Since they were baby twins looking at fashion magazines, Dean and Dan Caten have always loved a pose. The sculpted volumes of their new collection got them free-associating all over the place. When Elisabeth Erm held her position in a pair of rounded, cropped pants cut from silk raffia, her legs reminded Dean of a centaur’s.
That fabric, woven in vibrant color-blocks that were reminiscent of Sonia Delaunay’s textiles, was a key component of the Catens’ new collection. So were allover beadwork—on sweatshirts, slouchy pants, and thigh-high boots—and torrents of frothy plissé. As lighthearted as that sounds, it pointed to a new seriousness of purpose for the twins. They’ve always been great technicians, but that skill has often been obscured by their showmanship. Their presentation was as large-scaled as ever, it was set against the neutral backdrop of a New York artist’s loft, a somewhat higher-brow location than the B-movie scenarios—women’s prisons or Hollywood lunatic asylums—they’ve been drawn to in the past. There was a new emphasis on form and craft. Leather bonded to jersey was cut into light, athletic little shell tops. Even T-shirts were double-faced to give them a little more structure.
Which is not to say the Catens have turned their backs on the style that has built them an empire, its latest outpost the store that just opened on Rodeo Drive. The collection was actually shaped by a running high-low dialogue. So a floor-length skirt of scalloped plissé was shown with a cropped denim jacket, the same billowing piece was cut from the Delaunay-patterned silk raffia and paired with a cropped white tee. And a peplum-ed jacket in gold leather topped a pair of the boyfriend jeans that are a Caten classic. They love this idea—pants slouched to reveal branded briefs “borrowed from a boyfriend.”
Gareth Pugh would normally be showing in Paris. Instead, he staged that enormous “immersive presentation” in New York, so Paris had to make do with some one-on-ones in the showroom. Actually, it worked out really well, because it was the autumn equinox, and Pugh’s collection was fully informed by the pagan rituals attached to such calendar watersheds. Although in this case, it was obviously the rites of spring he had in mind. “I’ve had 10 years of doing this, and my last season in Paris I hit the reset button,” said Pugh. “It felt like the end of something signaling the beginning of something else. That’s why the phoenix is in the film.”
“I wanted it of the earth, rather than landed from a spaceship,” he continued, in tacit acknowledgment of the fact that his clothes often remind people of something extraterrestrial. So there were corn dolly hats, and steer skulls made from papier-mâché, and a playsuit fashioned after Scottish Burrymen, who would be ritualistically covered with thistles and other sticky things (here, the “thistles” were little flowers of chiffon, arduously attached by hand). There was also a huge round circle, like a satellite dish covered with hand-ripped rags of chiffon, that echoed a folkloric outfit known as the Padstow Obby Oss. There was a proper scarecrow made from sackcloth, too. Pugh worked with Simon Costin, from the Museum of British Folklore, to get everything right.
But he cleverly transmuted those obvious showpieces into actual clothes. Handkerchief-hem dresses composed of chiffon rags in white had a virginal purity that seemed destined for the May queen. The sackcloth was cut into the same silhouette. “It hangs like silk gazar,” Pugh enthused. “I love the inexpensive looking luxurious.”
“Frayed luxury,” he called it. Well executed, but a bit haphazard. It was a new way to view Pugh. He liked the fact that the black and white geometries that are a signature fabric for him felt like they’d been made on a loom, with a bit of a slub. The same pattern was duplicated in the silk chiffon of a bias-cut goddess gown, as a reminder that Pugh knows exactly what he is doing. His precision as a designer may have been most obvious in the way he took the big leather pentagrams he’d had made (rustic paganism gone truly occult) and turned them into sensational harnesses, the kind of item that would add sinister spine to any old piece of tat you chose to wear.
As Nicky Zimmermann noted backstage before her Spring show, some clothes you can “read” well enough hanging on a rack. These were not those clothes. Movement was paramount to Zimmermann’s pieces this season (her fourth since she started showing in New York), and delicate shapes reigned. They came in printed silks and wisteria- and peach-colored lace, and wafted out from under pin-striped utilitarian vests. Pitting masculine against feminine is familiar territory for Zimmermann, and here she teamed her cascading gowns with cargo pockets, and sent out suiting in icy blue sharkskin (a standout).
The designer had been looking at a dreamy 1970 tarot deck by illustrator David Palladini, but was wary of doing something that felt too literally vintage-derived. And so came techier touches, like a scuba tee bearing one of Palladini’s illustrations, and asymmetrical, tiered, or pleated skirts. But overall the message felt a little unclear, the punch of any one piece diluted slightly by the host of textures, colors, fabrics, and ideas that bookended it.
A BUBBLE GUM pink suburban house sits on pink gravel in the Park Lane Armoury. The audience are seated on banks of shagpile pink carpeted benches and each given a pair of Beats by Dr Dre headphones to wear for the show. Through the headphones a disembodied voice intones instructions: “Bring out the crooked smile and the backpack”; “Go into the house and take a shower”.
Is he talking to the Marc Jacobs army parading around the exterior of the house in military serge with their mandarin-collared jackets and oversized buttons? Is he controlling the girls with their shaggy black bobs and their satin-belted army style? Who is he?
Fashion shows as theatre is something Jacobs is a master of and possibly it distracts from seeing the clothes for what they are. Certainly some of the details like the huge resin buttons, the macramé lace inserts, the rich luxury of the wool and linen were of the highest quality. It didn’t look much like a spring/summer collection but the glitter-strapped sliders will no doubt be on everyone’s wish list any day now.
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