New York Fashion Week: Anna Sui, Thom Browne and Tory Burch
The five-and-a-half day New York Fashion Week ended on Sunday, a sunny day after a solemn Saturday in remembrance of the 20th anniversary of 9/11. We had a look at three truly influential designers – Anna Sui, Thom Browne and Tory Burch. The key message: demure fantasy is de rigueur.
Anna Sui: Paradise in Indochine
Anna, the designer and not editor that is, entitled her latest collection "Another Day in Paradise," and its charming Sgt.-Pepper-style invite foretold an exotic voyage. A prediction that came true with a deliciously daffy range of clothes.
Sui’s mood board included everything from Trader Vic’s bar signs and ads for Tahiti, to Honolulu masks and Niki de Saint Phalle catalogues. Sui managed to pack all that and more into this Spring/Summer 2022 collection.
I was all unveiled inside Indochine, which has been a favored watering hole of fashion followers for the past three decades. Wacky yet rather wonderful, aided by the Instagram camera angle – perched on this post-French-colonial Vietnamese restaurant’s bar – from its opening look, a blushing pink bikini worn under a Chanel-style jacket in Verner Panton patterns, topped by an enormous tulip-shaped straw hat.
Coral chenille cardigans, properly romantic lime green lace dresses, spandex scuba skirts and crocheted uptown hippie tops all came anchored by outdoor sandals or glittery platforms with matching socks. And, like so many designers in New York, Sui showed decorative sporty bras and bloomers, taking lockdown looks and combos out of apartments and onto catwalks.
"I dream of escaping to a little-known holiday spot, where the weather is forever sunny, the waves are consistently tasty, and the people are always fun and cool. In my personal Shangri-La, I wake up every day, whenever I want, walk among the chirping birds, soaring palm trees, and delicious-smelling tropical flowers, listen to my favorite music, and order beverages that come with colorful little umbrellas. The mood is forever upbeat and anything goes – it’s Another Day in Paradise!" commented Anna in her release.
The sense of joie de vivre and escapism was palpable in this show, which felt more like a cruise collection than a typical Spring/Summer offering. All aided by super work from Pat McGrath and a makeup palette of rose and sand. Sui’s oeuvre can be a touch saccharine, but when it clicks, as it did this season, it can be rather divine.
Thom Browne: More artifice than art
Quite why Thom Browne has never directed a feature film begins to be something of a mystery given how cinematic his shows have become. Particularly his event on Saturday night, with a de-Chirico-worthy giant house frame set in a formal French garden, guarded by a squad of feathered spirits and harpies.
Two early figures on the flagstone catwalk cycled around on penny farthings, their faces covered by mesh horses’ heads. Inside the house a couple in bumster suits with trompe-l’oeil designs walked around moodily. Like the cyclist, they wore versions of the gray flannel suit, as indeed did most models in this show.
Admittedly Browne did advance his tailoring this season with sleeveless Edwardian topcoats for ladies, and a brilliantly layered bespoke safari jacket, seen when one of his harpies took off their fabric feather coats and circled his garden. However, his foray into dress-making – with almost a score of looks – was stiff and uninspiring.
Moreover, far too often it felt like the art and artifice was covering up the lack of innovation in the clothes. Browne’s shows, three times as long as most runway events, recall Pierre Cardin collections for their ponderous longevity. This show made Last Year at Marienbad feel like a thriller.
Browne has built a great brand and invented a new way for women to wear formal clothes. But after this weekend’s show it felt like the house needed to change gears rather than just coast on designer autopilot until the next fancy stage set comes along to decorate.
Come to think of it, a movie project might just ignite his creative juices.
Tory Burch: A chaste block party in Soho
A cobblestone block in Soho – Mercer Street with bookstands, vegetables stalls and antique sellers – was the ideal setting for this weekend’s show by Tory Burch.
This was as haute bohemian as one can imagine: flouncy to-the-ankle skirts, crinkly plissé tops, oversized mannish pants in hemp, cotton and great double chalk stripes. Multiple looks were dissected by fabric Lonsdale belts. And most models were bearing different bags – buckets, totes and satchels – that all looked utilitarian and great.
Burch loves a live performance and this is how her show ended with some balletic body popping by a track-suited dancer, Lil Buck (AKA Charles Riley) who has danced with Benjamin Millepied’s ballet corps accompanied by single snare drummer Cornelio. A joyful ending to a show, whose invitation featured a coloring book pencils and a straw apple.
Lots of material and little skin in the most covered-up collection in New York, with barely a limb in sight. Odd then that the soundtrack featured The Jezebel Spirit by Brian Eno and David Byrne, since this cast looked almost devout.
Then again this is surely the secret of Tory Burch’s success, she has managed to invent a new paradigm of what it means to be ladylike and coolly fashionable.
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