NEW YORK, United States — Logic would seem to dictate that female designers are best equipped to anticipate what women want from fashion. With this thought in mind, it was instructive to look for the common ground between the offerings of three very different women designers over the past few days in New York: Belgian-born Diane von Furstenberg, New Zealander Karen Walker, and Chilean native Maria Cornejo.
The result was simple and unsurprising. The resurgence of feminist spirit in society — the so-called 'fourth wave' — has touched the fashion industry. Female empowerment is its obvious impetus, same as it ever was. But fashion offers the opportunity to paint different faces on empowerment. “If you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt” were the words of wisdom painted along the wall of a corridor in von Furstenberg’s Chelsea headquarters, the venue for Sunday’s presentation.
She was formed in the work-hard/play-harder crucible of the 1970s, and her most convincing collections draw on that time in her life, where fashion was a functional adjunct to the pursuit of pleasure. Hence, her most enduring success: the simple, sexy wrap dress.
Its timelessness was highlighted by the full-length version sported by Karlie Kloss. Pavé-ed in gold sequins, it was disco glamour incarnate and, as the designer joined Kloss and friends in dancing to “We Are Family,” she must surely have tracked back to the blissfully wasted nights on the floor at Studio 54, the notorious neon moon with a spoon hanging in the artificial sky above her head.
Taking the collection off the catwalk and bringing it all back home to HQ was a smart move on DVF’s part. It’s attitude she’s selling, the more attitude the better. The disco scenario was one of five vignettes scattered across two floors. One featured models popping in and out of doors like vedettes in a Feydeau farce. In another more work-place-y situation, it looked like the girls were trying to destroy documents, a frisson of Watergate to add to the 1970s mood that was summoned up by wide-legged pants, tiny little graphic knits, a button-through suede skirt paired with a shearling coat, a trumpet-sleeved dress with tiered pleats, pert little bippity-boppity hats and fur stoles.
It was no effort at all to imagine Diane and friends like Loulou de la Falaise and Nona Summers whizzing round London in the early 1970s in similar looks. What brought them up to date, according to new creative director Michael Ward, was a change in proportion, elongating the neck, lengthening the skirt, easing up where ease was needed, tightening when it was tight that was necessary. That certainly put new life in old looks.