Through the looking glass of fashion, it’s one intriguing chess match. Make that many matches in which designers are constantly challenging themselves, reevaluating, experimenting. It makes sense that Vera Wang named her spring collection in honor of Alice, the girl who found such intrigue and madness beyond the glass. Because this outing was highly intriguing, a little mad and clearly indicative of an ongoing journey.
Vera has long fielded retailers’ requests for less black and more color, requests presumably passed on from clients. Implicit in such is a parallel desire for something more commercial, or so one would assume. Apparently, Wang didn’t get the memo. Her look focused on intricate bodice construction and layerings of airy fabrics — opaque, transparent, piqued, otherwise perforated — cut and crafted with incredible attention to detail. Throughout, Wang deftly crossed references from the worlds of couture and sports alike. There were also twinges — unintentional, but odd — of Nina Ricci by Olivier Theyskens, who, in six-degrees mode, worked at Ricci with Mario Grauso, now president of Vera Wang. These came in manipulated 18th-century wallpaper prints that Wang called “trippy,” and in the diaphanous cutaway-skirt motif.
The result was delicate and ethereal and brooding and mesmerizing and lots of wonderful storybook adjectives that denote appreciation of beauty and wonder. It was not a clear statement of how Wang thinks women should dress next spring, at least women not named Beyoncé, who arrived just before the show started, looking divine in one of the collection’s comely tulle bubble skirts. In fact, apart from the lovely, pastel and gentle gray palette — one wish answered — there was little suggestion of what stores will have to sell, particularly from the waist down. Which is not to say that a primarily editorial show is a bad thing. Every season needs a few such beauties, and this was exquisite. But it felt like a very beautiful step in a complicated chess match that Wang has not fully strategized.