Both designers went back to their roots for SS11. Cut was the star of each collection, each reworking minimalism in a season where it seems like everyone is striving to be the next Helmut Lang. But Rodriguez and Costa are anything but followers. Each has such a strong, focused voice--their collections stood out from the whitewashed masses like rays of light.
Narciso Rodriguez's show at the tents was a truly emotional experience. Everyone who matters in American fashion was there, and unlike many other shows where crowds of pushers and gawkers shuffle in the runways and down the aisles to get the best view, everyone was on their best behavior. The importance of the collection was evident even before the show had started.
Opening with Caroline Brasch Nielsen in a sleeveless gray shift dress followed by Katie Fogarty in a creme silk and gray linen dress, the look was instantly '90s. Clean, without any superfluous detailing, Rodriguez created an army of women that were simply beautiful. Rookie model Arizona walked in a nude bias cut silk dress that was effortless, and later as color was introduced, Shu Pei Qin wore a rose dress complete with red petal print. There were black suits infused with airiness, and finally in a breathtaking moment, Freja Beha Erichsen closed the show in a creme silk bias cut gown.
Instantly, one could feel the audience thinking the same thought, "Caroline Bessette Kennedy." But this collection wasn't a greatest hits by any means; it was a reconstruction of the ideas that made Rodriguez the American icon he is today. It wasn't a blonde idyllic Carolyn look-alike who closed, it was tattooed, hard-edged Freja, proving that Rodriguez's looks are fit for every type of woman.
Later in the week, Francisco Costa showed a comparably moving collection at Calvin Klein, so in demand that there were two shows running right after the other. I sat in on the second presentation, for press and buyers, a calmer affair, I'm assuming, than the first, which was filled with celebrities like Katie Holmes and Julianne Moore. Still, 39th Street was nearly closed down by the crowds of onlookers gathering outside the venue's doors.
Inside the vast white room, Costa presented a collection based on expert tailoring and a refined color sense. For seasons Calvin Klein was the front-runner in black and white fashion, and now when the rest of the world is turning to white, Costa introduced the most elegant coral and pacific blue. Narrow ties adorned the waists of many dresses and the boxy shape Costa favors has rounded around the edges, more conscious of the woman who's wearing it.
Lisanne de Jong emerged mid-show in a black racer-back dress cut high on the sides. But instead of being scandalous, it retained a body-con sensibility that made it truly captivating. Hanne Gaby Odiele strutted down the runway in a creme silk shirt and pants with a calfskin belt that added just the touch of hardness this soft ensemble needed. The show ended with a series of stark white silk dresses, each loose, lightly draped, and highlighting various erogenous zones. Lara Stone closed the show in a black belted dress--another breathtaking moment. Don't expect any more Lara this season; the newlywed won't be in London, Milan, or Paris she confirmed backstage.
Ultimately both Costa and Rodriguez breathed life into minimalism, blending structure with wearability and design with practicality. I never thought such a maximalist like myself would be so awed and moved by the purity at Narciso Rodriguez and Calvin Klein, but some beauty is universal it seems.