By VANESSA FRIEDMANSEPT. 13, 2015
Pity the poor designer who shows at the beginning of New York Fashion Week. There’s so much competing action around — in culture (the Venice International Film Festival), sports (the United States Open, the start of football season) and national memory (Sept. 11) — that a label has to work very hard for attention.
This isn’t necessarily bad. To justify their presence on a runway or in a wardrobe, clothes should offer something more than just a new print. They should offer a new take on female identity; a coherent and unadulterated idea about how women may want to define themselves next. The expectations should be high.
Yet one of the strange realities of New York Fashion Week is that it starts awfully slow, with many of the “promising” American labels that are still groping their way toward a point of view. It makes for a weirdly tentative beginning, one that feels more like a warm-up act than the main event.
Case in point: Creatures of the Wind, a label perennially on the shortlist for one or another of the big fashion prizes but whose ideas are still fuzzy around the edges. According to the show notes, the designers Shane Gabier and Christopher Peters were exploring “the cycles of time,” and “creating a new language out of discordant components,” which sounded kind of provocative, but in practice looked mostly like a vintage mash-up.
There were punky fishnets under proper tea dresses, silver roses appliquéd on an Army green peacoat, and black leather rocker trousers paired with a square-shouldered little black dress, all in a palette that veered between monochrome and the 1970s (think burgundy, mustard and brown). It was all nice enough, but it also didn’t go far enough in embracing its own dissonance.
The clash was more like a minor clang, as was that at Wes Gordon, another oft-nominated next-gen designer (twice a finalist for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund) trying to push his way out of a ladylike box, who roughed up his Le Cirque-ready linen trenches and chiffons with frayed seams and ropes of cording.
It was a subtle contrast, done with a certain finesse — unlike, but more successful than, a disco-ready silver chain-embroidered sheath (what’s that doing there?) paired with an office-appropriate black and white jacquard car coat. Not to mention the off-key mix of cutesy asymmetric ruffled hemlines with seductive cold-shoulder cuts.
At least Jason Wu, who has been there, vaulted out of that “up and comer” category (thanks in part to a second job as artistic director of Boss women’s wear, not to mention Michelle Obama’s patronage) and displayed a certain consistency of line in his panoply of forest green, black and peach featherweight linen frocks, waists nipped in, skirts cascading into ruffles at the sides, short sleeves generously sized. Sweaters were small and cropped, as were silvery raffia suit tops, and slip dresses sheer and layered with lace and ostrich feathers.
Though Mr. Wu’s show was titled “Glamour,” his hand was lighter than usual, and the result had a surprisingly seamless sci-fi prettiness. It’s something of an oxymoron. But at least the combination made it harder to look away.