Designers who have been showing for several seasons are no doubt envious of the success Protagonist — which presented at New York Fashion Week for the very first time on Wednesday — already enjoys. Born out of industry favorite store The Line (designer Kate Wendelborn is the twin sister of its co-founder, Morgan), the label has already been picked up by Barneys and Net-a-Porter. There aren't many two-year-old brands — and certainly not many Fashion Week first-timers —whose success has been so quickly assured.
At Protagonist's runway presentation on Wednesday, it wasn't difficult to see why the label is already doing so well with buyers. Wendelborn's background is in pattern-making, evident in her perfectly tailored, minimalist separates in expensive-looking wools, leathers and silks: a single-button black blazer softly pleated at the hips, worn with wide-legged black trousers; a collarless paneled coat in cognac-colored leather; a sharp-shouldered, ankle-grazing coat fastened by just two buttons. Details — like the partially detached collars on a columnar ivory knit dress and gray turtleneck sweater — make even the simplest garment special and interesting. These are the kinds of pieces high-powered women looking for a sophisticated uniform could live in.
In an interview after the presentation, Wendelborn noted that Protagonist's very first category, shirting, continues to be its bestselling, along with trousers. Last season, she sold her very first coat (a fluid trench style in gray), and this season she expanded her outerwear offerings considerably. She also introduced denim for the first time, light and medium-washed pairs that she ripped apart and put back together, sometimes with asymmetrical hems.
When asked about the lack of print and pattern in her collection — there was just one, in the form of a striking coat in checkerboard white and navy that was patterned together piece by piece — Wendelborn admitted that she had experimented with a number of prints, but they just weren't right. "I know everyone wants me to say [I'll do more prints]," she said. "But I'm not really a print person at all."
The clothes are plenty distinctive without them. See the fall 2015 collection in full below.