Beauty, Promise, Sparkle and Grit. Marc Jacobs AW20

It’s rare I’m rewatching fashion show videos. But in case of Marc Jacobs’ autumn-winter 2020, I think I’ve seen it like five times already. It’s so brilliant. It’s nothing new that Jacobs closes New York fashion week with a vivid finale. But this season, it was even better. The runway featured a dance performance choreographed by Karole Armitage, New York’s „punk ballerina”, with the catwalk staged like a bistro. At some point it was hard to tell who’s the model and who’s the dancer (everybody was dressed in Jacobs), and that was the intention: beauty in chaos, told through powerful movement. Infinitely inspired by his heroes of the past and present, it is style in which different people dress at the various stages, ages and times in their lives that provokes Marc’s love for fashion and possibilities of what it can be. The designer especially had the fading image of disappearing New York in his mind – forever mythical and chic with its „beauty, promise, sparkle and grit”. As a departure from last season’s lamboyance, free spirit and color, this collection emphasizes restraint, quality of fabrics, make and proportion – valuing simplicity and timelessness above all. Jackie Kennedy’s evening dresses, pearls, refined daywear and headscarf looks were a big inspiration, just as the slinky minimalism of New York’s 90s aesthetic (which, of course, was shaped by people like Marc). Each look has its elegant charm, whether we’re speaking of white-collared dresses with above-the-knee lenght, pieces made from draped roses, classic peacoats or the marvelous gowns, inspired with couture masters. What truly stuns in this line-up is the way Jacobs brougt so much relevance and modernity out of nostalgia – literally everything is fit for 2020 here. I think it’s clear who’s (again) the winner or NYFW. And, what’s worth noting, not because other shows were dull and Jacobs was entertaining. We’ve seen some great collections this week – I’m thinking of The Row, Rodarte, Area and few others –  but Marc’s felt definitely the most alive and emotional (and, simultaneously, completely wearable!).

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Prairie Dress on Ice. Batsheva AW20

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There’s no street style in New York without the Batsheva dress. Batsheva Hay‘s prairie look has trickled down to other, local brands’ repertoire, which just reassures her success. The designer expands, trying out new things. The autumn-winter 2020 collection  had no runway, but a look-book featuring… figure skaters. Batsheva and her husband, Alexei, had conspired to shoot this collection guerrilla style in the American Dream mall, and stumbled upon a figure skating competition on the day they went to scout locations. “Part of what I’m always trying to prove is the wearability of my clothes,” she said, “and athletic movement is the definitive wearability test.” The skaters spin, twirl and jump in Hay’s chiffons, cottons, and custom flower pot embroideries, frozen mid-gesture by the camera. It’s intentionally not glamorous (and definitely not Tonya Harding) and the styling is kooky in its spontaneous way. For the season, the designer brings in evening-worthy sparkles, vintage flocked wool trenches and a red bustier “going out” top. It’s proper hot. For prairie girls not ready to give up their pastoral vibes, Hay offers ruffle V-front dresses and smocks, as well as velvet leopard with a wider, less Victorian neckline – this one is my personal favourite. Sounds (and looks) like lots of fun.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Soft Experimental. Eckhaus Latta AW20

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Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta were working through a bunch of ideas this season – colored acid-washed and “experimental” distressed denim, as they put it after their Eckhaus Latta show; boxy tailoring paired with either super-abbreviated skirts or languid, flared trousers; liquid fabric effects. As is typical for this New York-based label, the clothes were gently (rather than aggressively) challenging, with most of the novelty to be found in the occasional so-odd-its-good proportion, the unexpected finish on a garment, or the painterly quality of the garments’ surfaces (take the sweater knit with what looked like brushstrokes of bold color or jeans with a watercolor-y acid wash). Everything, even the purposefully frayed pieces, was executed with a lot of polish – and that, Latta and Eckhaus said, was the real story here. As Latta noted, they were posing “existential questions” to themselves, like, “What are we doing here?” and “Why are we making any of this?” that they answered by focusing on craft. The goal, they said, was for every piece in this collection to have a long life cycle, whether that means one wearer using a garment over many years, or several wearers enjoying the same piece. “Whatever we made,” Latta elaborated, “we wanted it to last.” Another sustainability step they took was partnering with resale site The RealReal to source footwear for the runway. Give an existing shoe a life, instead of making dozens of prototypes and samples is a great idea. But also, Mike and Zoe have always been more interested in producing clothes for varying types of people to integrate into their lives and wardrobes as they please than they have been in creating a brand uniform. Seeing all different shoes on the models highlighted the designers’ commitment to designing collections that can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Dracula. Rodarte AW20

Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel „Dracula” inspired Francis Ford Coppola’s cult 1992 adaptation of the book, starring Winona Ryderand Keanu Reeves and featuring costumes by the legendary Eiko Ishioka. Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s autumn-winter 2020 Rodarte collection riffed on Coppola’s movie (and Ishioka’s costumes), but the result wasn’t a literal, gothic line-up. The location of the show – the dimly lit St. Bartholomew’s church in New York’s Midtown – provided a mysterious stage as the Mulleavys sent their army of ethereally chic undead out. The first part of the collection was about the pretty prey of Dracula: think cheerful polka dot day dresses, all over-sequined looks, draped blouses and pouf sleeves which all elaborated on 1940s-inspired silhouettes. Suddenly, the collection doubled down on the sweetness. Things got seriously dark – a sparkly midnight blue hooded cape, black fringes that looked like the tendrils of witches’ hair, cobweb embellishments, blood red. It was about witnessing the transformation of prey into predator, which was exactly the point. The show’s closer: a dreamy gown with big shoulders, blue flowers and a floor-sweeping, liquid-like veil. The vampire’s bride? Or the queen of the immortals? Designers seem to avoid scenarios for their collections – the fear of falling into the cliché trap – but at Rodarte, story-telling always works well.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Sustainability (For Real). Gabriela Hearst AW20

Gabriela Hearst’s autumn-winter 2020 line-up was beautiful. And it managed to be really sustainably made, without making a fuss about it. For Hearst, enviroinment is a priority. And she can translate that passion into luxurious, softly minimal, super high quality clothes. Antique remnants of Turkish rugs were puzzled together in outerwear pieces lined with cashmere. The hand-made knitwear was done by Manos Del Uruguay, the non-profit cooperative female artisans, and Magdalena Koluch, a New York-based knitter – the multi-colored, fringed poncho is one of the many gorgeous results that came from this collaboration. Existing pieces of cashmere outerwear were deconstructed and re-assembled with blanket stitch creating a fantastic colour block pattern. Most of the used wools in this collection were re-printed and reused to create new pieces. Gabriela and her team really pushed the envelope this season in terms of sustainable fashion and creating out of waste products, and simultaneously made it look refined. Just see the biscuity, cashmere corduroy tailoring or the flowing eveningwear. Delightful!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Daring and Sexy. Khaite AW20

Cate Holstein’s Khaite had a similar turn as the boys at Proenza Schouler. Her woman is much more daring than usual this season. While many know and love the label for its soft minimalism, occasionally beautified by tulle and pearls and toughened by suede cowboy details, this time Holstein let some danger in. The effects? Some of it is convicing, some got lost in the messy styling. The designer wanted to embrace the word „sexy”: dramatic cut-out backs of the evening dresses, leather and cheeth prints went with signature tulle, vintage-looking horse-rider motif came across the silks. Models wore chunky knitted scarves or bandanas. Girls just wanna have fun.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

A Good Shift. Proenza Schouler AW20

Something has shifted at Proenza Schouler. The last few seasons from Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough weren’t their best, lets be honest – they were plain and mild, and seemed to drown in the New York fashion week crowd. But their autumn-winter 2020 collection feels different. Delicate silhouettes got replaced by sharper cuts, and instead of draped forms we’ve got something much more geometric and bold. Also, the lenghts are shorter, the mood isn’t slouchy. The first look was a little black dress slipping off the shoulder, worn with ruched leather boots. Later looks followed the same pattern of „undone” style: jackets and knits peeled off of one shoulder, stretch leather dresses were cut with asymmetrical necklines, and a cold shoulder sweater exposed both clavicles. The closing looks were all about comforting volume. The designers’ starting point was a blanket. The duo gave their stylist Camilla Nickerson one for Christmas which she started wearing as a scarf, and inspiration was born. “She’s blanketed in a protective layer of strength and confidence,” Hernandez said backstage. McCollough put it another way: “It’s about finding beauty in a world that’s unraveling.”

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Monumental Lightness. The Row AW20

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In the sea of meaningless or overly sophisticated (which, in the end, means the same as meaningless…) collections in New York this season, The Row stuns with confidence and actual sense of real desire put upon us, the viewers. As the models skimmed quickly by in flat slippers and boots, the thrill behind Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen’s line-up was in the finesse of the cuts, precise but relaxed, especially with the addition of turtlenecks layered under silk button-downs or worn solo under jackets. The tailoring is refined and subtle in shilhouette, and the outerwear is a sure winner of the season. It’s quite clear that the designers looked at Martin Margiela’s Hermès for inspiration – especially the layered knits and long, grey gloves that seemed to blur with the clothes. But I’m fine with that. An installation of sculptures by Beverly Pepper, an American artist who worked in stone, corten steel, and iron until she was 97, was the centerpiece at The Row’s show. Pepper died just last week, and the New York Times’s obituary described her as a “sculptor of monumental lightness.” The Olsens’ work definitely identifies with that description.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Dutch Heritage. Sies Marjan AW20

This was one of the best collections coming from Sander Lak’s Sies Marjan to date. The designer is known for his incredible skills in colour combinations, and this time he nailed it with the earthy tones, gorgeous metallics and warm nude palette. The shoes – which were inspired by the traditional wooden, clogs from Netherlands – hinted that the designer might have thought of the masterful colours used by Dutch masters. And you can really see Vermeer, Ruisdael and Ter Borch in these mixes of browns, yellows and greens. Another factor that shaped the collection? Later this month, New York’s Guggenheim Museum will host Rem Koolhaas’s “Countryside: The Future” exhibition. The exhibit is a radical break from the fine art displays typically housed inside the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed rotunda. Instead of art, per se, it will exhibit scientific and cultural research collected by Koolhaas and his AMO team relating to the broad idea of the countryside and all its functions. Sies Marjan is one of the exhibition’s sponsors, and to mark the partnership between the brand, the museum, and Koolhaas, Lak themed his autumn-winter 2020 collection around ideas of the countryside. After a year-long deep-dive into the broadest notions of the theme, he went down material paths, collaborating with Cornell University on plant dyeing techniques that produced the floral patterns in the collection through hammering leaves directly onto fiber. A Dutch artist, Claudy Jongstra, lent her sustainable wool material made from sheeps’ sheddings to shaggy blue-green vests and blankets. A raffia-like material on a black top is actually made from plant roots engineered by artist Diana Scherer to grow in specific patterns. These natural textile developments lent a beautiful connection to the Earth within Lak’s collection. He continued this rawness in his produced fabrics by screen printing a gold film onto cotton twills and a mossy fil coupé. It’s rare to see a collection filled with so much thought – and looking this easy! In the end of the day, we’ve got some very genuine clothes for both women and men.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.