When autumn rolls around in early September, transitioning from the stupor of relaxing summer holidays to a productive time is always a challenge. But the spring editions of New York Fashion Week, which always abruptly occur right after Labour Day, never fail, with its intensely frenetic agenda, in motivating fashionistas to go back to business.
For the past three years, Fashion's Night Out, an Anna Wintour initiative to invigorate the retail industry, has been one of those main events. On Thursday night, stores across the city stayed open late with parties replete with high-wattage celebrity appearances, and from downtown to uptown, it was a unified - albeit raucous - celebration. At Dolce & Gabbana, a bespectacled Justin Bieber caused mayhem signing autographs and Beyoncé's appearance thrilled the crowd as well. Elsewhere, the rapper Nicki Minaj regaled fans with her Geisha-inspired outfit at Yves Saint Laurent, Alexa Chung, the "it" girl of the moment, entertained the crowd at Stella McCartney by playing some infectious tunes as a DJ, and supermodel Iman hosted a dance contest at Lanvin.
Meanwhile on the catwalks, designers collectively sent the message: wake up and smell the flowers. After a rainy August, petals bloomed all over the catwalks like it was May, but the look didn't manifest itself in its usual uber feminine incarnation. "It was everywhere. It was roughed up and not prim and proper," says Sarah Perpich, the stylist and fashion consultant behind StylishSarah. "It was mixed with plaid, tweed, solid colours, mesh or houndstooth. So it gave it a slightly messy look, but it looks completely put together."
Peter Som paired ankle-baring trousers engulfed in large orange, red and gold rose petals with a white silk top. The same prints found their way to colourful shifts and chic pencil skirts. But the most delightfully unexpected pairings were a check jacket with a printed blue petal swimming costume and a splatter-painted top with a fuchsia leather pencil skirt.
Jason Wu, who many consider Oscar de la Renta lite, had a very strong outing and took risks playing with proportion for spring. The go-to designer for powerful women like Michelle Obama, Wu took a garden tour this season as well. He collaborated with the graffiti artist KAWS to create prim, tonal flower prints seen in silk chiffon blouses and airy skirts. The last exits of beautiful cocktail silk dresses, which came with bulbous peplums, were standouts; a shapely detail that Cushnie et Ochs used to bring attention to the hips in their strict minimal outing. The duo, though, strayed from their usual clinical colour palette with hot pinks and Hi-Liter yellows.
Costello Tagliapetra, who also have a penchant for deep, saturated colours and monochrome looks, veered into a slightly more colourful world with turquoise and orange accents. Doo.Ri, another designer who has similar chromatic predilections, used orange petal accents in a ruched skirt and beautifully draped day dress.
Tara Subkoff, a designer who has not had the same buzz in recent years with her Imitation line, rehashed the design approach she employed when she won industry-wide acclaim and garnered a coterie of downtown fashion followers. This season, she relaunched Imitiation of Christ with a wedding starring Lydia Hearst as the bride. The models were groomsmen and bridesmaids who wore reworked vintage garments that were tinged with a 1920s aesthetic, but had the same cachet as new clothes today. There were lace dresses with red petal appliqués, a series of torn-up chiffon to create an outsize flower and faint flower prints on languid dresses.
Rebecca Taylor's soft chiffon skirts and light dresses were accented with a series of small violets, Rachel Comey's silk dress appeared like shadows of leaves, and Suno, a specialist in prints, used a burnt out velvet technique in several pieces to render antique-looking patterns. Others used black as a background colour to amplify the feminine effects of flowers, which were seen in Cynthia Rowley's last exits and Luca Luca's first look. At Yigal Azrouel, yellow was the backdrop, and it gave a maximum graphic effect seen in swingy A-line dress and a daring jumpsuit.
However, it was Richard Chai's LOVE line that gave the look a decidedly younger and fresher appeal. Chai, whose signature style is to layer pieces, mixed flower prints with geometric prints, layered it with jeans, paired it with a punky combo of pleated kilt and pants, and styled it with a studded top.