nyfw: richard chai love

(images via ny mag)

while opt is already deep in the trenches of the s/s 2012 season, having been discussing it back as far as may or june with the brazilian and australian shows, new york nevertheless represents the start for most fashionie-types.  either way, only a day or so in and we’re already getting strong vibrations out of the designers as to what the season is going to be about (and it’s not that different from that which the likes of rio de janeiro, stockholm, berlin, and sydney have been pushing: colour, nineties references, and streetwear! galore). 

thus, with the commencement of the spring richard chai love show, we’re seeing those emphatic pops with a bang.  this season, it would seem, designers have finally realized we neither want to dress like we’re for sale (whatever the ‘in the economy’ protests) nor like we’re attending a funeral for the death of the stock market…there has to be a better way.  and there is, it seems: the collection we’re viewing now.  wwd nicely described it as “a hippie surf vibe…bohemian without turning crunchy,” while the nyt’s eric wilson likened the range to back-to-school “athletic-influenced street wear.”

in prior seasons (see f/w 2010, s/s 2011, f/w 2011), the designer has opted for a much darker (rather grunge-inspired) palette, so if at first one felt a bit of a shock that things were so mixed up, it shouldn’t be a surprise.  however, after a bit of reflection, i rather chalked this up to the colour choices which effected such a feeling of diversification; gone were the grays and olives, in their place lemon citron, hot pink, navy, electric blue, lilac, coral, and jade, with stripes and florals working both separately and together.  materials, fab sugar informs us, included chiffon, silk, cotton, and mesh.

although most reviewers, such as the ny post, spent as much time rhapsodizing over the electric kool aid candy land makeup shades on eyes and lips, it would be a mistake to miss the clothes themselves. this season the designer seems to have really hit his stride as a purveyor of edgy layering pieces, and though there was a youthful cheekiness in the slouchy trousers, neat little blazers, flippy (and often sleeveless) frocks, and menswear-esque shortsleeved button-ups, neither were the clothes ridiculously young (like too many designs are getting to be nowadays, clutching with desperately and bloodied groping fingers to an edge of a cliff, crumbling even as one fumbles for it, the bits of rock and sand slipping away as time, no matter how we might wish to clutch to that dewy age). 

the hottest topic of the moment, meanwhile, seemed to be the viability of the miniskirts-over-pants styles (as second from top) which occasionally punctuated the runway.  the fashion spot’s review bitched that they were “(o)ddball,” but fab sugar praised them, while wwd termed them “charmingly wacky” and opt, too, approves.  the layers are one of mr. chai’s signatures, and he does them so well as that girl you knew in high school or college, able to pull the most diverse pieces together in a single outfit which, to all reason (and on yourself), would have looked atrocious, yet–somehow, somehow–she made it work.  so, okay, not for everyone, lest you have a big fashion persona. 

and finally, on a note which is always contentious, but i feel here deserves a little bit of love and mention (at least on the first day of nyfw): it seems that the catwalks have been a little less whitewashed than usual.  that, of course, isn’t to say that we shouldn’t keep mixing it up (especially with regards to age and size which seem unchanged as ever), but all of the designers i have inspected so far, mr. chai included, have seemed to make at least some effort to include several models of colour.  in mr. chai’s case, a couple of rising industry stars: liu wen (fifth from bottom) and nyasha matonhodze (sixth from top).  especially after the all-but-transluscent swedish catwalks, this is a real pleasure.  let’s hope we continue to see improvement in the coming weeks, and good for mr. chai for his thoughts in casting. 

(watch the complete catwalk video here)