Vera Wang is doing battle — alone. “To have the sophistication of a collection, but to have a more contemporary edge or toughness, that’s the war I have with myself,” Wang said days before her show.


Though speaking about her self-imposed challenge for the season, in fact, Wang articulated an essential push-pull for high-end designers, one that will likely become even more daunting and less easily skirted in the future, given our increasingly casual lifestyle. For spring, she achieved an exquisite balance, and if her lyrical lineup didn’t exactly evoke the descriptor “tough,” it radiated an artful chic built upon her fine fusion of embellishment and ease.


This came by way of a subtle East-meets-West play, one someone in-house described as having the feel of a modern Poiret. This made for a salient comparison, though not in terms of silhouette — no cocoons or hobble skirts here — but in Wang’s inventive draping and her rejection of stiff structure. Which is not to suggest a parade of Shapeless Sadies. For all their ease, most of Wang’s dresses and tunics were cut on the lean side: a controlled trapeze, a narrow one-shoulder released into a gentle skirt, a mesmerizing purple floral long shirt worn over shorts. Along the way, Wang twisted, tied, bunched and bejeweled, connecting organza appendages here and tulle shrouds there. She also amped up the sparkle in the bold geometry of a big, square paillette bib on one dress and three wide strips of jet embroidery on the back of another. It all came together in a way that was interesting, yet beautifully unfussy. And lest the designer let herself down, aggressive shoes bound the ankles in demonstrative black leather and delivered that perfect touch of tough.

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