A model wearing looks from the Victoria Beckham fall 2018 collection during New York Fashion Week, in New York, Feb. 11, 2018.
(Shawn Brackbill/The New York Times)
After two seasons of a show-that-was-actually-a-party, complete with kegs, strobes, a faux standing-room-only audience (when there are no seats, there is no choice) and the premise that atmosphere was more important than actual product — because hey! Instagram! — Alexander Wang went back to basics and held a show in which you could see the clothes.
That it was also his last one on the official New York Fashion Week calendar (he will move to pre-collection schedule in June and December, because it’s better for retail deliveries); and that it took place on the 21st floor of the former Condé Nast headquarters in Times Square, under neon lights and atop industrial gray office carpeting; and that instead of advertising it with a hashtag, he advertised it as the Alexander Wang Group, or AWG, seemed to hold all sorts of potential meaning. About business (his own commitment to such) and maybe women in the boardroom (he has a new female chief executive) or perhaps just the increasingly confused corporate environment, with its even more confused dress codes.
Or maybe it was all an ironic commentary on the perception that he was prioritizing parties over profits? That would be awfully self-referential.
Besides, a more relevant question is: When a gray T-shirt is the ultimate power uniform, how exactly are any of us supposed to dress for work anymore?
Wang’s answer: in a cross between the sleek LBD’s of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” backup singers, “The Matrix” and “Working Girl.” Sharp thigh-skimming black coat-dresses or sheaths were corseted by sunbursts of zippers; long, sweeping black coats came with pockets and seams picked out in metallic hardware; leather was bonded to bouclé; gloves were studded; stilettos nail-heeled.
There were hot pants under crisp white shirts with “CEO 2018” scrawled in silver over the breast and (for when you’re working at home, presumably) sweats with a platinum card number on the side. Though whether that was about running up debt or ka-ching-ing the sales was not entirely clear.
Either way, at least the opportunity for puns (Game of Corporate Thrones came to mind) and the energy was high, despite the level of originality being pretty low, and the proposition itself being more office party than office politics. If the push for genuine equality in the professional power structure is expressed by dressing like movie clichés of the past, we haven’t actually come very far.
Which may be why Victoria Beckham, also having her farewell to the New York schedule — she is decamping to London for her 10th-anniversary show in September — chose to concentrate on clothes with a certain forward momentum: no-nonsense coats with a military air cinched with extra-long belts; lean khaki trousers under high-collar drop-shoulder jackets; long jersey skirts with a starburst of silk pleats at the side.
It was tactile and utilitarian at the same time; the bags, cloth shoulder pouches exploded to hot desking proportions, a sort of metaphor for the whole. If it also hewed awfully closely to the path Phoebe Philo pioneered at Céline, well, Philo has left the building. Someone has to champion the idea of fashion as a speedway for female decision making.
The whole point is to get beyond business as usual.
This is, anyway, the guiding principle of Eckhaus Latta, where the bicoastal Marc Eckhaus and Zoe Latta are preoccupied with explorations of material and challenging received wisdom about shape, gender and beauty.
The result can look lumpen and occasionally veer too far in the frumpy-is-cool art school direction. But, increasingly, it can also be a successful negotiation between forms: denim carpenter’s pants tie-dyed in tiger stripes and paired with a belle epoque padded corset, a long mint-green chiffon dress hung from a carapace of grass-green granny knitting.
And sometimes, as with a sporty sunshine yellow stretch rayon jersey turned into an evening gown, with cuts here and there and one extra-long third sleeve dangling from the edge of a shoulder blade like an elegant wind sock, it just, well, works.