Quilted ensembles from Cashin’s designs for Russel Taylor Weatherwear.
One wondered what the future had in store for Adam Lippes after he narrowly escaped fashion purgatory and bought back his name from Kellwood two years ago. Since then he’s retooled his design manifesto and company culture, abandoning corporate ambition and distancing his clothes from a cannibalizing contemporary market. Today he runs a smaller and more familial operation, the kind required nowadays if a designer is to truly engage luxury clothing in a sound and sustainable manner. It’s certainly no easy feat but going by the clothes Lippes’s efforts have certainly been worthwhile.
Over the last several seasons he has distilled a design vernacular built on the tenets of the best of American fashion: ease, sportswear, classicism, timelessness. For many designers working in New York these tenets can become tenuous, reduced to corrupted clichés haphazardly spat out to journalists, conflating the words “classic” and “uninspired.” Should you ever forget what it means for a garment to be timeless, for it to truly evoke that rare sensation of imperishability, Adam Lippes serves as a refreshing reminder. The new resort collection reads like a “best of” of American fashion in the 1970s when its designers, armed with a minimalist rigor, soft fabrics, sportswear separates and a fashionably fluid line, championed a new modern woman. That those ideas, updated with a thoughtful and utterly contemporary sensibility, that they can look so new and bold today as they surely did then is a testament to their infinite appeal and Lippes’s adept ability in handling them. The spirits of Zoran and Halston are present in the floor-length monastic dresses, coats and square cut tops. Fabricated in the most luxurious silks and cashmeres they are no less minimal or exquisite than what those minimalist masters managed in their prime. The flirty but pragmatic appeal of a paper bag-waist in a striped cotton pajama pant and in a leather skirt echo Donna Karan and Louis Dell’Olio’s seductively sensible efforts for Anne Klein. The trapunto stitching used on collars, waistbands, and belts throughout the collection, notable on a v-neck Korean do bok top (rendered in fine silk and chambray) brought to mind the worldly explorations of Bonnie Cashin, a designer who never shied away from adapting an idea from the other side of the globe if it could coax a modern innovation.
To mention that the clothes Adam Lippes designs are impeccably crafted and finished is redundant as quality workmanship is necessity when addressing simplicity and minimalism. But, from design to construction, Lippes’s clothes are beautifully thought out. Every line, stitch and fold is crafted and considered. And whether it be silk, cashmere coating or humble cotton poplin, each fabric represents the most refined of their genre. It stands to be reiterated: the clothes are impeccable. And they must be, the customer Lippes addresses is a discerning one. She is a woman who demands the best and is to willing to pay for it. She can’t be bothered with trends or fashion shenanigans, she is too sure of herself for those. She expects her clothes, like all the best clothes do, to enhance her own natural appeal, not obscure it, and to grant her ease and therefore elegance as she gets on with her life. One could say after such a bold move to relaunch his name and under such risky auspices that Adam Lippes has come out a winner. Working out of an enchanted townhouse in the West Village, a real modern maison, he has escaped fashion’s distracting din, enabled to toil on his beautiful clothes with integrity. Indeed, Lippes champions forward, but the real winners are the women who get to wear his clothes and live in them.
Featuring Matthew Ames, Carmen Munoz, Patrik Ervell, Bonnie Cashin, Isaia, and Charles Kleibacker
And contributors Lori Goldstein, Zoe Ghertner, Cynthia Leung, Paul Kopkau, Alex John Beck, and Maria Chavez
If you can forgive the campy commentary and unconvincing models and see the clothes for what they are; a remarkably forward statement on dress, you can gain insight into the ingenuity and wit that defined Bonnie Cashin’s designs. Famous for her leather, it was the material’s simultaneous evocation of luxury and utility that enthralled Cashin’s imagination–proof of the formidable allure of a woman comfortable in her own skin.
The illustrations for two designs by Charles Kleibacker highlight his strict application of geometry to female anatomy, suggesting that such a direct design concept is, in and of itself, all that is really necessary.
An iconic Valentina image: perhaps no other couturier built such an elitist reputation by subscribing to the sparest sensibility – allowing the idea of exclusion in its purest form to dictate the aesthetic and the etiquette.
While many collections took their cue from YSL’s romance and the exihibit of the designer’s work that was held at the Petite Palais – a perfectly reactionary move against overhyped “minimalism” – there were several designers who seemed to be genuinely interested in pursuing a calmer course. Maybe the term “minimalism” is a misnomer, it isn’t really about the “least possible”, is it? In the 90′s, designers stripped their clothes down to their most abstract forms, removing centuries of convention of what clothes are supposed to be and becoming a gateway for the rest of the industry (like most modernist aesthetics) into lazy design. But the collections from New York and Paris are very designed, with the rich fabrics and the luxurious details, there is nothing minimal about them. Maybe there is no noble philosophy behind them, they are not an ascetic grasp for purity, and maybe they are actually bit common at surface, but they are certainly easy to wear.
Historically it’s been an American tenet that clothes are to be designed with ease and practicality. No, Americans didn’t invent ready-to-wear or sportswear, but their predilection for them has pointed towards an unfettered design vocabulary and clothes that have no use for any excess concept. Beyond ruffles or eccentric prints, embroideries or gems, there are means for aesthetics inherent in clothes themselves, in their seams, the fabric, and in their application to everyday life. Minimal? Not exactly. Pragmatic? Absolutely. Maybe it is enough, more than enough, to dress a woman well.
Definition of PRAGMATISM
: a practical approach to problems and affairs
: an American movement in philosophy founded by C. S. Peirce and William James and marked by the doctrines that the meaning of conceptions is to be sought in their practical bearings, that the function of thought is to guide action, and that that truth is preeminently to be tested by the practical consequences of belief
– Merriam Webster dictionary