Feb 15, 2017
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Posen ditches NY runway to promote fashion democracy

Feb 15, 2017

Designers live to set trends, and celebrity favorite Zac Posen sought to jolt New York fashion out of its slumber party by ditching the runway for portraiture on Valentine's Day.

The 36-year-old designer of many hats -- television star in "Project Runway," creative director of Brooks Brothers womenswear and author of a prospective cookbook -- invited friends, family, fashion editors, models, bright young things, and of course the press to a Tribeca loft.

Guests were free to mingle in front of 20 photographs and a silent video of a handful of models wearing a paired-down fall/winter 2017 collection, shot in his artist father's Soho studio.

"This is about a democratic look of beauty and women, craft and communication," Posen told AFP, explaining the concept. "Everybody will have the same images to share, the same moving videos."

Rooted in the 1940s, the collection exemplified Posen's love of construction -- tailoring techniques, embroidery, velvet ribbons and threadwork onto mesh and organza. Colors were burnt orange, burgundy bronze and midnight blue, and of course the ever present black.

Selecting relatively few looks was also his answer to the great flux in which fashion finds itself: how to keep the customer hooked when six months traditionally separates the runway to stock in shops.

Giants such as Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and Tom Ford, and a sprinkling of smaller bands have tried to solve the problem in a different way by instead offering spring/summer 2017.

Posen said he would build up his collection closer to the release date, but said his shoes would be shoppable online in a week.

- Different time -

The exhibition was as buzzing as a trendy gallery opening, the layout allowing a bigger guest list than a runway show. Guests sipped on mini bottles of Pommery, and nibbled finger sandwiches and macarons.

The overall effect was at least different in a week of few standout shows apart from Raf Simons' much admired debut for Calvin Klein.

"I love the theatrics of the runway, but I think right now it's a different time," said Posen, who is foregoing the traditional catwalk for the first time in his already 15-year career.

"I like that we can stand in front of an image and have a conversation about what we're seeing," he said.

But Posen sought to avoid much of the political commentary that has clung like a limpet to fashion week with America's cultural elite largely up in arms over President Donald Trump.

"I'm not using politics as a marketing tool," Posen told AFP.

"No theme, timelessness, beauty, elegance," he said.

Nevertheless his party favor bags included the hot-pink pins in support of Planned Parenthood, the women's healthcare provider that Trump wants to defund, and which dozens of designers are supporting.

- Hepburn power -

The morning highlight of day six was multimillionaire designer Tory Burch, who unveiled a Katharine Hepburn inspired collection designed for the modern, elegant and powerful woman.

It was a show that oozed class at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where the winter sun poured through the windows and a red hardback of love poems was carefully laid out for each guest.

"To me, she is a hero," Burch told AFP of Hepburn, the late screen legend. "I think she personifies powerful women in a way, she was very irreverent and outspoken and did it with such grace."

But the opening look -- a white coat and white pants -- was difficult to dissociate with anyone other than Hillary Clinton, her most iconic look on her presidential run last year that Burch supported.

From a classic navy pant suit, to a waist accentuated by sparkling buttons, to a Fair Isle winter sweater paired with velvet pants or jacquard skirt, they could have been staples from a chic 1950s closet.

Burch, whom Forbes ranks 73 on the list of the world's most powerful women, said she had been "greatly affected" by the women's march on Washington after Trump's inauguration.

"I think that it's bigger than what it became about, because women are half the population, it should be equal rights, equal pay," she said.

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