In this multi-cultural world, there seems something quaint about pinning a style to a certain place — especially in a single city. Yet the notion of the "uptown girl" never quite dissolves in New York; it just evolves into a new version of its former self.
As I viewed the bijoux town house that is the new boutique for The Row on New York's Upper East Side, I thought how well Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have caught the vibe of the young, well-heeled world, where art is the talking point and clothes are artfully simple.
For the show itself, the shop was cleared right down to its marble staircase, where the models lined up after a short round from the main to the upper floors.
The minimalist aesthetic was expressed in the clothes, all white or black, yet with essential detailing built into the lean silhouettes. A short, simple dress might be sliced into fluffy squares and worn with snow-white, old-style sneakers, or a black strapless wrapped dress would reveal a streak of white from hip to ankle.
If God is in the fashion details, they were powerful yet discreet, as a simple long dress was constructed out of tactile pieces or a white shirt, tailored to a woman's body shape, partnered with straight-cut trousers.
These desirable clothes looked classy and will inevitably be expensive. But whereas uptown dressing once reeked of privilege and wealth, the look of The Row is of universal elegance for women whose clothes look as smart as they are.
Oscar de la Renta
The starting point for uptown glamour brought down to earth was the shoes: flats, often decorative sandals, worn with wispy, white, tailored chiffon dresses or more firmly cut black and white dresses, some laced with scarlet.
Paying service to Oscar's origins in Santo Domingo, the collection included hot, Latin patterns and what might have been traditional Dominican dress with an embroidered peasant top and belt with a pleated skirt. It might also have referenced Valentino's style.
There was nothing wrong with the collection except the same problem that has to be faced by so many brands at the moment — with the departure of the founder, how do you nurture the roots and persuade them to grow and flower in an appropriate way for the times we live it? Especially when designers in the limelight, and those backstage in the studios, are perpetually on the move to other companies?
The show started with denim: still a swishing gown and tailored dress or coat, but with flat shoes bringing the look down-to-earth — or more precisely to the marble floor of Fifth Avenue's Frick Collection. The setting, beloved by the designer, gave an artistic grandeur as a backdrop to her clothes.
The collection was Upper East Side with a reality check. Using black and white — in stripes, vertical and horizontal, or even gingham checks — the collection hovered between realistic and imperial.
That meant light, calf length summer dresses that could be worn to a board meeting, contrasting with strapless dresses with trains swooshing over the marble floor.
As in other uptown collections, there was a hint of modesty and a nod to the prudish style brought in this decade at Valentino. But it is important for the Carolina Herrera brand to keep its identity — and that was achieved smoothly with this collection.