The Daily Telegraph



By: Luke Leitch

Date: September 13, 2013


New York Fashion Week: Marc Jacobs spring/summer 2014

Thunder, lightning, and it was a little bit frightening, the Marc Jacobs show was a stormer, says Luke Leitch.

Commiserations to all the British editors who had to leave New York to make the first day of London Fashion Week today – because the Marc Jacobs show last night was a proper stormer.

Not only that, but it took place in a proper storm. Half an hour before showtime Manhattan’s skies started dumping a Hudson’s worth of water. Lightning strobed the city, traffic stopped and sirens screamed. New York’s fashion PR-in-chief Ed Filipowski stood outside in the deluge, forgoing an umbrella to keep his hands free for BlackBerries and to guide the screaming editors who dashed from their SUV’s with clutch bags held aloft in a vain attempt to stave off blow-dry implosion.

That storm and that traffic meant that by showtime reams of seats were untaken, their hatboxes of free Marc Jacobs make-up unplundered. Nonetheless it started on the dot.

The first group of girls – wearing brocaded big shouldered jackets and shorts both dappled with that William Morris-ey floral that’s been around rather a lot – strode in on sports sandals along a rickety old jetty. They stepped off it onto what appeared to be a volcanic black-sanded beach after some calamity to make The Planet of The Apes’finale look banal. There was an upturned bus sticking out of one dune, a teepee from another, a monster truck tyre elsewhere – and in the central island stood on old scaffold life-saver’s chair around which were strewn curled romantic novels and – oh, the sacrilege – issues of American Vogue. More girls came down the jetty, and that first sporty-pirate silhouette was super superseded by 1940s siren dresses in viscose and lace, worn with ballet shoes.

The catwalk was highly-convoluted, a spaghetti junction, and had the models walk from all directions; the photographer next to me swivelled and shot, swivelled and shot, firing bursts like a machine-gunner defending a ridge. “This is a recipe for schizophrenia,” she muttered.

Brocade tags hung from wide armed, long hemmed dresses – Miss Havisham attire – that were teamed with metallic spangled Pocahontas boots. Sometimes the trims were lush, sometimes patchy and half-realised. One model wore a red sweatshirt with the Coca-Cola swoosh – an odd aside.

All of them had hair (ok, wigs) that looked hastily chopped as if to prevent a female stowaway on a ship full of brutes being pegged as girl. The music was a sour screech of violin. And those long, beautiful dresses, worn with the opposite of ceremony by girls in flats walking a catwalk strewn with old cigarette buts, looked marvellous. I wasn’t so sure of the Michael Jackson meets Flashman section, but hey. Grandiose, gothic and very Katie Grand, this was brilliant.

Backstage Jacobs said of his set: “It’s not apocalyptic. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just a lovely nightmare. Just self-expression at the end of the day, good old self-expression.

“I really felt like after last season that we wanted to go one louder, or ten louder: I wanted to do a celebration of the decorative; the things you don’t need but which still draw your eye. And I didn’t want to stick to the cliché of spring and summer. I wanted it to be for girls I know and love, who have no problem coming to work in a Victorian gown and a pair of Birkenstocks, or a 1940s cocktail dress worn in the middle of the day with a pair of sneakers.

I looked around my office and talked to my friends and really they all only wear navy grey or black. It doesn’t really matter, spring and summer. I don’t know anybody, not one person, who dresses all in white. And most of them don’t wear pastels either.”

Did his retro-deco urge reflect frustration with the clean white lines of contemporary modernism-by-numbers, someone wondered?

“I don’t know what’s modern. I don’t think clothes are modern: I don’t think any piece of clothing however it’s made is modern. I think you love fashion if it says something to you or its something you want to wear but I couldn’t care less if it is modern or not.”

Finally Jacobs was asked whether he plans to stick to this slot at the very end of New York – and just nine hours before the first show in London. It was, we told him, a great source of regret for those who had to leave.

“I mean,” said Marc “it’s problematic for me too. But you can blame the Italians. It’s because the mills don’t reopen early enough and we don’t get our fabrics in time. If the mills opened earlier we could move back to our old slot. So blame the Italians!” Anti-pastel and anti-pasta eaters, Jacobs is on pretty stormy form himself.


By: Luke Leitch

Date: September 12, 2013


 New York Fashion Week: Ralph Lauren spring/summer 2014

Ralph Lauren experimented with nods to Mods, Jackie O and acid-bright colours on the final day of New York Fashion Week.

Ralph Lauren was 28 when, in 1967, he produced his first clothing collection – a range of wide men’s ties named Polo.

For next summer Lauren went back to the 1960s but in a rather radical manner. Often, Lauren likes to touch on the blockbuster themes – from the American wilderness to Wall Street – that have made his brand so recognisable. And he always features plenty of house classics.

Today, though, many of these were absent. Yes, there were some of Lauren’s always-flattering Diane Keatonish high-waisted, wide trouser three-piece suits and kipper (Polo-wide) ties. Also a storming, signature Lauren, closing section of full-tilt evening gowns, one of which the American supermodel Karlie Kloss had to hoist up mid-catwalk. Elsewhere, though, the designer experimented.

In patent booties and mid-height Mary Janes, models looked almost Mod during the collection’s first phase. Short, sharply-cut shift dresses in leather and wool, narrow trousers and tightly peplumed jackets come first exclusively in black, and then in Bridget Riley grids, florals, and a key-motif pattern served up in black and white. There was a deep V drop waisted dress (in black and white), Jackie O-ish skirt suits and a white buttoned black double breasted jacket worn with a white leather mini and a chain-handled patent Ricky bag.

Then, exactly half way through the show, Lauren lifted off into acid-bright colours – lime, blue, green and orange – via a procession of minidresses and trenches in wool and leather. Irresistibly eye-catching and remorselessly coordinated with sandals, shoes, bags and sunglasses. Then came those high-visibility long silk evening dresses, some with huge ruffles at one shoulder and liquid, billowing skirts, before a white section of suits – and one great bat-winged catsuit – plus floral embroidered dresses.

Those first Polo ties proved to be the bedrock of a business that has grown into the most lucrative fashion brand in the United States – with sales that during the most recently-record three months topped £1 billion. And Lauren’s customers would certainly never demur were he eternally to send out the same house standards, only ever gently tweaked, season after season. So it’s rather impressive that 46 years after he gambled on those ties Lauren is still willing to take a chance on the unexpected.



By: Luke Leitch

Date: September 11, 2013


New York Fashion Week: Michael Kors spring/summer 2014

Despite a librarian-wear-like start, Michael Kors served up another dose of his airbrushed sex appeal as Katie Holmes watched from the front row.

Michael Kors is one of the most commercially potent fashion labels in America. For next summer – and despite some pretty unpromising raw material – Kors again showed a sure feel for the desires of his fashion buying masses.

At times though this collection seemed disturbingly un-Kors, almost librarian-wear. There long crochet dresses, sleeveless jumpers worn over white shirts and long fluted forties skirts, and big fluffy mohair cardies – plus the odd big fluffy fur. There were some fantastic catwalk pleated wide trousers and plenty of tasteful blouses.

Katie Holmes and Kate Mara watched as dull green and woodstain brown – an unlovely 1970s interiors palette – made for a challenging colour scheme that was only occasionally relieved by navy and beige.

Of course Kors was never going to present a collection just for Jean Brodies – and soon enough those clothes started playing easy to get.

Mid-calf dresses in delicate polka dots seemed demure when stationary, but as their walkers trod the whitewashed wooden catwalk their skirts fell open via two deeply unnecessary splits right up to each thigh.

A ‘high-rise’ bikini (massively panted) went under a trench, and knitwear was look-away sheer.

Kors, after all that preamble, was yet delivering another dose of his airbrushed sex appeal, tweaked this time for aspirant pin-ups to put out in.



By: Luke Leitch

Date: September 11, 2013



New York Fashion Week: Jenny Packham spring/summer 2014

British designer Jenny Packham, one of the Duchess of Cambridge’s favourite designers, was inspired by ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ for her latest show.

Shimmering dresses dripping with pearls on her catwalk, the spectacular Christina Hendricks on her front row, and the boom her business is enjoying: all of these Jenny Packham was delighted to discuss at New York Fashion Week.

On one topic however – perhaps the most notable in her recent history – the designer stayed resolutely mute.

When the Duchess of Cambridge emerged with her husband from the Lindo Wing with their new baby George this summer, that pretty pale blue polka dot dress she was wearing was by Packham. Her website crashed, the phones went crazy, and briefly Packham was the world’s most in-demand designer. This week she was much too discreet to give anything much away.

“It was amazing,” she said of the moment: “I was in Japan on holiday, and it was great – really exciting – but I just got on with the trip. They were all very excited in the studio though.”

And was the Duchess’s choice of polka dots for her dress really, as speculated, an on-purpose reference to the dress Diana, Princess of Wales wore when she first presented Prince William to the world at the very same spot outside St Mary’s Hospital?

“I really can’t say,” demurred Packham wisely – for it wouldn’t do for her to give away such a clients secrets. “But,” she added adroitly: “It’s funny that spot thing has through into this collection. It’s amazing: people never seem to get tired of spots. They always have impact.”

Spots, beads and floral studs cascaded in abundance in a collection that was inspired by Peter Weir’s 1975 film of Picnic at Hanging Rock, with novelist Joan Lindsay’s unsettling yarn of schoolgirls lost in the Australian bush. In honour of the period, there were Edwardian touches including unlaced satin bootie-heels and delicately pleated, high-necked, floor length gowns in Farrow & Ball shades.

As a nod to the 1970s styling of Weir’s film, there was check, pussy-bows, wide-legged trousers and crazily frizzed hairstyles on the models – as if they had been dragged through a bush as well as lost in it.

The Duchess of Cambridge is just the most famous in a growing Packham customer-base, who cherish her emphasis on prettiness over provocation. Her design studio, based in Kentish Town, is about to take on an extra floor in its building after the existing space became too small for her growing team – which currently numbers 50.


By: Luke Leitch

Date: September 9, 2013


 New York Fashion Week: Opening Ceremony spring/summer 2014

A 20-strong fleet of glamour cars transported models showcasing Opening Ceremony’s debut catwalk collection as Rihanna and Justin Bieber watched on.

The crew members working this New York moment of a fashion show all wore T-shirts that said: ‘Opening Ceremony Established 2002’. That’s hardly heritage brand material, sure, but for this mostly young and often whooping audience, 2002 is an aeon ago – back when Rihanna was 14 and Justin Beiber was eight. Both turned up.

After lots of hanging around in a pier by the Meatpacking District, Rihanna and the rest trooped through to a cavernous warehouse space. Once sat, to the first round of whoops, a 20-strong fleet of glamour cars – including a Bentley, a couple of Ferraris, an Aston, an Audi, a Mercedes-Benz, a brace of Land Rovers and even a mean looking Toyota – revved their way in too. What followed was a display of precision parking skills to make Top Gearwatchers swoon.

Once stationary, the cars one-by-one exhausted models wearing Opening Ceremony’s debut catwalk collection. This was very Kenzo – which is not all that surprising as Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, the founders of Opening Ceremony, have been designing Kenzo for a couple of seasons now.

There was pattern, there was streetwear, there were poppy florals and there were statement shades. There was quite a lot of young London designer style, over-elaborately folded ornament. It wasn’t radical, but it looked exciting – this was sometimes excellent, sometimes less-so, commercial fashion produced by a young and canny commercial retailer.

The end seemed nigh when the models screeched to a halt at the bonnets of the cars they had arrived in – it was a bit like being at a fashion forward motor show. But then another mob of models, male and female, steamed in: again they majored on loud, sometimes Marimekko-ish pattern, neoprene bulk and accessible silhouettes. The quirky accessory quota was observed via a deconstructed bike-helmet visor. Cue more whooping.

Yes, for we jaded elders in the audience who were only truly galvanised by the Cronut in our goody bag, much of this felt a bit hipster-by-numbers, been there, done that. For first timers though, it was properly exciting – and no other show in New York has generated buzz quite like this. Because whether it’s pop stars, film stars or hair cuts, each successive generation makes its own icons. Yet the top-heavy business of high fashion seems extremely reluctant to serve these up – perhaps because there are so many 40, 50, and 60-something designers on the New York schedule still pitching to teens and 20-somethings.

At Kenzo, Lim and Leon have already shown that a hot rep and a tarted up sweatshirt can get young consumers to buy into luxury fashion. So their own-brand commercial line – created and curated here in the capital of commercial fashion – should accelerate fast.


By: Luke Leitch

Date: September 8, 2013


 New York Fashion Week: Victoria Beckham spring/summer 2014

Victoria Beckham showed high hemlines and mannish fabrics in her collection about comfort, considered looseness, and silhouette.

The sight of David Beckham’s tattoo-handed embrace of his daughter Harper as they watched Victoria Beckham’s latest fashion show today sparked collective cooing from the transfixed front-row. It also cutely demonstrated how the fashion industry, much more than any other, is into business whose big-hitters are often women.

As well as that babysitting spouse, Beckham’s clothes suggested this too. Gone were the gold-zippered, truss-tight, killer dresses of a few seasons ago. Instead she veered between the pragmatically girlish and the guy-inspired, using menswear fabrics in loosely tailored mid-calf trousers, city shorts, and chicly comfortable jackets. Sheer bomber jackets and some t-shirt variants were worn with flat-heeled bandage shoes, designed by Beckham’s long-time footwear collaborator Manolo Blahnik – who also provided mules and heels.

Backstage (her husband still on Harper-duty), Beckham said: “I still love a fitted dress, but there is another side of me that wants to feel at ease and relaxed as well as sharp and feminine.” That didn’t always involve importing menswear elements: there were plenty of kickily ruffled mermaid hems on knee-grazing shirts and short dresses, and some striking many-textured panelling that ran from sheer to roughly woven. Mostly, this was a black and white collection, apart from the occasional visual gatecrash provided by some fuchsia-fronted white jackets and sleeveless blouses.

Although those hemlines still sometimes ran girlishly high, this was also a collection about comfort, considered looseness, and silhouette: instead of sticking that one-note tight nightwear of old it offered a much more functional next-summer high-fashion wardrobe.

After the show, Beckham gave short shrift to suggestions that her recently-retired husband might be tempted to stick his oar in at her designer coal-face: “No – absolutely not – David lets me get on with that. He only arrived in New York yesterday, and he’s actually far busier now that when he was still playing football.”

Beckham had been up all night fine-tuning her collection – so said she had not read the comments of Britain’s highest-paid executive, Angela Ahrendts of Burberry, about managing the irreconcilable demands of family and career. Beckham added: “But if I’m being honest I do find it very difficult, and I think that all working mums do. I rarely go out socially, and while I do work, my children and husband are my priority. Although I love the job. So it’s a juggling act, and I think that as a working mum you probably always feel guilty – and that’s not a very healthy emotion to have.”

And what about working fathers, asked this working father: don’t you think we feel guilty about leaving our children too? Woundingly, everyone laughed.



By: Luke Leitch

Date: September 8, 2013


 New York Fashion Week: Alexander Wang spring/summer 2014

Wang pushed brand awareness to a whole new level with his spring/summer 2014 collection.

Everyone in New York knows the name Alexander Wang. After all, which other designer in Manhattan fashion ever started out edgy, became a local darling, then won promotion to the pinnacle that is Paris pret-a-porter?

OK, Marc Jacobs did it too – but Wang is only one season into his Balenciaga adventure. So today, in front of a whoopingly partisan hometown crowd, Wang stated as explicitly as a fashion designer ever can that he is determined not to let his own brand wither in the shadow of this glamorous new European assignment.

Wang, Wang – and more Wang: the name was laser-cut into white or pink gloves, stitched in white relief into the chest panel of a black clavicle-slashing square-necked dress, cut again into the X-shaped backstraps and wide pleats of a warrior frock, and insinuated far more delicately into innards of two ridged and mobile cocktail-ready numbers. This was self-promotion as decoration, and it looked pretty good.

Earlier, the collection started with an extended riff on menswear. Instead of doing the old turning-a-jacket-inside-out trick, Wang opted to present a soft grey jacket and a classic khaki trench that were done up at the chest, hung open at the midriff, and sported radically rolled-up sleeves. There were boxer shorts and similarly undone shirts split then remixed at the back, while grey suiting fabrics were ripped up and turned into miniskirts. Some Prince of Wales check and Houndstooth print shorts ‘n spaghetti-strapped boob tube combos featured a proper pre-1950’s mens trouser waistline: as high as Fred Astaire used to wear them, but infinitely tighter, and shorter below.

Kanye West was there, the Now That’s What I Call Hip Hop soundtrack was all present and correct, and that signature Wang tune of monotone ‘luxe’ sportswear and attention grabbing accessories was turned up to 11.



By: Luke Leitch

Date: September 8, 2013


New York Fashion Week: Prabal Gurung spring/summer 2014

Prabal Gurung delivers first class psychedelic glamour at New York Fashion Week.

Any show that has its models interned in a cellophane greenhouse under 132 fluorescent light bulbs (and starts late enough to be able to count them) runs the risk of feeling a little over-produced. Today Prabal Gurung was trying to replicate the sortcoup de théâtre catwalk action more usually presented by Louis Vuitton, Prada and Miu Miu. And you need cracking clothes to justify that. Happily, however, these easily stood up to the scrutiny forced upon them.

After a section of daywear – bombers, trousers, pencil skirts, blouses – elevated by transparent panels, lame flashes and backlit-bright citrus and sky blue colours (J. Crew’s Jenna Lyons, watching the show, would have loved this), Gurung went for all out glamour.

A series of gowns fitted enough to make Roland Mouret raise an eyebrow of applause featured flashes of corset at their strapless top, and ruffles spiked with slits at the spine. Red boucle with shaved patches of silver was used for a high-waisted jacket over a mid-calf clinger of a dress. Soft furnishing frond reliefs on a semi-sheer mac made for a riveting visual rustle against the larger leafed pattern beneath it. The models were choreographed to troop wanly in and out of the greenhouse, their hyper-coloured bombshell make-up worn over post-traumatically transfixed expressions. This was to create a sort of post-feminist get-out clause for a collection that, under all that styling, interestingly mixed elegant late 1950’s fashion with 21st Century production techniques. It sounds worthy but it really worked. And the shoes, by Casadei, were killer.



By: Luke Leitch

Date: September 7, 2013


The Rag& Bone Men Take New York

Rag & Bone has once again supplied a refreshed take on the sportily practical, high-design urban womenswear that has become its niche, says Luke Leitch.

The standout show of New York Fashion Week’s opening days came from two Englishmen abroad – who even managed to throw in a cricket reference that didn’t befuddle the locals.

Marcus Wainwright and David Neville first met at public school then left London a decade ago to set up their clothing label Rag & Bone in New York. At their latest show, presented on an X-shaped catwalk and attended by fellow English expatriate Anna Wintour, they showed again why that moniker so suits them. For Rag & Bone are masters of artful scavenging, who adroitly salvage surprising references, throw them unpromisingly together and create clothes with serious commercial oomph.

For next summer Rag & Bone has dug up cricket-reminiscent jumpers, but presented with a far more deeply plunging V-neckline than the MCC would countenance. These hip-huggers were worn over knee-length soft pink silk slip dresses or baggily tailored leather trousers. Into that mix they inserted a twist of upgraded backpacker chic via suede ‘Bangkok pants’ that resembled the raw cotton fisherman’s trousers gap year travellers of Wainwright and Neville’s vintage used to favour under their Red Bull T-shirts. Slightly perplexingly their ‘Dustbowl’ jacket was a smart, slightly oversized masculine suit jacket that looked more The Great Gatsby than The Grapes of Wrath.

There was plenty of fine pleating, apparently based on the loose Samurai Hakama trousers and spaghetti strap tops contrasted with blokishly shoulder-slung slough bags. Wainwright said in his notes: “We wanted to show a cleaner, more delicate side while still retaining a subtle play on masculine versus feminine.”

Sometimes that play wasn’t subtle at all: a fitted black sheer mini dress is unambiguously feminine, after all. Mostly, though, Rag & Bone delivered an adroitly refreshed take on the sportily practical, high-design urban womenswear that has become their niche.

Before London Fashion Week begins next Friday there will be more English designers showing their collections here in New York. Sunday sees Victoria Beckham present the first of two 2014 shows. And on Tuesday Jenny Packham will reveal the latest round of her Duchess of Cambridge-favoured evening wear at the Lincoln Centre. It might seem a little strange that some of Britain’s best-known designers choose New York to show in. But as London has Tom Ford, one of the most successful American designers ever, honours are probably even.