Why am I writing about fashion month now? Well, whilst the shows are ongoing the Internet and social media is a maelstrom of journalistic white noise, and whilst some collections are shown to be consumed instantly, like Anthony Vaccarello’s Versus show, or Jeremy Scott’s clothing-as-Pop-Art at Moschino, others need to be cogitated and contextualised. Especially if they are debut collections for an established house.
One of the most eagerly-anticipated debuts of the season was Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne of Public School’s first collection for DKNY, the diffusion label of Donna Karan, a designer who embodied New York cool in the late-Eighties and early-Nineties, and whose Seven Easy Pieces transformed women’s wardrobes. In an era of Montana-and-Mugler ‘Dynasty’-style rich-bitch extravagance, Karan’s pragmatic approach to fashion addressed the daily demands of working women, as opposed to the ciphers and fantasies proposed by her male counterparts.
But now Donna Karan has bowed out, her eponymous line closed down, and two men have been brought in to helm DKNY. That business formal staple, the pinstripe, provided the foundation to their inaugural offering – woven, printed, cut on the bias, sliced, diced and pieced back together again. Unsurprisingly, considering the tailored sportswear of their own brand, Public School’s DKNY is much more connected to the street, with its modern reinventions of Karan staples such as wrap skirts with T-shirts. Regrettably there are also echoes of Helmut Lang in the carved-up tailoring and sheer layers, a designer who usurped Karan as New York’s tastemaker in the late-Nineties, and whose influence is felt everywhere today. Maybe a second collection might stabilise Public School’s vision for DKNY which, to me, feels much more Helmut than Donna at the moment.
Another young gun on the up is German-born, Milan-based Arthur Arbesser, who has managed to leap from the Armani design team to hotly-tipped lone hitman at high velocity. Installed at Iceberg*, an Italian label launched in 1974 best known for its knitwear, Arbesser’s role is to bring a new fashion relevance to the brand. (*lead image above and below)
But what path should you take when Jeremy Scott is already aping your Iceberg predecessor Jean- Charles de Castelbajac’s obsession with popular culture? Luckily, Arbessor has some serious art credentials of his own, after a project at Florence’s Pitti in June, and collaborations with controversial architect Luca Cipelletti. Inspired by avant-garde Italian artist Enrico Baj, the in-your-face colour combinations, easy daywear and metallic flashes of Arbesser’s Iceberg debut are a refreshing step in the right direction.
If someone had told me six months ago that Emilio Pucci would be selling a range of skateboards I would’ve laughed at them but, off the back of Massimo Giorgetti’s younger, less flashy first collection for a house with a potent heritage. Providing bootylicious frocks for Beyoncé’s onstage antics is all very well and good, but Giorgetti has realised that women need dresses for lives outside of cocktail parties, film premieres and Instagram feeds.
Yes, the glitz and shimmer is still there, and there is more than a hint of Alessandro Michele’s Gucci exhumation, but there is also the cerebral sexuality and covetable, wearable pieces of Michele’s revamp.
It’s time to talk about Cavalli, a label which started as a parody of Gianni Versace’s va-va-voom, shock-and-awe sex appeal and then became a parody of itself; uniforms for expensive escorts in hotel bars. Both Olivier Rousteing of Balmain and Peter Dundas, formerly of Emilio Pucci and now returning to Cavalli after ten years away, started out there, which somehow makes Roberto Cavalli accidentally influential, especially as that particular brand of full-beam glamour seems so out-of-step it’s almost subversive now.
Dundas’ debut for Cavalli serves to cleanse the palette, with its cool tones of pinks and grey and bursts of citrus brights. There are hints of Cavalli’s body-conscious codes but, like Massimo Giorgetti at Pucci, Dundas at least attempts to address “normal” women’s needs. A selection of frothy chiffon fantasies seems to pay lip service to Roberto Cavalli’s red carpet legacy, but these busy heaps of ruffles are a world away from the exotic, Amazonian Cavalli women of old.
Another Italian couture house in need of a renaissance is Nina Ricci, whose extravagant gowns have been overwhelmed by the success of L’Air du Temps, an enduring classic whose dove-topped Lalique bottle has graced many teenage girls’ dressing tables. The new guy in town is Guillaume Henry, who has previous for reviving the similarly storied house of Carven.
Henry strips his new Nina Ricci woman of her innocence and imbues her with a tacit kinkiness. A whore in the bedroom – and the kitchen, all crinkly coated leathers, slinky shifts and sheers, embellished apron dresses and attitude. Like a young Charlotte Rampling, or a modern take on Yves Saint Laurent’s ‘Liberation’ collection, Guillaume Henry’s first collection for the formerly chaste Nina Ricci moves the brand into exciting new territory.