THOM BROWNE: MOURNING BECOMES HIM
If you're going to be in mourning, you might as well wear something to die for.
That was the theory behind Thom Browne's darkly beautiful fashion show, and we do mean dark — every item was black. And if you were close enough to see the intricate fabric work and tailoring on his 40 mourning outfits, you knew instantly that no funeral could possibly be this exquisite.
And that's even before you got to the models' heads, which bore the audaciously creative handiwork of star milliner Stephen Jones.
But before the mourning came the death. Browne placed his story in an old-fashioned, wood-paneled operating theatre, perhaps in the 18th century. The audience, which included singer Nicki Minaj, sat in what felt like church pews, looking down. On three gurneys lay three young women, all in white. Each was attended by two doctors, who examined them, not sadly but with a sense of caring, for some 30 minutes before the show actually started.
Then, a chord in the music signalled the doctors to begin their transformation. They removed their medical coats to reveal jackets with angel's wings on the backs. As snow started to fall, the angels slowly escorted their corpses, now sitting up and facing heaven — these women had died of broken hearts, you see — out of the theatre.
And then came their fashionable friends, one by one, in their mourning attire: capes, coats, jackets and cardigans, skirts and dresses — in lace, cashmere, mohair, flannel, silk, satin and everything else you could think of, with intricately detailed embroidery and Browne's impeccable tailoring, of course.
Browne is known for huge theatrical productions like this, and perhaps his best was his recent spring/summer collection, featuring a fairytale (by Browne) narrated by Diane Keaton. Monday evening's show could have perhaps used just a bit of narration or explanation, but the craftsmanship on view needed none at all.
To die for, indeed.
VERA WANG'S WORLD OF BLACK
Vera Wang is known for a lot of things. Black clothes are one of them. So how does she keep the mainstay colour fresh?
"I don't think it's challenging to make black contemporary," Wang said Tuesday backstage after her show of mostly, you guessed it, black.
"I think there's too much black in contemporary, and I love black. ... but I think to make black look elevated is a much bigger challenge because there is so much black clothing, particularly for fall. So to try and create black on a more, you know, couture level of sewing and detailing, and that it be visible and representational of that level of sewing, is a challenge. No question."
She wasn't the only designer to lean heavily on black. Thom Browne and Alexander Wang went to the dark side as well.
On Vera Wang's runway, details did make the difference. She sent out both useful rain boots and towering high heels, used a flash of under-white at the seam of a long dress and put hand-sewn petals on vinyl, corset lace-ups on several pieces and canvas straps on a velvet gown.
Vera's world of black included an oversized cashmere fisherman's sweater, a cotton men's shirt with big felted wool sleeves and silver sequins, and a vinyl wrap miniskirt with black sequin flowers.
It also came with a touch of ivory, including a crepe shift dress with asymmetrical draped sleeves that carried into other pieces.
Like other designers, Wang wouldn't discuss the upcoming Oscars red carpet, because she doesn't know anything yet! But, after all these years, she still sweats out celebrity dressing.
"Yes. I stress about everything. There's pretty much nothing I don't stress about, you know, but that kind of comes with the turf, I think, for us designers today because everything that you show reflects on your brand."
—Leanne Italie and Nicole Evatt
RODARTE: AN AVIAN MIGRATION
The Mulleavey sisters of Rodarte often turn to the outdoors for inspiration. They've done tide pools, they've done outer space (if you count "Star Wars") and this Fashion Week, they drew inspiration from migrating birds.
"It just felt like a natural," Laura Mulleavy said backstage. "We weren't thinking of anywhere specific, just birds migrating from one place to another. Maybe leaving the city and going to a place that's more pastoral."
The show began with more neutral colours — outdoorsy hues, you might say — and included hearty items like a taupe wool tweed and leather anorak. But the coat came paired with a crystal-embedded skirt, lending it more flash. There were similar juxtapositions elsewhere, for instance a trim blazer topping a pair of lacy pants that actually looked like shorts with hosiery.
Later in the show, the sisters seemed to set aside the woodsy theme for a series of elaborately sequined, beaded, feathered dresses in electric colours. Was that birds, too? "It all was, in a weird way," Laura Mulleavy said. "We wanted to use things like sequins and tons of embroidery and feathers and then we were just feeling bolder colours to contrast with the things that were more neutral in the beginning."
Kate Mulleavy pointed out that in nature itself, there are often startling colour contrasts.
"There's such an interesting juxtaposition of colours that you wouldn't imagine," Kate said.
Often, the sisters take their inspirations from northern California, where they grew up. But this time, they said, the geography wasn't specific,
"This one could be anywhere," Laura said.
ZAC POSEN HEARTS NAOMI CAMPBELL
What does a runway queen wear? A ruby glitter ballgown, of course.
Naomi Campbell had Zac Posen's crowd collectively uttering that fashion word of all words — wow — when she closed his Monday night show in the flocked taffeta bustier number against the grandeur of Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal.
Compared to a sea of muted greys, blues and blacks on other runways— and the gloom of winter's deep freeze — Posen's show of colour was a welcome sight. It included a range of reds, emerald green, plum, orange and sparkly disco silver in a column gown done up in bugle beads that glistened under the hall's stately chandeliers.
Posen said in a backstage interview that he mixed his muses for fall. He worked in stretch jersey, included more day looks and ran with a '70s vibe in sparkle. And there was mink, in scarves tied close to the neck, a coat and a bright orange top paired with a long loose skirt of a similar shade.
"We wanted more fluidity on the runway. I was feeling the glamour of Grace Kelly meets the spice of Chaka Khan. I draped most of the collection myself, on weekends. In my quiet moments," the affable designer said.
So what's on Posen's mind for the Oscars?
"I don't believe in pushing hard for red carpets. Getting something on a red carpet shouldn't have to be a notch every awards show," he said.
What else might be up for Posen? There's a documentary in the works about his life. And the avid home chef who delights followers on Instagram with his recipes and hashtag of CookingwithZac may just do a cookbook. He likes thinking up new recipes in the same way he likes taking fabric to a mannequin.
"Finding your ingredients is like finding a great fabric," he said. "Both are sensual in the same way."
Tori Burch's latest collection is all about that bias — from pattern to cut.
Her Tuesday show featured richly patterned pants, dresses and sweaters in shades of wine, cream and caramel — a Middle Eastern bazaar of body-skimming womenswear so designed around a theme you could practically smell the spices.
The vibe was inspired by a sweet memory, Burch said.
"It's a big point of reference for me. My parents honeymooned there almost 60 years ago. I just love the rich history and the details and the culture," Burch said.
In the front row: Anna Wintour, spread out over three seats of prime real estate, and waiflike model-of-the moment Gigi Hadid, barely filling a single seat.
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