BY CONSTANCE C.R. WHITE
Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz and new talk-show host Samantha Bee aren’t the only Canadian-borns trying to woo New Yorkers. Several designers made the trek from Canada to New York to get noticed. It’s one indication that New York, abundantly blessed with homegrown talent, is an increasingly important global fashion center. But while there are no recent stories of a designer arriving here with one suitcase and a dream, and making it big overnight, there are plenty of folks from Canada, Paris and L.A. who believe this is the place to be, from L.A.’s Jeremy Scott to France’s Lamine Kouyate.
Jeremy Scott’s clothes have a sunny disposition. And that you could credit to his Los Angeles roots. You have to smile for a designer who references cowboys, outer space and Ren and Stimpy (the cartoon characters), all in the same collection. With females who looked like a cross between Dolly Parton and Brigitte Bardot, Scott sent the memo that childish and sensual can play together. There’ll be plenty of bared bellies come fall if Scott has anything to say about it. Pouty models in tight denim, plush sweaters and mini jackets bared their midriffs. Fabulous fake fur coats in prints or in toned-down black were some of the hottest around.
Scott has evolved and he assuredly took his pop concepts to new heights of sophistication and polish in both his Women’s and Men’s. You’ll find the cowboy boots irresistible. (No, this is not a Cruz reference.) Beaded and studded, and also done in brightly-hued rubber, these boots are made for walking. The fun skirts were, too, because you most assuredly couldn’t sit in them. Covered with hundreds of miniature novelties, the kind that used to pop out of the bubblegum machine, there were tiny whistles, Bazooka bubblegum, handbags, and bicycles in what is destined to be a collector’s item and even a museum piece.
While Scott was channeling country, Kouyate was getting down to the funk. “I was very influenced by the streets of New York and I love Jimmy Hendrix, George Clinton, people like that,” said Kouyate, who is based in Paris.
Kouyate’s gift is to seamlessly meld a bouillabaisse of cultures East and West in his work. Stirred into the pot were the designer’s characteristically defining prints and references to Mali, where he was born, and other cultures of Africa.
Quite literally, there was an urban shine to the collection, as in bright, shiny leggings, a gold foil jumpsuit, and a patterned pants suits with gold brocade. A long, neon orange and black, body-con knit dress over shimmery neon pink leggings, and big shagalicious furs popped.
Referencing sports is nothing new now. Stylized hoodies emblazoned with numbers had the designer’s own spin. Kouyate plans to move his business from Paris to New York this year, he told The Impression. Clearly, his designs, full of swagger, will be right at home.
On a totally different plane, Jene Park from Los Angeles brought West coast “attitude”. The creative director of the Thomas Wylde collection, Park understands luxury.
She’s a designer who comes across as unafraid to say what she means. You get the impression that if you met Park or her Thomas Wylde woman in a playground after dark, she’d be unafraid to mix it up. She uses the word “ferocious” in reference to her clothes. Not a term you immediately think of to describe fashion, or even necessarily consider a compliment. But these clothes are indeed ferocious, and that is most certainly a compliment. These are clothes you can “feel”: Emotionally engaging looks with fire. For instance, the scarlet red, wavy cashmere cape trimmed in fox over a plunging v-neck dress. Studded jackets and dresses were unapologetically feminine and sexy yet exceedingly refined.
Canadians Parris and Chloe Gordon touched down with Beaufille, (French students and speakers skip ahead to the next paragraph). “We like to put together the feminine and the masculine,” Chloe said of the name, which means handsome woman. Formerly known as Chloe Commes Parris, the line was at the Made space at the Standard Hotel.
The Gordons, sisters, who both design, achieved their goal with a gutsy oxblood leather coat, wide-lapel jackets with a Seventies vibe, and leather bell-bottom pants. Standouts included their bell-sleeved dresses and unconventional, artisanal knits.
There’s frequently a debate about whether contemporary belong on the runway. David Liu, a stylist and designer from Toronto, didn’t necessarily have a convincing answer one way or the other, but he did show a cute black flared jacket with pink bows. Short dresses were abundant, some close to the body and others with flirty flare. But it’s not too much to ask that if the shoes are too big for the models, the stuffing doesn’t spill out, and hems aren’t falling down in a major runway event. You are showing, after all, in New York.