Being American is hard right now, especially if you’re a fashion designer.
Political turmoil, climate catastrophes, fake news, and – what, me worry? – the threat of nuclear apocalypse, have led our creative leaders into a state of serious self-reflection that questions the very nature of what it means to be an American today. And while it is critical for designers to take current events into account in their collections, the sudden appearance of deep thinking about high school archetypes on display at New York Fashion Week (the cheerleader, the prepster, and the potential serial killer are having a real moment) is starting to feel a little repetitive, like watching The Weather Channel for more than 10 minutes at a stretch.
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After Raf Simons set such a high bar at Calvin Klein with his pom-pom dresses on Thursday night, it kind of sucks for anyone else to play that tune in his shadow. But Friday’s shows nevertheless offered a parade of disaffected youth that overwhelmed some pretty good clothes.
Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia of Monse held their audience on a basketball court in a new luxury rental building near the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel for 45 minutes, including the Hilton sisters, Sofia Richie, and an actor in a Minnie Mouse costume, waiting for the arrival of Nicki Minaj before their game could begin. Kim and Garcia, since they also took on design of Oscar de la Renta last season, have positioned their Monse line as more playful and edgy, and their spring show brought twisted takes on varsity sports: fringed skirts, laced dresses, jersey sweatshirts, pants finished with a padded waist like a football uniform. All of this was very cute for a pep rally, and reflected a sense of optimism that makes sense for this duo, who seem to be having a ball right now as the cool kids in school.
Youth-influenced clothes could be seen all around, and designers, like high schoolers, seem to be forming their own cliques. It’s just like “The Breakfast Club.”
At Jeremy Scott’s 20th anniversary show, the skater-chic designs covered in grungy neon patches and L.A. bandeau tops that were reflective of just how chill people are on the West Coast about everything. The collection was designed not so much for the freaks and geeks but for the stoners and the loners.
Jason Wu captured the preppy market with his cool twists on shirtdresses and parachute fabrics, and Tory Burch targeted the Ivy League-bound elite with one of her most polished collections. In this troubled marketplace, Burch wins the title for most likely to succeed. There were so many hits in this sunny, shoppable show – totes and dresses made of terrycloth like frayed beach towels, slides with thin straps that looked like the material of plastic lawn chairs, a sleek ecru canvas trench with a pretty satin collar, and some models carried up to four bags at a time – that I’d bet on her for class valedictorian.
Brandon Maxwell, this generation’s maestro of evening wear, played his spring collection to the soundtrack of my youth, starting with Britney Spears and Dolly Parton, so I was easily sold on his sassy pink velvet tops worn with blue jeans that had been finished with a telltale faded white ring on the back seat pocket. How many people remember snuff cans?
Matthew Adams Dolan, the new kid, sure made an impression. Introduced to the fashion world by Rihanna, Dolan had no problem taking a seat at the cool kids’ table. In his first big show, he offered some great takes on the oversize dress shirt trend and more of his signature very big, very androgynous suits. His show, like Raf’s, was a nod to the duality of preppy Americana and psycho Americana (seriously, Dolan cited the Menendez brothers in his program notes), so clearly he was projecting a John Bender kind of don’t-mess-with-me vibe by embroidering his clothes with his monogram. How lucky he is that it spells M-A-D.