New York Fashion Week: Jason Wu, Coach, Brandon Maxwell and Rodarte

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Sep 13 2021

The continuing pandemic, visa rules and vaccines not approved by US authorities prevented European copywriters from attending New York Fashion Week this season, even with dozens of brands returning to the runway for the first time in 18 months. But Instagram, Zoom, Twitter and the CFDA’s strangely erratic platform made it possible to see a lot of the new and novel in American fashion.

Jason Wu – Spring / Summer 2022 – Womenswear – New York – Photo: PixelFormula

It was a bleak weekend, being the 20th anniversary of the infamous 9/11 attacks. Which took place in the middle of yet another New York runway season, the morning after a Marc Jacobs show and party on a Hudson River pier, where dozens of fashionistas posed for midnight photos with the Twin Towers of bottom.

New York has so far been a season of upbeat nostalgia and sports glamor mixed with a hint of spiritualism. We look at four key collections from three vital independent designers and one mega brand.

Jason Wu: Unconventional Impressionism

Plenty of alone time during the pandemic was clearly helpful to Jason Wu, who put on one of his best shows at lunchtime on Friday.

Jason staged his last show in a downtown gallery, adorned with splayed plants and flowers, around which his cast paraded. Continuing that theme, a trio of looks featuring a black and anthracite floral print, with sponge-applied details (a suit made from a bolero and cardigan, a curvy dress, and a sheath) were wonderful.

Wu’s boldest ideas were abstract expressionist tie-dye prints, which were seen on large crinolines, or some nicely cut cocktail dresses, which showed acres of legs. Like a combination of a lilac cashmere sweater and a sequin skirt.

Altogether, this was a collection that combined the style of “Gone with the Wind” and urban jungle, which managed to be romantic but also forceful. Other versions of Vivien Leigh’s modernist dress were shown in canary yellow or faded black.

In fact, Jason’s decision to work with fabric manufacturer Cara Marie Piazza and his unconventional impressionist ideas took this collection to another level. Wu is usually a better winter designer than summer, whose cheery parkas are a must-have on the freezing days of January and February in New York. But this was an excellent statement, and probably the most memorable expression of Jason’s spring fashion.

Coach – Spring / Summer 2022 – Womenswear – New York – Photo: PixelFormula

Coach: Buffalo Gals by Bonnie Cashin

Few designers have a sharper sense of visual pun than Stuart Vevers in Coach.

His latest show for the giant brand was preceded by all sorts of wacky shows on Coach TV, available on Instagram, starring Camp emcees and all shot in the retro Sony Trinitron tones of the ’70s.

While her idea for the latest version of the Bonnie Cashin bag, named after the house’s original designer, came with a recycled or synthetic leather strap or trompe l’oeil sketches. There was also a large loose cotton sweatshirt, on which was written “Coach Leatherware.” The mini video of that look came with the tagline “Subverting American Classics Since 1941” (“Subverting American classics since 1941”).

“Spring presents my vision for a new vocabulary of American fashion. It is also a celebration of Bonnie Cashin’s cheerful and colorful optimism,” Vevers explained.

Which was evident from the fantastic parkas and rainwear made from giant houndstooth or “windowpane” checks, all worn with little sports bras, bovver boots and denim shorts with the top of the jogging pants exposed.

At a co-ed show, the boys wore bright-hued, big-pocketed parkas, plaid dhotis, and T-shirts that read “Super Grump.”

The great thing about the UK-born Vevers is that while many New York-based designers retired to the Hamptons or his cabin in the Berkshires last year, Stuart went out and embraced New York. He really rubs shoulders with New Yorkers, and it shows in his collections, especially this one.

Thus, his introductory videos on Coach TV showed four girls marching from a subway station on line number one, to the tune of “Buffalo Gals,” by their British partner, the late great Malcolm McLaren.

Their motto read: “True New Yorkers know that the best way to get where you need to go is the subway.” Absolutely true.

Brandon Maxwell – Spring / Summer 2022 – Womenswear – New York – Photo: PixelFormula

Brandon Maxwell: Sporty Glamor in Style

Gigi Hadid always gets the best looks. Take, for example, the all-silver look the new mom wore on Friday night at America’s reigning master of classic glamor Brandon Maxwell’s latest show.

Made with a silver cloud print, the off the shoulder jacket pantsuit was perfectly cut. And Gigi gave it even more personality, placing her hands in her pants pockets, with the jacket fully open to show off a matching bra. Without a doubt, he is a person who knows how to enter a room and be the center of attention.

Hadid’s fan clubs on Twitter and Instagram instantly celebrated her comeback with mini videos from backstage amid prolonged cheers.

Born in Texas, though very New Yorker, six years after founding his home here, Maxwell began his career in fashion as a stylist. And those stylist habits were very evident in this collection.

The 36-year-old Maxwell likes to have her glamor served up straight, without too many frills, from the elegant Japanese column dress with hippie prints in orange and purple, to the ruched cocktail dresses with zebra print. Although her most refreshing ideas were psychedelic dresses and tops that added an unexpected twist.

Altogether this was a smart and elegant statement from Maxwell, yet one couldn’t help but wish that there could be a little more of Brandon’s youthful origins in East Texas and a little less urban glamor in the coming season.

Rodarte – Spring / Summer 2022 – Womenswear – New York – Photo: PixelFormula

Rodarte: Amazon Live from Bank Street

Rodarte streamed his show directly on Amazon Live, capturing his parade at 155 Bank Street on Saturday noon. The models paraded inside a West Village sculpture garden, located just 20 blocks north of where the Twin Towers once stood.

It turned out to be by far the most fascinating collection in New York so far.

The Los Angeles-based duo of sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, who founded Rodarte, exuberantly cut out their oversized, high-neck tops with superhero shoulders, but made with Victorian schoolgirl lace.

Gorgeous ruched and draped dresses preceded elongated kaftans over matching pants, while for the rarer moments, there were semi-sheer guipure dresses showing plenty of lingerie, in black, virginal white, and sin red. For awards ceremonies: gorgeous floral print blazers or eye-catching sequined sunset capes.

Captivating screen goddesses with dangling sequin straps, just like acid floral qipao, worn by models with gothic bow eye makeup.

Not everything was in place, the accordion pleated shirts looked pretty dated but by and large this was the most intriguing show of the American season.

Subtly considered in the finale, when the entire cast appeared as priestesses in dresses in nude, vanilla, pink and yellow, each model sporting a slim gold necklace, ending up posing on concrete columns. Carefully prepared on a date when the world remembered the nearly 3,000 lost souls on that infamous day.

With a solemn score to Dallas Acid’s “Spa Hunter,” the sisters bowed almost cautiously in floral pajamas and western shirts, after a big show on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

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