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Runway Rave:

December 13, 2012

The Best of the Pre-Fall Collections

Jason Wu, Chanel, Burberry, J. Mendel and Donna Karan

By Nancy Staab

Jason Wu conjures Studio 54 days, Chanel goes to the Scottish Highlands, Burberry Porsum gets graphic with animal print trenches, J. Mendel explores exploding flowers and Donna Karan channels sculptural forms.

Pre Fall 2013 Fashions from Jason Wu, Burberry, and J. Mendel Pre Fall 2013 Fashions from Jason Wu, Burberry, and J. Mendel

Bundle up, it’s cold out there and we are already looking ahead to the fashion forecast for Pre-Fall 2013. Our picks for the best of the best? Jason Wu, Chanel, Burberry, J. Mendel and Donna Karan. View highlights from their pre-fall collections in the slideshow below.


Jason Wu Goes '70s, Dark, and Nocturnal

The hands-down winner, in our book, was Jason Wu, who ventured away from his rather safe, but sublime, ladylike-chic looks into darker territory. The move to the dark side is a continuation of Wu’s spring collection, inspired in part by that master of the sexily subversive, fashion photographer Helmut Newton. For pre-fall Wu added on the influence of 70’s fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez, lauded in a recent coffee table book Antonio Lopez: Fashion, Art, Sex and Disco by Rizzoli, and his milieu of glamazons like Jerry Hall, Grace Jones and Bianca Jagger. What, has Wu’s gone rocker? Well, yes and no, this is rocker with a ladylike sensibility still intact: think English Rose Keira Knightly in a leather motorcycle jacket. For this collection Wu works in some semi-transparent but tasteful evening looks, lots of sleek eelskin, Mod-graphic chevron patterns in black and yellow, and hard-edge chain detailing for this nocturnal collection of clothes in jewel tones (emerald, amethyst, gold) and inky black.



Burberry: Posh, Pared-Down, and a Tad Playful

Designer Christopher Bailey’s Pre-Fall collection for Burberry Porsum managed to be both traditional, luxe, structured AND playful. How did he accomplish that? By pairing his luxe fabrics, close-to-the body cuts and classic staples with a bit of whimsy. The venerable Burberry trench got graphic, abstract animal prints in every pattern under the rainbow: cow, giraffe, cobra, etc.  There was also a racy, metallic trench in this fall’s color d’jour, oxblood. Otherwise classic pullovers for the blokes were embellished with cartoon renderings of standard Brit icons such as a Beefeater and London Bobby. And a sensible skirt and clutch for her were livened up with all-over grommet embellishments. Rounding out the show, two beautifully structured corset dresses in indigo and claret, the claret version sporting a bit of renegade fishweave netting at the neckline.



“Dressed to Kilt:” Chanel Channels Stormy Highland Romance

It’s been awhile since fashion has enjoyed a kilt and tartan moment. Designer Karl Lagerfeld conjured up everything Scottish Highlands with his pre-fall collection, which was a flurry of plaids, tartans, argyle, cashmere, tam-o-shanters and Shetland sweaters for women and men. In case you missed the point, he hosted the show at Linlithgow Palace, Scotland, where the doomed Mary, Queen of Scots was born. The open-air castle, whose roof was burned by marauders in the 1700’s and whose path was lit by burning braziers, conjured up the “barbarian romance” that Lagerfeld was aiming for. But Lagerfeld also used his pre-fall show, or Metiers d’Art collection, to highlight the various crafts and crafts people who work for Chanel: the lace-makers, jewelers, weavers, cashmere makers, feather embellishers, etc. The collection was both rugged and layered and also instilled with a touch of refined Elizabethan romance in the form of ruffled necklines, corsets and bejewelment. Famed supermodel and Scottish lass Stella Tennant even did a turn on the runway to underscore the Scottish theme. There is also an intimate connection between Scotland and the House of Chanel. Coco Chanel used to escape to the Highlands with her lover the Duke of Westminister, where she took comfort in the local dress of tartans, tweeds and cashmere that later became staples of her fashion house.



J. Mendel Explores Exploding Flowers and Architectural Constructions

Exploding flowers and architecture may sound like two separate ends of the design spectrum, but trust me, these twin-inspirations really cohere in the latest J. Mendel collection for pre-fall. The fashion house was in a soft, floral, romantic mode for spring, but now the mood is darker for pre-fall and those gorgeous blooms have exploded in a confetti of shredded petals against a cosmic black backdrop. Taking Israeli artist Ori Gersht’s photographs as inspiration, J. Mendel has transformed those bursting petals into an abstract print resembling a Jack Pollock and splashed it on a day dress, ball gown, pants and matching peplum top. This is as baroque as it gets. The rest of the collection featured romantic, but pared-down, architectural clothes with lots of seams, paneling and corseting to highlight structure. And being J. Mendel, there were also plenty of luscious furs. We loved the judicious uses of oxblood for the moody fall palette, touches of leather, a metallic jacquard fabric in chocolate brown with a snakeskin print,  and one gorgeous ivory gown with black lace applique up the sides. But note to J. Mendel house:  we could do without the socks-with-heels look!



Donna Karan Transmutes Sculpture into Fashion

Donna Karan’s work has always been sensuous, organic and sculptural. But with the recent retrospective of her late husband/sculptor Stephan Weiss’ work under her belt, it’s no wonder the inspiration of his work also seeped into her pre-fall 2013 collection. Working in the monochromatic sculptor’s palette of blacks, whites and grays, Karan’s collection is austere and, well, monumental. The shapes are also sculptural: rounded, cocooning coats and capelets with volume; mimimalistic close-to-the-body skirt suits with peplums; and sharply pared, folded and pleated dresses. The palette may be whisper quiet, but the bold sculptural shapes scream for attention.