Princess Diaries be damned. Jason Wu is determined to prove he's not a one-hit wonder, and if the fall collection he delivered on Friday was any sign of things to come, he has a long career ahead of him. Moving beyond his sweet, saccharine-filled dresses and ladies-who-lunch separates--that drew endless comparisons to the great Oscar de la Renta--the 27-year-old turned to another legend for inspiration to churn out a solid and complete showing of his masterful eye: Irving Penn. Indeed, the late photographer's own relaxed men's wear persona and demeanor was evident from the first look (a graphite cashmere sweater, carbon platinum-print cashmere coat), taking charge on two of the biggest trends going at the moment: men's wear and outerwear. Often paired with his recently-launched line of sunglasses, the boxy mohair sweaters, oxford shirts and cashmere suits--tougher and structured--were a territory Wu ventured into first for pre-fall. And it worked beautifully. Transitioning into cocktail, Wu's signature style emerged--nevertheless with some fanciful twists. Reinterpreting Penn's photographs into actual prints, polka dots to the naked eye on a strapless shantung bubble dress were, in fact, a reproduction of a cigarette-burn print. The exquisite--and real--gold leafing on Wu's duchesse satin sheaths? An ode to Penn's images of mudmen in new Guinea and cast-off negatives of chemical spills inspired those, natch. As the exquisite parade of beautifully tailored evening pieces swanned down a lush, deep-pile pink carpet (which will be recycled and donated to a school in Brooklyn--Harvey Milk perhaps?), each look outdid its predecessor. From the blush scribble-print crossover dress and voluminous parchment shantung dress (that's a "cigarette-burn" print) to plume-print silk tulle gown that would be the perfect Jason Wu wedding dress, the young designer really hit it on the mark once again. Feathers and tulle and lace and embroidery, oh my! Karlie Kloss closed the show in an ivory gilded-leaf embroidered drape gown that simply oozed the virtues of a Penn photograph straight out of the pages of Vogue. It all made for a sharply sophisticated palette ideal for both the working woman and belle of the ball--and on par with a certain First Lady's signature style.
Rag & Bone Women's
David Neville and Marcus Wainwright's first solo foray into women's--specifically, opting to showcase their men's line in a separate show--further proved their depth as designers and contributed to what has been an initial strong showing by the American designers. Held in an expansive SoHo loft just steps from their Manhattan shop, every cool girl and guy's weekend brand has evolved and matured. In what was easily their strongest collection to date, they upped the ante on the territory they have long laid claim to--those quintessentially cool separates--but layering on the accessories and emitting plenty of attitude. Forest green Harris Tweed jackets, cuffed shorts, sweater dresses and shearling bombers jackets were edited perfectly with stack-heel hiking boots and oversized knit sacks, but just to name a few accessories. Backstage they explained they took their inspiration from "crazy English guys climbing Mount Everest in the twenties in tweed." If only such real conditions would afford climbers the chance to wear such pieces as a grey plaid tuxedo blazer, Londsdale knitted waist coast or mini kilt. Camouflage was plenty on display here--and in the most conspicuous ways, most notably on Tatyana, whose Duke anorak, what with its combo camo-plaid motif, was most chic.
Rag & Bone Men's
Much like their first solo women's show, David Neville and Marcus Wainwright's men's line was also inspired by the now ubiquitous alpine pursuits. What distinguished their collection, however, was the lack of kitsch but rather focus on quality and engineered style. Tailored topcoats were at the top of their game, layered over vintage-feeling sweaters and plenty of plaid separates. Military influences were an undercurrent here, but not overtly done to border of wilderness patrol uniforms. Along with leather detailing, there was plenty of proportion play in the long, layered day looks that utilized plenty of camouflage prints and leather harnesses first seen in the designer's line when it existed in the form of blanket carriers. Much like James Dean--who one imagines the designers have a poster of hanging in their workshop--the results were rebellious cool.
Opposites--in this case military sharp tailoring and sensuous draping--combined in the best form courtesy of Doo-Ri Chung. The mainly navy collection, which opened with a blazer with a softly draped hem worn over slim pants and a stretch satin shirtdress, was an exquisite ensemble. This was Chung at her very best. In one of her strongest collections to date, she showed a daring sense of take-charge attitude, showcasing strong jackets and military flare while never underscoring her power of appeal in daywear. The same could be said for her eveningwear, which featured just-right peaks of multicolored crystal embroideries on furs, dresses and leggings in such vibrant hues as lava and geranium.
3.1 Phillip Lim Men's
Because the urban terrain can be just as wild and difficult to navigate as the jungles in Brazil, Phillip Lim was out to prove that one need not leave the city to be adventurous. "Who says the city pavement isn't rugged terrain?" he wrote in the notes for his first-ever men's runway show. Cast in such autumnal tones as grey, navy, burgundy and sand and set on a custom-poured concrete floor, the strong willed collection, with a touch of Berlin-esque influence, featured a flurry of strong outwear pieces--namely coats boasting sleek leather accents, sharp buttons and shiny-as-can-be zipper details. Leather is looking to be a key signature fabric for Lim, and it was used in the right ways as to be modern and powerful: "bulletproof" vests, leather-layered-under-wool coats and cropped leather shorts. It was a futuristic look into a nomadic man--one whose portfolio happens to include rich leathergoods in the form of backpacks, gloves, shoes, not to mention eyewear--as he proved himself not just a dabbler in the men's world, but rather a most serious--and increasingly influential--player.