NYFW Day Seven: Michael Kors, Derek Lam, Marchesa, and Ralph Lauren

Marchesa Fall/Winter 2017
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While fashion espouses values of equality, diversity, and inclusivity, it doesn’t always put its money where its mouth is. However, the Fall/Winter 2017 collections at New York Fashion Week offer a glimpse of change stirring within the mostly-white, mostly-young, and very-thin model casting process that has long permeated the bi-annual event. Designers like Christian Siriano, The Row, and Prabal Gurung were in tune with progress, showcasing models who were diverse in age, body type, and race – perhaps as a reaction to recent political upheaval occurring around the world. However, when a designer at the level of Michael Kors does it, it starts to feel less like a trend and more like a revolution, and one hopes that this type of transition toward a more egalitarian way of showing clothes is permanent.

For Fall/Winter 2017, Kors embraced gender and body diversity, showcasing both men and women on the runway, as well as plus-size models. Strength and seduction were the dual pillars of his collection, which were represented in many iterations – from classic and glamorous to subtle and polished. Even the more covered-up looks came with a wink-and-a-nod slit along the skirt. Kors’ luxury version of American sportswear always reads well on the runway and in real life, but he leaned a little too heavily into animal prints this time around, which felt tired instead of fresh. Still, the bulk of the collection was as idyllically polished as ever and came with the message that everyone, everywhere deserves a slice of the good life.

Like many designers of late, Derek Lam has had a long think about how he wanted to show his collections, and he decided last season that there was a better option for his brand than the typical runway show. Lam quickly adjusted to creating smaller, more tightly curated collections shown to a limited number of guests in a private setting, which has helped him control his narrative during a time when fashion seems to be fumbling in the dark for direction.

Lam’s flawlessly tailored and beautifully syncopated palette of rich jacquards, corduroys, furs, and denim proved the intelligence of his new model. The mood was slick, polished, and chic, with tidy suits, separates, and frocks cutting a handsome silhouette. Not a hair was out of place at Lam’s Fall/Winter 2017 presentation, representing the kind of control you only see at Fashion Week when a designer isn’t frantic or overburdened by the process of running a complex, staged event and can instead focus on getting his message just right.

Marchesa cited Imperial China as a reference point for its Fall/Winter 2017 collection of gowns destined for the red carpet, but accents of the Orient were so transformed by embellishment, sculptural tailoring, and decadent accents like oversized bows and fringe as to be rendered almost unrecognizable. The rainbow rivulets that swished down the bodice of the show’s opening gown and lavishly embroidered appliqués above could have been inspired by a Qing Dynasty vase, but in sartorial form the look was nothing less than a vision of 21st century royalty. As always, the gowns were tremendously beautiful, but the only new sighting on the runway was the brand’s use of silk chartreuse for a skin-baring, bow-tied cocktail look and the blending of crimson hues with fetching pastels.

Inside Ralph Lauren’s flagship store on Madison Avenue, the designer’s collection unfolded in front of a wall of orchids, with a soundtrack of birdsong to really cement the “back-to-nature” theme of the collection. His new “see now, buy now” endeavor gathered tepid response last season, but this time, Lauren was determined to skew younger by appealing to the haute hippie crowd.

Earth mother types will find plenty to love about his elegantly draped, pastel silk gowns and comfortable tie-dyed separates. There were glam threads too, including biker jackets and skin-baring gowns knotted at the waist. Overall, this collection had much wider appeal than his Fall/Winter 2016 effort, which skewed downright costume-y at times. See the full collection, here.

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