There’s nothing like frigid temperatures to give New York Fashion Week a reality check. It’s so cold in Manhattan that many of the runway rubberneckers, those cell-phone-wielding, aspiring street style stars, have opted to stay home, at least for the morning, leaving the shivering photographers to take pictures of one another. This might be for the best, since many of us have noticed that in their ambition to look as absurd as possible, swathed in layers of mixed prints and neon furs, the supposed influencers are starting to all look the same.
The good news on Sunday was that the absence of that circus left us able to focus on the clothes, and the fall collections here got off to a fantastic start. Victoria Beckham zeroed in on a cool embrace of knits, shown as either skintight bodysuits with colorful outlines of skinny bra tops or else clingy ribbed dresses that puffed out with a loose volume around the legs. The striped skirts with an exaggerated high waist and ballooning hips, patent boots, and crushed fur bags were also hits. Beckham is a designer who works by instinct, and hers appear to be sharper than ever.
The Public School designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne brought back a little rock and grunge edge to their street-tinged sportswear, with inky black coats made of fraying fabric and super-cool boots that appeared to be made entirely of buckles. Lots of great vest dresses here, a reasonable argument for bringing back ponchos, and a superb black leather moto jacket, if you’re in the market for any of these things.
Derek Lam followed up on his smash denim-driven spring collection with a return to polish-meets-mod for fall, and it was just as sharp and satisfying. Toggle-buttoned white coats appear to be an early trend – Prabal Gurung would show one just a few hours later in his neatly ordered lineup – but I was most impressed with Lam’s take on skewed hound’s tooth and mixed black-and-white checks on vivid suits that wowed the eye.
“I never thought I’d be designing for Brooks Brothers,” Zac Posen told me when I stepped off the elevator into a Chelsea showroom to see his second collection, as we started discussing the profound sea changes that are reshaping the fashion industry. “I’m a Jewish boy from SoHo with artist parents.”
But if ever there were a designer who gets the appeal of a New York institution like Brooks Brothers, it’s Posen, and his second collection was a standout for just the right camel coats, pajama-inspired separates, a couple of tuxedos and a fine black velvet evening dress that should be a strong contender for red carpet season.
Newcomer alert: Meet Sander Lak, a Dries Van Noten alum who has taken up residence in New York with a label called Sies Marjan, which had a well-attended debut with neatly tailored tapestry coats, mixes of citron-heavy floral skirts, and springtime light parachute dresses in neon colors. Having built a substantial amount of buzz even before his first show, Lak is pretty much a lock as this season’s candidate for a breakthrough. Stay tuned.