The Shape of Things

Even by fashion’s rather lenient clock, Marc Jacobs’s hour-and-a-half preshow delay, which began at the thirteenth hour of an already busy day, was extreme. Extreme, but not surprising. It wasn’t the first time the designer had been so late, but as is often the case with Jacobs, the entire spectacle—the wait, the clothes, and this time, most pointedly, a bratty little shrug—delivered the strongest message of the week.

When the last of Jacobs’s hauntingly dressed, splendidly wrapped models had left the runway, and the designer came out for his regular postshow bow, delivered that shrug, and then he mouthed “Sorry.”

He could just as well have mouthed “Fuck you.” Few who show in New York have the resources that the LVMH-backed Jacobs has: He could certainly get a show together on time. But no one clings as fervently to the notion of “cool” as Jacobs does; it’s far more rock and roll to run on your own time. What that shrug said was, “Would you ever have waited that long to see a collection by Michael Kors?”

Because the fact is, that eleven-minute show contained the best and the most exciting clothes of the week. It also sparked the most passionate reviews. Jacobs moved beyond his usual habit of liberal and literal vintage referencing to address issues of silhouette, weight, and proportion, while simultaneously offering a great number of pieces that, stripped of their theatrical runway styling, one might actually wear. There were, of course, voluminous and weighty cocoons, but also skinny satin trousers with flats and a soft peacoat that could just as easily have been worn by an editor from French Vogue to lunch at the Café de Flore. (Not far, in fact, from where Jacobs lives.)

Fashion has been dynamic in recent years, but not in New York. Paris has changed silhouettes (Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga, Olivier Theyskens at Rochas, Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, in stunning succession), but New York has played it safe, sticking to its sportswear roots. It’s not that there haven’t been other terrific collections; there were this round as well. Oscar de la Renta remained loyal to his polished, grown-up clientele, who want mink-collared suits and marabou-kissed ball gowns, while also attracting a groovier group, the type who consider frill and flounce the ideal “bohemian” expression of their West Village, “I love the flea market” lives.

Francisco Costa at Calvin Klein paid homage to his label’s slick city minimalism, but still moved things along with funnel-necked coats and fuss-free evening dresses. At Proenza Schouler, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez made clothes that articulate perfectly the found-object mix-and-match that has lately dominated the “As Seen” pages of fashion magazines: boned lingerie against slouchy men’s trousers, hard metals against soft chiffons. Derek Lam’s clothes were light and cool. He touched the season’s major trends but gave them all an especially soft touch: He showed a loose velvet dress that’s smart for day, and pouf-skirted evening frocks that are voluminous and light. Ralph Lauren was typically unfussy and covetable, and Vera Wang revealed a hand for color and texture. Hers is a gentle chic that will make her ready-to-wear as popular as her bridal.

For New York, these small and lovely triumphs have been enough; they’ve often been great. But Jacobs raised the stakes. He pointed out that luxury and high fashion can emerge from a different school of thought than the simple application of high-gauge cashmere and milky piles of lynx—and still be wearable.

The next four pages explain what the style mavens among you will be wearing next fall. Perhaps not literally—you may take your fur faux, your velvet with less volume—but here’s the spirit, anyway. There are repeats of seasons past—metallic fabrics are really putting down roots, it seems—as well as ideas that are perfectly fresh, like an Empire waist on an evening gown that you just might wear with flats.

The Shape of Things