Newcomers, regulars strut their stuff for fashion week

By Austin Dale

Courtesy of MCT

Another New York Fashion Week has come to an end.  

Twice a year, the industry revs itself back up, and the Spring-Summer 2011 season was no exception, despite its somewhat shaky transition from its Bryant Park home to Lincoln Center. This year, a few great highlights displayed continued excellence that should make most other designers drool with envy. Complete hacks – like Christian Siriano and his disastrous showing – and the insanely banal (Sorry, United Bamboo; it’s just not working) were showed up by unique artistry and vision.

The best show in New York was, once again, Rodarte. Pasadena’s Mulleavy sisters have now, for several seasons in a row, showed that they are doing things no one else would have the guts or the gall to attempt. Their radical reformulations of structure and silhouette and their undeniably bizarre fabric combinations have amazed the fashion world, garnering important awards left and right. Keira Knightley and Natalie Portman often wear their more sedate luxury pieces, but their more exciting, brilliant ensembles have been seen on true style innovators like Tilda Swinton and Tavi.  

This collection, appearing amid rumors of a buyout by Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, was strangely much more commercial than was expected, but with influences as wide-ranging as the browns of 70s California and blue-and-white Ming vases. Despite the more mainstream look of some of the pieces, most notably the checkered ensembles and the distinct lack of spikes or torn knits, this might be Rodarte’s most confident, wearable collection yet.  It was completely brilliant.

America’s other most-hyped design team is comprised of the boys behind Proenza Schouler. The downtown duo has been presenting self-assured youthfulness since day one. They hit their peak with their last two collections, mixing space-age color with radical, enthusiastic color blocking.  This was somewhat more mature, but no less innovative, combining tie-dye, elaborate prints, chunky knit textures, neons and sheers to cement their status with another solid and typically from-left-field collection.

Other excellent shows were Alexander Wang’s shockingly black-free collection, Y-3’s wildly sexy sportswear, and Prabal Gurung’s idiosyncratic neons, cut with elegance and ease.

There was no significant change in the looks of the models this season. As is normal, many of the casts consisted mostly of slender Scandinavians. Breasts seem to be out once again, but strangely, size zeros aren’t as ubiquitous as in years past. Victoria Beckham’s shockingly marvelous show was cast entirely with size six models. 

Crystal Renn, who, at size 10, is the highest-paid plus-size model in the world and the only one to ever find success as a runway model, was a welcome and surprising addition to a number of shows, including the luscious Zac Posen. Noticeably absent was the fascinating Lara Stone, notorious for her wobbly walk, who appeared only as an exclusive at Calvin Klein. Stone, who is quite simply a Dutch alien with sumptuous curves and Satan’s cheekbones as painted by a stoned Hieronymous Bosch, continues to get lovelier, more transgressive and more necessary in a world of boring, undernourished beauties. The only noticeable new trend was an occasional focus on Lolita-type adolescents with round lips and wide eyes, especially evidenced by the constant castings of Abbey Lee Kershaw, Karlie Kloss and the gorgeous gap-toothed newcomer Lindsey Wixson.
All in all, a fair season, with the regular innovators and up-and-comers showing off their enthusiasm and once again making everyone else seem more or less forgettable.

Austin Dale can be reached at [email protected]