At Fashion Week, Designers Seek Softness Against a Sea of Aggression
For anyone unfamiliar, Alexander Wang had thrown an all-night rager in Bushwick on Saturday under the pretense of unveiling his spring collection. The reviews fell into two camps—those who had the time of their lives sucking down alcoholic fruit mixers, and those who felt they had been subjected to a cruel hoax, with their safety endangered by overcrowding and aggressive security. Neither party had much to say about the clothes.
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This season feels like a tipping point for New York, which has already suffered the loss of some key designers. This is at least partly due to the carnival-like atmosphere that producers of fashion week have encouraged here for decades in the name of driving attention and global press coverage. Now fashion week is a marketing free-for-all, and everyone wants in. There really should be no call for a metal police barricade at a fashion show, and yet the sidewalks around Skylight Clarkson SQ and Spring Studios, two popular venues, seem to be lined with more of them than the blocks around Trump Tower.
The irony here is that designers are simultaneously trying to address some very important messages about body positivity, feminism, and diversity, but those discussions are getting lost in all the chaos. And several of them are proposing fashion that deserves a solid hearing, with a remarkable lightness and optimism in ethereal parachute dresses that seem to be everywhere, adding a touch of surreal styling to make them right for the modern extravagance of social media. On Sunday, Victoria Beckham, Prabal Gurung, and Sies Marjan each showed collections that looked slightly twisted or off-kilter, with an abundance of acidic bright colors and fits that were intentionally not quite right.
Beckham’s was the most polished take, of course, with her sharp eye for a silhouette that’s both tailored and sexy, and her penchant for posing in a way that allows for no such thing as a bad angle. This season the clothes looked especially light, or soft in her words—“delicacy can be strong,” she wrote in her press notes. I thought about screaming at the models: “YOU LOOK BEAUTIFUL!!! I LOVE THAT DRESS!!!”
The bright colors and transparent fabrics she introduced for spring were like an electric shock to clothes that normally seem vacuum-sealed for preventing the display of any emotion. I cannot imagine Beckham getting caught by the paparazzi at the airport wearing a wacky lavender pantsuit or pink-on-pinker separates or glittering green heels, but then I never would have guessed she would play the White Stripes at her fashion show, and here we are.
Sies Marjan, the daringly vibrant label by rising star Sander Lak that has somehow inspired fashion folk to walk around in hot pink and purple tinsel sweaters of late, keeps pushing the color spectrum into shades of delirium, and it’s a joy to watch. For spring, Lak’s flavors included mauve, coral, sage, Post-it yellow, blueberry milkshake, and milky blue. These were served up in loose pajama silhouettes, breezy parachute dresses, a shaggy tangerine shearling over a muddled pink slip/shirt dress. Most intriguingly, many of the styles were skewed so that a cable-knit sweater, for example, twisted around the body, as if from a bad case of static cling.
From Tom Ford earlier in the week, through Beckham and Lak, there’s a sense that some designers are embracing the tacky. Juicy Couture is returning to the runway this week, after all. One look that stood out at Gurung’s show was a plastic-looking red dress worn by Gigi Hadid that reminded me of the texture of Fruit Roll-Ups. It’s surely not a safe look, but at least there’s no need for any security.