Anna Sui: If the thought of one more printed peasant blouse sliding off a shoulder sends you screaming for a new trend, you’d be wise to rethink that after seeing Anna Sui’s show. Bohemian hippies, flower children and love, not war, have all seen their day on Anna’s runway, but for fall, the look took a fun and fresh turn to an otherwise over-referenced idea. And while retailers are groaning that too much Woodstock could be dead stock, the reality is, who does hippie better than she? Sui starts with the layering — a key trend emerging this week — tossing Seventies-inspired funky knits or metallic crochets over printed chiffon tops and dresses, with some occasionally worn with stovepipe cords. She even embroidered her denims — jeans and long skirts — with storybook scenes and vibrant patchwork, sending them out with darling little handkerchief tops or floral and paisley shirts. In one case, she topped the denim off with a graffiti-sprayed painted guitar, Sergeant Pepper-style.
But the psychedelic road trip hardly ended there. Anna delights in the enigmatic style of the folkloric girls of the past — Janis Joplin, Francoise Hardy, Penelope Tree, Jane Birkin — and she paid homage to them with her sprinkling of fringe, applique, embroidery and patchwork trims on everything from sweet dresses to shrunken jackets to rock-‘n’-roll coats, Mongolian-trim and all. Don’t think, just toss it on, seemed to be the trick here, and this effortless style seemed hip — but not overbearingly so. Because that’s something she’ll leave to others, especially when it comes to shoulder-baring blouses.
Jill Stuart: If you’re looking for the cool clothes of the moment, Jill Stuart is your gal. And the wide-open space of Chelsea’s Sean Kelly Gallery, her venue of choice this season, further emphasized the hip mood of the collection. As usual, she delivered plenty of great pieces to enhance any girl’s wardrobe.
Who wouldn’t love a pretty lace skirt, fitted men’s wear vests and lots of easy striped blouses? Or how about this season’s de rigueur pants, cropped and slouchy? Her velvet cutaway jackets were reminiscent of marching band uniforms, but by pairing them with satin skirts, she avoided a costumey look. In fact, these jackets would look equally great dressed-down with a pair of jeans.
A palette of black, navy, taupe and cream kept the cool mood intact. But some of the black layered looks, including flowy dresses over pants and the patched sweaters seemed a bit too familiar. All in all, however, Stuart put her best foot forward.
Rick Owens: Rick Owens is the darling of L.A. Goth girls. And now, despite an image and a vibe that’s oh-so-alt, he wants to build his profile among New York’s fashion set. But that doesn’t mean he arrived for his first formal runway show here with his trunks filled with fresh American classics. Clearly, Owens is a Kawakubo-Margiela disciple, and he is sticking to his guns even if his undone gray sobriety feels especially dour right now. Nevertheless, Owens does know how to drape a dress. For spring he took his signature lean, sometimes harsh, separates in a new, softer direction, most notably with back-draped silhouettes. The majority of the collection was rumpled but not sloppy, lean yet textured, layered but not bulky.
As he often does, Owens showed some of his favorite pieces from past seasons, recasting them in unexpected ways — for example, a leather motorcycle jacket over a twist-back jersey skirt. Wide-wale corduroy was his choice for loosened blazers and extra-long pants, while he used boiled cashmere to create interesting wrap-front jackets. Owens experimented with silk chiffon for the first time this season, too, draping and wrapping the body in dresses that could walk the runway or downtown streets in style. Some of these might have even looked sexy, had the designer shown them without all the angsty attitude. As it was, the prevailing mood played like something of a downer, leaving one exiting editor to wonder, “Just what do pilled sweaters go for these days?”
Matthew Williamson: Now that he’s a star in his native Britain, Matthew Williamson, like many of his compatriots, wants to move on to a bigger stage. So he showed in New York for the first time this season. In London, where he’s been a part of Fashion Week for the past four years, his highly decorated looks have found such devotees as former sidekick Jade Jagger, Kate Moss and model Liberty Ross. Gotham’s own hot chanteuse Kelis is also a Williamson enthusiast.
The designer went for color — as in bright, brighter, brightest. Aptly titled “Kaleidescape,” the collection he sent out was packed with electric tints, though many of the colors — and their combinations — were overwhelming. Often, too much was way too much, especially when paired with a pattern, as in the bright paisley that came out on a velvet trench coat and suit. Contrasting elements were layered on top of each other, as well — a heavily embroidered flower on a chunky sweater paired with a tweed skirt with the same motif. Again, sensory overload. Many of the patch-stripped, shredded skirts looked like they were made from leftover fabrics from the cutting room floor.
But for all that, he scored with a group of fun and crafty sweaters that carried such details as pompons or striped necks and hems. The best of them was a black cashmere number with multicolored frilly cha-cha sleeves, worn by Ross herself. Also of note were the more relaxed looks: a great turquoise wrap coat worn over rose corduroys or an off-the-shoulder cashmere V-neck with an embroidered black denim skirt.
In the end, Americans may not start singing “God Save the Queen” for this Pom just yet, but there’s definitely potential there. He just needs to rein in his paint brush.
Katayone Adeli: Remember some of the great things about Grandma — say the homemade cookies, hand-knit sweaters and comfortable quilts? Well, Katayone Adeli certainly does, and these fond memories formed the basis of her collection this season. The designer, who passed on a runway show this time around, presented instead in a low-key setup at her Bond Street shop with a few models on hand for photo ops. The balance of the collection hung on two racks that guests were encouraged to browse through.
But even with all the familial coziness, these weren’t old-lady clothes. Adeli, who is known for her attention to detail, did a fab parka lined and patched with quilting. There were also beautiful Empire-waist blouses made with a “Home-Sweet-Home” needlepoint-patterned fabric and crocheted cardigans that looked as if they’d been knitted by loving hands. But, although the line had a homespun feel, Adeli still managed to make it all look hip. Take, for example, the Victorian-style coat that fit so close to the body that it could have been a dress, or the gaucho pants that, while retro in spirit, still looked fresh.