In this post-feminist era, thoughtful designers are developing clothes that reflect the genuine needs of modern women
Gabriela Hearst: A sporty grandeur
Defining Gabriela Hearst’s strength and appeal comes down to two words: tactile simplicity. Her clothes are streamlined, feminine in a modern way, and the essence is in fine detail — for example, a blush of light colours that create a fresh hue or a subtle tweak on a traditional silhouette.
“This is a man’s wool suiting and then underneath is a dress made out of men’s shirting — and then there is soft, spongy crepe,” Gabriela explained, showing me her Spring/Summer 2017 collection. “And this is organza, decoratively embroidered with the word ‘Pure’ in the lace.”
The result is intriguing: a modern mix of glamour, grandeur, and sportiness, as shown in a jumpsuit with one tailored trouser leg, the other concealed under a flowing skirt. Another gentle twist is silk flowing softly as a dress, its femininity broken by a hardware bracelet.
Gabriela says that she has to “push” herself with colour, saying, “It’s not something that comes very easily to me. I’m normally more classic with colours.” She did manage a deep brick red, however, as well as rain-washed sky blue and pink. The essence of the collection may be her own persona, but there are surely sophisticated women out there who are looking for femininity without frills.
Gabriela has not yet joined the bag-of-the-moment circuit, but the elegant and original little purse she designed, inspired by Colombian artist Fernando Botero, caught a guest’s attention in the elevator of a London hotel. It was Apple’s Jony Ive — proof that Gabriela has made streamlining into an art form.
Boss Woman: Colour makes a bigger splash
The round truck-sized lights in vibrant colours along the wall provided an immediate statement for Boss Woman.
Artistic Director Jason Wu was continuing with his streamlined female version of the Hugo Boss menswear giant, this season with David Hockney’s vividly coloured pool pictures as inspiration.
Walking down the long runway, illuminated by the coloured spots, were streamlined clothes — especially dresses that were mostly cut to mid-calf, but hung from solid straps or even an occasional strapless top to give a feeling of summer in a fresh way.
The show was also an object lesson in making tailoring elegant and purposeful, usually more difficult for a Spring/Summer season. For example, a classic wrap-trouser suit puddled down into soft pants; while other trousers were straight and easy. Without making a bigger splash in the fashion world, Jason Wu has made credible the female side of Boss womenswear.
Narciso Rodriguez: Minimal to a fault
There were also a few arty takes on New York City lights and metallic effects on slithering, silver dresses.
At the heart of it all is Narciso’s attitude to women, which in its cool decency belies his Hispanic origin. Where seductive body shapes might be expected, he offers instead slender dresses, cut on the bias, the fabric just skimming the body.
There was something perfunctory about the Narciso Rodriguez show, as if the designer could barely bother to send out another collection when his clients already know his style so well: the slim lines, the liquid drapes, the flashes of colour. (Orange was the choice this season.)
But for all the service he provides to women who want to dress stylishly but practically, there was something missing from this show: any sense of surprise or the idea that Rodriguez was pushing to develop a different look in his own spirit.