Tory Burch comes across as the sweetest, gentlest soul on Seventh Avenue, but her collections always seem to end up hinting at violent passion. Last season, it was armored medievalism. For Spring, Burch’s muse was Françoise Gilot. “Because she was a strong woman and a great artist,” she said a little testily when asked why. “And she was the only woman who left Picasso.”
Gilot may have left Picasso, but he towered over the rest of her life as heavily as his presence hung here. A tunic top and matching long skirt were cut from a toile de Jouy pattern that depicted the cypress-surrounded villa in Vallauris where the couple lived for years. It was in Vallauris that Picasso developed the fascination with ceramics that would yield his most prodigious body of work. Burch showed pieces in engineered broderie anglaise that duplicated ceramic patterns.
But it was probably Robert Capa’s iconic image of Gilot and Picasso on the beach at Golfe-Juan in 1948 that really shaped the essence of Burch’s new collection. “A play between raw and refined” is the way she herself defined it. The simple sensuality of Capa’s photograph was translated into a silk georgette smock dress, casually tied to one side, or a full-length canvas tank dress, fringed down a side seam. The rawness of the collection was its charm. The refinement, when it came in the form of a metallic jacquarded Grecian key motif, less so.
Ports 1961 collection had a split personality. On the one hand, there was crisp, slightly military-influenced tailoring, and on the other, diaphanous dresses and see-through separates. “This season,” designer Fiona Cibani wrote in the program notes, “the Ports 1961 woman has two souls inspired by the spirit of the Greek goddess Artemis: one strong and warrior-like; one sensual and feminine.” While it’s nice to see Cibani pushing at the boundaries of what the brand can be, the tailoring was her more successful category.
For the “stylish, working independent woman” that the Canadian company describes as its customer on its website, there was real value in a cotton twill suit featuring of-the-moment cropped pants. The Ports customer probably has less need for a pleated kilt, or a pair of trousers in silk-cotton voile so sheer it would expose her knickers for all the world to see. Beyond that, there was the simple fact that pieces such as coatdresses with brass buttons marching down the front were rendered with more confidence and skill than a wrap camisole and a skirt made complicated with godets and gussets. Artemis can keep her fussy goddess dresses.
Embellished concert Ts, suede A-line skirts, stars and metallic stripes, Sergeant Pepper tailoring – it could only add up to one thing: a music festival.
Tommy Hilfiger’s show venue, and if the vinyl record invitation didn’t give it away, then his venue, a custom-built stadium set with a pair of drummers, certainly did. Models paraded around a lawn strewn in gerbers, it was a little bit Woodstock, a little bit Glasto.
The music festival girl – a free-spirited hippy with bandanas streaming from her wrist and a constellation of star tattoos stamped over her limbs – was Hilfiger’s spring muse, and he homed in on a glamorous riff of vintage rock ‘n’ roll (the genre is a personal love of the designer). It felt more British in parts than his usual all-American tendency and the show notes cited a nostalgic King’s Road attitude.
There were many shop-able pieces here; those wafty finale dresses printed in stars and other tattoo graphics commissioned by Fernando Lions were particularly standout, so too Hilfiger’s series of patchwork selvedge denim pieces, inspired by his original Seventies archival pieces.
ALBERTA FERRETTI’S show was like opening the gates to the garden of Eden and seeing what lies behind. Well, a tribe of bohemian nymphs in sheer barely-pink coloured gowns with petal appliqué, of course. One, even had the latticing of a pagoda, its pink flowers seemingly weaving in and out of those lines. Other shorter, just as romantic styles boasted blooms of crochet florals and raggedy, leafy hemlines.
Pocahontas was also skipping around in there, in tan-coloured ankle-grazing suede waistcoats with whip stitching and decorative punch-outs, and elsewhere in all that fringing and criss-cross lace-up gladiator sandal-boots.
The thing about Alberta Ferretti is this: these looks are never going to be cutting edge – that isn’t what she has built her brand upon. And I’m sure she doesn’t mind a bit about that, because her successes are in making women look and feel pretty. It’s as simple as that and she did that again with this collection. Any one of these dresses would work at any summer function, day or night. A garden party? Why, of course. A guest at a wedding? Look no further. A gown for a trio of bridesmaids? yes, she had those by the dozen. A bohemian bride? Yes, a couple of those were in the offing too. Doing pretty – that sells.