new york fashion week

At Luar, Beyoncé and Beefed Up Silhouettes

Still, shows at New York Fashion Week mostly missed the boat.

Left to right: Luar, Michael Kors, Gabriela Hearst Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: FirstVIEW/Courtesy of Luar, Getty Images, Courtesy of Gabriela Hearst
Left to right: Luar, Michael Kors, Gabriela Hearst Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: FirstVIEW/Courtesy of Luar, Getty Images, Courtesy of Gabriela Hearst
Left to right: Luar, Michael Kors, Gabriela Hearst Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: FirstVIEW/Courtesy of Luar, Getty Images, Courtesy of Gabriela Hearst

In his book The History of Rock ’n’ Roll in Ten Songs, Greil Marcus says that where a great song comes from is really not the point, and he quotes Pete Townshend of the Who. In 1968, Townshend said, “It’s like saying get all the pop music, put it into a cartridge, put the cap on it and fire the gun. Whether those ten or 15 numbers sound roughly the same. You don’t care what period they were written in, what they’re all about. It’s the bloody explosion that they create when you let the gun off. It’s the event.”

Obviously, the same could be said about fashion. Think of Dior’s New Look in 1947; Saint Laurent’s scandalous 1971 couture show, based on 1940s clothes found in flea markets; much of Martin Margiela’s work in the ’90s; and John Galliano’s recent triumph in Paris. All those designers, and many others, borrowed, but they don’t need to explain their reasons or sources. In fact, at the time, Margiela famously did not. He never spoke to the press. Because what mattered was the explosion on the runway, and how you felt about it.

Fashion differs from rock, indeed most artistic expression, in one crucial way: many designers are pumping out four or five collections a year, overseeing advertising and marketing, and all the other stuff that bears their names and makes them famous. So they’re essentially managing big machines.

Still, the bang produced by New York designers on Tuesday sounded more like a pop gun.

Luar Photo: FirstVIEW/Courtesy of Luar

I went to Brooklyn for Raul Lopez’s Luar’s show, which was in what seemed to be a former factory or warehouse. It was 9 p.m., and rumors were flying that Beyoncé was in the house. She was, and eventually, she sat down, shielded mostly by her cowboy hat and bodyguards. Lopez, in press notes, referred to metrosexuals — a term in vogue in the late ’90s, possibly earlier, to denote straight men who enjoyed clothes, shopping, and good grooming, not unlike gay men and women.

Lopez’s point was that “metrosexuality” has been with us for centuries. Men have worn long hair, makeup, jewelry, fancy fabrics like lace, and body-deforming shapes — it’s nothing new. Most costume historians would not only agree with Lopez; they would also point out that, in many periods, men have been the innovators in fashion. But historians wouldn’t bother to label the type of man or the tradition, simply because it’s so varied and deeply rooted in western culture.

Luar Photo: FirstVIEW/Courtesy of Luar

From my perspective, though, Lopez really missed the boat. He had some striking beefed-up silhouettes (from the shoulders) and rich textures, like a woman’s black faux-lamb jacket with skinny pants that were shredded (or possibly embellished to look shredded). But it was hard to see or feel anything from where I sat. That’s because half of the audience had the benefit of watching the show with proper runway lights while the rest of us were in the dark.

Michael Kors Photo: Getty Images

Michael Kors brought his audience to the old Barneys store on Seventh Avenue at 17th Street, and I was surprised to see that the white spiraling staircase — installed by the Pressman family during a major renovation — was still intact. I’m sure the setting raised all sorts of memories for some guests — clearly Kors himself — but in a way, it was like looking at a picture of the Titanic’s railing through the murk of time. Fascinating, but I don’t feel a damn thing.

And this was a so-so show for Kors, murky in its direction. He started incredibly strong with cool-as-a-cucumber Julia Nobis striding out in a perfectly cut black suit with a front-slit skirt. Really, a dream suit. Plus: red lips, moderately high heels, and a neat handbag. He carried on in this vein with more great tailoring, black lace-and-satin slip dresses, and a bookish model in a loose, flying dark coat over a half-tucked-in shirt and soft gray trousers.

Michael Kors Photo: Getty Images

But while I could see Kors’s style links to other periods — in particular the 1930s for those silk dresses — the show collapsed into a merchandising spree with “casual” offerings like a blazer with jeans and a sweater and “fun” items like Amber Valletta’s leopard-print coat. We were back in a store, only it was a dead one.

The thing about Kors is he knows how to move a style forward at the right time. He did that with Nobis’s suit. But in my opinion, he would have helped himself if he had cut the blah-blah out of his collection and reduced the number from 65 looks to 35.

Gabriela Hearst Photo: Courtesy of Gabriela Hearst

Gabriela Hearst’s show went around and around in every sense. In a cavernous building at the Navy Yard, her set design followed concentric circles. But one also felt she was hewing too close to formula, like with her long and plain dresses in plushy knits and her sturdy cut of pantsuits (which could use a reboot). The standout bits were high-quality suede slip dresses and fluffy coats where cashmere mimicked fur. But, again, it all felt like a wheezy pop gun, not an explosion.

Ashlynn Park, who previously worked for Yohji Yamamoto and Raf Simons at Calvin Klein, is steadily expanding her newish Ashlyn label. With men’s tailoring the basis of so much fashion over the ages, and in Park’s background, she decided to add menswear to Ashlyn — and also to incorporate its effects into her women’s clothes.

Ashlyn Photo: Courtesy of Ashlyn

The results were concise and stunning. For example, the interior of a man’s tailored coat inspired the abstract details on a woman’s version. Classic lapels and the formal tradition of white tie evolved into a long, draped white satin shirt dress with exaggerated black lapels. She challenged herself to do her version of the famous Chanel suit, which was based on the straight line of the male silhouette. But unlike other designers who’ve done the same thing, she lowered the neckline a bit and used a rough brown tweed with wide contrasting black bands. You would hardly recognize that the source was Chanel. Well, because Park made it new.

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At Luar, Beefed Up Silhouettes and Rich Textures