This Is Why Zac Posen Is Master of the Fashion Fairy Tale
Posen’s glamour and technical brilliance made his show an NYFW standout. DKNY featured girl-gang chic, Thom Browne brightly rendered Stepford Wives, and Rag & Bone stayed steady.
Zac Posen by Tim Teeman
As the actress Debi Mazar was leaving Zac Posen’s New York Fashion Week show, she had a thought which she conveyed gently to her daughter Giulia Isabel: it would be hell finding a car outside.
It would indeed: not only was there a crush of people, but they were all in the happiest of otherworldly dazes. The clamorous applause that followed Posen’s models on their final walk-past, and Posen’s bow afterwards, was testament to a display of stunning artistry and dreamy glamour.
“For Spring 2017,” Posen had said, “I envisioned a collection with the craftsmanship I am known for, but made in technical fabrics to give it an airy, feminine, and modern feel.”
What this translated to was a succession of breathtakingly beautiful outfits—in design, construction, and look. They ranged from Lurex cocktail dresses, to tulip-shaped dresses with tulip design; bolero, padded-style jackets with short dresses and strappy sandals; glittery tulle gowns; simpler tea dresses and shirt dresses; and what Posen called “architectural gowns,” which meant their construction featured some delicate amendments which made the drape angular, off center, or somehow that much more arresting.
Dresses that could have been simply stunning came with surgical mesh, raw and aged glass beads, and in an homage to Easy Rider, Posen produced not motorcycle jackets, but softer-styled peplum blazers and tricotine biker skinny pants. The audience, including Uma Thurman, Jourdan Dunn, Malin Akerman, Carla Gugino, Olivia Culpo, and Coco Rocha, sat rapt.
Other looks were simple—like a lilac shirt dress or a fitted, belted trench coat—but more came with ruffled paneling at the hip and pleated backs. Even a jean-jacket had its own intricacies: pared down, its buttons near the neck made it demurely flirty rather than rebel rebel—what Holly Golightly might have worn had she gone out for the evening with the Beats.
The colors were as enchanting as the designs: mints and greens and citrus greens and navy alongside all-black dresses and tops that shimmered and frisked with tassels. Cocktail dresses featured bold designs of poppies and petals, or were inscribed with delicate embroidery. One particularly gorgeous strapless white cocktail dress came scattered with what looked like multicolored teardrops, or shed petals.
Much of the time at fashion shows crowds are warmly appreciative, but the response to Posen was audibly more rousing and adulatory. Maybe his fans just are that devoted, but the collection seemed—as sometimes these things do—to hit a particular sweet spot, its invention and execution so clever, dedicated and carefully produced and staged.
Yes, there would be a long wait for cars outside, but all the better for the marooned to compare notes on which dress had enchanted them the most. Indeed, those conversations may have gone on for so long, and pleasurably so, their participants might have eventually shooed their Ubers away. DKNY by Tim Teeman
At the end of DKNY’s show, beautifully and dramatically staged on a section of the High Line near its 14th Street southern end, the label’s designers, Public School’s Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osbourne, didn’t do a customary simple bow and disappear.
They bounded the length of the runway stage area, lapping up the occasional high-five, roar and applause, straight to the bank of runway photographers.
This may have been the appropriate farewell salvo after a night of girl-gang chic, but it may also have struck a note of defiance: This was the duo’s fourth collection for DKNY, with the brand’s, and its designers’ future—as sketched in a recent Racked article—an unknown since LVMH sold the label to G-III.
Any jitteriness behind closed doors was invisible on Monday night. The evening began with a light show skimming the High Line’s foliage and surrounding buildings, accompanied by dramatic classical piano.
The celebrity audience included Anna Wintour, Russell Westbrook, Tinashe, and Bella Hadid leading the model pack. Her mother, Yolanda Foster, famous herself as one of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, looked proudly on, looking pretty fabulous herself in a silver jacket.
The collection, said Chow and Osbourne, sought to find “new meanings in the codes of DKNY, in which the aspirational meets the practical,” presumably hopefully resulting in the profitable.
“The resulting collection resides in a futuristic place called ‘Neo Soho,’” the men said. (Please let this new NYC neighborhood have affordable rents, as well as beautiful clothes.)
The men said their streetwear meets athletic-wear meets softly feminine, layered tailoring was a “solutions-based foundation to the millennial wardrobe”—as opposed to one grabbing a T-shirt and pair of jeans and hoping for the best.
Under fiery orange lights, we saw skirts, draped and short at the front, longer at the back. There were hooded jumpsuits, with cutouts and design trickery that made the pieces fold and drape in a theater of sexy confrontation: Little Red Riding Hood meets Rocky; or “Jedi knights,” as one Twitter wag had it.
The designers said that the contrasts built into the clothes were based around “soft and hard, elegance and street, tech and tradition, construction and deconstruction.”
This was apparent, not just in the much-photographed hooded jumpsuits, but also in the tailoring of separates which came fitted as well as distressed, with strands and tassels hanging from the base of jackets.
Turquoise, a color that can muffle more than can it intrigue, was used brilliantly; Raglan jackets combined with bike shorts; a luxe-looking white backless sweater and skirt was followed by sweaters with rougher edges, and bomber jackets of floaty nylon paired with tulle skirts. The DKNY logo was much in evidence, although it reminded you that the DKNY “career woman” archetype of years ago had long been jettisoned.
Masculinity and femininity were scrambled in the design of knits and suits, and colors at first seemed simple before, say, a white shirt received a luxuriant splash of orange on its reverse. Jackets had a straitjacket-y feel to them, trousers flared and draped. There was a playful hippiness to the layering and daintiness of floaty skirts mixed with the punch of a jumpsuit or structured jacket.
Jerseys came with scoop-necks, and skin-revealing gaps in their arms. Overalls appeared utilitarian, but the trick—as in many of the clothes—was in the detailing of pockets or material layering and add-ons.
If this seemed too much—and what if these hanging strands leave you stuck in a train or cab door, ouch—the designers also served up simple pieces, like stunning jersey dresses.
Chow and Osbourne will hope that the crowd’s warm applause will translate to positive column inches and sales. Reinventing a brand, and making it your own as well as culturally significant and financially successful, is a complex affair, particularly when it is a legacy brand helmed by two designers as independently minded as Chow and Osbourne.
But this latest collection’s confidence spoke for itself and watching both handsome men bound toward the bank of popping and flashing cameras Monday night, one’s most immediate if clichéd thought was: If anyone can do it, they can. Thom Browne by Lizzie Crocker
Thom Browne presented his NYFW womenswear collection around a staged version of a mid-century pool in Palm Springs—a delightful and occasionally hilarious accompaniment to his menswear show in June, which was staged on a gray beach with a single gray palm tree.
The setting for his women’s collection was more one-dimensional: a pool, gazebo, surrounding palm trees and horizon were rendered in a mosaic of colorful tiles, the effect of which looked like a pixelated version of the real thing.
Cliques of gossiping models wearing cartoonishly oversized bathing coverups printed with vintage Marimekko-esque florals sauntered out on the perimeter of the pool, with matching caps and beach totes in similarly mod floral prints.
A couple of male models in light gray summer suits, their heads hidden beneath large cat masks, circled the pool with a kind of deliberate lassitude.
Then the music slowed and the bathers lined up and slowly derobed. A model in a trompe l’oeil ensemble—a silver sequin dress fused with a single suit breast and tie—perambulated out and circled the pool. Her eyes were partially concealed beneath a large sequin hat in the shape of a dog’s head, ears and all.
The bathers, meanwhile, revealed still more trompe l’oeil effects: single garments that looked like jacket and skirt sets or cardigans over shift dresses, in preppy pastel blue and green ginghams, lemon and orange sherbet-colored tweeds, or hibiscus flower and palm prints. Browne’s signature red white and blue stripes were seen in oversized bows and suit piping.
The models walked around the perimeter like so many Stepford Wives, while macaws with beaked headpieces swept in and picked up their bathing caps and coverups. You couldn’t help but laugh at the whole thing.
Hector, the designer’s wire-haired dachshund, made an appearance at the show—both the dog himself, passed around outdoors by several Thom Browne staffers, and his likeness in the form of a bag that debuted last season.
Browne loves uniformity so much that he gave all hired photographers white lab coats, with the designer’s red, white and blue ribbon tabs sewn on the backs of their coat collars. Just like that, they became part of his eccentric theater piece.
Of course, the theater of Browne’s shows is what makes them so wonderfully inventive, even if its only purpose is to provide an alluring or bizarre backdrop for his equally inventive collections.
He staged last season’s womenswear show in Washington Square Park circa 1920, where he de- and re-constructed his signature tailored suit in a collection that evoked the Great Depression. People got crafty when they couldn’t afford to buy new clothes, Browne’s collection seemed to suggest.
This season seemed to riff on the subjects and settings favored by photographer Slim Aarons: rich housewives and socialites poolside at their Palm Springs and Palm Beach vacation homes.
Only in Browne’s surreal world would these Stepford Wives be attended to by feline cabana boys, who unzipped their dresses from behind for the show’s finale, leaving them to recline on the pool’s ledge in matching red, white, and blue swimsuits.
The macaws came around again to collect their discarded clothes. And the model in the silver sequin dress stood beacon-like in the middle of the pool, her sequin dog hat reflecting light like a disco ball.
Rag & Bone by Wendell Brown
How does a brand walk the line between streetwise chic and growing powerhouse lifestyle brand? Easy: It ain’t easy is the short answer.
The balance between edgy cool and expanding a brand from jeans to apparel, accessories and fragrance is not an easy one but Rag & Bone do it quite well.
The label finds a middle ground on the runway: that sweet spot between experimenting while featuring the Rag & Bone design hallmarks its fans love.
The label’s NYFW show started in a focused edit of black and white and red looks: effortlessly cool long shirts, blouson jackets, khakis, tennis sweaters, and loose fitting sweatshirts sometime shown with matching pants for both girls and guys.
Motocross-style leather jackets had a slight 80s feel with 21st century attitude. English prep school tailoring was coded discreetly on trims. Print dresses with handkerchief hems felt random and out of place (but hell, they'll probably sell), but it was the black outerwear and tailored jackets—sometimes shown with striped pants—that were spot on, familiar but also exciting. Their take on a shirt jacket gives men the option to wear it to work or relaxed on the weekend.
This collection showed that Rag & Bone—now fronted only by Marcus Wainwright (former co-designer David Neville has stepped down)—continues to push forward at a steady pace.