Last week, designers from near and far showed their Spring/Summer 2013 collections at New York Fashion Week. As an advocate for slow, considered fashion I have a complicated love-hate relationship with this bi-annual event. Most designers are still, sadly, all about chasing the next big thing, no matter at what cost that may come. But there are brands—more and more of them, actually—who won’t compromise their values based on style alone. I like to call it Smart Fashion, because making something that is both beautiful and ethically considered requires a lot more effort than doing it the old (dumb) way. Here are my fashion week highlights.
Let’s start with Edun. I’ve been hard on them in the past for not making enough of an effort, but I do think the fact that they are doing something should be celebrated. The label was started by Bono and Ali Hewson as a vehicle to empower and promote production in Africa. Since being acquired by LVMH a few years back, more focus seemed to be placed on elevating Edun to the reigns of high fashion. The social aspect of the business fell a bit by the wayside, but that basic intention is still there and, in the show program, all the garments that are actually made in Africa were clearly marked. Transparency is, as we know, an important part of sustainability. Fabrics included organic cottons, silk habotai and naturally dyed pieces. The collection, designed by Sharon Wauchob, also spoke to this duality, as the inspiration seems to have been a badass city girl on safari. Utilitarian and military-inspired materials were mixed with flowy silks and florals, and details like straps, buckles, zippers and sequins brought an edgy vibe to the collection—a good mix of tough and sweet.
Design duo Costello Tagliapietra are known in the sustainable fashion world for their use of AirDye technology, a process that, unlike conventional dyeing (which requires massive amounts), uses no water. Utilizing this technology to its full potential, fantastical, rich color has indeed become what the label is best known for. The SS13 collection featured beautifully draped, flattering silhouettes in dusty hues of pink, blue, green and coral, at times allowing the colors to interact with the construction of the garment in very elegant ways.
Samantha Pleet‘s Spring/Summer 2013 collection was called Sands of Time. By taking inspiration from Babylon and Mesopotamia and reading history books instead of fashion magazines, she wants to remind us of the beauty that can be found by looking back to another time and place. Despite the vintage inpiration, there is nothing sentimental about this collection, which features dresses and separates in soft neutral tones and a print inspired by biblical mythology. In addition to her line, which is entirely made in New York City, Pleet also introduced a colorful collection of vintage-inspired ankle boots and sandals designed in collaboration with American heritage shoe brand Wolverine.
Designer John Patrick states his intention right in the name of his label (in all caps, nonetheless): ORGANIC by John Patrick. His Spring/Summer 2013 collection is called Unplugged, Authentic, perhaps a call to arms for us to get out behind our screens and discover all there is to see in the world (or maybe that’s simply my wishful interpretation). With a pared-down neutral color palette and simple, sometimes boxy silhouettes, Patrick seems to have perfectly captured the zeitgeist (never before has so much black and white graced fashion week runways). The subtle beauty of this collection is all about the luxurious fabrics and the way Patrick plays with textures and silhouettes to create something that, in all of it’s simplicity, still feels fresh and unexpected.
Suzanne Rae‘s spring collection was initially inspired by Francesca Woodman’s photography, and “explores a woman’s curious ability to be both delicate and strong.” Pairing this with minimalism and masculine overtones, it aimed to achieve a less conventional expression of femininity. The collection was restrained in both color palette and silhouette, which seems to be the sweet spot where Rae really excels. Materials like soft silks, knits, stiff cotton, and linen were mixed to add textural interest to the romantic silhouettes. Complemented with bold accessories by WXYZ Jewelry, Rae’s pieces seem to represent a return to simple, practical beauty.
By chance, I stumbled upon the presentation of California-based label Clover Canyon, at Lincoln Center’s The Box. It was like entering a world of joyful California romance, with a psychedelic pop-art twist. It’s safe to say that the label nailed the opulent prints trend, but did so with a distinctly unique twist. Patterns were made up of iconic California symbols like surfboards, highways, muscle cars, soda bottle caps, the Sierra Nevadas, little houses on the prairie and (yes) marijuana leaves, mixed with geometric shapes, paisley and sequins. It was a nice counterpoint to all the black and white, and you just couldn’t help but smile. The entire line is made in California, something the label is firmly committed to. The design team behind Clover Canyon create the original prints, inspired by a shared passion for travel and art, and hand-engineer them to frame and enhance the body. All garments are designed, patterned, cut and sewn in-house—a great showcase of how new technology can successfully be combined with traditional craftsmanship.
Knitwear is definitely having a high-fashion moment right now, and done right it’s actually a highly efficient way of making clothes. Kotoba, a brand that launched its inaugural collection during fashion week, utilizes patented zero-waste knitting technology from Japan to make timeless knitwear pieces that are at once sporty, sexy and fun. During the presentation, models donned props and just seemed to be having a good time, which is one of the basic ideas behind the line, according to designers Melinda Danko and Lindsay Mann. The collection—a practical mix of basic black, white and taupe hues and colorful orange and mint green accents—is entirely made in New York’s Garment District.
Great designers like these are what keep me interested in fashion, those who are constantly taking those extra steps toward every day being just a little bit better. Nobody is perfect, and it’s important that we continue to encourage the efforts that are actually being made instead of pointing out all the areas where there is more to be done. There are just too many smart designers and consumers out there for sustainable fashion (or whatever you like to call it) to be considered a trend that’s past its prime. It’s only just begun.