Saturday in New York: Altuzarra, Jason Wu and Dion Lee
New York Fashion Week was all about indie designers on Saturday, as three self-reliant labels Altuzarra, Jason Wu and Dion Lee staged shows in spectacular locations.
Altuzarra: Hip and hallucinogenic
The day opened with a very impressive collection by Altuzarra presented inside the Starrett-Lehigh building, a giant brick and green framed glass structure from the 1920s offering sensational views over the Hudson River. A fitting setting for the collection which was all about altered states.
During the pandemic, Joseph Altuzarra separated in 2020 from luxury behemoth Kering, which had taken a minority stake in his house. The divorce appears to have done Joseph Altuzarra no harm creatively - anything but.
On each seat, the designer left a copy of Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, the book that kick started the New Age movement, and the collection was effectively a journey through space and perception.
The show started and closed with parkas - beginning with a great opening combo of enveloping white parka, gray sweater dress and burnt red sneakers, and climaxed with parkas in a kaleidoscope of colours and graphics. A quartet in a truly brilliant blend of Shibori tye-dye, hypnotic acid dream prints and voluminous metallic lamé.
“Desert Solitaire, which focuses on shamanism and entering the magical realm, got me thinking about where can we find magic in our lives. And the intersection of reality and imagination,” explained the designer post-show.
Throughout, the clothes managed to be practical yet unexpected, with marvellous lightly layered mannish shirts and blouses worn with a myriad of light parkas and jackets. Altuzarra intermingled sweater knits with crisp cottons, dyed chambrays and faded denims, worn on a cast that marched through the giant light-filled space before views of the Statue of Liberty in the distance.
“I sort of wanted to go on a hallucinogenic trip, who also referenced Carlos Castañeda’s The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, riffing on that author’s writings on out-of-body experience.
“I liked the idea of making something so imaginative it was not tethered to this world, yet is,” explained Altuzarra, whose two young children played in the backstage.
The color palette gradually growing into the rusty and beige desert hues surrounding Moab, Utah where the central parka ranger character of Desert Solitaire lived.
Asked how he felt being a dad had affected his work, the designer smiled: “I think I am more fearless and care less about what people think.”
Abbey would have approved
Jason Wu: From the White House to East River
Editors, influencers and retailers traipsed to the other side of Manhattan for the Jason Wu show, staged on Pier 17, perched on the East River, its waters churned by passing ferries, ships and high-powered speed boats.
It’s been a good week for Wu. In Washington, the official portrait of Michelle Obama by Sharon Sprung was unveiled in the White House. She turned out to be dressed in a powder chiffon evening dress by Jason Wu, guaranteeing fresh and immense media coverage of the designer.
Wu’s career was effectively ignited by Obama when she wore one of his dresses to her first inaugural ball. Before repeating the compliment for Michelle and Barack’s second ball four years later. Bare-sleeved and with one strap off her shoulder, Michelle Obama’s portrait is far more romantic and even risqué than traditional first lady paintings that hang in the White House, and all the better for that.
“I’m back,” thrilled Wu post-show, in much as reference to the White House, as to his return to the catwalk.
The Taiwanese-Canadian designer did break new ground in this collection with some stylishly revealing cocktails made in sequinned mesh, bugle beads or puckered chiffon. Plus, there were some pretty Shibari-print dresses playing on Japanese bondage techniques in a collaboration with artist Leonardo Pucci.
However, far too often the clothes were formulaic, prim and conventionally bourgeois. If one had double checked the date on the e-invite one would not have not have been surprised if the date were not Spring 2023, but a decade earlier, so traditional and customary were many of these clothes.
Dion Lee: Sky warriors
Manhattan seems to sprout a skyscraper every week these days and the latest is Hudson Commons, a brand new cyber building on 9th Avenue where Dion Lee presented a collection of superhero chic.
Lee’s heroines striding rapidly in the raw space before the Manhattan skyline as if about to go into battle. Dashing by in cut-out fencing uniforms, mesh jackets or tech flesh coloured tops made in intricate weaves, all worn with belted minis.
Lee is also one of contemporary fashion’s greatest cutters, seen in his gutsy architectural pants. Though his is not fashion for the faint hearted. One afro-haired young chap appeared in mesh top and mico centurion’s skirt anchored by thigh boots. But, if you want to cause a sensation in a nightclub or at an opening, Lee is a great go-to destination.
No one could fault Lee for not taking risks with this collection and his ideas. All the way to the magnificent split leaf philo stem leather boots in which the gals marched.
The 36-year-old Australian first exploded onto the fashion firmament in 2009 with the best debut collection on the planet that year. Two years later, he became the first designer to stage a show outside the Sydney Opera House. Now, he is an established fixture on the New York fashion calendar. A cult designer, if not perhaps a giant influence, but a singular voice and an unmissable fixture in New York Fashion Week.
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