Hailing a taxi in the far reaches of West Chelsea on Monday afternoon, a curious cab driver asked what all the hullaballoo was about after passing a woman wearing a gilded shearling coat and matching fuzzy platforms.
“Fashion Week,” I said.
“It’s Fashion Week?” he asked. “I thought it was the dog show.”
Well, yes, it has been noted that the fall fashion collections often coincide with the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and the comparisons between a puppy pageant and a catwalk circuit don’t stop at the beautiful creatures walking around in circles while being judged. I was particularly excited this year by Westminster’s acceptance of an adorable breed of Hungarian herding dog called a pumi, although I kept calling it a pupi all day long by accident. Apparently, there was also some controversy over the arrival of a hairless terrier, which caused a lot of eye-rolling among those who insist that dogs should not be caught dead not wearing fur. Sometimes, it really is hard to tell the difference between Fashion Week and a dog show.
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Returning our focus to the runway, though, let us take a moment to discuss a new hybrid breed that arrived at Fashion Week, and I am talking about the first double-header fashion show from the designers Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia, who presented their Monse and Oscar de la Renta collections back-to-back on one runway. This was highly unusual and caused more confusion than it really should have when a mesh curtain that was meant to reveal a second set halfway through the show malfunctioned, but the collection(s) was or were still likely to be a strong contender for best in show this week.
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The Monse portion was really great: a continuation of the shirt-dressing theme paired with drip-effect sequined dresses that Kim and Garcia have made as the signatures of their two-year-old label. It’s youthful and lightly deconstructed, with a little edge. But it was their new take on Oscar de la Renta, where both designers had worked with de la Renta himself for many years, that mapped out a clear direction for the house for the first time since his passing. Peter Copping’s collections in the intervening years were lovely but so respectful that they didn’t stand a chance in this overcrowded fashion system, where you’ve got to make a loud entrance in order to be heard.
In this case, Kim and Garcia did that with bright color combinations of a green wool suit or a shocking pink cocoon coat made of a scuba-like fabric that was bonded sponge wool and cashmere. Their evening gowns were full-skirted with fitted bodices, princess-like in the de la Renta tradition, but also modernized with rivers of crystal embroidery. One white gown featured sequins in an abstract pattern that resembled the weaving of ikat fabric, which was a favorite of de la Renta. And the two finale dresses worn by Lineisy Montero and Bella Hadid, both slim black velvet gowns trimmed with diamond embroidered panels, looked right for Oscar, or possibly, the Oscars.
Fashion Week also has its more fanciful breeds of designers. The collections of Joseph Altuzarra and Proenza Schouler had so many flourishes and decorative elements that you could imagine these clothes were for extroverts. Altuzarra’s Renaissance inspiration played out with rich velvets and embroideries, casting a very polished and formal appearance. At Proenza, the motif was more sport-like, with long bodysuit zipper pulls affixed to the backs of their abstracted dresses and collage tops. I particularly loved the looser take on bandage dresses that recalled an idea from a collection of theirs from a decade ago. Now the dresses were wrapped and draped in multiple fabrics, some with a patent-like shine.
Of course, there are also designers whose collections speak more quietly, as sleek and yet powerful as a Doberman. The Row, for example, had magnificent double-face cashmere coats and loose pantsuits or jackets worn with long skirts in a mostly neutral palette. These were shown with tightly wrapped belts and luxurious black boots that added to the sense of practicality and purpose. Carolina Herrera, interestingly, took a more streamlined approach as well, riffing on her signature white shirts and adding so many sophisticated dresses that you didn’t quite know where to look. My eye settled on a flowing cape dress in the color of sand, with a ribbon detail at the neck, and stayed there.