As the fashion world closes out the last week of spring ready-to-wear shows in Paris, this Examiner is still trying to make some sense of what continues to evolve for the current season – in art, film, music, theatre, dance, and television – as well as fashion. It’s all related, of course (and I think as we run through just a few of the shows, you’ll see what I mean). Like designer fashion, much of what we’re seeing has been ‘in the pipeline’ for months (if not years). Also like fashion, a number of ideas, materials, motives seem to repeat amongst various authors and producers, and even the various forms and media. (No, it’s not just television where we see that sort of thing.) Some things seem to strike a plangent chord with the Zeitgeist; and some just seem to lie there. So much has to do with the historical moment – and our perspective of this may change completely anywhere from six months to sixty years from now.
Are we surprised to see certain Dior silhouettes out and about just now? Or Proenza Schouler? Jason Wu? No. (Yeah – we’re always going to be seeing some Lanvin; Michael Kors; also Oscar de la Renta.) But what about Chloé? Or Altuzarra? And a hundred more? There’s always that lag between what we see on the runways and what starts showing up in the stores (sometimes as early as late spring). Some of it seems so effortlessly right, you want it immediately – perhaps for some chill summer evening. And then there are those things that only come into focus in conjunction with something else.
Lately, from my slightly infirm perspective, I see things particularly in juxtaposition with film, dance and the political moment. We’re all feeling such amazing pressures – it’s like being in a spacecraft hurtling through the atmosphere to earth with scarcely a retrorocket to mitigate the gravitational pull.
I’m always rooting for the home team – Rodarte, of course; also Scott Sternberg, Monique Lhuillier, Jeremy Scott (yes, the Kenny Scharf of L.A. design showed – and, uh, it would appear he actually took Kenny with him this outing – more on this in a bit), Gregory Parkinson, and Juan Carlos Obando. But I always go back to the consistent winners from seasons past. That means the Proenza boys, Narciso, Ralph Rucci, Rag & Bone and a few others. So let’s just get into it.
You can always depend on Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler to bring some fresh ideas to the runway, whatever the season. This time, you had the sense of a re-balancing of geometries – both natural and synthetic – with the flow or drape of fabric or movement of the body. Somewhere (On the Runway? The website?), there was a mention of Robert Ryman on the designers’ inspiration board – and it sort of made sense (and not just because I look for this sort of thing) – not just in the way panels of fabric were folded or pleated or the photogram/litho-type of printing that made some of the jackets and pants look as if they had been pulled straight off a lithographic stone. There was something intriguing about these seemingly stone-washed blacks and neutrals (also vaguely reminiscent of Stephen Sprouse) – they glowed incongruously. Elsewhere the emphasis was more on shine and glitter – as with pleated skirts and halter tops and bodices with metallic bonded fabrics or ‘positive-negative’ sheer ribbed knit dresses with metallic ribbing and what looked like lurex dusting the fabric. Some of the tops had the look of metal breastplates – a wonderfully dramatic evening look, with or without jewelry. (Some of the looks were accessorized with necklaces.)
There was a marvelous balance of linear/geometric and volumetric elements in some of these tops – the look of a diatomic mineral or textured leaf wrapping breasts and shoulders – usually leaving a triangle of midriff exposed (which seems to be something of a trend). But their strong structure couldn’t offset the looseness – bagginess, really – of the ‘Zouave’-style pants, however the designers tried to flatten them. They were a bit more passable paired with the longer tunics that gathered at the waist and flowed off the hips; but you almost wanted to lose the pants and leave the focus on the tunics. There were some longer dresses and truly wonderful shimmery coats about the same length – half-way between calf and ankle – as the pants (my favorites being a vivid scarlet with flowing ‘tunic-tail’ overskirt, and a black-and-white tangled tree-branch print with gradually divided skirt); as well as, more eccentrically, a shaggy feathered silk shawl of a coat with an overlay pattern of black with red fringe. You wondered why they didn’t ditch the pants altogether. (Was there some need to offset the sharply pleated dresses?)
In case you think New York is so different from L.A. (well of course it is, but coastal trends are only a few clicks apart through the cyber-space), consider the kinds of super-short skirt lengths (odd to call them ‘lengths’) seen on New York runways before the L.A. summer was even over. If there was ever a way to make something so ‘wrong’ so ‘right,’ leave it to Narciso Rodriguez to figure it out. (I’ll have something more to say on the super-short ‘babydoll’ phenomenon frequently seen on and off L.A. streets in recent months at some point down the line.) Rodriguez, too, had a black-and-white thing going on with various dresses, skirts and separates; but here rendered in a more minimalist vein. (As with Proenza, there was a similar emphasis on both geometrics and flow or movement.) Of course unless you’re, uh, flaunting it, in a Sharon Stone ‘Basic Instinct’-type moment, you ordinarily think twice about the way you’re going to sit down in a dress or skirt that short. Rodriguez ‘solves’ this problem by essentially wrapping the skirt around and slightly askew another discontinuously wrapped skirt – slightly longer or shorter. Hard to say what the practical result would be, but they looked okay going down the runway. (And not all of the skirts and dresses (especially the dresses) were quite this short.) In a few instances, an asymmetrically wrapped skirt was slung a bit lower on the waist or closer to the hips, covering the knees and exposing the midriff. Balance and flow were controlled and articulated by panels of fabric variously draped or cut/seamed (or both) through bodice and skirt. Rodriguez’s minimalism belies an extraordinary craftsmanship and attention to detail. Some of the fabrics (and resulting color harmonies) were breathtaking – metallics, or complicated-looking overlays of metallic or beaded brocades and lacy dévoré silks – ranging from neutrals to pastels and bronze, silver and jet-black to rust. (Stand-outs included a fringed black-and-white metallic dress and a dusty-rose wrapped tunic paired with a coppery skirt.) There were a few trailing skirts or dresses – a signature Narciso silhouette – to wrap gracefully around the thigh-high skirts. But, as we know, Narciso Rodriguez is not a designer who looks back.