New York Fashion Week, all 9 days of it, wrapped yesterday, bookended by much-hyped shows, like Kanye West’s debut for Adidas and Ralph Lauren’s inaugural Polo show; new ideas abound. But those weren’t the only designers with a novel approach. We highlighted Robert Geller’s show last week, a strong departure for the designer who showcased a more expansive and colorful range than we’re used to, with equally sublime and wearable results. Elsewhere in New York, a number of designers pushed their labels aggressively forward. In the case of Orley, this meant growing out of their humble menswear roots and producing equally lust-worthy garments for the opposite sex, or, as in Patrik Ervell’s case, pushing his label deep into the future and outside the realm of the easily define-able. For some of New York’s more established labels, like the avante masters at Duckie Brown, a strong NYFW showing meant continuing their tradition of toying with the idea of what men can realistically wear - mixing quirky with the luxurious; the feminine with the pragmatic.
Taken all together it was one of NYFW’s most boundary pushing series of shows to date. No longer a home for the staid or boring, NYFW is now very clearly competing with the other major weeks in every direction: London for its youthful energy, Paris for its avant-garde sensibilities, Milan for its boundless luxury; no one is safe it seems, from the restless ambitions of America’s designers.
Orley continued their upward trajectory this season, building on the solid foundation they’ve laid of premium knitwear, eye-catching plaids and checks, and paying zero attention to what anyone else is doing. The first two elements, regarding the specifics of the clothing presented, are obviously critical, as Orley’s extra fine knits have drawn critics and fans alike into their corner remarkably quickly. But it’s that refusal to follow the cool kids into whatever is trending at the moment (not a lot of black or joggers present on Orley’s runways) that makes their collections noteworthy - simply because they stand out, and, more tangibly speaking, imbues each piece with a sense of investment on the part of the wearer; a sense that this is an item you might have in your closet for years to come.
Moreover, it’s Orley’s grasp of the timeless that defined this collection; their knitted bomber-hybrid jackets look great in 2015, but they’d have looked appropriate in any decade. Same too of their trademark knit polos - this year’s strongest showing was a color blocked number in lush greens, or their (extremely) chunky knit sweaters. But, if we’re going to play favorites, it was the sky blue zip-up with contrasting supple brown leather details that stole the show. Well, that and the designing trio’s first foray into womenswear - the highlight of which has to have been their translation of last year’s runaway hit sweater into a women’s top and skirt. Instead of red on white, the ladies got a bit more classic white on blue, in both a top and skirt option. How cool.
While the duo behind Duckie Brown were in somber spirits at this year’s presentation, you wouldn’t know it from looking at the clothes. America’s avant-garde standard bearers, for all their grim talk, can’t help but put out an electrifying collection. This season the duo rocketed back into the androgynous-zone with a number of men’s staples that took more than a few hints from the fairer sex's playbook. A typical dress shirt, in a luxe, almost sheer, white fabric opened the show. From there, collars and then buttons and plackets were removed altogether and colored in brown and pink and dark red. This relatively restrictive color palate took the same look from the 1950’s everyman to deeply romantic - despite the fact that the top used didn’t really exist in menswear until Duckie just showed it.
The billowy trousers usually seen on their runway were gone, and in their place were just slightly oversized slacks, occasionally pleated and with a few drop-crotches here and there, but all surprisingly wearable. However, what really put this collection over the edge, into the androgynous and slightly feminine, was the sheer ease of wear that every item exuded. Men’s clothes, their uniforms, are necessarily restrictive to some degree; from the decades of debate about the appropriate collar and lapel and tie width to the way it feels on you; men’s clothing hugs the body and never lets you forget it’s there. Duckie Brown’s take on menswear? Not so much. The fluidity of motion, the simple act of wrapping one of their tops (blouses?) around you and being done with the entire process of dressing - these are traits alien to traditional menswear. Aren’t we lucky, then, to have Duckie Brown to guide us into gentler waters.
For Fall 2015, Patrik Ervell toyed with the kind of extravagance usually reserved for more outre designers. His signature denim, after all, is now referred to as “Dad jeans,” and the designer frequently produces collections that are not too far from what the designer himself wears: a minimal dress shirt, perfectly executed anti-fit jeans, and similarly nondescript footwear. In sum: a handful of men’s staples, rendered in his wonderfully off-kilter sensibility. But this season something grander was in the works for Ervell. His typical “uniform” jettisoned for more imaginative pastures. The pants were most noticeable, whether it was his slimmed down rubberized versions, or a pair that ballooned to the ground; both had a distinctly futuristic sensibility about them, without ever veering into the comical or sterile. The overcoats, a few of which nearly swallowed their wearer whole, and which started and ended the show, were born of a similarly futuristic notion, with a hidden placket and every other detail stripped save for their techno fabrications - storytelling through fabric and fit and nothing else; no comical indulgence, no wink to the audience.
Lest Ervell purists be worried, his trademark fleece variations still dotted the collection, including a furry camel bomber. And, just before the finale, announcing, if not an entirely new, then certainly a more aggressive path for the designer, a lone denim jacket with a slightly contrasting collar emerged, bringing us safely back to earth. To the future and back, in only 22 looks.