All designers take their inspiration where they can find it (a flower! a film!), but rarely is the relationship quite so obvious.
Or quite so detrimental to one of the elements. The juxtaposition of cars and clothes made the connection clear, but unfortunately also the fact that the automotive design was far and away more interesting, complex and original than the fashion. Full of high polish though the collection was, in translating his passion to his products and giving it accessibility, Mr. Lauren had dumbed it down; taken the rare and specialized and made it almost ordinary.
Perhaps it’s an unfair comparison — the cars, after all, are the best of their kind, selected over decades; the fashion collection is one of many, produced twice a year, and all designers struggle to be original on that schedule — but Mr. Lauren is the one who set it up by bringing everyone out and letting them in on his source code.
Such grand gestures and palpable extravagance seem to have fallen out of favor. The watchwords of the moment, whether uttered in self-aggrandizement or sarcasm, may be “Huge!” “Epic!” “Biggest ever!” — but as far as New York fashion is concerned the vision has been small. Mr. Lauren was the exception that proved the rule.
Maybe it’s an attempt by designers to distance themselves from the conspicuous consumer-in-chief. After all, as the New York catwalks made clear last season with a flurry of position-taking not only on the runway but on shirts, skirts and caps, a lot of the fashion world is not exactly enamored of the current administration. At this stage, however, and ironically just as Hillary Clinton (fashion’s candidate of choice) steps into the spotlight with the release of her book “What Happened,” the industry seems to have largely muzzled itself. Instead there’s been a lot of noncontroversial championing of “America.”
At Coach, for example, Stuart Vevers continued to develop the Route 66 elements of his brand vernacular — shearlings and prairie dresses, cowboy shirts and varsity sweaters — by jazzing them up with a bit of sparkle, a lot of sequins, and some new, lacy slip dresses (he’s expanding the evening offering); also a nod to Keith Haring in the form of prints and intarsia sweaters. “He represented the democratization of art, and that felt very personal to me, and also right for the moment and Coach,” the designer said backstage.
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