The Runway, Part II

More highlights from New York Fashion Week's indie shows.
Zero + Maria Cornejo
Unlike some audiences this week, one got the impression that many who gathered in SoHo for Maria Cornejo's spring/summer showing were not only interested in wearing what they saw, they could actually afford to buy it without an editorial discount. Again, the label that has cultivated a reputation for interesting geometries, experimental fabrics, and arresting patterns displayed some impressive pieces. Among the gray, blue, and orange constructions, a silk hexagon-patterned jumpsuit caught our eye, as did a metallic linen top and an off-shoulder bubble dress. Maria Cornejo has a unique ability to make forms that should appear heavy with internal construction (particularly a rhombus-shaped dress) seem light and airy.
It was a largely Danish crowd that gathered at Scandinavia House last night to watch Camilla Stærk showcase her S/S '08 collection, which according to Stærk herself, was inspired by "the women of Woody Allen's Manhattan and Stardust Memories, Muriel Hemingway, Meryl Streep, and Charlotte Rampling." This meant plenty of high waists, some great short-shorts, and lots of racer-backs that were more sexy than they were sporty. The collection was set in neutrals: a creamy beige, and various shades of gray—and then pinks, greens, and yellows added some summer flair. One standout shade was a canary yellow used in a perfectly unpredicatable way: in a pair of leather shorts. The one item that was the epitome of Camilla Stærk—an itty-bitty fitted black leather jacket that had just the right proportions and summed up what Stærk is all about—feminine but raw.
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While the concept of beauty may be debated at this week's various art openings in Chelsea, there was one local display where the ideal was alive and well. "Beautiful" is the word to describe this flowing collection of gowns, convertible coats and sun dresses from Thailand's Thakoon Panichgul—none other would really do. Above all, Thakoon's choice in patterns and textiles was outstanding. A green-and-blue striped pattern appeared on several weightless, pleated dresses at an angle that made the familiar lines come alive. A Japanese-print motif evolved through clear blue strapless tanks and slouchy shorts, eventually transforming into a shimmering black on matte black form used for a jaquard cocktail dress and a cinched-front number. From the asymmetric hang of Panichgul's tuxedo jacket to the countless acute-angled seams on a yellow shift dress, the cuts were as elegant and deft as the color choices.
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Obedient Sons
Though Obedient Sons titled their newest collection "The Kingstown Mutiny," designers Swaim and Christina Hutson continued to push their way further toward mainstream marketability and away from their politically charged roots. The sight of Obedient Son's backer, bassist Mike Drint of Green Day, greeting visitors at their chosen venue, The Women's National Republican Club, caused a touch of cognitive dissonance. All that went away however when the clean-cut collection of prep-school rugby wear, dining-hall togs, and spring-prom jackets strolled by to the sound of Fugazi. Straight-cut twill shorts, flattering sweatpants, gray club jackets with sharp shoulders, and cream sleeveless cardigans worked well on the men, but even better when re-proportioned for the girls. In a season where thin lapels and skinny ties have given way to a full preppy explosion, Obedient Sons have cornered the market on school pride with knit ties and honest-to-goodness letterman jackets.
Saturday & Sunday
Robert Geller
With memories of his work for the now now-disbanded Cloak, we started Saturday with Robert Geller's intimate presentation of fine, crisp mensware suitable for skate punks (Keds were in use) and more mature males (who will opt for the contrast-collar blazer?). Hip, yes—but Geller's balanced, sensitive approach steered the line far from hipster trash. A gray brushed grosgrain blazer was mature and versatile and we can't really recall ever seeing pilled denim before, but we're eager to see it again. Skinny pants were balanced by wide-leg trousers and the general charcoal-and-ash palette was accented by that neon chartreuse that's been chasing us from show to show this week. An eminently wearable mix of Cali and New York, this collection adds to Geller's growing reputation as a creator of thoughtful, thoroughly modern men's fashions.
Ohne Titel
While designers Alexa Adams and Flora Gill turned out one of the week's most refreshing perspectives on spring dressing this week, there was an even stronger message permeating: minimal doesn't have to mean mundane. Ohne Titel's vibrant interpretation of relaxed suits and close-fitting dresses had more than enough oomph with asymetrical seams, flattering proportions, and delicate African-inspired prints. Jolts of color were used in good measure, and a voluminous cranberry suit with plenty of elegant drape might have been garish, but with a less conventional cut, this look was a summer stunner
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A trip to Japan was the inspiration for Rodarte's s/s '08 fashion show, and that inspiration merged both ends of the aesthetic spectrum with hanami on one side—delicate cotton-candy creations studded with flowering vines—and anime characters with brightly hued ponytails, cartoonish studded gloves, and cigarette pants in bright sci-fi metallics on the other. The varied elements came together beautifully throughout and particularly in one ensemble: a bronze, hard-pleated skirt paired with an organically shaped sack jacket and floppy hat. Some dresses and gowns bordered on ice-skating costumes with embellished sheer panelling and flouncey fairy skirts. But, rest assured, the Mulleavy sisters' Rodarte stamp was strong through and through, revealing a a more diverse and expanded collection than ever before.
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Patrik Ervell
Well, at least Michael Stipe showed to lend support for Patrik Ervell's under-attended show at Pier59. It's always difficult to present during brunch hours, somewhat of a religious holiday for a portion of Ervell's audience. In any case, the clothes themselves were clearly well-tailored—the ash-colored tweed trousers, lime and lavender jeans and creased navy pants were thin, but never tight. A tan-pleated tux shirt was good and the rounded-collar shirts matched with convex-shouldered jackets pleased. But other than a natty houndstooth suit, this collection seemed to pull all its punches.
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Tim Hamilton
For the second spring/summer in a row, American Tim Hamilton paired a blazing red with black—an unusual seasonal combo, but we'll take all the excitement we can get. Hamilton's collection was focused in message while diverse in form and the seated showcase allowed him to play his speedy Londoner looks against touches of futurist prep. A shining silver metallic reversible trench seemed even more daring when contrasted with a complex, supple knit ivory coat. It's good to see that someone out there has their thinking cap on. From the blue shiny anorak to a crinkled parchment-colored cardigan, Hamilton's laboratory experiments were predominantly successful. It wasn't all theory and oversized silk bow ties however (though there were oversized silk bow ties.) Well-executed banded tanks, wide-waisted plaid shorts and a diagonal-striped button-up sweater were pleasingly approachable.
Photography by Joe Shemuel
United Bamboo
Thuy Pham and Miho Aoki turned down the volume on United Bamboo…not that they were ever loud. It's their penchant for experimenting with forms that only rarely overtakes their grasp of taste, never over-eager showmanship. There's a solid internal logic to United Bamboo—most notably available this season in their ivory circle-patterned blouses and woven waist skirts with origami trim for women and quilted T-shirts and black seersucker pants for men. Their were some poor choices in motifs on good clothes and some questionable applications of great ideas elsewhere. But the quiet stuff won us over; a plaid men's jacket in refreshing colors and a slate cabled short-sleeve sweater for women were winners. With a limited but lovely range of tones, Aoki and Pham completely sold us on what we liked, and made us gloss over what we didn't.
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VPL by Victoria Bartlett
Far less politically charged than anything we've seen from veteran stylist and ace-bandage provocateur Victoria Bartlett, VPL's spring/summer presentation in Chelsea started and ended quietly. Her continued use of medical motifs - her operating-room-chic shoulder caplets were back—and her ballet-practice shorts (this time with grommet-accented hems) picked up where last season left off. Bartlett's use of color was, as always, deft with creams, pinks and fall browns accented by bright yellow sobaku shorts and a darkly glamorous navy knit cowl. Jean Michael Cazabat's dark, polished flats and tortoise-shell stackers were a welcome blast of cool, winter air in this collection of easy breezy wraps and tanks.
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Poltock & Walsh
UK-based girls Fiamma Poltock and Katie Walsh brought a bit of London rebellion to an otherwise sleepy spring/summer season with a collection that pushed the envelope as opposed to blending into a predictable sea of neutrals. Colorful mille-feuille-style mini-skirts and dresses had a good-girl-gone-bad kind of vibe paired with sheer black nylons, and the duos adeptness at sculptural blouses and cascading gowns stood out. One major miss: black rocker pants that seemed not to be fit properly for any woman, let alone a fit-model. Overall, an inspired presentation with some curious, if not repetitive turns that will keep us watching for a few seasons to come.
Chris Benz
Anchor's away…Chris Benz's colorful, cheerful spring/summer collection at the appropriately chosen New York Yacht Club was a bright addition to the ever-growing resort-wear market. The three chromatically divided displays tauted near-day-glo pinks, apricots, chartreuse, and blues. The gabardine linen sport coat at one end of the room was darling, and the plaid Masai wrap on the other charmed. Even if the silk dresses and voluminous sheers in between were highly familiar, the loose looks and floppy, pigment-dyed sun hats brightened up our day.
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Reporting by Gabriel Bell, Naomi Nevitt, and Natalia Rachlin
More highlights from New York Fashion Week's indie shows.

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