A Sexy Start to New York Fashion Week: Show Reviews from Cinq à Sept, Misha Nonoo, Frances Valentine, and Heron Preston
Cinq à Sept’s croissants were untouched, Misha Nonoo sold via Snapchat, Frances Valentine was all grown up, and Heron Preston cleaned up at NYFW.
Cinq à Sept by Lizzie Crocker
New York City is always fashionable and frenetic, but it becomes a parody of itself when Fashion Week descends twice a year.
Manhattan turns into a runway for fancy, eccentrically dressed editors, stylists, bloggers and interlopers, all of them jostling to be snapped by “street style” photographers. Hailing taxis is a survival-of-the-sharpest-elbows ordeal. And security at Kanye West’s “Yeezy” show is stricter than the White House.
It’s all fantastically absurd—so it was nice that designer Jane Siskin eased us into the madness with a breakfast presentation for Cinq à Sept Wednesday morning, serving up pain au chocolat with her Spring/Summer 2017 collection at Dirty French, a hip bistro inside the Ludlow Hotel on the Lower East Side.
The restaurant’s tables were outfitted with tiered trays of pastries and an elegant menu of looks from Cinq à Sept’s new collection. The food was less for consumption than for aesthetic flourish: attendants Instagrammed photos of the table display in between exchanging air kisses, but most pastries were left untouched. As ever, it seemed the fashion crowd was on a coffee and green juice regime.
Cinq à Sept shares its name with “the French term for the liminal moment linking late afternoon and early evening,” according to the brand’s website, and is dedicated to contemporary dressing that highlights an “intriguing tension between day and night.”
Indeed, the brand’s name also evokes the time of day sexually liberated French couples reserve for affairs—the 5-7 pm liaison with a paramour.
Fittingly, the latest collection featured boudoir-inspired, cool-girl separates that nodded to the ‘70s and ‘90s. There were leopard print slip dresses and kimonos cinched with corset belts; bell-sleeved silk and cotton blouses paired with denim flares and swingy silk skirts, including one ruffly fuchsia knockout. Choker shirt collars and neckties were embroidered with scripted messages like “ce soir” and “don’t think.”
“Every season we try to evoke that feeling of a new experience,” Siskin told The Daily Beast. “We took our heritage, which is the boudoir, and layered pieces on top of each other in a really fluid way.”
Siskin, an industry veteran who has worked brands like Elizabeth & James and Seven for All Mankind, managed to reinterpret this season’s ubiquitous off-the-shoulder look in a way that made it novel again (an off-the-shoulder leather moto jacket lent edge to the flirty, feminine style). Each outfit was finished off with a pair of chunky, lace-up black booties.
“We want to take what every cool girl wants in her closet and make it fresh and new,” Siskin said, noting that while Cinq à Sept is not a French brand, “we like the sexiness of the French vibe.”
Misha Nonoo by Allison McNearney
In a season of shake-ups, designer Misha Nonoo has staked out her place on the trendy, tech-savvy front lines.
Her renegade spirit first revealed itself last September, when Nonoo announced that she would show her Spring/Summer 2016 collection on Instagram (topped off with an industry-pleasing party) in lieu of a formal fashion week presentation. A few months later, she became one of the first designers to realign her collection debuts with their actual seasons, rather than the traditional five-to-six-month advance schedule that the fashion system favored.
Now, Nonoo is at it again, but this time with bigger and bolder changes. To present her Fall 2016 collection on Wednesday, she ditched fashion week altogether in favor of a format that cozies up directly to her customers: Snapchat. Over the course of the day, Nonoo took over Refinery 29’s Snapchat feed and rolled out her new season in what she called the social media platform’s “first ever Live Lookbook.”
The length of the rollout could get a bit tedious, with new posts popping up every 30 to 60 minutes, awarding the fashion patient rather than those who prefer the instant gratification of seeing the collection at once, in full. But once acclimated to this delayed pace, the Live Lookbook was a fashionably fun romp through some pretty spectacular Fall designs.
Embracing her favorite “day-to-play” mantra, Nonoo presented new looks that ranged from the fun and flirty—billowing red, white, and black striped pants, a flowing pleated skirt in red, maroon, and blue that appeared just before a matching shirt with expansive sleeves—to the more sophisticated and preppy.
There were long-sleeved knit dresses with a touch of 70s, bell-sleeved fun and long black and white blazers with deep V’s that could be worn over shirts or buttoned up solo for that sexy secretary vibe.
A slew of mini dresses gave the collection a bit of an edge, some embracing generous peeps of sexy skin while others channeled short, tight, and leather. All looks could be dressed up for a more demure day at the office, or stripped down to be the hit of happy hour.
The playful vibe got a big boost from the medium itself.
Throughout the “show,” Nonoo’s posts jumped from static photos of models posing in front of colorful backdrops to videos of ladies dancing across the screen or subtly bopping in their new ensembles.
All of the posts got an extra dose of pizzazz courtesy of artist Ana Stroumpf, who was on set adding decorative doodles to the images before they made their Snapchat debut. The effect was that of the artsy girl’s coolly jazzed-up yearbook.
The official collection reveal was paired with Nonoo’s own Snapchat feed, which gave glimpses of the behind the scenes fun—the flurry of hair and make-up, the designer dancing around backstage, and an appearance from the set’s biggest star—an adorable white puppy.
In an industry that has struggled to integrate the explosive power of the digital world with the traditional world of fashion, Nonoo has proven she is a risk-taker, ready and willing to shake it all up to try a new business model (this season also introduces her shift to direct-to-consumer sales) or a new format, all in the service of reaching her most important audience—her customers.
Frances Valentine by Sarah Shears
In Kate Valentine’s temporary living room for her new brand, Frances Valentine, an air of country club class swept through, with lemonade cocktails and Upper East Side ladies chatting around the room.
Waiters, clean-cut young white men, were dressed in khakis, white button up shirts and collegiate striped ties, making you feel like you were closer to a Highland Park country club than in a studio space across the street from Bryant Park. Entering it was like invading a private party of longtime friends, instead of a fashion showcase, and indeed in some ways you had.
Kate, her husband and business partner Andy Spade and Elyce Arons, the co-founder of Kate Spade and partner at Valentine, have all been working together and friends for a very long time.
Both Spade and Arons spoke of how Frances Valentine really defined itself from the Kate Spade brand by the partner’s newfound grown-up-ness. In some ways that is true: the partners looked to architecture and design in wider material culture for inspiration of some of their new designs. A sculptural shoe heel was inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s Geodesic Dome, and another heel shaped after a favored martini glass.
The shoes and handbags definitely felt as they had been designed by looking beyond the Kate Spade brand that the partners had created. The same cheerfulness and pops of color emblematic of the Kate Spade brand still pervades the Frances Valentine collection, though the whimsy of the latter seemed to be rooted in design history.
A circular table displayed ballet flats in varying colors with an extremely 1960s vibe that was complemented by the voices of Lou Reed and Nico coming into the room at a very soft volume. Nearby on a coffee table sat a grouping of marabou-adorned handbags and slip-on flats that conjured up images of Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha, the witch from Bewitched, and Lucille Ball more than anything from this century.
A seemingly simple tote style handbag had been ergonomically designed with a slight tilt on the upper lip to make reaching inside easier for its wearer. Even the Fashion Week celebrities seemed more grown up here: Brooke Shields was in attendance, looking radiant in a black eyelet mid-thigh dress, schmoozing and posing for photographers.
The brand’s approachable and casually sophisticated but slightly quirky chic was embodied best by Elyce Arons. Her eclectic look included a vintage sweater, a Gucci skirt, and a pair of Dorothy-from-The-Wizard-of-Oz-esque silver shoes by Frances Valentine called “The Kate.”
“We’ve all grown up, and the brand is more grown up. ‘Evolved’ is the word Kate likes to use,” said Arons.
Heron Preston by Lizzie Crocker
Rarely do New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) workers interact with the fashion world, unless they run into after party stragglers while cleaning the streets at dawn.
It was amusing, then, to see uniform-clad workers and their suited supervisors rubbing shoulders with hipsters in ironic T-shirts and birdlike women aloft on designer heels.
They’d gathered at the DSNY Salt Shed in Lower Manhattan for the launch of designer Heron Preston’s ready-to-wear collection made of repurposed DSNY uniforms and up-cycled clothing. Prices start at $60 for a T-shirt and run up to $1200 for oversized bags fashioned from reflective neon worker vests. Some 25 tickets to the presentation were available to the public for $2,030 each--proceeds of which will go toward the foundation honoring New York's garbage workers and a museum of sanitation equipment.
Preston, who has worked with Nike and Kanye West in the past (he helped West launch Yeezy Season 1) and co-founded the DJ and art collective Been Trill, pitched a partnership to DSNY roughly a year ago in an effort to reduce landfill waste. The simply and appropriately titled “Uniform” collection is the first in a series of collaborations between Preston and DSNY that will be unveiled in the coming year.
The idea that under-appreciated sanitation workers would be spotlighted by his collection was as much an inspiration for Preston as raising awareness for New York’s 0x30 initiative, which aims to send zero waste to landfills by 2030.
“A friend once asked me if I was interested in applying art and fashion to art and fashion, or to something bigger like healthcare, and that really got the wheels turning,” Preston told The Daily Beast on Wednesday night, standing in front of a moonscape of salt—5,000 tons of it, to be precise, used to gum up slick city streets during snowstorms—and several racks of see-now-by-now Uniform pieces. “I started challenging myself to collaborate with people outside of my circle, to bring two worlds together.”
Both the collection and the mélange of people who turned out on Wednesday night were proof that he’d pulled it off—sort of.
There wasn’t that much actual shoulder-rubbing between DSNY workers and peacocking fashion types, the bagpipers drinking Budweiser and the Guest of a Guest fixtures (from actor and model Waris Ahluwahlia to tie designer-turned-cinema-founder Alexander Olch). This was no Radical Chic party at Leonard Bernstein’s house. Instead, the two cultures admired each other at a distance.
“This is not the crowd we normally mingle with, if you know what I mean,” said Brian, one of the bagpipe players (the DSNY has a band) who retired seven years ago after working with the department for more than 20 years.
He went on in a heavy New York accent rarely heard anymore: “It’s definitely different but very enjoyable, and it’s nice that the 8,000 men and women working very, very hard out there on the front lines get some recognition.”