People couldn’t stop talking about the poncho (yes, really.) “It was fabulous!” one well-wisher trilled backstage. “It was very Chad,” another added. “You put it on and it’s so wonderful, it has pockets, I tried it on backstage,” the Stevens sisters behind jewelry line Anndra Neen enthused. (The beautiful ¾ length chokers they designed for the show were the subject of gushing themselves.)
The poncho in question was a blanket-length show closer, hand-dyed ivory and oxblood grosgrain, edged in a cotton twill tape–a recurring detail in this season’s collection. “Well, I used to wear them,” Chadwick Bell explained to me backstage. “I just wanted to make a more sophisticated one.”
Creating sophisticated versions of the clothes he remembered from his ’90s California childhood was Bell’s focus this season, drawing from “a journey of memories of [his] youth, from surfing with [his] father.” Along with the poncho, he re-visited the idea of suiting, infusing separates and single-breasted dresses with a minimalist tomboy aesthetic. The Chadwick Bell girl “hangs out with the guys. She’s a little bit of a mean girl. She’s cool. She surfs, she‘s cool, but she’s put together. She’s Southern California in a nutshell,” he explained. His suiting was soft but impactful, with crepe jackets paired with slouchy Bermuda shorts or deep thigh-vented skirts. A few athletic-cut crop tops were layered underneath, revealing hints of midriff (yep, crop tops are still huge). Colors were neutral, with pops of what Bell called “sun-faded yellow.”
To take a turn away from day into evening, Bell ventured briefly into Mexico, experimenting with Baja-style embroideries on sleeveless ivory tank dresses and sheer, frothy, leg-revealing skirts. One stunner was all business on the top, constructed of cuts of ivory and white jacquard stripes that were slashed and juxtaposed on top of a sheer, tulle bottom.