22-Aug, 04:03

10:31, February 14 236 0

2017-02-14 10:31:09
Fashion Review: The Great Fashion Week Migration

Stars and stripes were projected on the Beaux-Arts facade of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue. The steps were lined with a green stream of Statue of Liberty impersonators. The rotunda was filled with an equally round proscenium, complete with drum set and keyboards waiting for The Kills to take the stage. The show was an hour late. Everyone was waiting for Madonna.

Not me. I left after it hadn’t started by 10 p.m., and I checkedout it on my computer.

No one embraces their own terrible taste with as much unrepentant gusto as the German designer Philipp Plein, who usually shows in Milan but who on Monday night brought his P .T. Barnum fashion to New York for the first time, seemingly with no sense of how tone-deaf the whole display was — from bustier to thigh-high boots, from fire-and-brimstone embroidery to NASA puffer coats.

There’s a great fashion week migration going on. Designers are switching cities left and right. Does it matter?

Mr. Plein came to New York because he is expanding in the United States, and on each seat was a look book urging to “Make New York Fashion Week great again.” But what he showed wasn’t style. It was self-indulgence. Don’t be distracted by the pyrotechnics. For fashion, you had to look elsewhere: to a show that heralded a beginning, and one that marked an ending.

At Oscar de la Renta, a house that has been in some turmoil since the death of its founder in 2014, the former design director Laura Kim and design assistant Fernando Garcia made their debut as creative directors just under two years after they left to start their own brand, Monse, which they showed before the Oscar collection, as a kind of opening act. And at Proenza Schouler, the designers Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough, favorite sons of the city, were saying farewell; as of July, they will move their show to Europe and to the couture schedule.

Both collections were worthy of attention because of what they put on the runway: ideas that reflected a turning point. It’s where we are.

Mr. Garcia and Ms. Kim took some shears to de la Renta, where they gave the brand the fashion equivalent of a haircut, transforming it from a shellacked bouffant into slick, swinging ponytail. Off with the frills!

“When I was trying to get them to come back, Fernando said, ‘You know, I’m afraid you don’t have the guts to make it young,’ ” Alexander Bolen, the brand’s chief executive, said in a preview before the show. But “young” is a relative term. The Monse collection was younger in the poet-meets-pirates-of-venture-capital sense (lots of shoulders unzipped to show skin, cargo pants, shearling, albeit too many flapping luggage strap belts, terrific twisted velvets). De la Renta, immediately afterward, was younger in a flexible, Pilates-sculpted sense. Full of … pants.

“Oscar didn’t show a lot of pants,” Mr. Bolen said. Baby steps.

Black cigarette numbers were paired with everything from standard tuxedo jackets to devoré and mini paillette-paved corsetry molded or draped at the hips. That mix of smoking elegance and heritage swag has become a familiar trope of a new designer at an old house since Raf Simons landed at Dior (his now-former job), but that doesn’t make it any less attractive.

Also good: small-shoulder ankle-length coats slit above the waist at the side for an elongated line, strapless bell-shape party dresses that hit not the floor but the ankle, and a color palette that mixed silver with shell pink and orange, or sea blue with forest green and black. It wasn’t as original as Monse (it wasn’t so original at all), and it isn’t necessarily time to bring back the mini-pouf skirt (also: who wants to wear a giant fur skirt?), but the show was coherent and had a cosmopolitan, cleaned-up edge. Martini glass optional.

The arty edge, however, belongs to Proenza Schouler, a brand that began colonizing the Chelsea gallery scene more than a decade ago — at least as it exists in some shared industrial-chic imagination. This collection was a case in point, dipping in and out of a familiar vocabulary: high-waist trousers bloused at the hip and pegged at the ankle, oversize outerwear dangling skinny logo ribbons from zippers, and jackets wrapped and belted at the waist, so pockets were pulled atop (a treatment that also showed up more specifically at The Row in a lavishly understated collection).

There were bandage dresses and sheer knits spliced with curving streams of color; splatter shirts and half-moon cutouts at the waist and hips that veiled or revealed layers and skin in equal measure; graffiti knits and tunics made of Latex-lacquered squiggles.

Backstage after the show, Mr. Hernandez, bouncing on his toes, said it was inspired by “our memories of New York,” from “street art to Sonic Youth to Abstract Expressionism.”

“It’s not time to sit around in your bathrobe,” he added enthusiastically. “It’s time to experiment!” Still, this looked less like an experiment than self-appropriation.

You can understand it, given that this aesthetic has always played so well in New York, where a cluster of women recognize themselves, or at least their ambitions and fantasies, in the clothes. But it’s starting to get predictable. Whether it will play as well in Paris is now the question.