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September 19, 2008 10:37 AM

Fashion

The Game of Risk

Now that I have pretty much recovered from the deluge of New York shows (and rain!), I have had some more thoughts on the spring collections. At the end of fashion week, my colleague Sharon Edelson (whose cubicle, by the...

Now that I have pretty much recovered from the deluge of New York shows (and rain!), I have had some more thoughts on the spring collections.

At the end of fashion week, my colleague Sharon Edelson (whose cubicle, by the way, is attached to mine, so I can listen in on all her phone conversations) asked key retailers for their takes on the New York season.

Many cried foul — they deemed the clothes too safe, too tried-and-true and simply too commercial, claiming that in this tough economy, it takes a wow factor to lure shoppers into stores.

But therein lies the catch-22, no? In good times, when designers were in a more experimental mode, retailers had been known to criticize the lack of consumer-friendly clothes at the shows (remember the Nineties outcries over deconstructed fashions?). Now it seems they're playing opposite day. Someone in my office pointed out that it's almost as if designers are damned if they do and damned if they don't, and I kind of have to agree.

What do you think?

Maybe the designers who were able to strike a balance between commerce and creativity will come out on top next spring, and I think New York had quite a few of those. Ralph Lauren's Arabia-themed collection replete with Islamic-like headgear may have seemed controversial to some, but I thought he struck a perfect balance between realistic clothes and fashion concepts. I mean, the man deserves credit: He made harem pants look desirable.

Marc Jacobs, too, struck a healthy balance. I have to confess, my initial instinct during the show was that the collection was a little too heavy for spring. When the models came out at the show's finale, however, I realized that there was lots of great sportswear once the styled layers had been peeled off. Perry Ellis would have been proud.

Isaac Mizrahi and Narciso Rodriguez also looked great. Thakoon Panichgul's show may have irritated some for the late start -- Kanye West should have been arrested just for his late arrival -- but the designer more than made up for it with looks that almost every one of my female colleagues present immediately wanted to buy. In the end, isn't that what fashion should really be about?

At the end of the New York shows, many agreed that Francisco Costa had one of the top collections of the week, taking his role at Calvin Klein to a whole new level. The intricate origami details, the pleats and the cubic silhouettes were beautifully executed (even if one of my journalist friends dubbed it "container store chic" right after the show). Other than a few of Costa's minimalist dresses, though, I walked out wondering how many of the runway looks will make their way to the retail floor come spring. But then again, no house knows the importance of balance quite like Calvin Klein. I am sure there were plenty more commercial looks back at the company's showroom.
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