NYFW: VERA WANG F/W 2014

When I mention Vera Wang anywhere in the Midwest, people seem to automatically think “wedding gowns.” While that’s all well and good, that’s not what we’re talking about today. Today, we’re discussing ready-to-wear, which, trust me, for this season is about as far from wedding gowns as one can get. So, do yourself a favor and just put wedding gowns out of your mind for a moment.

With what shall you replace that image? Try this: bugs. No, I’m not kidding. “You bug me” is the theme for Vera Wang’s fall/winter ready-to-wear collection. Yes, there’s a sweatshirt for those of you sadistic enough to torture your acrophobic friends by wearing one around them. More to the point, though, there are bugs everywhere in this line, from patterns sewn into sweaters, to brooches and necklaces, to print patterns. There were times one could observe guests absolutely wiggling in their seats as the infestation of vermin paraded down the catwalk. The experience was really quite amusing.

One might ask, “Exactly what does one pair with bugs?” Ms. Wang suggests plaid, lots and lots of plaid. Even plaid on plaid is acceptable in this collection. The plaid is even more of an infestation than are the bugs! We’ll let the psychologists analyze exactly why the designer thought these two elements were an appropriate combination. The end result is a line of clothing that is much more surprising and fun than one might expect from a label whose name almost synonymous with “Here Comes the Bride.”

What we end up with is a fall collection that is at times sporty, at times casual, frequently sexy, and at times darkly romantic. Starting with all that plaid on plaid, one gets the feel of a young girl attending school in a dark Victorian manor, a place where discipline is harsh and girls catch bugs and beetles with which to torture their teachers. Touches of leather here and there hint at a bit of toughness.

The line then moves on to a darkly romantic floral print that might almost be considered sweet if it weren’t for the large silver moth brooch at the neckline or the jeweled beetle wrist piece. From there, the designer moves to a handful of pieces with brocade and embroidery over sheer tops, hinting at a bit of sexiness, but with enough bulk and material to them to still keep a person warm.

Nothing in this collection is very bright and use of color is extremely limited. As Ms. Wang moves into all black dresses there is a moment that feels almost sinister. One might even go so far as to think of a black widow, the person not the spider, while considering a dress cross-hatched with velvet over sheer as though it were constructing some type of well-styled web.

By the end of the show I was wondering if Ms. Wang had conceived this collection on a dark and stormy night. Flashes of lightening and rumbles of thunder would not have been an inappropriate sound track for this show.

What we have here is unquestionably the darker side of America’s favorite wedding gown designer. The result is spine-tinglingly wonderful.

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