There's been a slushy sludge attack at New York Fashion Week. Quite literally, tons of slush on the streets and then sludgy shades on the catwalk. Now, I don't mind a bit of slush (I'm well equipped with sludge-attack shoes – see previous post), nor am I particularly against the sludge. Save for the tiresome headline wordplays on Fifty Shades of Grey, I'm actually quite partial to a subdued palette of greys (so many delicious shades – heather, dove, granite, charcoal, oyster) or the textural workings of khaki, black and dark blues. The mood of the collections and the current weather climate have blended into each other quite seamlessly at times. Again, I have no beef with this pervasive need to dress to protect and swathe oneself in layers of sludge.
However for a bit of respite, Saturday night at Made at Milk Studios was where I could come up for air and breathe in some much needed print and colour. It was a trio of designers that all happened to be coming in from abroad, braving storm delays and rickety flights to dazzle our eyes with a decidedly upbeat tone. Calla, Louise Amstrup and Ostwald Helgason – I salute you for your bravery to not run with the sludge tidal wave and go forth with your own insticts.
The one that I've unfortunately missed off here due to my mad dash to get to Altuzarra, was Jonathan Simkhai, which is a shame because it looked like geometric goodness. The collection would have been the perfect fourth counterpart to this print-lovin' quad of designers. I'll delve deeper into Simkhai later when I do a New York post-fashion week trip.
For a few words on the "proper" biggie shows, I'm also currently covering a few shows for the Telegraph website (done Prabal Gurung and Thakoon so far) if you're interested in reviews that don't just go "I WANT TO WEAR ALL OF THIS!"
Calla - Well, colour me Calla. I walked into the space and was literally dazzled. Yes, I'm well aware that print is Calla Haynes' schtick and that I shouldn't expect anything less but her A/W 13-4 collection was even more vibrant and peppy than usual. Put it down to her highly relatable references of anything from her cat wrapped up in fairy lights when she was a child, video games like The Legend of Zelda, Tetris and Michel Gondry's dreamscape filled film The Science of Sleep. Tick, tick and double tick. These multimedia inspiration points informed her prints for the season and in addition, she worked on mixing up her textures to add a different dimension to her usual well-accomplished print-based body of work. There's a Tron print which juxtaposed yellow watercolour blotches with NASA space imagery. A Hyrule print inspired by Legend of Zelda mixes gaming action with explosive florals. Some nubbly tweeds courtesy of the French mill Mahlia Kent riffed off of Tetris blocks in saccharine pastel shades and there was also mauve tweed where pops of orange and green yarns popped up like computer pixels. More graphic Tetris bricks graced a silk twill suit in deep purple and denim twill pastel jeans. The Austrian-born experimental knitwear designer Michaela Buerger created chunky hand-knit sweaters that recreated videogame imagery with organic yarns, kind of like how Gael Garc√≠a Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg's characters in The Science of Sleep decided to create a choppy sea and boat with cellophane and paper cartons. There was something even more delightful and delicious to this collection than previous Calla collections that I can't quite articulate. It's a feeling of happiness and satisfaction perhaps that Haynes has now hit her stride after establishing her presentations in New York.
Louise Amstrup - It worked for Ostwald Helgason to shift their presentation location from London to New York after knocking on the door of the British Fashion Council for so long and so it is that we have another London-transplant that has decided to make her Made Milk debut. I wrote about Louise Amstrup's work in the very very early days of Style Bubble and since then, this Danish-born, London-based designer has come on leaps and bounds, trying to experiment with her design DNA and all the while, presenting during London Fashion Week in different capacities. Her recent seasons have been particularly strong but haven't had the attention they deserve. A/W 13-4, making her 10th season in fashion, is no exception and hopefully the New York crowd have welcomed her with open arms. Based on the 2004 documentary Plagues and Pleasure on the Salton Sea about a ghost town in the Californian desert tipped to become the new Palm Springs, Amstrup looked at the underwater creatures and crystallisation patterns that she imagines might exist in the Salton Sea universe. Thus the explosive prints, which appeared to look like floral prints were in fact highly abstracted images of salt crystals and nudibranch molluscs. Amstrup upped her technical game with a beautiful flower skirt made out of hundreds of hand-stitch organza petals. The print jumps out in all instances but textures such as grey nubbly tweed, transparent netting and silk twill bonded with organza also add interest to a collection where there's more that meets the eye. It was also highly focused with Amstrup and her stylist Anders Solvesten Thomsen choosing to show just twelve looks. The collection is of course bigger than that but for her New York debut, it felt right to go with the less is more approach to really capture people's imaginations.
Ostwald Helgason - Finally, we have Ostwald Helgason, who are living proof that trekking across the Atlantic and seeking fortune in New York reaps rewards in fashion. The duo have seen an explosive rise in the last year or so with all the street style biggies clamouring to wear their collections and retailers readily getting onboard as well. Their A/W 13-4 presentation in New York almost didn't happen with storm Nemo causing flight havoc. Susanne Ostwald wasn't present so Ingvar Helgason was flying solo for the night. It's a precursory presentation to their bigger and more elaborate event that they'll be doing in London. Ah, I see how things go. Ostwald Helgason have sniffed a bit of success and suddenly London wants to claim them as their own again. I'm promised there are more looks than what was presented in New York but what we saw definitely wet the appetite. In an intriguing inspiration collision, the duo looked at the 19th century French poet Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal and somehow related it to the feisty plant antics of Little Shop of Horrors. Weird. But it worked? William Morris plant and floral motifs dotted the collection and the rich sumptuous fabrics that Ostwald Helgason are adept are picking out are even more luxe this season with gold brocades, sparkly tinsel knits and metallic geometrics. Geometric prints and simple checks broke up the lavishness though and as expected those sporty shapes of sweatshirts, board shorts, preppy buttoned-up shirts and polo shirt dresses again contrast with their more decadent sensibility this season. The humour of their referencing is subtly worked into a folliage print where you can just about see the eyes of a naughty plant waiting to wreck havoc. Apparently there's more evidence of that humour in the full collection which was stuck in London. The conclusion to this story of plant species intertwining will be fully unveiled this Friday. Does this necessarily mean that the duo will be fully London-bound again? Doubtful. Their New York presentation was packed to the brim with choruses of "Oohs" and "Aaahs".