The first and busiest stop of the annual month-long round-the-world unveiling of international fashion collections kicked off last week in New York. Some of the best and brightest of Australian fashion were in attendance, showing their goods to the world and proving they can keep up with the big boys. We went along to see some of our favourites.
She may not be Australian, but unsurprisingly, we often claim New Zealander Karen Walker as one of our own. She’s a veteran on the New York schedule, having shown there since 2006 and this year presented a breezy, light collection in a Hudson River pier space. It wasn’t anything particularly new for Walker, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be wearing it come summer. Inspired by what the designer called Krishna style – a blend of traditional Eastern utility and modern urban practicality, there were hints of inspiration from the sub-continent, especially in the skilful use of colour. A pink linen suit projected a sense of working day ease and there were tunics and baggy pants to spare. Some of the best pieces were the light jackets and coats, ranging from a peach trench to an instantly desirable blue bomber. The real highlight was, however, the pitch-perfect collaboration with Sydney label Benah on the boxy bags of all shapes and sizes paired with each look.
Making his debut in New York after cancelling his show last season was Sydney designer Dion Lee. It seems as though Lee has been the next big thing for a few years now and perhaps his dark and moody show will see him take the next step into the international arena. As lights dimmed on the already dark show space, the mood was set by a light show projected onto square pillars at the start of the runway, slowly evolving into the wonky grid shapes that would be revisited on the clothes themselves. The collection itself continued with the ideas Lee has made his signature – the sharpest of tailoring, cut-outs and bondage elements, graphic suggestions of print and pleating. Some pieces edged towards bulky, and at times the use of neoprene resulting in fabric falling somewhat awkwardly. Two brightly coloured looks in the middle of the show were attention grabbing in the best of ways; the printed skirts contrasted with architectural tops. It was a show that evoked all the elements that have come to be synonymous with Lee’s brand, and therefore a perfect introduction to New York.
The standout Aussie showing of the week was from recent Council of Fashion Designers of America/Vogue Fashion Fund finalists (and Broadsheet favourites), TOME. In their fifth season, designers Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin showed a collection that built on what they’ve done before, but brought it to a new luxurious level. Inspired by Cuban-American artist Ana Mendieta, there was a light feeling to the collection, especially in the palette of whites and palest pinks. Pleated and oversized kaftans were shown alongside shiny metallic raincoats and on-trend slip dresses. There was a real emphasis on fabric; something Lobo says was a deliberate choice. “We felt that with the fifth collection we could introduce luxurious fabrics, with resultant higher price points, because the growing profile of the brand demanded it. Various Italian brocades, python skin, summer tweed, French lace – these are all elements we have dreamed of for TOME and were finally able to indulge this season.”
An absolute highlight was a luminous piece of a slip dress topped with a delicately embroidered overlay. New textures and prints gave new depth to the looks, and the designers embraced the crop top silhouette seen everywhere during the week, but made it their own by cropping crisp white shirts only at the back. Shown in a theatre space, complete with stadium seating for high-heeled guests to rest their feet, it was a luminous collection from these rising stars.