“One could not help but think: This is it. The ice caps have melted. Winter is finished. We are doomed. But at least we will go down looking lovely,” wrote Robin Givhan in yesterday’s Washington Post. It captures the season astutely, doesn’t it? The politically disengaged are presenting pretty clothes at New York Fashion. A lot of it doesn’t mean much but at least it’s got a glamorous veneer.
Victoria Beckham was first up on Sunday morning at the James Burden Mansion with an intimate presentation that conjured up memories of her first presentations, ten years ago. (She will show at London Fashion Week for Spring 2019 to celebrate.) Ms. Beckham’s work has always been heavily inspired by what Phoebe Philo was doing at Céline; there were striking similarities, with the brand being the New York equivalent, presenting clothes that were virtually the same in different fabrics. Until now, this has just been an aspect to her collections that is acknowledged—it’s never been detrimental. However, in the post-Philo world, Victoria Beckham could perhaps divert the Céline customer, draw her with her range of intuitive womenswear, responsive to the needs of the working woman—perfunctory clothing that isn’t led by solely by aesthetics. It’s a possibility, what with Hedi Slimane’s imminence, after all he is fashion’s favourite disrupter.
For an audience of 70, she presented a tightly-edited modern collection which bore militaristic flairs, and a tactile practicality; it was evident she is sensitive to the role of women in society, their busy lives. There were dresses and day coats (one came in an exquisite leopard print, in chenille jacquard), trousers and even hoodies, all rendered in rich wintery hues. Albeit awfully referential in parts, Victoria Beckham’s best decision was separating from the socialite set and designing for working women. It gives the clothes credibility, while also looking good.
Sies Marjan’s Sander Lak took over a disused floor at the Hotel Pennsylvania on Sunday afternoon. The industry has met the ex-Dries van Noten studio designer’s arrival with fervour, a rarity nowadays. He stylishly narrates with colour and proportion, the process of creating his collections beginning with the former. It’s never quite conventional though—they’re always shades like saffron, the dusty rose of your grandmother’s coveted lipstick, a faded ink blue. His proportions similarly aren’t typical. The way he works with drapery is fascinating: adding folds and knots hither and tither but ultimately arriving at something complexly fashionable and beautiful.
He isn’t one for po-faced, lofty and esoteric inspirations, rather he prefers exploring the emotional response colours can elicit. These were evocative clothes which touched on his own personal anguish of late, channelling his intense dreams—not nightmares—into ombré gowns, where colours bleed into one another. In parts the colours were washed out, colourful yet clinical (case in point: the PVC coat in an iridescent washed-out rose) or violent (the blending of navy and a mauve, scarlet and charcoal). Like John Galliano did at Maison Margiela recently at haute couture, certain outfits were brought to life with a flash camera—Mr. Lak spoke backstage about couture sensibilities and bringing that to his design.
Where both designers succeeded yesterday was in their aversion to explicit politics. They each reflected the times in different ways, both using the clothes as a vessel for self-expression. For Victoria Beckham it was about the life of the working woman, the necessities of pockets and big handbags, kitten heels and trousers, transferrable outfits; for Sies Marjan, Sander Lak conveyed self-reflection through his use of colour and his generous silhouettes, which had an insouciant slouchiness. Common to both of them is their European status and, generally, a greater perception of romanticised commercialism, rather than lifeless product.