Amidst the grey slush of NYFW, shining peaks from Jason Wu and Coach

Alexander Fury
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A pared-back look from the autumn/winter 2014 Jason Wu show

I’ve just arrived in New York for the latest round of shows. It’s been snowing, in case you haven’t heard. Looking out of my hotel window on the lower West side, you can see a few shining plains of gleaming white snow. The rest of it has been churned into an indeterminate grey mess, the colour of clam chowder.

I can’t help but draw a parallel between that, and New York fashion. Doesn’t it feel like you see remarkably few gleaming examples of crisp, deep new ideas, and an awful lot of slushy grey stuff?

That’s quite harsh. You get the grey slush in London, Milan and Paris too, those designers whose names you vaguely know but whose aesthetics simply can’t be pinpointed. But there seems to be so much stuff in New York: so many shows, so many clothes, so much fuss. The only thing you don’t have in abundance is time.

I landed late last night, so I didn’t get chance to see Jason Wu’s winter 2014 collection, shown a few days before his debut for Hugo Boss. I thought Wu may go hyper-feminine under his own label, to counteract the strict asceticism of Hugo Boss’ Teutonic heritage. The man sure does love a ruffle (Wu, not Hugh).

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A draped evening look from Jason Wu

Wu was having none of it. Instead, it was austerity, gleaming metal fastenings, stripped-back luxury. It reminded me, like his excellent spring show, of the early-to-mid 1990s. Incidentally that was a period when New York was king, before the explosive talents of Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan focussed the attention onto London (at least, for a few years).

Jason Wu, in my mind, is a natural successor to Oscar de la Renta. He creates great, wearable, luxurious clothes. There’s a feeling for old Hollywood glamour (shades of Marlene Dietrich’s Travis Banton best were evident in his winter offering, swinging wide-legged trousers and panne velvet column dresses), but it’s never camp. Or, at least, rarely.

There’s an uptown gloss to Wu’s clothes, and a refreshing sense that he isn’t trying to be cool. Sometimes he is, sometimes he isn’t. But plenty of people don’t want to look cool. They just want to look good.

There have been moments when the cool urge marred what Stuart Vevers did at Loewe. Hence, you wonder what he was expected to bring to Coach, the US accessories behemoth where he was installed late last year, to design their first ever clothing range. Were they after a cool factor? Or European luxury? Or a nice balance between the two, which is what they got.

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A look from Stuart Vever's Coach collection

Vever’s Coach debut was a fantastic, measured collection that, as with Wu, had an appealing realism. Albeit completely different: the Wu woman wouldn’t be caught dead in Coach’s Apollo-intarsia sweater, but the Coach girl (she’s definitely a girl with those bare legs and high hemlines, at least in Vever’s imagination) isn’t exactly a panne velvet person. She wears stuff like lumberjack checks and really great shearling coats and chunky accessories. Easy, peasy stuff.

The reason Coach worked so well was because the youthful humour and verve that sometimes came across as try-hard cool at Loewe is perfectly suited to the label, and its audience, and indeed to the city as a whole.

At least, that’s how it looks from pictures. Today there’s Prabal Gurung, Altuzarra and Alexander Wang. The new new York guard.

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