With mid-priced collections as upscale-looking and lavishly detailed as those on the New York runways for fall, who needs to pay top dollar for fashion?
So much of the excitement during the New York Fashion Week shows that wrapped up on Thursday was about the so-called advanced contemporary category of labels that cost less than high-end designer collections without sacrificing style. Among those creating a buzz: Rag & Bone, Tory Burch, Alexander Wang, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Helmut Lang, Theyskens Theory and even the J. Crew Collection. (The entry price for advanced contemporary collections is about $295, and the most expensive pieces are around $1,000, which is closer to the entry price for high-end designer collections.)
“These are the designers of the future,” says Stephanie Solomon, fashion director of Bloomingdale’s. “When you think of the old guard, of Karl Lagerfeld, Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren, as much as I respect them, they are not spring chickens anymore. These designers are going to usurp them. And they are making clothes with beautiful quality, innovative fabrics and silhouettes. In the future, I envision an entire level of our store based on these up-and-coming, talented designers.”
These more affordable, accessible lines offer head-to-toe dressing, with accessories and outerwear. And they hit on all of the trends seen this week, including sleek, minimalist tailoring; Asian influences; black-and-white graphic schemes; and bright color-blocking. Key pieces for a fall wardrobe? A pair of statement pants in a colorful jacquard or print and with a tapered silhouette, worn over a pair of pumps (Manolo Blahnik for J. Crew perhaps?); a shift dress or a pencil skirt that hits below the knee; and a fun swing coat or fur accessory in an eye-catching texture and hue.
We saw the return of the suit (albeit a nontraditional sort of suit), including the camel and cream color-blocked karate jacket belted over trousers at 3.1 Phillip Lim, the wrap-front blazer and black jeans at Helmut Lang, and the pink schoolboy blazer and pants at J. Crew. In addition, sweater dresses made a comeback at Kimberly Ovitz and the Rachel Zoe Collection.
The J. Crew Collection, which is slightly more expensive than the basic J. Crew offerings, is the chain store’s version of advanced contemporary. And it is looking darn good.
Creative director Jenna Lyons and head woman’s designer Tom Mora have ratcheted up the sophistication level, offering more tailored looks in edgier fabrics. Nordic sweaters topped tinsel tweed, python or pleated-leather skirts, and pants in metallic jacquards or scarf-print silks were paired with the pointy-toed Manolo Blahniks. Color-blocked clutches and totes trimmed in curly lamb fur rounded out the picture.
Burch’s collection was more polished than ever, full of ladylike, embroidered tweed jackets and skirts, tulle and chiffon dresses with organza flower appliques, crinkled leather jackets and structured frame bags with plastic paillette and tortoise details.
There was a lot of eye candy — rows of pearls on the collar and cuffs of a cardigan jacket and matching pencil skirt with organza eyelet hem, jeweled flower buttons on a gold lamé coat and sequins dusting a houndstooth plaid skirt.
Rag & Bone designers Marcus Wainwright and David Neville are also proving to be a formidable force on the New York fashion scene. Their fall collection was English countryside-meets-the-Raj, with layers upon layers of rich-looking pieces, including motorcycle jacket-tailcoat hybrids, jersey dhoti pants, tweed wrap skirts and coppery Lurex knit sweaters, plus all the must-have accessories (such as herringbone platform riding boots) that keep fans coming back to the brand.
Stylist-turned-designer Rachel Zoe was inspired by the London rock ‘n’ roll scene of the late 1960s, and her collection was a balance of the glam and the wearable, with all the Hollywood entrance-making maxi dresses and shaggy faux furs that fans have come to expect from Zoe, alongside flared trouser suits and velvet tuxedos, gaucho jeans and melange sweater dresses.
Zoe’s line is barely a year old, but is well on its way to being a success. Come fall, it will be in 300 stores. Another advanced contemporary star is born.