x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

New York hemlines go south for the winter

The maxi is back, and Alexander Wang, the darling of New York, is getting tough this season.

Libertine returns with electric energy marked by graphic, neon colors such as pink, green and orange painted onto rough tweeds.
Libertine returns with electric energy marked by graphic, neon colors such as pink, green and orange painted onto rough tweeds.

In New York, hemlines are dropping. Not that the maxi length is a particularly groundbreaking trend - its new iteration is, compared with last season's, noticeably leaner, recalling Rick Owens's signature dark, floor-grazing silhouettes.

On the streets around Milk Studios, a slinky wool jersey skirt had to be picked up by its fashionable wearer to prevent it from dragging on the ground; another long black skirt was worn with an oversized, angular jacket and anchored by sturdy boots. On the runways, it wasn't quite as dramatic. It did, however, suggest a more dishevelled, weighed-down kind of dressing for autumn.

Alexander Wang, the darling of New York, got tougher this season. As well as a mostly black palette in his collection, he honed the message with jackets padded in panels on the lapels, pockets and even the sleeves, low-slung trousers with leather panels and big coats that appeared hefty, yet also appealingly cosy. This heavy style may intimidate the less adventurous, but Wang's core fans are a loyal lot who will have no qualms in stepping into his strong wares come autumn.

Jill Stuart, who has been showing at the New York Public Library for several seasons now, decided to join the fashion pack at the Lincoln Center this season. Her move seems to have triggered a change in aesthetic, too. She banished the ultra-feminine frocks in soft palettes from last spring and offered up darker, richer colours in nocturnal animal prints, knit tops with cape-like hems and below-the-knee skirts in wool and slithery silks.

The day wasn't strictly a moody affair. Libertine, a much buzzed-about label in the early 2000s, made a splashy, chromatic return to the fray. Bright colours such as electric blue, pink and tangerine appeared scratched (though were in fact screen-printed) on to heavyweight wools, pepping up the conservative and vintage shapes, which could otherwise have looked dowdy. The technique gave the long coats and dresses an electric energy and created a rugged counterpoint to the sheer, elongated prairie skirt.

At Prabal Gurung, a Miss Havisham-inspired outing exuded a lived-in, textured kind of glamour. The opening outfit was perhaps the most emblematic: a washed A-line silk faille dress that came to just below the knee. There were louche sheer tops, cocoon-like coats and silk chiffon skirts that extended all the way to the ground.

Like Gurung, Jason Wu was instantly launched into the spotlight when Michelle Obama wore one of his frocks - in his case, as her inauguration dress. Since then, Wu has lived up to the hype with his brand of clean yet luxe sportswear and glamorous eveningwear. This season's show was his best yet, starting with a charcoal coat with lace trimmings (a leitmotif in the show), transitioning to elegant daywear and ending with floor-sweeping gowns that could easily show up on the Oscars red carpet.

While Wu's outing captured the hallmarks of American sportswear with a elegant precision, Nicole Miller, a designer who has built a steady business since the 1980s, differentiated her take on it using fractal prints and shapes, giving a futuristic bent to the long silhouettes.