Had you told me in 2006, back when I had first started attending shows in Bryant Park, that I would one day kick off New York Fashion Week with a show by a young Taiwanese designer perhaps best known for dressing chic First Ladies, end the day with a Puma show dreamed up by a rebellious pop star named Rihanna, and covet both collections equally, I would have called you crazy. But so my first (bitterly cold) day of the Autumn/Winter 2016 shows began, and that’s precisely what happened.
When I want to dress up without looking like I’m trying too hard (although that notion is somewhat of an oxymoron in and of itself, since the concept of getting dressed up is to try, but whatever), I pull out a prettily-cut dress from Jason Wu. That’s not changing any time soon. Jason dubbed his latest collection “Immaculate,” and it’s just that. Sophisticated and refined: Semi-flirtatious tartan suits, lean ribbed dresses, wide-leg trousers, and removable fur collars brought a modern sense of old-world polish (another oxymoron – no coincidence here!). And then the sexy and beautiful: Look towards the delicate but not dainty slip dresses, inviting lace panels intended to reveal just enough of a shoulder or thigh, and distinctly feminine flourishes to match the girlishly-short hemlines. These clothes are for the woman who is comfortable in her own skin and proud enough to wear a sheer lace skirt. Therein lies her charm. With his once-trademark seductive ostrich-feather accents making a strong showing, juxtaposed against pragmatic geometric prints, Jason has created a wardrobe that we don’t have to think too hard about. Just wear, enjoy, and repeat.
I was especially excited to see the final showing for the International Woolmark Prize. The discovery of fresh talent is always exciting, and this competition, originally created in the 1930s and revived in 2012, has a seasoned history. Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent both won prizes from International Wool Secretariat (its name back in the ’50s) in 1954. Needless to say, it’s a most prestigious award. It’s also a competition with a “nothing to lose” attitude, more innovative and creative than most. Speaking of creative, it took the first look from Teatum Jones’ modern folkloric collection for me to call it on Snapchat: the winner! Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones delivered freewheeling blanket capes, delectably ribbed knits, and a vibrant excess of bold prints and graphic accents, all with a hand-touched, crafty feel, for a more-is-more mood that left us – you guessed it – wanting more.
I’ve only ever bought one pair of Puma sneakers, and that was only because they were 70% off. But it’s Rihanna! So, of course, I went to the collaborative showing, admittedly out of mere curiosity. I’ll preface this: I am not a Yeezy freak. I found the whole spectacle quite ridiculous, not to mention there wasn’t a thing in the collection I would wear, let alone pay to wear. Enter BadGalRiRi’s intelligent contrast: Her subdued setting sent a message, loud and clear. She was allowing the Fenty x Puma by Rihanna collection to speak for itself. And speak it did, directly to my ’90s self! From the cropped hoodies (under-boob, anyone?) with extra-long sleeves to unsnapped track pants layered over white boxers to elements of motion-slick nylon and movement-enticing zippers, she delivered a collection with as much gothic flair as undeniable athleticism. Those mega-platform creepers, first made popular by four-fifths of the Spice Girls (Posh Spice never put those on; she was devoted to her Prada heels back then)? Get ready to see them everywhere. The same goes for stiletto sneakers and revamped boxing boots, both in the same vein as Manolo Blahnik’s original incarnations. Seasoned with plenty of attitude and unexpected elements, like rosary beads and a fair amount of sheer lace, her boot-cut sweatpants, cropped T-shirts and sports-bra iterations, and really great bomber jackets are all pieces I can’t wait to stock up on come fall – and I won’t wait be waiting for the 70% off sticker.