Jeremy Scott’s method of designing is to chew up the cultural landscape and spit it back out in simple, crowd-pleasing forms. Recently his riffs have included trash TV and celebrity and selfie obsession, with Scott reproducing Polaroids of himself for a print. Invariably, the shapes are as basic as Spam — the processed meat, that is — with plenty of minis, sweatshirts, and sexy dresses glowing like the boob tube.
So it was fascinating last night to see Scott disrupt his own act.
First, he offered a new silhouette — a punk princess with a full skirt of layered tulle. Second, the whole runway collection was in black-and-white, like the tabloid headlines and photos that served as its main motif — many from the New York Post. I sensed some puzzlement, if not disappointment, from the celebrity front row, whose bright hues blurred together like a melted candy factory. Indeed, I thought at the end, Is that it? No color, no other theme than this punk-flavored riff on the news?
Well, it was enough. Scott was right to stress a new silhouette and one that is very feminine. There is too much sameness around, especially among the overstocked contemporary labels. And maybe Scott was just bored. He was surely aware of the designers and artists — Andy Warhol, Cady Noland, and Sigmar Polke come first to mind — whose work has incorporated news images of assassination, mayhem, and disaster. Almost 20 years ago, John Galliano created a newsprint pattern for Dior, and Raf Simons worked Warhol’s crash imagery into his fashion for Calvin Klein.
To me, Scott was attempting to place his latest collection in that fashion context. He wasn’t riffing on “fake news” or the 24/7 news cycle or, God knows, the rapidly disappearing world of print. Nor was he offering us something that truly gets under the skin — in the end, he stayed firmly within his commercial guardrails. Yet, I have a hunch that if Scott wanted to, and if he were at a different brand where the aesthetics weren’t so narrowly focused on pop culture, he could do remarkable things.
There’s a lot of romantic and feminized clothing around, treading on the style of the London designer Simone Rocha, though without her breadth and funky sense of cool. Laura and Kristopher Brock pole-vaulted from classic tweed-and-braid outfits (think Chanel) and pussy-bow blouses to a milkmaid look and then prom-style white dresses with heart-shaped dots. Prettiness is fine, but the Brocks’ problem is that they lack a signature. An overscaled bow or a gold ruff collar is not enough. Also, they need to develop a more knowing sense of ease, that urban mix of sophistication and a relaxed attitude.
That’s something that Derek Lam and Rachel Comey both do extremely well. I loved Lam’s generously cut canvas rain coats with a back flap that could be drawn up around the face and partially closed by means of drawstrings. In a handful of looks, including a gorgeous black leather dress with wide, elbow-length sleeves and a below-the-knee A-line skirt, and another in deep purple crepe with lightly puffed sleeves, Lam conveyed the same central idea: beautiful fabrics, yes, but a strong, sweeping line.
Comey’s show was full of vivid colors — what she called “highlighter tones” — and a nearly seasonless mix of fabrics, including cotton and a spongy, laminated material (used for channeled, rainproof jackets). “We were trying to stay away from the weight of fall,” said Comey, noting that a lot of pieces are delivered in August, when people aren’t quite ready for fall dressing. The blast of color (terrific denim in green and coral washes; kooky minis and tops in shimmery vinyl sequins) and Comey’s broad view of feminine dressing — from simple cotton work dresses to funky lavender shearling jackets — added up to a great collection.
Comey’s customers may also be interested in the fact that, this season, she’s expanding her shoe styles, and will produce in Italy (in addition to Peru, where her popular clogs are made).