The day before Super Tuesday in the American primary elections might be called Mega Monday at New York Fashion Week, with established heavyweights like Oscar de la Renta showing alongside the city's new establishment of Proenza Schouler and Peter Som. Young or old, a newfound fancy for fur (and its premium pricepoints) was a common thread, even in these recessionary times.
But, Oscar is no old-fogey. His collection came out to the sweet sounds of Regina Spektor, the young hip pianist. During the show, I had the good fortune to be seated next to the company’s CEO, Alex Bolen, who also happens to be Oscar’s son-in-law. It was a great opportunity to have a pre-show chat. Before I could even ask, Alex told me that Oscar de la Renta has not seen any impact of the economic slowdown on their business at all. Not a blip in sight.
To the contrary, the weak US dollar has opened up new international growth horizons for Oscar de la Renta, which is still largely an American business, albeit with a strong international appeal. Half of the collection (mostly evening dresses, Oscar’s specialty) is produced in the United States, with costs denominated in US dollars, and therefore, Oscar now offers much better value than some of his European rivals like Akris and Valentino. Alex said that they will be going after this opportunity with gusto. To wit, the business has added 25 new international points of sale in recent months and plans are afoot for new stores in Moscow and elsewhere.
The runway show itself was consistent with Oscar's approach of adopting the season’s biggest trends in a timeless way that is palatable to his loyal clientèle. A rich colour palette of gold, forest green and deep aubergine was mixed with fur, and lots of it, on collars and trims. Trousers were cut with a high-waist and wide legs, while skirts were voluminous in subtle prints.
Pretty clothes aside, the most delightful sight for me was to see Oscar himself peeking out from behind the backstage door, making last minute adjustments before the girls came out and reacting with delight when a gown or outfit seemed to match with the vision he had in his mind. You could almost hear him thinking, "Just perfect."
Fur was also a big story over at Peter Som, who showed a collection that was a brave departure from the sweet girly aesthetic of seasons past. This time, she was more quirky, dressed in lace and layered, asymmetric tailoring.
It made me wonder, was the change in direction an effort to keep this collection truly distinct from Peter’s first outing as Creative Director of Bill Blass or simply a natural aesthetic shift that Peter wants his uptown clients to adopt?
It's a bit of both, Peter told me later on. "Along with the challenges of simultaneously designing two collections I also felt more free to explore who the Peter Som and the Bill Blass girl really are," Peter said. "For Peter Som she has always been feminine, flirty and someone who likes to have fun with her clothes. But this season I really wanted to develop her sense of adventure and ability to take risks. She is less concerned about her hair than she is about having a good time, trying new things and adding her own eccentric twist to her approach to dressing."
And, at the end of the fashion day, Jack McCullough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler lived up to their cool kids reputation and treated the fashion pack to a stunning collection with even more wide-legged trousers and furry sleeves.
While Angie Harmon was cooing over the dresses (at the last minute she was forced to stand right next to me when she was brought out too late to take her front row seat), I was most taken with how Jack and Laz managed to take their tailoring to new heights, with some really beautiful, jackets with elegant layers of fabric in an understated mix of colours. This was definitely one of the week's highlights, and speaks to the bright future of Proenza Schouler. And oh, the make-up was really cool too.
© 2008 Copyright Imran Amed - The Business of Fashion