Prabal Gurung has got his groove back. On Sunday night, he showed one of the best fall collections so far at New York Fashion Week.
The look was Adirondack chic, but not in a too-literal way. Instead, it was about a feeling: natural beauty mixed with sporty ease. Or, as Gurung put it in the show notes, "Mother Nature's meditative, majestic beauty, serene color palette and exquisite textures."
Gowns were dusted with white and gray embroidery that brought to mind snow crystals; fur coats were knit in chevron patterns recalling ski sweaters; and a V-neck slip dress was a gorgeous combination of snow leopard velveteen and black lace.
There were slim wrap skirts and dresses in a vivid palette of crimson and garnet, fastened with toggle closures; chunky, funnel neck sweaters; and cocooning duffel coats.
Everything felt modern, and not overly worked or loaded down. It was a real coup.
Thakoon Panichgul seemed to be going for a colorful, dream-weavery eclecticism in his collection, which mixed textured layers and interesting textiles. A patchwork ombre wool coat, striped alpaca top and skirt here; an over-sized patchwork wool ombre scarf over a floral crinkle chiffon dress there. A unicorn tapestry -- you know, like the ones from the Middle Ages -- even showed up on a cropped top, worn over a crisp tie-front shirt and alpaca pants.
But somehow, all the funky pieces didn't add up to a very cohesive collection, and I get the sense that Thakoon is still working out the identity of his brand. Is it artsy eclectic (as it seemed to be here), sexy sophisticate (which it was a few seasons back) or ladylike, as worn by Michelle Obama? It remains to be seen.
Sometimes I wonder if brand identity is easier for female designers, because they are their own brands. That's certainly the case with Diane Von Furstenberg, who takes a victory lap around the runway at the end of every show, wearing a new design from her collection, as if she's saying, 'Here I am, this is it!'
Her inspiration may change slightly from season to season, but essentially it's always about a powerful woman who's not afraid to use her feminine wiles, whether she's wearing a signature DVF wrap dress, like the red polka-dot and lip version the designer was wearing Sunday night, or sexy, pinstripe pants and a vest as seen in her collection, evidence that the suit is returning as an option for women for fall.
Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen are similarly sure of themselves and their vision at The Row. The sisters worked a kind of Zen super luxe for fall, epitomized by the crocodile and astrakhan fur riffs on kimonos (wowza); fluid, ivory satin robes; easy, loose pants with the ease of pajamas; suede Chinese slippers; and a couple of exquisitely tailored pants suits with longish, double-breasted jackets.
Aggressively simple, yes, but it's what their customers are responding to. The only embellishment they need is jewelry by Sidney Garber, the really good stuff.