Burning Bright

Five collections that kept us warm during New York Fashion Week. By Gabriel Bell
Brrrr! What was that about Global Warming?
For the last seven days, New York has been locked in a deep freeze and, wouldn't you know, it seems some designers have caught a case of frostbite. While all the expected characters arrived at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week with well-crafted fall/winter 2007 collections, we couldn't help but feel as if fashion was a little frozen this season—we weren't exactly shivering from excitement. Caution and care seemed to trump passion and progress, and even the more daring designers were buttoned-up against the chill. But rest assured, in between all the fur and front-row frenzy, Refinery29 was able to find enough truly inspiring independent embers to keep you warm and optimistic through the spring thaw.
Karen Walker
Last season's runway darling picks up right where she left off. The same reds, blues, and warm tweeds from her recent Land Girl collection were welcomed back as memories of warmer times. Walker's country lady seems to have come to the city where her tight, scallop-shouldered jackets and roomy field coats could survive any office—femininity intact. The theme centered on the dual life of a super-heroine and, while Lycra was present here and there, costume was a distant concept. Allusions to capes flowed from sharp, red jackets, wings hid on lapels and shoulders, while black leggings grounded basic colors. Still, the simple things—mature textured pants, butterfly textiles—saved the day.
Yigal Azrouel
Every look in this winningly unpretentious collection of generous knits and becalmed jersey dresses was so natural, so organic, that they seemed to be just taking a break from the cold before strolling back out to the sidewalk. Layered jackets and pullovers reflected New York style without distortion or distraction, and Azrouel's balanced palette of charcoals, smoky blues, and black actually enlivened what could have been a dark show. While the subtle Israeli's first attempt at a menswear lacked bite, his street-friendly designs managed to brush grunge without picking up any grime. Multiple utilitarian touches (henley collared blouses, fleece dresses and crisp leather jackets) and constant play between male and female conventions injected strength and confidence into the comfort and charm.
Jeremy Laing
In a season of few flourishes, Jeremy Laing managed to make a splash by simply perfecting the form and fits of his relaxed basics. This was minimalism without the severity, simplicity without cutting corners. Even the crowded, dense print he chose to mark the collection seemed muted in context. But this was far from a sleepy exercise as even loose garments were trim and at attention. A constructed mohair jacket greeted the crowd with a wonderful collar and understated dark ski pants demonstrated the young Canadian's increasing maturity. Wearable to the last look and unquestionably sophisticated, these flexible classics are the perfect way to bide time while we wait for Laing's eventual CFDA grant. Bets, anyone?
Alexander Wang
Slim, streamlined, and with just a dab of hip-hop, there's no slowing down these looks from Wang, who just keeps getting better. Elements of '80s New York Africanism blend with dark shirts, skirts, sweaters, and tight pants in unexpected ways. Combinations of black leather, pale denim, and dark vests, unseen since the Palladium closed, return in a new sleek, almost exotic mode. Beautifully pleated tunic tops and dresses stood alongside baggy, suspendered pants and a new line of men's looks that played with tight trousers and puffed sweaters. It was a little New Jack without being too Old School.
Talk about a revolution. Victoria Bartlett's tribute to feminist Suffragettes came off as a wryly militant collection of jersey vests, fatigue shorts, and bisected tops. As patent-leather boots marched down the runway, it became clear that even though Bartlett has transitioned from styling to design, she is still very much in charge of how her women wear their togs. From button-sleeves to impossibly sharp creases, everything was exactly in place. Russian sailor caps, military sashes, and VPL's classic bandage bras kept the mood light even if the martial subtext was not.
Five collections that kept us warm during New York Fashion Week.