Fall is really fashion’s golden season, when designers abandon floaty, dreamy cottons for weightier concerns: layers of rich textiles, wool, tweed, structure. Coincidentally, this season really is the most wonderful time to be a city-dweller, as the stifling, muggy air of August eases into the cool breezes coming around the corner of Hudson, Smith, or Orchard Street, and the overcast Sunday afternoons of October arrive, prodding you to curl up in a coffee shop and drink something sweet and warm.
Now, if you’re interested in the ebbs and flows of fashion, each of the aforementioned scenes has its requisite wardrobe as well: Tripping down the sidewalk evokes visions of swinging wool skirts just past the knee, paired with a trim little jacket and a huge luscious scarf. Maybe you toss your head and hail a cab? Like something out of a movie! Coffee shops, on the other hand, are the domain of cozy cardigans, corduroy blazers and slouchy jeans. Maybe boots? Oh my, and there’s all those sweaters lingering in that under-the-bed storage you were so proud of back in April. What do you even own that goes with this weather? All that’s in the front of the closet are wispy dresses and sandals. It’s hard to figure out where to start. We know.
Like picking up school books for the fall semester, the start of September heralds the beginning of the process of re-assembling one’s cool-weather wardrobe piece-by-piece: a blazer here, a pair of ankle boots there, the latest jeans, the best new sweater ever… the list goes on and on. Instead of just writing about the great new ideas we’ve seen for fall, we decided to recruit a couple of pretty young things and drag them off to Long Island City to have their pictures taken in a variety of of-the-moment duds.
Two perfectly lovely, completely sane human beings agreed to model for us in return for nothing more than deli-bought coffee and cheese danishes. We found an awe-inspiring backdrop: 5 Pointz, an outdoor art space in Queens covered in gorgeous graffiti curated by the artist Meres One. The perfectly decent folks at the Court Square Diner let our models change in their bathroom while I gossiped about movies at the counter. And finally, there was the pleasure of collaborating with two brilliant New York boutiques: TG 170 on the Lower East Side, which supplied stunning women’s wear, and Stuart & Wright in Fort Greene, which donated some great-looking pieces for men.
Despite being (mostly) strangers in the morning, we were laughing and finding new sunlit angles to shoot by the afternoon. There really is a kind of magic to a fashion shoot: Even amid the gritty warehouse streets across from P.S. 1, I looked away from the clicking and posing on more than one occasion to find us being watched by artists, deliverymen and passersby, all dreamily transfixed.
Editors Will Be Editors
Eric Magner recently published an in-depth series for JC Report on the death of trends, nicely timed for the big seasonal fashion shift into autumn. At first it seems obvious to a New Yorker (what can really be deemed a reigning trend, after all, in a city so dominated by subcultures?), but thinking about the phenomenon from a long-tail, globalism angle proves more interesting. Much like the Internet, fashion draws its inspiration and driving force from niche culture. Add to that the proliferation of “indie” designers (young upstarts who never apprenticed at a major house or paid their dues for years before their first solo collection), and you have a watershed moment in fashion, akin to the introduction of “alternative” music in the 90s. The subculture has become the culture, and designers are more interested in creating a singular aesthetic of their own than being a part of a worldwide aesthetic. Which makes the idea of trendcasting more of an editorial crutch than a genuine article, relegated to the vagaries of fashion editors’ eyes and pencils.
Even the godmothers of style (read: top-level fashion editors at Vogue and Elle) recently found themselves elaborating on two polarizing aesthetics as both being very au courant in the same breath. On one hand, designers have a renewed interest in the waist: Fall collections from the likes of Diane von Furstenberg, Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton have womanly curves, cinched waists and exquisitely tailored jackets. Running alongside this theme of crisp lines and travel-looking outfits (hats, scarves and riding boots!) is the English countryside “oh this old Chateau? It’s been in the family for years” look designers so often incorporate for fall, from Ralph Lauren to Dolce and Gabbana to Carolina Herrera. All of these fitted, belted, buttoned affairs have their basis in the body’s natural lines — hips, shoulders, waist. Yet at the same time, the fall runways also saw sweeping hemlines (the maxi dresses of spring evolved into long columns and ballooning skirts flowing past the knee), as well as drop-waisted, menswear-inspired silhouettes that seemed to focus more on draping than fitting. The latter trend finds a sense of power in volume. In the same way a Richard Serra sculpture impresses with its sheer scale, the oversize rounded coats at Marc Jacobs and the relaxed cardigans at Phillip Lim (not to mention the genie-meets-slouchy flowing pants nearly everywhere) seem to overpower their human forms, breaking free of the body itself and instituting a new frame based on lines of fabric over flesh and bones.
But everywhere there’s that delicious autumn leaf-inspired palette: reds, mustard yellows, warm oranges, deep greens and the periodic flash of a jewel-tone silk or gold dress. Here again the reigning colors diverge: on one hand, woodsy plaids; on the other, whimsical florals — does fall want to be masculine or feminine? It can’t seem to make up its mind.
Take It From Those Who Know: Shop Owners
No one has more to lose from mistaking a dud for a trend than the city’s retailers, who gamble every season on upcoming labels and exciting new looks. A quick conversation with Alec Stuart (of Stuart & Wright) revealed the extent to which the current fiscal downturn had been affecting retail. The price increases, particularly on coveted European labels, had skyrocketed: items one might have estimated at a certain price at the time of an order were up almost 25 percent because of the weak dollar and the price of shipping. Fortunately for the Brooklyn outpost, they’ve erred on the side of faultless French-chic labels like APC and Isabel Marant — APC’s coats and super-crisp jeans are pitch-perfect for right now, when you don’t want to spend a buck on something you won’t be able to wear next year. If you’re interested in buying into the plaid trend, a work shirt from Engineered Garments is manly yet slim, and the same brand also makes a truly spectacular selection of soft, slender ties.
Across the river on the Lower East Side, Terri Gillis has rounded up a smorgasbord of downtown labels for TG 170, ranging from Dickensian fitted jackets to one-of-a-kind handmade prison rings from a 90-year-old man (true story!). A soft check on a ballooning Grey Ant shirtdress is a graphic alternative to plaid, and almost everyone on set was obsessed with Hazel Brown’s cropped wool pants with bad-as-you-wanna-be suspenders. If you’re looking for something softer, however, try a simple tie-dye-ish silk shift from Corey Lynn Calter — again touching on the idea that one aesthetic’s counterpoint might only be a rack away in boutiques this fall.
On the New York Streets
It’s been widely reported that the fashion world has been revisiting the 90s, and it makes sense, especially if you think of the current fashion scene relating to the Alternative wave. Long lean dresses are so Calvin Klein circa 1992, as are the paper-thin tanks, plaid and grunge-inspired jeans in Alexander Wang’s much-lauded fall collection. I mean, Doc Martens are back? Hello?
But what really makes New York is the city’s hodgepodge mentality when it comes to style. Now more than ever, folks have really taken to blatantly mixing aeshetics, from clashing prints (tie-dye and stripes? Is nothing sacred?!) to ripped jeans and diamond necklaces. Plaid meets florals meets tweed, oversize bows are casually tucked under black leather biker vests and silk dresses are tucked into men’s trousers with the kind of devil-may-care panache that made women like Jane Birkin and Charlotte Rampling into icons. The bad news may be that the days of the trend are over (and your fall shopping bills will be a lot higher than they were in 2007), but the good new is, these are the gleaming moments — bookended by that first cool breeze and the chilly snap of the holidays — that seem ripe for new style icons to emerge.
Styling by Laurel and Charlotte Pinson
Photos by Adam Au
Models: Michael Stefanov and Alex Silva
Women’s wear provided by TG 170 (170 Ludlow Street, Manhattan)
Men’s wear provided by Stuart & Wright (85 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn)
Shot at 5Pointz: Artists Warehouse Space (45-46 Davis Street, Long Island City), 5ptz.com