The great Fashion Week migration

Designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez walking the runway for the Proenza Schouler show at New York Fashion Week on Feb 13, 2017, in New York. The pair will be moving their show to Europe.
Designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez walking the runway for the Proenza Schouler show at New York Fashion Week on Feb 13, 2017, in New York. The pair will be moving their show to Europe.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK • One New York Fashion Week show heralded a beginning and another marked an ending.

At Oscar de la Renta, a house that has been in some turmoil since the death of its founder in 2014, former design director Laura Kim and design assistant Fernando Garcia made their debut as creative directors just under two years after they left to start their own brand, Monse, which they showed before the Oscar collection, as a kind of opening act.

At Proenza Schouler, designers Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough, favourite sons of New York, were saying farewell. As of July, they will move their show to Europe and to the couture schedule.

Both collections were worthy of attention because of what they put on the runway - ideas that reflected a turning point.

Garcia and Kim took some shears to de la Renta, where they gave the brand the fashion equivalent of a haircut, transforming it from a shellacked bouffant into slick, swinging ponytail.

"When I was trying to get them to come back, Fernando said, 'You know, I'm afraid you don't have the guts to make it young,'" Mr Alexander Bolen, Oscar de la Renta's chief executive, said in a preview before the show.

But "young" is a relative term. The Monse collection was younger in the poet-meets-pirates-of-venture- capital sense (lots of shoulders unzipped to show skin, cargo pants, shearling, albeit too many flapping luggage strap belts, terrific twisted velvets).

De la Renta, presented immediately afterwards, was younger in a flexible, Pilates-sculpted sense.

Black cigarette numbers were paired with everything from standard tuxedo jackets to devore and mini paillette-paved corsetry moulded or draped at the hips.

That mix of elegance and heritage swag has become a familiar trope of a new designer at an old house since Raf Simons landed at Dior (his now-former job), but that does not make it any less attractive.

Also good: small-shoulder ankle- length coats slit above the waist at the side for an elongated line, strapless bell-shape party dresses that hit not the floor but the ankle, and a colour palette that mixed silver with shell pink and orange, or sea blue with forest green and black.

It was not as original as Monse and it is not necessarily time to bring back the mini-pouf skirt, but the show was coherent and had a cosmopolitan, cleaned-up edge.

The arty edge, however, belongs to Proenza Schouler, a brand that began colonising the Chelsea gallery scene more than a decade ago - at least as it exists in some shared industrial-chic imagination.

This collection was a case in point, dipping in and out of a familiar vocabulary: high-waist trousers bloused at the hip and pegged at the ankle, oversize outerwear dangling skinny logo ribbons from zippers, and jackets wrapped and belted at the waist, so pockets were pulled atop (a treatment that also showed up more specifically at The Row in a lavishly understated collection).

There were bandage dresses and sheer knits spliced with curving streams of colour, splatter shirts and half-moon cut-outs at the waist and hips that veiled or revealed layers and skin in equal measure as well as graffiti knits and tunics made of Latex-lacquered squiggles.

Backstage after the show, Hernandez, bouncing on his toes, said it was inspired by "our memories of New York", from "street art to Sonic Youth to Abstract Expressionism". "It's not time to sit around in your bathrobe," he added enthusiastically. "It's time to experiment."

Still, this looked less like an experiment than self-appropriation.

One can understand it, given that this aesthetic has always played so well in New York, where a cluster of women recognise themselves, or at least their ambitions and fantasies, in the clothes.

But it is starting to get predictable. Whether it will play as well in Paris is now the question.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2017, with the headline 'The great Fashion Week migration'. Subscribe