New York’s not so new fashion

Jaz Hayward explores the workings of the fashion world across the pond

New York is the self-proclaimed birthplace of the most popular fashion trends. It’s where the haute couture of Europe finds a cosmopolitan vibe. It may not have the quirkiness of the London shows or the elegance of Paris but New York Fashion Week is edgy, it’s cool, it’s outrageous and it knows it. This February’s fashion week looked to be no different and indeed many of the big boys of the fashion game lived up to the pizzazz of previous years, with Marc Jacobs wowing audiences with his haunting finale featuring pop sensation Lady Gaga and fashion houses like Alexander Wang bringing back street fashion in a vibrant modern way that looks to be here to stay.

Nonetheless, the mid-range fashion houses that were until recently biting at the heels of the likes of Jacobs appear positively lacklustre in comparison. The final night of the Couture Fashion Week, a three day fashion event created by Andres Aquino now on its 23rd season, was evidence of this. The show starred designs by Aquino himself, as well as Dutch designer Addy van den Krommenacker, in a rather intimate and traditional setting at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Broadway, a change from the cramped and intensely decorated rooms that have become the norm for Manhattan’s fashion shows.

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Image: Jaz Hayward

The crowds here were more likely to be made up of fashion bloggers and journalists rather than celebrities, but one glance to the crowded photographers’ area, in addition to the formalities put on by the hosts before the lights had even shone on the catwalk, made it very clear that despite its informal atmosphere this was still very much a fashion show that meant business.

After a beautiful introduction to the show by opera singer Elizabeth Russo, van den Krommenacker’s pieces were the first to be displayed, and they were easily the crowd favourites of the evening. Van den Krommenacker’s style was consistent and safe; his penchant for designing flowing pastel coloured and mostly floral dresses obvious. Nevertheless, his lack of audacity was not so much a flaw in this instance as the dresses displayed had a timeless and elegant appeal to them that transcended the catwalk. The obvious showstopper of not just his line but the whole evening was a celeste blue dress half reminiscent of a Japanese kimono, half reminiscent of something worn by a pre-Raphaelite muse.

Jaz fashion 2

Image: Jaz Hayward

Aquino’s own line, on the other hand, failed to be as creative or as delicate as that of his Dutch counterpart. He too was preceded by a soprano singer, this time the more dramatic Veronica Iovan, who rather fittingly also failed to live up to her predecessor. The start of this segment, however, seemed rather promising, beginning with a singular walk of the catwalk by a pair of models to dramatic Latin music. Oddly the rest of the show didn’t appear to fit this initial theme nor did it spawn a consistent theme at all, other than the fact that all these dresses featured were obviously for evening wear. The lack of innovation was most obvious here, in that although there were a few rare stunning pieces, even these were reminiscent of collections that were appearing on the catwalk over a decade ago. His reliance on bold colours and glittery beading meant some of the pieces felt borderline tacky.

Nonetheless, regardless of the lack of original thinking in midmarket fashion at this season’s New York Fashion Week there was one aspect that seemed to go across the board: variety in its models. The designers showcased an array of diversity which was pleasing to see. There were models from every ethnicity starring in the couture shows and the growing flexibility on size  was obvious too, indeed, van den Krommenacker’s main model was East Asian and one of the shorter models. If lack of innovation is the price to pay for fashion to become more inclusive, it’s worth it.

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