#SuzyNYFW: Heritage Houses Struggling For Credibility
An Oscar Performance
New York’s Upper East Side is looking a little down-at-heel these days. Not that there are many high heels now that the ageing population has swapped smart court shoes in favour of everybody’s sneakers.
The venue chosen for the Oscar de la Renta show (the late designer being the incarnation of uptown Manhattan) was Sotheby’s high-rise modern building on York Avenue near the East River, where the audience sat in an upper hallway and the models came down the escalator.
If only it were that easy for designers Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia to enter the de la Renta world. There was a youthful freshness about the collection which started with light tailoring, leading through smart casual outfits to the now-mythical cocktail hour. (Who changes for a drinks party these days?) Finally, there were full-blown ball gowns which might have been Mr de la Renta’s, while earlier frayed denim was not. Throughout the show, high-heeled shoes were de rigueur.
The design duo is making a real effort to pay homage to the late designer in their own whimsical way. That included taking hand-written letters, presumably by Oscar himself, who died in 2014. The words might appear on a white, long-sleeved T-shirt; or as a prom dress with an askew overlap of bold glitter letters: ‘S’, ‘C’, ‘R’ and so on spelling de la Renta’s first name.
Other work was simply decorative, like colourful beading on a tailored white coat, while a pink parka jacket, worn over a transparent dress scattered with a collage of tulips and with a visible bikini, seemed a baffling way of translating the original designer’s odyssey into a supposedly modern look.
The writing idea itself did not seem intrusive. It had a certain charm as a scribble on a short jacquard dress. And it was a way for Kim and Garcia to link up their own youthful vision with a heritage house and the designer with whom they had worked.
Yet in the end, there were more questions than answers. Not least, why Nicki Minaj was sitting front row in a black and white snow bunny fur coat? While it was from the current Oscar de la Renta autumn/winter 2017 collection, the look did not speak of the elegance that Oscar’s name still evokes.
Carolina Herrera’s Garden of Grandeur
As the last of the models walked around the water pool and past the modernised nymph statues in the garden of MOMA – New York’s Museum of Modern Art – Carolina Herrera herself came out alone to receive the applause.
This was a surprise only in that rumours of a new assistant have been swirling around the company ever since long-serving French couturier Hervé Pierre left abruptly last year. There were whispers around the museum garden that there had been some advice from Wes Gordon, a designer who had interned with Oscar de la Renta and Tom Ford before launching his own line. But there was no official announcement about any change in the status of the 78-year-old Venezuelan-born founder whose spring/summer 2018 collection marks 72 seasons of shows in New York City.
Were there significant changes in the collection shown on the meandering path that served as a runway? The models walked on shoes with heels – ones that were solid enough to take the garden route, but also to give elegance to dresses and separates. The clothes were all notable for their colours: red, yellow, blue and those shades mingled in striped summer dresses pulled together into a neat waist before ending at mid-calf.
Herrera’s clothes are definitely feminine without being girlish. A one-shoulder neckline or a bold tie of fabric across a white T-shirt top gave a slightly more casual look among the often prissy dresses.
Bring on the gowns! From the back, as the models walked the marble ‘bridge’ over a shimmering pond, the dresses were full-force evening glamour, their hems going from mid-calf to swishing along the ground. Even a pattern of zebras at one hemline did not challenge a style that tends to stay sweet.
Uptown girls in a downtown world? Maybe. But Carolina Herrera knows how to offer glamour with class – which is an achievement in an age of vulgarity.