparelli. At the time, his January debut seemed plenty shocking; looking back, it was just a warm-up. “Last season I felt really the fright,” he said. “I was so afraid about touching the legacy, because camp is a trap that is always around the corner with Schiaparelli. But I realized if I wanted to find the look, I cannot avoid going there, so why don’t I go there full-on?”

Indeed, a floor-sweeping coral pink mohair coat with giant ES initials in royal blue on the chest and attention-grabbing, pronounced shoulders (a bold silhouette it shared with other outerwear in the collection) will read as too literal for some tastes, too steeped in the couturier’s 1930s milieu. Schiaparelli, as it exists today, is not the house for those clients. There are others, though, who will thrill to the developments at this Diego Della Valle-owned label. Once upon a time those women might have shopped at Christian Lacroix. Eccentricity has gone mostly missing from couture since Lacroix shuttered his business. A shame. Shouldn’t couture, most of all, be a stage for flamboyance and provocation? Zanini is convinced of it.

Thus you had today’s animal prints: nesting pigeons whose eyes were embroidered in sequins on high-waisted trousers, poodles on a simple pleated skirt, and vibrant purple “Central Park” squirrels and rats on a 1930s gown—street creatures all, made fabulous despite their mundanity. And thus you had surreal moments like the bleeding heart picked out in Lesage embroidery on a black dress. Surrealism was off-limits for Zanini last season, so essential was it to Schiap’s oeuvre. Call it a missed opportunity that he’s now open to embrace. Shocking pink, also off the table in January, looked fairly glorious here on a silk velvet dress with three-dimensional flowers at the shoulder. Elsewhere, Elsa’s beloved monkey fur was reproduced with a modern touch in glycerine-treated ostrich feathers on a chic bolero. Also great: another bolero in Christmas tree tinsel fringe. Nearly every look was accompanied by a Stephen Jones chapeau, from a Simone de Beauvoir hand-knit turban to a Lesage-embroidered children’s party hat.

“Schiaparelli is so vivid as an image in your mind,” Zanini said. “As a designer you really need to confront the dragon and go there.” He shouldn’t be afraid to push further next season.
—Nicole Phelps View full post on Runway Feed

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Jay Ahr designer Jonathan Riss yearned for more fluidity this season, marking a departure of sorts from his recent exploration of form. While he didn’t abandon the now-signature Jay Ahr flounced “kick” skirt—never forsake a retail favorite—you could see how he had collapsed his silhouettes, drawing out a wearable ease that jibed nicely with a pre-collection offering. The label has closed the chapter on the zipper detailing that defined several previous seasons; in its place, a perforation technique of micro “lozenges” punched into sturdy canvas. Sometimes the motif disappeared into stripes; other times it was embellished by flat metal studs. Most often, it came backed in black tulle, which did double duty as structural and tonal reinforcement. That recalled Italian modern artist Lucio Fontana’s trick of adding depth to his slashed canvases, and Riss acknowledged that the granddaddy of spatialism is an ongoing inspiration.

Azzedine Alaïa appeared as a more literal reference, particularly in the leather latticework pants or the dotted pattern in relief across slouchy tops. At one point, Riss referred to the designer as a “master” while distancing himself from his work by touting Jay Ahr’s effortless sensibility. His glazed knits paired with cascading, higher-waisted skirts confirmed as much, and he also managed to make his asymmetric hemlines look uncontrived. Overall, the new fluidity led to more finesse, and the collection’s focus—from the repetition of just a few fabrics to the monochromatic palette accented by a Fontana-esque rose and cobalt blue—suggests that Riss increasingly realizes the impact of restraint.
—Amy Verner View full post on Runway Feed

Following Ostwald Helgason‘s much-noted runway debut in February, design duo Susanne Ostwald and Ingvar Helgason offered up an energetic Resort collection, both in terms of color and a penchant for sporty fabrics—here, as elsewhere, mesh was a major statement for the season.

The German-born Ostwald has a background in fine art, something that comes through in deft color-blocking and bright tropical critters like an orange-and-blue toucan on a gray sweatshirt. In a more subdued vein, the designers made a compelling case for abstract geometric landscapes, whether on shifts or as knits. They’re also busily exploring new fabric treatments and combinations. One example: a skirt made of heat-pressed, woven blue raffia that was worked into honeycombed and lacy patterns, bonded with technical fabric and layered over black linen cotton. Speaking of technical fabrics, sporty-smart outerwear was a welcome carryover from the label’s Fall collection. But overall, Ostwald and Helgason seem to have found a sweet spot with playful, mix-and-match daywear in simple shapes that let the pattern and fabrications do the talking. Yes, the clothes are so loaded with detail it’s hard to list them all here, but at least they’re not fussy: One could just as easily give one of these feminine skirts the uptown treatment as take it downtown with the russet-and-turquoise monkey sweatshirt and sneakers.
—Tina Isaac-Goizé View full post on Runway Feed

Some couturiers send out a wedding gown as their final runway look; Alexandre Vauthier presented a black body-skimming gown that offered quite the peep show from behind. A pearl-embellished band running diagonally across the right cheek functioned as a decorative bridge between the lower back and the upper bum, ostensibly holding the dress together. Such asset-flaunting bait will prove irresistible to Vauthier’s
mega-muses: Rihanna, Bey, Kim, Rita. But with this collection, the designer ensured that there was more than enough of his mastery to go around, from a jumpsuit in a laser-cut pony hair that mimicked lace, to crystal-studded leather pants, to a slinky minidress covered in ribbons of python stitched to tulle. Before the show, Vauthier seemed particularly excited about his foray into a print that appeared on a silk parka and high-waisted trousers; no run-of-the-mill geometric motif, this was a reinterpreted archive find from Clerici Tessuto, the century-old Italian fabric house.

It’s all too tempting to linger over a one-shouldered dress that sparkled like pomegranate seeds (the 196,000 ruby-red stones required 1,850 hours of Lesage embroidery) at the expense of Vauthier’s stellar tailoring—straight-edged but not boxy. Patent shin guards unnecessarily accented a few leggy looks, as if he hadn’t already offered enough aesthetic armor with a pearl and crystal cardigan (120 hours of embroidery) or a series of plush fox cabans. Of course, the designer knows there will always be an appetite for the Tom Ford school of sexpot, but his point of differentiation—his expert eye for fit—can get overwhelmed by glam. Vauthier described this collection as “excessively chic,” adding a rapid succession of “très” for emphasis. And to the extent that people will be apt to remember that right cheek most of all, this was très true.
—Amy Verner View full post on Runway Feed

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“The Southwest is a little bit of a challenge,” said Michael Bastian at his studio in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. “I really wanted to avoid all the clichés—no cowboy, no poncho, no fringes. You know, how real guys in that part of the U.S. would dress, or my dream of how they would dress.” For Spring 2015, Bastian took his collection of sportswear to Arizona. “Maybe because I grew up in Rochester, but the desert Southwest to me is exotic,” the designer said.

Clichés were mostly avoided, but not entirely. There were embroidered Western shirts, suede outerwear, and bronze feather accessories from the George Frost x Michael Bastian collaboration. The best expression of the theme was in the dusty hues, soft, textured fabrics, and faded denim. As always with Bastian, the tailoring stood head and shoulders above the rest of the collection. Sharp suits in a linen-blend “denim,” plaid, herringbone, and windowpane were the highlights. All kinds of trousers were reimagined in typical Bastian fashion. Riding pants and cargos were stripped down; motocross pants were made summery in faded canvas and denim; and slim, tapered sweatpants were done in gray piqué.

Bastian’s vision for guys in the Southwest favored glamour over ruggedness. There was something louche in the mostly unbuttoned shirts, short shorts, and, of course, the quintessential Michael Bastian racer swimsuit. But the ease of the collection was almost too easy. The designer might have successfully avoided clichés, but all of the softening and fading seems to have removed the grit that makes the Southwest special.
—Noah Johnson View full post on Runway Feed

Leave it to the Swedes to take all of menswear’s familiar tropes and distort them into something strangely beautiful. For Spring 2015, Stockholm-based Our Legacy infused suiting, workwear, and streetwear with both Scandinavian oddness and references to earthly elements. The result is a collection of twisted, artful minimalism.

This season the brand found new ways to reduce uniform pieces to their most basic concepts, then tweak them in unexpected ways. Most noteworthy was the inventive approach to fabric—a leather shirt, stiff enough to stand on its own, was indigo dyed so that it brought to mind tropical seawater; coated linen gave basic suiting an out-of-the-ordinary feel; and textured nylon was tie-dyed to look like an oil slick and cut into boxy outerwear. Traces of the earth’s creative (and destructive) power could be found throughout the collection. Double-layer linen was distressed to resemble cracked earth. Pure raw silk gave a soft, mossy feel to shirting. Synthetic outerwear pieces were permanently crinkled into glacial forms. Prints looked scorched and rust stained.

Most items stuck to traditional shapes, made slightly off-kilter with unconventional details. Zippers were used in lieu of buttons on shirting, trousers fastened with drawstrings, and windbreakers were cut as
crewnecks. Fit was a tricky proposition. Boxy jackets and wide-cut pants aren’t for the styling novice’s wardrobe, but these aren’t clothes for the thoughtless. Now 10 years in the game, Our Legacy has established itself as a brand that makes menswear more interesting, not easier. For that we can be thankful.
—Noah Johnson View full post on Runway Feed

Since 2004, Engineered Garments has been the singular menswear brand in New York when it comes to vintage-inspired sportswear. With a discreet identity and an “if you know, you know” reputation for quality in fabrics and construction, there is as much mystique as there is obsession surrounding the label. The Spring 2015 collection is a testament to why.

There is a story behind this offering: Designer Daiki Suzuki looked to the now-defunct brand British Khaki by Robert Lighton and the image of the British army in India, their khaki mil-spec gear commingling with bright colors and kalamkari and paisley prints. The result was a collection of contradictions. Khaki, olive drab, navy, and gray paired with bright florals, printed canvas, and jacquard; Nehru collars, harem pants, and long shirts alongside British officer jackets and double-pleated trousers. Military and workwear tend to be sober by nature, but here much fun was had in mixing and matching patterns, in unlikely fabric combos, and in the contrast between informal and exotic with formal and traditional. More challenging pieces like the wrap-and-tie wide-leg fisherman pants added irreverent fun to a jacket and tie. Numerous riffs on safari- and military-style jackets, all executed with a balance of nuance and convention, were never quite what you’d expect. Suzuki’s design process begins with the fabrics, and so one of the greatest strengths here was in the materials—luxe tropical wool; soft, richly colored twill; bright nylon; linen blends; and more unique fabrics like a water-resistant striped cotton with poly backing.

But the British safari narrative is somehow too confining for the clothes; it too neatly categorizes the collection. Above all, this is the vision of a sportswear mastermind. Suzuki doesn’t design from historical archives or a template for what a collection should be. He finds inspiration and intuits his way through both vintage and entirely original designs. While there are staple pieces in the line—the brand’s cult following knows them well, the Bedford jacket and workshirt, in particular—every pattern is new each season, constantly being tweaked to improve and adapt based on what Suzuki feels is right. “This is something nobody else can do,” the designer said, standing in the showroom of his Garment District office. “Only I can do this.”
—Noah Johnson View full post on Runway Feed

Beirut has been undergoing an architectural renaissance, with Herzog & de Meuron, Norman Foster, Steven Holl, and Zaha Hadid among the starchitects making their mark on the Lebanese capital. Zuhair Murad, who is based there, saw the potential for a Couture collection built from geometry—particularly Hadid’s extreme forms. To most eyes, Murad’s interpretation might seem tenuous; dresses generally adhered to classic cocktail or gala silhouettes, with an occasional angular bustline, displaced hemline, or enhanced-volume overskirt. But look closely at the surface detail and you could see how the stretched, encrusted wave patterns; guipure macramé; and puzzle-piece prism motifs expressed a certain neo-futurist edge—especially when rendered in black, white, and silver (the result of hammered metallic sequins).

In trading last season’s precious garden inspiration for a modern cityscape, Murad nudged his aesthetic forward, even if only incrementally. To his fairy-tale wedding dress, he added a 5-meter-long veil; yet the crosshatched embroidery evoked the distinctive cladding employed by various architects today. The designer could have pushed further beyond his signature glamour comfort zone—but perhaps his clients (well-evidenced by the primped-up women sitting front-row) don’t demand this of him. He mentioned that his couture customers are younger and younger—in age and also in spirit, and maybe the beaded, multicolored jump-short number will be purchased less because it represents a good investment than a youth-affirming indulgence. The penultimate look, a shimmery belted caftan, was an outlier in its Art Deco vibe; its unstudied elegance was the most modern statement of all.
—Amy Verner View full post on Runway Feed