Tell your seatmates it's your first time at a designer show and you're bound to learn a thing or two. "She has the best-dressed audience of any show… so many artist types," remarked one editor at Zero + Maria Cornejo's spring 2016 runway presentation Monday afternoon — my first. "She knows how to cut for women," said another. "Tall, short, thick, skinny. Even pieces that look like shriveled raisins on the hanger, you put them on and they fit you perfectly."
Another thing I learned at Cornejo's show? The photos don't begin to do her sculptural, ingeniously textured clothes justice. Take this off-the-shoulder top and ruffled maxi skirt combo, for example:
It looks like a nice brushwork print, doesn't it? What you don't see is how well each piece holds its form while the model moves, or that the brushstrokes have a crumpled-paper texture. In a later dress, it's almost impossible to see that the alla prima brushwork on a floor-length, off-the-shoulder dress is the effect of frayed edges:
It's rare to see these kinds of elaborate details in ready-to-wear clothes; I've only ever seen the like at Ralph Rucci. And as I mentioned, there's a wonderful sculptural quality to this collection, too: The clothes hold their form around — rather than reveal — the body, and the backs are as intricate, if not more so, than the fronts.
Another designer who pays attention to the backs of clothes is Phillip Lim, who celebrated his 10th anniversary at the label's show earlier that afternoon. For the set, Lim collaborated with installation artist Maya Lin (of Vietnam Veterans Memorial fame), who poured large heaps of compost onto the unfinished floors of Pier 94. It gave the industrial space an earthy feel, obscuring the models — not unpleasantly — in a bit of dust.
Designers often like to reprise their greatest hits at anniversary shows, but Lim used the occasion to push his vision forward. Still, looking at the beautifully folded back of an army green silk dress, or the diaphanous shell of a champagne-colored bomber jacket, it was a nice moment to reflect that Lim has accomplished exactly what he set out to do 10 years ago: create top-tier luxury clothes at a contemporary price point.
For spring 2016, Lim focused on the possibilities of the paper-bag waist, which looked ultra-luxurious atop silky, solid and floral-printed pants, skirts and shorts. About halfway through the lineup, he began to play with shirting, elongating white cotton tank tops and adding voluminous ruffles to shirts that had the effect of narrowing the waist. Later, navy and white pinstripes were juxtaposed asymmetrically with jungly florals on ruffled skirts and streamlined dresses in a way that was both visually appealing and very wearable. Black, olive and camel rounded out the final looks of the show, which were generally sporty.
Lim has proven especially adept at accessories, so it was worth noting the new boot and bag styles he's introducing for spring. The boots, rendered in leather and printed silk, had an usual shape: heeled, with both toe and heel cut-outs, ending either just above the ankle of mid-calf. The bags appeared in a variety of shapes, from envelope clutches to midsize messenger bags, chiefly marked by hanger-like silver clasps on one side.
Here's to another 10 years.