Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pure and simple at Marc Jacobs

Brown wrapping paper, brown cardboard seats, wallpaper and flooring, stapled together, and not a celebrity in sight – the message was pure and simple at the presentation of Marc Jacobs autumn/winter collectionat New York Fashion Week at the New York State Armoury.
The vast room was dominated by a 12ft wooden box, wrapped up in brown paper. And as the lights dimmed, the designer himself emerged from backstage to tear the paper away.
Then, as the poignant strains of Juliet Greco singing Over the Rainbow came over the sound system, the contents of the box were finally laid bare: A tableaux of 56 models that was literally as pretty – and as powerful - as a picture.
The immediate impression was one of gentleness: Soft, cloud-like shades of grey, pearl, parchment, silver, eggshell blue, a hint of lemon. The hair was simple, the make-up almost non-existent, the silhouettes graceful.
This was not a frenetic, high-volume race through fashion’s extremes. This was a demonstration of a designer at the height of his creative powers, showing clothes which spoke their relevance with a whisper.
Refined, olde-worlde, slightly quaint tailoring was the key look, expressed in raised-waist, A-line, cashmere and wool jackets and coats, often with a hint of the cutaway, with below-the-knee, A-line, seamed skirts, accessorised with little kitten heels and socks.
Shorter spencer-cut jackets came with long culottes; navy, double-breasted reefer jackets, with grey flannel skirts. The apparent simplicity of the pieces was an ode to the classic ease of American sportswear, when it is done well: a grey sweat-shirting top, for example, notched at the sides to create a rise-and-fall hemline, over the plainest of grey culottes; or a blue-grey fairisle sweater with matching A-line skirt in chevron wool.
Jacobs tweaked this theme by pairing a silvery, sequinned V-neck sweater, with a uniform-style, grey pleated skirt; adding sequins and Mongolian lamb trims to a shrug-on, wrapover coat; embellishing a little tank with feathers; or dressing cardigan sleeves with sequins.
As the tailoring and separates gave way to dresses and gowns, Jacobs’s abiding love of updated vintage began to dominate.
Chevron-wool coats and cardigans in grey, topped filmy dresses in layers of lemon tulle and lace. Crepe tea-dresses were sashed at the back. High-waisted dresses, in muted pastels, featured long and short sleeves. A long, flecked, grey, jersey gown was criss-crossed, apron style at the back; another, in burnished yellow velvet, came with a Mongolian lamb stole.
Occasional shots of bright lemon-lime punctuated the subtle skyscape shades, such as a knitted, square-cut sweater over a lamé, ankle-length skirt. 30s-style, gowns in silvery lame, were pure Harlow, with trains, and ingenious sash, knot and drape details.
Extravagant ball gowns, in daisy and floral-print taffetas, their bodices twisted into giant bows, their skirts falling behind in huge trains, completed the collection.
The references, Jacobs said, touched on Edwardiana, the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s, but he had played with proportion and "tweaked" to create the contemporary mood he wanted.
“It’s about clothes which don’t look as if they’re trying to hard to be, you know, fashion-y,” Jacobs explained.
That is one of the hardest things to do in fashion – and he succeeded with consummate grace.
The Marc Jacobs show was streamed live on the designer's website: www.marcjacobs.com

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