These days, the wardrobes of women with money — working or not — are more nuanced. When they’re not wearing jeans or yoga pants, they want clothes that feel made oh-so-specifically for them. Clothes that “get” them.
For Oscar de la Renta creative directors Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia, they’ve been working to find a balance between pleasing their former boss’s loyal customer and attracting a new one. The shows since their arrival have often felt overworked and overly referential. Each season, though, there have been improvements, and Spring/Summer 2019 was the most impressive effort yet.
Rest assured the old-school lady clothes are available in the showroom, but it seems that Kim has become the muse — intentionally or not — of the collection. While Monse, the downtown label they co-founded in 2015, is her everyday look, she and Garcia cut this season’s Oscar de la Renta collection in the slinky, skin-baring way that she might wear it herself.
Fringed dresses made out of prints pulled from the house’s archives looked particularly rich. (Kim said at a preview that one particular silk, which was woven with metallic, will oxidise, deepening the colour over time.) Creamy satin pajama pants, paired with a feathered silk top, were languid and elegant. Raffia, a material that the house has used time again, almost to the point that it’s now a signature, bordered flat sandals.
Garcia and Kim have good ideas about accessories: their jangly party earrings sell well, and an “O” clasp on a ribbed black leather clutch had a nice throw-back feel. They don’t look as expensive as the clothes, though, illustrating the challenges of being an independent business run out of New York. Their atelier here might match the skill of many of the European houses, but getting bags and shoes right is a greater challenge.
At Gabriela Hearst, quality rules over quantity. The clothes feel like money. At her showroom, the designer mentioned that she used a cady this season — a stretch, silk-crepe like fabric blend that often includes polyester — by prefacing that its appearance in the collection is atypical for the brand. (The insinuation: Gabriela Hearst cady is fancier than other cady.) The attention and care paid to each garment — the tacked-down leather-and-chiffon pleats, the reinforced herringbone stitching that’s become a brand identifier, the real pearls pin-dotted so securely onto silk shantung gown in her now-familiar off-the-shoulder sihouette — is refreshing. As is her dedication to good suiting, this season’s version tied up across the front to give it shape, structure and a bit of sex.
Hearst is equally specific about accessories, and this season will launch 18-karat gold jewellery fashioned after what was worn in Quentin Massys’ “Christ Presented to the People,” which she saw for the first time at the Prado earlier this year. There is undoubtedly a woman who will swoon for it, although Hearst has yet to figure out a show format that works to communicate the sumptuous nature of her things. She plays the perfect host. (This season, guests were treated to a truffled buffet lunch; the show notes mysteriously smelled of powdered sugar.) But on the runway, the collection somehow comes off looking ordinary.
Gabriela Hearst has a good handle on her client; Rosie Assoulin, who showed her latest collection over the summer, forgoing the madness of September, has a good handle on herself. Her choice to whittle things down to two collections a year speaks to her utter inability to pander. Months later, it’s easy to remember the hand-dyed beading and hand-painted watercolor print, her barefoot models wearing floral oven mitts. The collection was chaotic — and joyful — as always.
But there needs to be a way forward. It’s difficult to know what Assoulin’s true aspirations are for her brand — does she want to take it wide, or keep in intimate? Spending more time thinking between collections may let her evolve her ideas further. In the past, Assoulin’s work has influenced mass trends, and maybe this new cadence will let her do that with greater frequency. It keeps things exciting.
Rosetta Getty’s clothes, while rooted in minimalism, are perhaps most admired for their sexiness, with all their cut-outs, twists and ties. But her brand m.o. is her ongoing dialogue with other female artists. For spring, Los Angeles-based Liz Glynn, who just had a big show at MASS MoCA, created an installation for Getty’s presentation that included painted slabs and ceramic vases, which inspired the collection’s scribble print. There’s a welcome casualness to Getty’s approach that must work well commercially, but the clothes don't always resonate beyond the season. They feel of this time and this time only.
Getty is increasingly focused on building a recognisable brand with hardware details and a customised label. These are nice, thoughtfully executed touches, but they won't get someone to say, "I'm a Rosetta Getty woman." For her to build that sort of loyalty, she's going to have to decide how she's different from the brands that serve a similar customer. Most notably, The Row and Céline. Really, It's something all of these brands need to think about. There are only a finite amount of people who can afford to be, or even want to be, their customers.