When New York fashion week controversially upped and moved its position in the catwalk season running order, so that rather than happening after London, Milan and Paris it took an early slot before any of the others, the idea was to give the city’s fashion scene some breathing space out of the shadow of Europe. No longer could London claim New York was copying its ideas; no longer would buyers arrive weary.
It was a good plan, and for many seasons it worked; this week, however, it backfired. New York isn’t over. Shows go on until late Thursday. But so far, despite some strong shows and very nice clothes, it has felt like a cocktail party that passes without incident, ending with taxis called at a civilised hour rather than a highly charged all-back-to-mine rave-up.
A few examples: Alexander Wang’s show was strong, but the drop-waists and softly voluminous silhouettes – along with the choice of the ticketing hall of the Cunard building as a venue – framed it clearly as a precursor to Wang’s much-anticipated debut at Balenciaga next week, more a wave to Paris than a bow to New York. And then there was Oscar de la Renta, colossus of American fashion, whose show was dominated by chatter about his infamous intern from across the Atlantic, John Galliano. More than anything else, the rescheduling of Marc Jacobs’ mainline show to a graveyard slot on Valentine’s night – a delay caused by the non-arrival of fabrics following the Nemo blizzard – set the week off-kilter, as if someone had moved Christmas Day to 30 December at a few days’ notice, leaving you unsure when to don your party hats and pull your crackers.
There was something inevitable about the fact that the undisputed model of the week was a Brit. If there’s one thing you need to do to be on-trend right now, it is to become obsessed with Cara Delevingne, whose caterpillar eyebrows stomped down almost every catwalk this week. With a Twitter feed featuring snaps of her snogging Rita Ora and eating packets of Monster Munch, she did her level best to liven up New York.
The next big thing: Menswear fabrics
Last season’s big womenswear noise was around a mannish silhouette; for autumn, it’s all about menswear fabrics. Tommy Hilfiger gave preppy style a kooky Hogwarts twist by layering up houndstooth, Prince of Wales checks, and pinstripes. See also: windowpane plaid at Victoria Beckham and Philip Lim, houndstooth at Thom Browne, herringbone at DKNY and J Crew.
The comeback: Layering
Remember how we were all, “layering’s so over, it’s all about the crisp simple pieces”? Well, scratch that. Your outfit isn’t happening unless there’s a shirt collar and tails poking out at neckline and cuff (just one symptom of the general Céline-ification of the modern runway). This is Philip Lim; for a cuter, cleaner take on the same idea see J Crew.
The accessory: The beanie
It felt symptomatic of the way this New York fashion week never quite caught fire that the much-hyped grunge revival was not as clear a catwalk trend as expected. The exception was the beanie, the undisputed catwalk and streetstyle key look of the week, seen everywhere from Victoria by Victoria Beckham to Tommy Hilfiger.
The retro trend: 70s glam
“It’s not about going to a party, it’s about life as a party,” said Diane von Fürstenberg backstage. Who’s going to argue with that? Von Fürstenberg and Marc by Marc Jacobs both reached back to a glorious era of NYC history, the late 70s, to inject some feelgood rock’n'roll glamour into the week.
The new matchy-matchy: Matchy-matchy-matchy-matchy
Seriously. At DKNY, a pink-tinged leopard sweater was worn with a skirt, bag and shoes – all in the same print. Fashion is about finding new ways to make matching modern, right now. At J Crew there was a new kind of trouser suit: matching sleek, tailored tracksuit bottoms and sweatshirt in upscale fabric. Just don’t call it a tracksuit.
The silhouette: The round shoulder
If you change one thing, change this: the sharp shoulder is dead. It doesn’t really matter whether you take the Alexander Wang route (a Paul Poiret, kimono-ish silhouette) or the sportier, DKNY/Victoria Beckham/J Crew raglan sleeve route. What matters is that the shoulder is soft and rounded, not Gaga-sharp. Got it?
The name to drop: Thom Browne
He is known for two fashion moments: instigating the cropped-trouser trend as a hipster-menswear motif, and dressing Michelle Obama in a necktie-inspired dress for the inauguration. His show this season confounded those who expected him to use the inauguration as a commercial springboard: all exaggerated silhouettes and theatrics, it was bonkers and utterly brilliant.
The new phrase: Madder carmine
I won’t lie, I had to look it up. Turns out, madder carmine is a purplish red. In the parlance of the British school uniform, we know it as burgundy. Burgundy is making an early attempt to oust navy this season, cropping up everywhere from Victoria by Victoria Beckham to Diane von Fürstenberg.
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