Seasoned fashion week attendees know New York’s early September weather can be an absolute scorcher. This week was no exception, and by day three, the humidity gave way to showers, a welcome sight to lower temps.
However, for Prabal Gurung, Friday afternoon’s showers were not a guest. The designer, keen on iconic New York locales, chose his show location in a relative newcomer, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park on Roosevelt Island, most famous for its 19th-century Smallpox hospital and state penitentiary.
The park references FDR’s January 6, 1941, speech naming the four essential human freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
Thus, the outdoor venue—off the beaten track due to the island location in the middle of the East River—faced challenges during a medium-force rainfall. For starters, a metallic Plexiglas runway roughly 100 feet long looked downright treacherous for walking in heels as it resembled a massive slip-and-slide.
Post-show, Gurung gave a shout-out to fashion week’s unsung heroes, the models, the PR, and the design team. “I sit and meditate and pray while they take care of everything,” he said, adding, “Backstage, the models said, ‘You got this; this is going to be amazing. We love it, don’t worry, we won’t fall, we will walk.’ It’s funny for an industry that takes models for granted. They are the real athletes.”
It was a miracle no one hit the dust as the shoes were mainly pencil-thin high heels, and there were many flowy, drapey, long hemlines to deal with. The park was fitting for Gurung to exercise his freedom of expression regarding his immigrant experience and his cultural design language, including his Nepalese background and Singapore upbringing.
“In a culture where there is always a discussion of ‘East meets West’, I thought it was time to flip the script. It’s about time the West meets East,” he offered.
He compared the current cultures of countries like India, China, and other Asian nations that are ‘coming up’ culturally and innovating in the art arena to the U.S. This country gave him his identity and freedom to self-express while at the same time housing a state like Florida that passes a ‘don’t say gay’ law.
“It’s like being progressive and regressive,” he suggested, adding, “I wanted to create a story of all of us coming together to see each other and celebrate.”
To that end, the collection was built on fabrics Gurung said were humble but treated like silk faille, i.e., cotton and linen embroidered, pleated, and hand printed. Indian beading prevailed, prominently representing the West-meets-East mood in a bandeau tunic top worn over denim slacks. Gurung referenced a wallpaper print from his grandmother’s home that created the pattern on the pink and white fringe of the top.
While the collection offered a new view on sophisticated city dressing for a newly tropical climate like the East Coast, not every Eastern idea translated, such as heavily ruched harem pants; it was a bit hard to tell. While the expanse of the park made for a dramatic show background, it dwarfed the clothes that were a good twenty feet from the runway. Maybe seating was moved to accommodate the rain. Who knows, but a closer view might have made these pieces express themselves better.
Sally Lapointe got a little luckier and squeaked by the rain, which started just as her outdoor venue show wrapped. The designer took Crosby Street in Soho, directly across from her Howard Street offices, to showcase her fluff and frou embellished ensembles. The designer has managed to build up quite a fan base—Beyonce sporty a shimmering pink shoulder and thigh-bearing look at a recent stop on her ‘Renaissance’ tour—with her dressy separate and cocktail dressing that picks up where Zsa Zsa Gabor left off, and made it cool for today.
Backstage, the designer spoke to FashionNetwork.com, further dissecting show notes that relayed a story from a trip to a New York City bodega when the lottery was at a record high, which got her fantasizing about being a winner.
“I designed a collection of clothes I would wear if I won. The clothes are flashy, sexy, a lot of embroidery; it’s my DNA but amped up,” she said.
The show’s energy was also turned up thanks to the marching drum ensemble Black Fire Percussion, who opened and closed the show. Shiny silver metallic sequins, often head-to-toe, were pumped up by sleek silver thigh-high boots, a style shown throughout the show. Lapointe veers towards a monochromatic color scheme with shine and sequins delivered in rose gold, navy, lime green, and vibrant pink, giving life to the color post-Barbiecore.
Lapointe loves a cutaway silhouette, midriff-baring wrap tops, and plenty of sheer styles but offers covered-up looks via pantsuits and a long-layered trench, either as a sheer topper or in one unique look, a distressed cream denim coat. Her collections are in roughly 75 doors and includes major U.S. luxury retailers Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, and KIrna Zabete with international locations such as Harrod’s in the UK, Harvey Nichols in Hong Kong, and Galeries Lafayette Doha, among others.
Saturday night’s Eckhaus Latta show didn’t have the weather to contend, only the tourists of Fifth Avenue stopping to gawk at what was happening inside the Rockefeller Center show location. The design duo Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta chose a spot a bit out of step with their cool kid downtown New York-slash-Los Angeles brand ethos.
Though showing near some of New York’s toniest stores, Tiffany, Gucci, Dior, Ferragamo, and Prada also may say something about the brand’s current positioning. Currently carried at retailers such as Dover Street Market, Ssense, Farfetch, and Nordstrom, as well as flagships in New York and LA, the line has grown up a bit since its indie-art-project vibes beginnings.
While the show boasted one of the loudest applauses of the season thus far, the offerings and audience have expanded thanks to the brand’s unique take on denim-inspired pieces and knitwear for men, women, and more (they even make kids clothes). This season delivered new ways to shape and contour jean silhouettes made from fabrics such as distressed leather, silver-coated, or black nylon. A heavy-knit lace served as dresses, pants, or accouterment wrapped over pants. The duo made a strong case for sheer throughout, adding elegance to the subversive overtone of the collection. The clothes demonstrated they were more than just club gear, though as the lighting was similar to a club, it was hard to get a good look, which was a shame.
Sami Miro Vintage
Earlier in the day, another Angeleno brand made its New York Fashion Week debut, Sami Miro Vintage. The vintage store-slash-stylist-turned-designer gave her unique take on traditional denim. This generally meant cutting off jeans into micro skirts, shorts, and jackets in hyper-cropped styles but leaving an extended placket, giving the pieces a cutaway silhouette.
Miro uses deadstock and upscale eco-fabrics, organic eucalyptus rib, organic hemp French terry, vintage denim, limited deadstock materials, and recycled nylon.
Demonstrating her ‘one-man’s-garbage-is-another’s-treasure’ philosophy and a deep commitment to sustainability, halfway through the show, the designer—who easily serves as her own model—cut a pair of pants on another model on the runway and transformed her pants into a mini skirt and long train. It was refreshingly equal parts performance art and bravado.
The weather also figured into the sophomore effort for Kate Spade’s design duo—SVP and head of design, RTW and lifestyle, Tom Mora, and SVP and head of design, leather goods and accessories, Jennifer Lyu— who have given the quirky, preppy, and often prim collection a distinctly fresh attitude. Showing at the Chelsea Passage section of the High Line, the duo offered a collection of graphic, colorful separates geared towards a new Kate Spade customer who leans into ease, opting for more casual and sportier styles.
According to Mora, the collection tried to capture that palpable feeling of “the first glimpse of spring temperatures on a winter day that gives you a sense of relief, joy, excitement, and optimism.”
Thus, bold color combinations, Kelly green and yellow paired with black-and-white prints, while solid navy and white pairings, witnessed in bold stripes and sporty oversized plaid, helped deliver the mood. Cigarette-style pants, pussy bow tops, and cinched waist silhouettes familiar to the brand gave way to loose, athletic-inspired pants, boxy unstructured jackets, sweeping dusters, and drapey, waistless tank-style dresses oozing comfort.
The duo said house codes are omnipresent: think florals, stripes, polka dots, pearls, and bejeweled.
“We next look at shapes. When you have a finite number of ideas, you are more creative because you have to take them, twist and turn, and recreate them,” Mora added.
The duo has reintroduced the brand’s modular 1999 Noel motif as a print, an abstraction of a K and S, and turned it into an allover print across all product categories. It was eye-catching on an oversized cardigan.
The Dakota bag introduced for Fall 2023 continues for Spring 2024 and is deemed “elevated and dressier” in nature and features K and S hardware in a retro modernist graphic design. Lyu summed up the brand’s design legacy.
“Handbags are approached with the house design language, but it’s also geometric minimalism. There are abstract codes and more obvious codes of Kate Spade. It’s an honor and joy to amplify certain aspects of that but incorporate discipline to make it very cohesive. Certain designs have strong heritage codes. We have lots of conversations to get that perfect tension, but it’s always a lot of femininity.”
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