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The Death Of Minimalism?

Neon Nettle's Fashion Correspondent Reports From New York

By: Cameron Roffey
 on 10th February 2014 @ 1.33pm
new york fashion week  there is good cause for my dramatic opening from this side of the atlantic © Creative Commons
New York Fashion Week, there is good cause for my dramatic opening from this side of the Atlantic

A war has erupted. No, I am not addressing SOCHI, nor am I tackling the troubles in the Ukraine. This war is self-contained, in treacherous conditions and is only to be fought by the well heeled and the suave of this world. I am of course referring to New York Fashion Week. There is good cause for my dramatic opening. From this side of the Atlantic, there are clear divisions, call them teams if you will, that the designers have sided with. Here is where their battles will be ended to find the victor. Yet not for once and for all, this is only the first third of the oldest fashion week in the world.

Round one consists of a battle that has always been prominent, in my wardrobe at least. This is the battle between monochrome and colour. There are a multitude of reasons why monochrome is so popular. The slimming qualities of black, the style of Cruella De Vil and Coco Chanel describing black and white as having “it all.” Yet, the absence of colour is not continuously able to have the same affect that colour can.  A sharp burst of colour is able to astonish, amaze and even bring about awe. Take Helmut Lang. His crimson two-piece slices through his all black runway, with its blood like pungency. It truly is shocking. The flammable rock motif printed onto the tunics and trousers adds a spice to the plainly decorated models, with their sweptback hair and reserved make up.

Yet, Hugo Boss’ new creative director, Jason Wu, showed just how dramatic a simple colour palette could be. With his own collection, razor sharp tailoring of jumpsuits, cut-out floor length gowns and structured two-pieces featured, These were all in deep shades of crude oil black, burnt aubergine and silvery grey. There seemed to be a no nonsense approach to his designs, conveying a seriousness to the audience. It was reminiscent of the classic designs of Yves Saint Laurent, with the “power dressing” taken to a new level. Overcoats that squared off the shoulders and fur trims that bulked out the models silhouettes, much like soldiers going into battle.

The encounter between structured and a more free and organic shape continued onto the runways of New York. The two had battled graciously at Paris Haute Couture Week, in the third week of January. With Max Azria at the helm of Hervé Léger, the company made famous by their bandage dresses, were structured to the nth degree. Again, harsh tailoring matched with scaffolding lines that acted as those ever present “bandages” influenced a masculine element. However, adding corsetry and shades such as Atomic Tangerine, instilled a feminine and light touch to proceedings.

The opposite of this “cinched-in” approach was Prabal Gurung, with his nomadic affair. Layers of fur, upon silk, upon wool and leather portrayed a hand made feel. This organic conveyal was enhanced with Aztec printing on the décolletage of ball gowns in the colours of the Serengeti. Deep reds, florals and pale oranges (perhaps the colour of A/W 14) abounded. Short dresses with all of these wrapped around the models, like strips of colour, that had been torn to create this somewhat scavenged look. Multi-tonal feather skirts were teamed with red and burgundy silks. Yet, there was no coherence with this show. Perhaps Mr Gurung wanted these organic and free outfits to be unpredictable, spontaneous and untroubled in terms of regiment and order.

The final round is a battle that has been brewing underground for some time now, with the press asking, “Is This The Death Of Minimalism?” Whilst in this recent bleak economic period, minimalism was financially secure and fashionable. However, with the economy (supposedly) on the rise, are we going back to our old “living beyond of our means” ways? This is quite evident with Prabal Gurung, with his constant layering: swathes of bright tribal colours, over one another. With Jason Wu adding weight to overcoats with enormous shoulder pads, and fur stoles that are able to wrap twice, maybe three times, around the waiflike models. Yet, one has to remember this is for autumn and winter. The main benefit of a coat is to keep one warm. Yet, Max Azria mixed true minimalism with maximalism at Hervé Léger. The streamlined and simple bandage dress mixed with leather and fur, knee high flat boots and feathering created a gorgeous cacophony of textures, silhouettes and gasps from the audience.

In terms of winners, I believe that although wonderfully sleek, monochrome just lost out to colour at this early stage of NYFW. Yet, structure was the victor with these eyes, from my favourite show so far: Hervé Léger by Max Azria. Whether or not this is the death minimalism, I am not so sure. Yet, maximalism is on the rise, I look forward to seeing what other wars are fought over the next coming days of New York Fashion Week.

hugo boss    new creative director  jason wu with michelle obama new york fashion week © Creative Press
Hugo Boss’ new creative director, Jason Wu with Michelle Obama New York Fashion Week

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