x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

At New York Fashion Week, the familiar meets the exotic

A last look at what showed on the catwalk at New York Fashion Week.

Calvin Klein’s collection was minimal and practical, but nuanced in terms of construction.
Calvin Klein’s collection was minimal and practical, but nuanced in terms of construction.

Ralph Lauren, who took us on a journey to the West last season, did an about-face this season - voyaging all the way to China for his inspiration.

Lauren, who helms one of fashion's most powerful empires, avoided overpowering his brand with the clichés of that vast country, instead using subtle embellishments to invigorate his offerings. Graphic shiny black trousers and long skirts and white silk blouses were accessorised with Art Deco belt buckles, jade earrings and red lacquered accents on shoes; dramatic coats were embellished with shimmering beads; and a green velvet dress worked as a modernised cheongsam.

The knockouts, though, were the evening dresses, in particular the one-shouldered gown with an embroidered velvet top and a billowy black silk skirt and the dramatic last shimmering gown with an armour-like embellishment on the torso. Within the familiar Americana that's associated with Lauren, the exotic Mandarin twist is sure to quench his clientele's thirst and flatter the vast Chinese market.

Michael Kors, who was celebrating his 30th anniversary in the business, corralled a front row that included Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Kors, who is celebrating several milestones this year, as well as a store in Paris and a refurbished Madison Avenue store, reminded us that few can make luxury American sportswear look as effortless and breezy.

His straightforward approach to fashion is something that Francisco Costa at Calvin Klein also comes close to. Yet while many of Costa's silhouettes appeared simple, as usual with Calvin Klein the clothes were more than met the eye. There was a camel coat where the shoulder was cut low and full, shifts were given a new dimension with shiny velvet and fuzzy fabric and a beige leather dress appeared weightless.

Narciso Rodriguez, too, is no stranger to this understated method. This season, he worked colour-blocking into his coats and trousers, but his dresses, which are so often form-fitting, took on a new shape and look. They were made with chiffon, floated lightly away from the body and were canvases for abstract work of painterly pink brushstrokes and beading.

Anna Sui, meanwhile, stuck to what she knows best: colourful, contrasting prints mixed into one outfit in magpie style. As a purveyor of pieces for practical, whimsical dressing, there was plenty to choose from, and for the early-1990s trend du jour, look no further than Sui — she was a pioneer of that aesthetic.

Naeem Khan, is also in the more-is-more mindset, but for him it's all about glamour: as ever, there were beautiful graphic ball gowns, silk caftans embellished with beautiful embroidery and shimmering sequinned floor-length gowns.

Norma Kamali has also clung to the consumer-centric approach to fashion. There were long-lasting Lycra gowns and dresses that take you from day to evening, versatile pinstripe suits and winter coats that were lightweight and warm. Clothing aside, the real innovations were her retail initiatives, such as allowing her customers to try on clothes for a 48-hour period at their own homes and having some of the clothes presented available within two to three weeks: a strong position against the fashion retail calendar.