Designers reference riding gear to meet the needs of modern women.
Fashion and food are not always a perfect fit. But when Gabriela Hearst presented her Fall 2018 collection in the Café Altro Paradiso, where the chef is from her native Uruguay, she proved the relevance of the sense and sensibility that is making a mark on New York fashion.
The shapely tailoring and cashmere worn by models with velvet riding caps gave an immediate sense of women on the move – as well as a close-up of the fine woollen fabrics that come from, or are inspired by, her family’s South American ranch.
But lean, tailored outfits or geometrically striped knits were more than a smart and sleek way to fill a winter wardrobe. The designer’s mood board suggested a deeper and more powerful feeling about womanhood. In her research into Victorian coal miners and the early years of the American aviation industry, in which 65 per cent of workers were female, she discovered that by the Second World War nearly 45 per cent of America’s female population were earning a wage.
To all these women-at-work pictures on her wall, Gabriella added a poignant comment from Princess Diana: “People think at the end of the day that a man is the only answer to fulfilment; actually, a job is better for me.”
It is easy to say that all female designers think of themselves when creating a collection and in some ways Gabriela fits that description. Her choice of what to make and sell is personal – not least when she was researching the Metropolitan Museum archives for a men’s suit with female proportions and found one that had belonged to own her mother-in-law, Austine Hearst.
But with just three years of business under her belt – not to mention her sought-after leather bags, available by private sale only – the designer has cultivated an image.
Her clothes cannot be described as ‘slow’ fashion although, she says, “I think they are timeless, in a way.” But she is proud of making clothes from scratch – from the double-faced cashmere from the Uruguay farm to the outfits sold to customers of Bergdorf Goodman, Matches and Net-a-Porter.
“I’m thinking that cashmere is the new fur,” says the designer whose offerings among the tables decorated with mimosa included a lean, striped sweater dress in Merino cashmere and a multi-stitch fringed cashmere scarf from her not-for-profit artisan co-operative in Uruguay.
In just three years, Gabriella has proved that her designs have deep roots and that she can grow a business from clothes with more than a transitory presence in today’s world.
Derek Lam: Equestrian energy
Derek Lam has two fine skills: cut and colour. Put together as streamlined clothes worn by models walking through the elegant uptown Pool Room at the former Four Seasons space in the Seagram Building, there was a perfect blend of New York city looks melded with East Hampton casual.
In truth, you could take any piece, from a cut-away cashmere cape worn with a quilted skirt to a shadow of a pony on a white top with skinny black pants, and make them all seem appropriate for work or weekend.
What singles out the Derek Lam look is colour – palette mixes that give a tang of lush spring grass to a suede skirt and fiery red-and-yellow plaid to a simple T-shirt shape. The colours seemed a neat fit with those colourful prize ribbons at horsey events.
In previous seasons, the designer had seemed at odds with American fashion’s recent obsession with celebrity culture. But abruptly-changing mores have given his decent and useful clothes a boost.
Was the horse theme forced? It might have been – if the Lam had not been smart enough to corral the references and pay as much attention to a sweater in geometric blocks of vivid colour as to a cashmere poncho. And evening clothes were mostly just fine examples of shape and drape, neatly positioned between dress-up vulgarity and ‘Me Too’ demureness. First prize to Lam for cantering so gracefully to meet modern women’s needs.