Editors’ picks: analytical review of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, spring/summer 2014

October 16, 2013

By Hannah Yakobi, Katherine Ellis, Katia Ostapets and Julia Eskins

Photography by Tara West

This season, our senior editorial team collaborated to share picks and favourite shows with the readers. Our “panel of judges” included Hannah Yakobi (Editor-in-Chief), Katherine Ellis (Executive Editor), Katia Ostapets (Events Editor) and Julia Eskins (Features Editor).

Let the critique begin.

Hannah Yakobi

Carolina Herrera

It’s a well-known fact that I’m a huge fan of Carolina Herrera’s work. Her stunning gowns made a much-anticipated comeback this season and served as an effective opener. They had a light summer feel and thematically worked quite well together. 

Having said that, I was surprised by the random appearance of a swimsuit in the middle of the show. This was followed by suits, chic maxi dresses and more gowns. Although all pieces were masterfully tailored and stood out on their own, the collection just didn’t “flow” for me thematically; the colour scheme was not fully consistent and the continued switching between very casual and very formal pieces was quite distracting.

A couple of corset-fitted pieces still won me over. This may not have been Carolina’s strongest line, but it was certainly full of surprises.

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Vera Wang

Vera Wang’s runway presentation opened with a lot of black, mesh and structured pieces, slowly transitioning into various shades of blue, yellow, red, white and plenty of colour-blocking. Thematically, everything was very consistent, from minimalistic pieces, punctuated by fabric combinations, to embellishments and varied lengths.

Flowing fabrics added a touch of femininity, but they were superimposed with almost sporty-looking headbands that stripped the looks of their delicate presentation. This was, perhaps, the only weakness of the collection. The headbands contrasted too much with the soft fabrics and six-inch heels — I almost expected a fabulous perm-style hairdo instead, which would have added more sex appeal.

Wang tapped into a sporty-versus-glamorous contrast. Hiding the models’ hair may not have worked for me, but it certainly brought the focus to the fabulous clothing on the runway.

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Betsey Johnson

Very few people know how to party like Betsey. I remember randomly walking into her fashion show’s after-party a few seasons ago. It was late at night. The alcohol was flowing, the bartenders were smiling in Betsey’s dresses and the Stone Rose Lounge in New York City was filled to the max. Suddenly, the legendary designer appeared and started to dance energetically with the DJ. The fashion crowd went crazy, screaming her name. It was a fun night!

On the catwalk, Betsey does splits and cartwheels. She is now in her 70s, but she has the energy of a 15-year-old. She also knows how to make a woman look sexy, pretty and cool — all at the same time.

On the runways of New York, the spring/summer 2014 collection carried her signature punk-chic looks, spiced up with oversized pink wigs and pink-contour sunglasses. There were capris, crop tops, flowing dresses and hats. There was an influence of the ’60s, combined with swimwear and muted colour schemes. It was perfectly executed. At one point, the looks got a bit repetitive, but Betsey was quick to add more colour and experiment with various styles to keep it fresh.

And, of course, there was dancing — no Betsey show ever celebrates fashion without celebrating life.

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Katherine Ellis

Rachel Zoe

Rachel Zoe, the designer and stylist, is known for her ’70s-inspired looks. Her fascination with the disco decade once again made its way down the runway at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Zoe presented a varied ready-to-wear collection, which ranged from white and distressed denim to a structured, brown leather safari jacket with leather shorts, as well as the last piece — a maxi, deep V, sheer chevron dress — the epitome of sexy, easy and ’70s cool.

Though a few patterns emerged on the runway in this safari/sportswear-inspired line, the collection followed the trend of minimal colour this season. Sticking to a colour palette of black, white, earthy greens and browns, as well as gold and silver; it was a breath of fresh air, however, when a light-pink lace mini dress brought a little bit of colour.

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Michael Kors

It might be a cold spring and hot summer season next year — well, at least according to the recent Michael Kors collection. Knits and crochet were mixed in with bathing suits, and shorts and pencil skirts paired with bra-like tops.

Kors’ line presented a definite combination of different decades, but all with a romantic feel. From sleeveless vests over flirty dresses and skinny belts at the waist, to pencil skirts and wide-leg trousers, this ready-to-wear collection showed outfits for any type of occasion: a day at the office, a day at the beach or even just a stroll on a Sunday morning.

However, a few prints, such as the ’70s floral motifs and the placement of some cut–outs, left much to be desired.

Still, some of the standouts for me included the beautiful trench coats (a must-have for next season — if you don’t have one, get one), trendy high-waisted bathing suits, flirty dresses, and sheer top dresses with mermaid or pencil skirt bottoms.

Next season, expect to see sheer materials, floral prints, cut-outs and high-waisted anything (pants, skirts and dresses). I can’t wait to see what Mr. Kors does next!

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Zang Toi

Zang Toi’s spring/summer 2014 collection’s inspiration came through with the flutter of ballet shoes completing a chassé across the runway. Toi’s muse for this collection — principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre Cory Stearns — opened the show with a powerful but graceful dance.

Then came the clothes. A markedly darker collection than most on the runways this season, the devil was in the details for Toi. Pops of light blue and pink gave the collection lightness, and details — such as fabric flowers and neck and shoulder pieces lined with tulle — created depth on the dark fabrics.

A mix of voluminous gowns, two-piece jacket/pantsuits and short dresses presented a powerful image of the Zang Toi woman: she was not afraid to wear dark colours in a time when most people want to break out of the fall/winter colour scheme.

Some of my stand out pieces included a slinky black dress adorned with floral details, and a light blue floor-length gown with silver epaulettes and an open back. The A-line black gown with light blue lining, presented a striking silhouette and colour.

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Julia Eskins

Clover Canyon

With airy organza dresses and hypnotic ’60s-inspired prints, L.A.-based label Clover Canyon captured Southern California in its prime. The collection, titled Local Light, paid homage to modernist art and architecture, including John Lautner’s Chemosphere house and Roy Lichtenstein’s paintings.

While still embracing trendy silhouettes and graphic black-and-white stripes, the collection felt fresh and eclectic. Using bright colours, laser cut techniques and a playful mix of prints, designer Rozae Nichols brought a bit of SoCal to the runway.

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Pamella Roland

This season, Pamella Roland drew inspiration from the Cannes International Film Festival and leading ladies on the Red Carpet. Taking a cue from the ’60s, many of the looks incorporated mod silhouettes, geometric patterns and heavy embellishments.

The mainly neutral collection was accented with powder blue, coral, pink and yellow. While some of the collection veered into the garish category, many of the Grace Kelly-inspired silk dresses seemed fitting for an international film festival.

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Falguni & Shane Peacock

Call it cyborg couture, but space-age frocks have never looked so chic. Combining futuristic elements, otherworldly prints and feminine lines, Falguni and Shane Peacock introduced us to their latest rock ’n’ roll sci-fi collection.

With architectural shapes and geometric cut-outs, the design duo showcased many flattering and wearable pieces — save for the astronaut headgear. The collection featured their signature embellishments, including feathers, beads, sequins and even some circuit board.

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Katia Ostapets

Badgley Mischka

If you were looking for timeless elegance this season, the Badgley Mischka show was just that. A mix of classic pieces, such as ’40s blouses and ’60s jackets, produced an overall vintage feel. The collage of references to various decades was complete with the addition of cloche hats and hair that was styled in a flapper-like bob. However, it did not detract from the overall sophistication of the looks. I particularly enjoyed the playful nature of the resort-style ensembles with their long silk pants, skirt-like shorts and antique shades.

The second half of the collection began abruptly by exclusively showing eveningwear and giving little reference to the vintage-themed first half. A lot of classic shapes were presented, primarily in white, navy, red and coral. The predictability of the gown styles was saved by the sumptuous nature of the silk from which they were made.

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Reem Acra

Reem Acra has a thing for drama. This season’s collection, fit for “a queen of the night,” was no exception. It evoked a mix of an elegant Upper East Side fashionista and a dangerously sexy femme fatale.

The fabrics focused on a spectrum of gold, black and bright orange and were either body-clinging or loose and sheer. I must admit I always excitedly await her closing looks, as the intricately crafted and extraordinarily glamorous gowns are nothing less than works of art.

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Jenny Packham

This being my first Jenny Packham show, I was not sure what to expect. Sure, I’ve followed the styles of the Duchess of Cambridge and who hasn’t seen the famous wedding gown and bridesmaid dress, but what would Packham show on the catwalk? I was curious.

The answer: cobalt, yellow, chartreuse and shades of grey in nothing but silk. Fun party pieces with references to the 1910s and 1920s started the collection, and consisted of short dresses with dropped waists and blouse-and-maxi-skirt combinations.

By the time we reached what I like to call the “grey period,” the dresses turned into gowns. Sheer skirts gave the line some sex appeal, while others were quite loose and more appropriate for resort wear than eveningwear. My main compliment to Packham is that she picked a direction and went with it, with some of the final looks incorporating even Victorian details and flapper hemlines.

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