At least one of the reference points in David Neville and Marcus Wainwright’s spring collection needed no explanation: Nineties minimalism. It was the lineup’s defining characteristic, reflective of the ongoing, impressive influence of Helmut Lang and yet handled with confidence and cool in the hands of Neville and Wainwright.
Wainwright acknowledged that the stripped-down look — which relied heavily on black, white and a lot of leather — was a new game for them. “It’s a big shift from last season,” he said backstage before the show. “It’s ballsy but you have to take a risk.” With it comes reward, as the designers proved they can veer from the English tailoring and men’s wear-inspired look that’s the cornerstone of the line, without going out of bounds.
Oversize jackets, box-pleated skirts and crisp skirting were descended from classic Savile Row cuts, their precision cast in the new light of a minimalist palette and spare edge. A generously cut blush leather jacket worn over a tiny black cropped top with spaghetti straps and slouchy suede pants that folded over at the waist (traditional Japanese military uniforms also played into the mood) exemplified the clothes’ boyish side. There was also a terrific subversion of preppy sportif — tennis, anyone? — via tight polo tops, one worn with a sharp black leather wrap skirt, and riffs on the iconic tennis sweater, their racy necklines plunging far below the country club standard.
For its focus on the pure side of sporty, the collection was inherently feminine. Shots of pink and light purple, whether on suede culottes or shiny crinkled dresses, softened the stark attitude. And in the case of the most utilitarian looks — two slim jumpsuits improbably based on pinafores from “Little House on the Prairie” — the effect was an offbeat sex appeal.
Neville and Wainwright also pushed their accessories, offering a diverse array of cross-body bags — large and small — in embossed leathers and interesting colors like lavender, as well as megaplatform shoes that made a statement while managing to look comfortable.