1. Marc Jacobs
Like the cold front that blew in this week from across the Atlantic, an undercurrent of Anglophilia swept through the shows yesterday. Marc Jacobs, New York’s most prominent and influential architect of trends, showed a directional collection of layered ensembles that made subtle nods to the Queen’s land. It capped off a day peppered with references to the United Kingdom. From the first look out — a giant, furry Stephen Jones-designed hat piled on an outfit that included a cape worn over a voluminous coat on top of a slick, tiled, opalescent dress over cropped trousers and pilgrim shoes — the show had an air of madcap sobriety to it. Each piece in and of itself was luxurious (richly embroidered skirts, lavish brocades and elaborately engineered patchwork coats), but worn in such a way that it created a sense of pathos. It was as if Jacobs’ muses were guarding themselves against brutally glacial, hard times — wearing their clothes as both creative statement and protective armor. This collection may have been wild, but it seemed to capture the current climate (both social and meteorological) in a way that few designers have this week. In terms of what that means for your wardrobe, expect Jacobs’ play on proportion and layering to trickle down to your favorite mass-market store faster than you can say Elizabeth II.
2. Donna Karan Collection
This show was really two in one. Karan opened with her Casual Luxe collection, which, according to the press notes, was “tailored for the streets of New York” but on the runway appeared to stem from Balmoral Scotland. These were heavily layered cold-weather looks with cozy, chunky, shearling outerwear; oversized tartan blanket knits; and sweeping kilts. It was a strong, covetable collection that, if expanded, could have easily been the main attraction. Instead, Karan segued into black-tie dressing for her main line. It featured mannish pinstriped suits and sexy twists on tuxedo dressing topped with perky little fedoras designed by Stephen Jones. The tailored looks impressively advanced the general feeling of polished sophistication in the air this week. But it was her rough and rugged plaid offerings at the beginning of the show that were the most memorable.
Over the past few years, Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s following has grown considerably, thanks to their lower-priced collaborations with Target and Opening Ceremony. That might, in part, explain the increasingly wearable direction they nudge their line toward with each season. Their artful clothes were long the stuff of magazine editorials, gallery openings and movie premieres (Natalie Portman, Dakota Fanning and George Lucas all sat front row at yesterday’s show). But any one of the Outback-chic coats, rustic dresses and sweet separates the sisters showed for autumn could transition seamlessly to the street. Their beautifully constructed shearling coats — sure to be a hot item next fall — were the kind of winter item a girl could live in every day, while the laser-cut leather dresses that followed could easily and surprisingly go from a work day to night out. And yet all of the clothes maintained that cool, rarefied quality we associate with the brand. Let’s just cross our fingers that this new wearability leads to a secondary line that their growing legions of fans can afford.
4. Betsey Johnson
Betsey Johnson has toned down the crazy. (OK, maybe just a little.) Inspired by England’s mod scene in the ’60s, she started the show with black-and-white houndstooth shorts and a floor-length black coat that were unaffectedly cool. In true Betsey style, an assortment of looks (casualwear, workwear and, of course, playwear) and prints (pretty florals, stripes, plaids) followed. But unlike seasons past, they were less busy and had a more mature and wearable sense to them. Don’t get us wrong — there were still plenty of cute, over-the-top elements: an orange coat with neon-pink, faux-fur trim; voluminous, strapless dresses; and one animal-print, skintight jumper that would make Catwoman blush. But this is a collection you can see on more than just purple-haired tweens with Hello Kitty lunch boxes. And in case you’re worried, she still ended the show with a cartwheel-into-splits on the runway.
5. Ohne Titel
Technically, Flora Gill and Alexa Adams’ hyper-graphic woven knits were almost too good. Their checked jackets, scarves, dresses and skirts were the kind of impressive feat that looks so special on the salesroom floor that you feel compelled to invest in it. But then you take it home and realize it makes you look like a graphic design experiment. It was a specific look that requires a specific woman to pull off. The more subtly printed pieces that came toward the end of the show (striped, body-hugging dresses; sleek trouser suits and a streamlined leather shift) had a broader appeal.
6. Jenny Packham
It felt like an Oscar night preview show at Jenny Packham — as per usual. Taking her cues from the vixens of film noir, Packham sent ’40s-inspired gowns down the runway. There were long, lean silhouettes and pencil skirts belted at the waist; short, sparkly, one-shoulder cocktail dresses; sleek, sexy jumpsuits; and just to shake things up, a voluminous, floral-printed showstopper. But any nominees worth the golden statue should choose the glamorous and slightly subversive oat-colored gown with the plunging neckline and crystal-embellished shoulders that snake up and around the neck like a choker. She would be a winner in our book.
7. Erin by Erin Fetherston
Guests enjoyed cake pops and cocktails during Erin Fetherston’s fall presentation for her lower-priced line. The girl knows a thing or two about setting the scene for a party — and dressing for one. “You can never go wrong with a little black dress that has a hint of sparkle,” she told us. Her new collection of mostly evening looks featured whimsical whale and feather prints, sexy cutouts and, of course, some dreamy shimmer. But it’s not all fun and games — Fetherston is intent on running a successful business. When asked if she has plans to bring her signature line back, she responded, “Right now I am totally focused on the Erin collection. I really love designing a collection that has creative integrity and that is ultimately accessible.” Cheers to that.