#SuzyNYFW: Psychedelia, Hidden Or Bold, At Coach 1941 And Anna Sui
Referencing the past is not new to fashion. And nowhere is there more nostalgia than in the resurrection of pattern and print from a pre-digital age. But how far should designers go in reliving the Age of Aquarius and giving psychedelia a new wave?
Coach 1941: A Muted Ode to Handcraft
Two figures stood out at the Coach 1941 show. The first were the modernistic sculpted shapes towering above the audience and designed by creative director Stuart Vevers. The other was front-row guest Kaffe Fassett, the artist of densely patterned textiles, knits and weaves who rose to fame in the 1970s.
“Plants, pleats, flowers,” said the artist, to sum up the intense work he had undertaken bringing pattern to everything from floating chiffon fabrics to Coach’s signature handbags.
“We worked with him on all the prints for the collection,” Vevers explained. “I loved the idea of colour and I wanted a show that was optimistic and joyful, but still with the Coach attitude. I was in my library and up came Kaffe Fassett with his quotes about colour and emotion.”
Perhaps the world is now too dark a place to embrace the vivid shades of the Age of Aquarius. Apart from the arresting flower patterns on the Coach handbags, the effect elsewhere was muted, as though every print had been veiled. In any case, Vevers had already toughened the effect of the wispy florals by slipping bike shorts underneath.
The addition of menswear – quite common now on the runways – also broke the flow of prettiness, which was as effective as a patterned shirt with low-slung jeans. A fake fur coat (for both sexes) must have been from Fassett but, as with plaids, the effect was familiar.
Perhaps shows today are getting too long and too big and missing the careful edit that would have shown Fassett as the influencer and Vevers as the leader. As it was, there were clothes that were sporty, knitwear that was muted and practical, and many wispy layers of floral transparency, but nothing as beguiling as the Kaffe Fassett legacy.
Anna Sui: Colour!
Backstage, behind the enormous mood board that served as the show’s backdrop and spilled out her fashion history, Anna Sui explained the genesis of her vividly coloured and patterned show, as if we onlookers didn’t know about her joyful three-decade ride.
Coming after a show saturated with colour from the clothes themselves to the puffy wigs in vivid shades, the designer’s ‘confession’ was hardly a surprise.
“I think this collection is all about colour – vibrant, joyful, optimistic, super-saturated,” she said. “I based the palette on the neon-bright colours of Victor Moscoso’s psychedelic posters and the fanciful, coloured storyboards that Mary Blair created for Disney’s Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan.
“I collect posters like other people collect art,” the designer continued, citing Antonio Lopez at the high end. But she was also referring to rock posters, handbills from the Grande Ballroom in her native Detroit, tarot decks, advertising posters, Richard Avedon photographs, and much else besides.
So what was the result of this fashion-with-a-chaos-factor? It was surprisingly contained, unless you count the vividly coloured ‘punky’ wigs to match or clash with every relatively simple outfit. The show itself was an old-style romp, although modernised with the inclusion of digital-game machines on the runway.
What stood out were the designer’s faithfuls: knee-length skirts and simple jackets, but in brilliant colours and mixed in patterns. “The clothes I designed are fundamentally very ladylike, but made-up in super bright color combinations,” Anna explained.
As single items – a brief 1960s dress or a zippered top and trousers – the clothes could be described as ‘classic’. After she added the colours, the patterns, the socks and the wigs, the effect was of controlled madness. That is what Sui does with her brocades, faux furs and ‘technicolour’ fashion dreams. And she does it oh-so well.