Welcome to the 21st century.
It’s taken until late 2012 but designers showing at New York Fashion Week seem to be in agreement that it’s time to push fashion forward instead of reaching back to bygone eras for inspiration. The New York spring-summer 2013 collections, which started last week and ends today, were seen at the main Fashion Week tents at Lincoln Center and other venues around New York City.
Where recent seasons have celebrated eras and archetypes of the past – the ’70s Bohemians, club hoppers and rocker chicks, for example – this season found many designers celebrating the now in all of its tough but pretty, real-life grounded, techno-loving, fast-paced lifestyle glory.
As the song goes, the best of times is now.
Designers showing this season included major industry stalwarts like Diane von Furstenberg, Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta, Donna Karan and Michael Kors; important trendsetters like Marc Jacobs, Tracy Reese and Narciso Rodriguez; newer up-and-comers such as Thakoon Panichgul, Prabal Gurung, Bibhu Mohapatra and Rachel Roy; commercial kings like BCBG Max Azria, Tommy Hilfiger and Nicole Miller; and Hollywood and socialite faves like Naeem Khan, Chado Ralph Rucci, Badgley Mischka, Reem Acra, Tadashi Shoji and Carmen Marc Valvo.
Celebrity-fronted lines, always a big part of New York Fashion Week, were well represented, including the new Katie Holmes line and critically acclaimed collections by Victoria Beckham and the Olsen twins.
And the local fashion scene was represented by Raleigh-based Raleigh Denim.
Freedom and comfort
So what does the future hold for fashion fans?
Clean lined, sleek and street-smart chic are the order of the day. Silhouettes being offered by most designers this season focused on comfort but in fitted styles, compared with the diaphanous, shapeless creations from several seasons ago. Designers up and down the price and style spectrum said they’d been observing that women wanted a sense of freedom and comfort. Imagine that.
For many collections, the results were a bit of Asian-inspired separates – flowy shirts and tunics (some collarless) over skinny pants similar to the Salwar Kameez that are a staple in South and Central Asia. American attitude was often added with tailored jackets, sheer paneling in the tops and leather jackets.
Prabal Gurung, for example, opened his collection with a porcelain silk cotton embroidered jacket with a chiffon tail over a chiffon tunic and cropped skinny pants. Nicole Miller’s collection included jazzy looking sleeveless tunic tops, often with asymmetrical hems, worn over skinny pants.
To be sure, plenty of designers celebrated the pretty side of fashion with bright, warm colors certain to put one in an easy, summer breezy mood. The color palette for next spring and summer is like a stepping onto a lush tropical island (or perhaps the island of Manhattan?) with lots of rich greens, taxicab yellows, hot pinks, corals and tangerines along with a smattering of blues.
The pretty side of fashion was well represented by designers like Mara Hoffman’s ode to Hawaii, Nanette Lepore’s love letter to Brazil (with plenty of green and blue), and Tracy Reese, who had fans sighing in pleasure at an orange and turquoise floral jacquard clutch coat and an orange and lemon embroidered shift that was shown with a daisy floral and ikat stripe pant. Diane von Furstenberg celebrated the life of a romantic princess who floats through the desert in softly draped dresses and pants.
The look of lace
And lace turned up everywhere, from entire dresses and gowns – as in the sumptuous collection by Tadashi Shoji – to insets on dresses and jackets. Lace also added a softening element, as with Derek Lam’s yellow, ink and black guipure lace T-shirt paired with an ink lambskin skirt, and yellow, ink and black guipure lace skirt paired with a burgundy quilted jersey pullover.
But overall, there is an urban-flavored aura of sexy toughness to the spring-summer 2013 collections. It’s a vibe that is no-nonsense without being dour, straight forward and confident, but still approachable. Shoulders and arms are shown off à la first lady Michelle Obama, and backs are revealed with all sorts of cut-down-to-there gowns. Indeed, Michael Kors ended his collection without one bead or sequin but with a series of gowns boasting different back cutouts that showed flashes of skin. Racy, but in a very contemporary way.
The colors of leather
Even with a large showing of leather on the runway, this is not a scary vision of women in leather. Indeed, while quite a few designers opted for black leather pieces, mostly jackets with interesting perforations and designs such as those shown by Alexander Wang, most designers showed bright leather pieces, especially green leather dresses. Indeed there were so many green leather dresses on the runways, from bebe to Reem Acra, that one might be tempted to say that the green leather dress is the new black dress for spring.
Leather dresses and separates turned up in plenty of other colors, including studded skirts, jackets and suits in taxicab yellow and white from Michael Kors.
And a decidedly techno theme could be found throughout the collections, whether it was the Star Trek-like Google eyeglass-cameras worn by models on the runway at Diane von Furstenberg, the pixels and glowstick-like prints at Nicole Miller, the graphic florals seen almost everywhere, and the jazzy color blocking from Michael Kors and Chado Ralph Rucci in which an outfit was one color on the front and another in the back.
Together, all of these elements paint a vibrant and thought-provoking – but still wearable – vision, not of the past but of now.