All Wrapped Up – Boudicca, Costello Tagliapietra, Twinkle by Wenlan Chia, Gary Graham, Afshin Feiz, Trovata, Y & Kei, Kai Milla, Jeremy Scott
Boudicca: Design duo Brian Kirkby and Zowie Broach, cult favorites in their native England, hopped over the pond to show on the New York runways this season, forgoing London’s fashion week. The move is part of their plan to expose their avant-garde luxury label, Boudicca, to a larger, more international audience.
Kirkby and Broach showed an almost entirely black fall collection, which benefitted from the straightforward presentation. Their sharp tailoring was seen in well-cut jackets and skirts, sometimes tonally embroidered with words like “forever,” or sporting delicate lace overlay. A welcome dose of color came in a featherweight metallic purple silk top, cut with 18th-century-style sleeves. And for anyone who missed that great black leather puffy bomber that flew out of Barneys New York a few seasons ago, there was a new version in caramel floral-embossed leather. With their deftly-cut pieces and modern-gothic sensibility, Kirkby and Broach should find plenty more fans here.
Costello Tagliapietra: Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra are faithful to one woman — the Jersey Girl. No, not someone of dubious fashion sense hailing from across the Hudson, but one who only wears jersey: silk jersey, lace jersey, wool jersey, you-name-it jersey. The Ecco Domani-winning team worked it beautifully in a stream of heather gray, red and taupe dresses and skirts that swung gently around the body, but that one look has its limits. While there’s a lot to be said for having focus, Costello and Tagliapietra must broaden their scope to prove that their label isn’t a one-idea wonder. After all, there is life beyond jersey.
Twinkle by Wenlan Chia: Whether it’s a lightweight cardigan, a chunky vest or a merino wool bud jacket, Wenlan Chia’s knits have it all — fabulous construction, wonderful patterns and a bright, easy color scheme that consisted of lavender, chocolate brown and coral. In this collection, Chia took her knits one step further, venturing from sweater territory into coats. They looked good over lovely herringbone-print silk and chiffon dresses. Chia’s ensembles are for the youthful, sophisticated woman who doesn’t mind a girly look on occasion. Next time, we’d like to see the designer take a few more risks and not play it so safe and sweet.
Gary Graham: Gary Graham’s fall collection was based on an imaginary trio of women — a Gothamite, a scientist, and a boondock honey — and he managed to combine the social chic of one with the clinical edge and country-bumpkin appeal of the others. And it was all executed to perfection with a matching soundtrack — rock, country and dripping beakers. To that end, the scientist wore silk bustiers and quilted armor coats in a palette of gray and black; the boondock honey wore twisted bouclé skirts and shearling vests paired with wellies, and the Gothamite wore pretty georgette dresses and swinging taffeta and organza skirts. While it may all sound schizophrenic, the mix of looks (and personalities) were worked to chic effect.
Afshin Feiz: Paris-based Afshin Feiz’s New York debut was impressive and promising. The designer’s second collection exhibited a great color sense, talent for tailoring and, most importantly, a willingness to experiment. Feiz’s intricate body-hugging skirts cut in tweeds with a host of details — satin and velvet trim, flippy pleats, gold piping— certainly made it to the winner’s circle. They joined a beautiful black A-line coat with subtle gold piping and a pair of silk skirts cleverly constructed with overlapping panels of colored fabric. Though he could use a bit more time to develop his pants and evening dresses, Feiz is certainly one to watch.
Trovata: So-Cal surfer boys don’t exactly seem like the types to throw a blue-blooded garden party for their first formal fashion presentation. But then again, the fact that the four behind this burgeoning line (John Whitledge, Sam Shipley, Josia Lamberto-Egan and Jeff Halmos) are designers at all is equally baffling. After viewing these comfy worn classics, however, you kind of get the beach-bum-goes-to-Harvard aesthetic. The collection included soft classic cashmere sweaters, chinos, fitted jackets, butter-soft Ts and corduroy from head to toe. Piece by piece, the lineup isn’t exactly earth-shattering, but taken as a whole, it successfully illustrated a lifestyle. Think Abercrombie & Fitch or American Eagle, only way cooler. Unfortunately, the mood lighting at the National Arts Club where they showed made it virtually impossible to truly see the clothing, a major misstep for young designers.
Y & Kei: Designers Hanii Y and Gene Kei took more than one page out of Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” when looking to the Twenties for inspiration. These two have always been romantic but usually temper the flou with a harder, artsy edge. This time around, the inspiration got the better of them. There were some beautiful pieces, but the look in general was way too literal. That said, the best were the luxe meaty knits, such as a taupe jacquard sweater-jacket with a mink collar. And a black matte jersey and suede dress was so sleek and modern you could hardly believe the materials were married. It is that kind of forward-thinking that Y and Kei need to continue doing.
Kai Milla: Kai Milla, wife of Stevie Wonder and first-time designer, focused on eveningwear for fall. A smart move for someone who has high-profile event experience, and certainly the parade of satin, velvet, organza, chiffon and sequins, were appropriate for the genre. But as often happens with new designers, Milla tried to incorporate too many ideas at once. But that’s not to say there weren’t some winners there, too. Her plunging jersey gowns with sequined hip bands moved beautifully, and the toffee silk satin strapless gown with baseball-like stitching would keep any red carpet red hot.
Jeremy Scott: Madame Butterfly, meet Mr. Compton Gridiron. Jeremy Scott introduced the two in his show Friday night, because only in his world (and maybe Galliano’s) could those two cross paths. It became clear that Scott takes himself too seriously and the business of fashion not seriously enough. Everyone likes a dramatic showpiece, but a whimsical, giant butterfly jumpsuit is a tough sell. Especially when it’s backed up by a confusing lineup of sports jerseys-cum-sweeping capes; sweatshirt dresses printed with Chinese theater masks or football helmets pierced by a sword and two flags, and denim jackets and skirts embroidered with what looked like bright butterflies but were actually two guns facing outward.
Scott teamed up with Saga Furs and sent out one gorgeous, giant black fur coat, to which he added beautifully-etched metal shoulder plates à la a Japanese samurai. The metal plates, worked elsewhere as a corset on a sweatshirt dress, will no doubt be an easy pick for editorial. But again, how will that translate at the cash register?