One trend that appears to be emerging in the collections this Fashion Week is the blend of the masculine and the feminine. But while brands like Tommy Hilfiger and DKNY are infusing masculine elements into their women's clothing, designer Paula Gerbase is bringing a decidedly more feminine look to the new Woolrich John Rich & Bros. Black Label women's Fall 2011 collection.
The line, which Gerbase describes as a "more exclusive, higher-end" line in the Woolrich stable, debuted Monday at a presentation at Eyebeam Studios in New York.
Gerbase told the Huffington Post she was inspired by Woolrich's American heritage pieces -- in particular, the brand's 1940s mens workwear and outerwear -- and the fabrics made at its woolen mill.
"I needed to find the femininity inside these very masculine garments," she said. To do so, she deconstructed them layer by layer, adding a lighter touch to the traditionally rugged sporting garments. "I started pulling the layers apart and playing with proportion and exaggerating things, taking something that maybe before would've been a very heavy thing and then doing it in silk, so it draped," she said.
Gerbase said that a particular thrill for her was visiting Woolrich's woolen mill in Pennsylvania.
"In my own work, I'm always focused on fabric, so it was really exciting for me to be able to work with a brand whose heritage started in fabric," she said. "And to be able to develop fabrics with them was amazing. Their archive is out of this world. I'm such a geek, I was like a kid in a candy shop at the mill. I'm most comfortable at a factory or a fabric mill, getting my hands dirty, looking at yarn...I love it."
The result: a primarily grey and navy collection of dresses, sweaters and overcoats in silk, cashmere and wool (highlights include a silk twill slip dress with coyote collar, a collarless blue-grey check overcoat and fitted parka with a cable-knit sweater dress).
"It's a more feminine collection than Woolrich has probably had before, but I think it was the right time," Gerbase said.
She got a major downtown endorsement Monday when fashion's reigning king of cool, Olivier Zahm, appeared at the presentation alongside Purple/Vogue Italia editor and ASMALLWORLD President Sabine Heller. Also on hand at Eyebeam were a mix of social types including Amanda Hearst, Poppy de Villeneuve and Chessy Wilson.