On a massive bed of popcorn, Raf Simons re-examines America

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Fashion from Calvin Klein collection is modeled during Fashion Week in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Photo: Andres Kudacki, AP / FR170905 AP

NEW YORK (AP) — Some highlights Tuesday from New York Fashion Week:

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CALVIN KLEIN: AMERICA, ON A BED OF POPCORN (AND HOLD THE BUTTER, PLEASE)

A year after arriving in New York to take the creative reins of Calvin Klein, designer Raf Simons continues to shake new life into the fashion world.

In fact, on Tuesday evening it felt like Simons had put the whole fashion community into a popcorn popper. That’s because he literally filled the cavernous former American Stock Exchange building with a massive bed of popcorn. Trudging through the stuff on the way to your seat, you could only be grateful that he’d left out the melted butter.

But there was a lot more to Simons’ show than a tasty gimmick. On top of all those puffy kernels, Simons had built what he called an American landscape — including a huge barnhouse — which was his stage to re-examine the America he encountered when he first arrived.

His new view is “now wider, universal,” he said in notes explaining the show. “It’s an allegory for a meeting of old worlds and new worlds, relating to the discovery of America, the 1960s space race, and the 21st century information age.”

As if that wasn’t enough food for thought, Simons went even further, coming up with a list of 50 words to go with the 50 states of the union. They began with “America” and ended with “world,” but in between, they offered hints to the show’s content. The word “firefighter” came right before “heroes,” and when the first few models came out, they were wearing big firefighter-style jackets.

The androgynous ensembles had a much more dystopian feel than your average firefighter’s get-up, though; they included knit balaclavas and huge gloves — similar perhaps to those of an astronaut. Several models also had what looked like bits of Mylar flowing off their otherwise normal garments, as if they’d flown in from another planet but forgotten to remove all their space clothes.

The soundtrack offered clues, too. The very first song was Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” but at the very end, the music reverted back to a line from David Bowie’s “This Is Not America” — the song Simons had used a year ago to signal his feelings about the nation’s political situation.

Simons’ Fashion Week shows — along with those for his eponymous men’s label — have become a hot ticket during Fashion Week. Not surprisingly, then, there were celebs galore Tuesday night, including stars of the hugely anticipated blockbuster “Blank Panther,” Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan and Lupita Nyong’o, as well as Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, Laura Dern, Kyle MacLachlan and many others.

Jordan could be heard encouraging an acquaintance to go see his new movie.

—Jocelyn Noveck

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A LAYER CAKE DRESS — AND REAL CREPES — AT ROSIE ASSOULIN

Entering Rosie Assoulin’s presentation on Tuesday, one felt as if in a small, elegant museum. Many of the garments looked like colorful works of art.

One printed silk dress was emblazoned with square panels looking like painting frames; inside the frames were squares of vivid “marbled” fabric. And there were boots to match, with the same color scheme and marbling effect. Other dresses looked like Jackson Pollock paintings, with a riot of droplets of color.

Some of Assoulin’s most popular designs used thin, pressed pleats — in metallic fabric, in silk or in cotton.

And there were the crystals, too — over 120,000 of them, according to Swarovski, which collaborated with Assoulin — on dresses, skirts, pants and other garments. One gown — a white, midriff-baring number with crystallized bands of horizontal color — was intended to evoke a layer cake. Even more, it was meant to recall that famous “cake left out in the rain” in the ubiquitous song “MacArthur Park.”

Speaking of cake: There was that, too — the real kind! — served up to the guests. There was also a crepe chef, serving up pretty crepes with dabs of color to resemble, well, a Rosie Assoulin dress.

—Jocelyn Noveck

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NAEEM KHAN’S SHOW OF STRENGTH

Naeem Khan’s signature dazzle was there, but this time there was a strength amid all those sequins and beads.

The idea, Khan said in a backstage interview, was to honor women around the world.

“I grew up in a family where the women are the matriarchs of the family,” he said. “I make glamorous clothes. I make red carpet. How do I change that?”

The answer: In pants and jackets mixed in with statement gowns that sparkled while others did a fringy shimmy.

By jacket, Khan sometimes meant bright embroidered and sequined boleros. By matriarch, he seemed to mean grandma shawls worn with eveningwear. Or maybe it was the hoods, on a silver and black sequin gown.

Khan said he supports America’s #Metoo movement, along with oppressed women everywhere. Fashion has a role to play, he said.

“We need women to feel secure and, you know, the thing is with designers, how much sex do you put into these clothes? I’ve been very, very conscious of how am I revealing? How am I making you feel glamorous without it being vulgar?”

Country music’s Jennifer Nettles was on the front row, speaking of the #Metoo reckoning.

“I mean let’s be honest, some of the things that we are seeing are very confronting, and they are truths that we have known as women for a long time — of what it is to be a woman in this world and the dangers that are there,” she said. “I think we are learning a lot about the language of pain, my dear. I think we are learning a lot of that, and it is loud and it is big and it is hot and it is confronting.”

—Nicole Evatt and Leanne Italie

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INSPIRED BY ART AT BADGLEY MISCHKA

Even old, established fashion brands need a little inspiration and innovation to stay edgy: Badgley Mischka featured classic patterns and shapes in rich textures, combined with creative appliques and accessories, and a beacon of light running throughout.

A few models looked ready for a 19th-century ballroom, with crinoline skirts and meticulous embroidery.

Designer James Mischka said the collection was inspired by a painting by the Italian artist Caravaggio, and his use of light and darkness in his work.

“We took his chiaroscuro affect and applied it to fabrics. There are a lot of dark-based fabrics that have treatments, so they have a lot of light coming through the center of them, which is really kind of a magical effect,” Mischka said before the show Tuesday.

Thick brocade ballgown skirts felt fresh with deep plunging halter tops in velvet and satin. Flowing leopard dresses and silver sequined and beaded gowns dazzled the runway. Nearly every model sported an up-do that accentuated extra-long dangly earrings, made of feathers, beading and tulle.

—Brooke Lefferts

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AN URBAN WOOD AT COACH

At Coach, New York City met the American Southwest in a foggy wood.

The brand’s collection was a hodgepodge of hoods, whip-stitching and leather tassels, shown in a dark forest of leafless trees with flickering TV monitors strewn about. Many of the models hawked the same charm necklace.

But there were also some killer leather bags because, Coach. First, though, one needed to get past the patchwork print overshirt, bandanna jacket and a world of rivets.

—Leanne Italie

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