I love it when I can use the lexicon of current art – literary, visual, cinematic, theatrical or choreographic – to talk about fashion. Obviously there is continuity between fashion and popular culture; and there’s no question that serious designers are influenced by the visual fine arts. I mentioned in my last post the Proenza Schouler ‘inspiration’ board that apparently had some references to the work of Robert Ryman, and how that was conceivably borne out in the clothes they sent down the runway – the emphasis on geometrics and/or framing, the more general concern with texture and materials. Throughout the New York collections, there was a fresh preoccupation with geometrics – in fabrics, in silhouettes – and the balance with shape and flow or movement. I wasn’t going to jump so quickly back to the ‘home team’ – the L.A. designers who showed their collections on New York runways; but on a day when the Dodgers are still in the pennant race, why not?
Jeremy Scott has always straddled the domain of Pop – between the 1960s art movement and its post-modern successors, such as Kenny Scharf and the gamut of late 20th and early 21st century popular culture and design. This time he reached back specifically to a palette and geometry that evoked both Jetsons-era mid-century pop-modern and Memphis – the design collective led by Ettore Sottsass and a floating posse of Italian and international compatriots in the 1980s. This time, rather than simply evoking Scharf (and conceivably risking litigation), he brought Scharf along – to execute several fabric patterns and embellishments – neon-bright squiggles and doodle-y monster masks with gizmos and googly eyes, and electronic game gremlins to line up PacMan style as all-over pattern on dresses and (presumably unisex) separates. It was surprising how effective these drawings and patterns could be in pulling together a very streamlined, body-contoured geometry. The color-blocking we saw elsewhere on New York runways was here broken down into bars and stripes – for the most part in alternating neon-bright primaries and pastels (e.g., lavender and turquoise), articulated with black and white borders, cross-bars or edging, and sometimes broken up for emphasis. He also used perforated fabrics in monochrome brights or neutrals, subtly articulated with geometric pattern or worn close to the body. I loved the way he used details like buckles and zippers – especially in shiny leather and/or vinyl dresses and separates – as all-over pattern in a way that convincingly articulated shape and vertical-horizontal movement – a beautiful coordination of body with fabric/embellishment. Elsewhere, mid-century flying saucers and boomerangs in cool primaries and iridescent candy-neon animal prints sashayed down the runway in waspy bandeau-sarongs and skirts, tops, and swimsuits. There was plenty of bare skin, but also a few slightly more covered looks for those of us who haven’t been to the gym since the last century.
One of the elements that pulled it all together (besides the fantastic towering helmet-hair wigs worn by the models) were the shoes – including ankle boots that rhymed with the color-bar clothes in blue and yellow with black toe and black-and-white around the calf. The style profile made me think of another enduring mid-century modern classic – Courrèges’ celebrated plastic boots. Happy feet, indeed.
Alexa Adams and Flora Gill of Ohne Titel took their inspiration from another (somewhat earlier) mid-20th century design movement, Art Deco – though, like Scott, their color palette for most of the collection seemed of a more recent (late century) vintage. It was fine-tuned – softer yet somehow brighter, refreshed – the softest pink, peach, rose, and lavender tints, veering into mauve, grays, umbers, oyster tints, with the further definition and contrast of heavy blacks and white. Other, less emphatically Deco looks featured a range of blues from deep lapis hues to turquoise and true blues. Here, too, in the best looks, an elegant balance was struck between the geometries of pattern and silhouette and flowing contour that moved effortlessly with the body. The lines and geometries were themselves flowing – in beautiful parabolic or sine-wave curves. Some of these fabrics were knits; but there was nothing heavy or rigid about any of it, whether organic or architectural, wrapping the body, or constructed in seamed panels of fabric. Sure there were some misses (a couple of less-than-thought-out halter dresses; when too many transparent layers became a bit over-wrought), and maybe some of it felt almost too easy; but on the whole, Adams and Gill stayed true to Deco’s original soaring spirit, with a liveliness sustained through a very wearable collection.