Dispatches from New York: Women designers in New York

Luella & Katie for Marc by Marc, Rodarte, Tory Burch, & J. Crew

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By: Rebecca Lowthorpe Follow @Rebecca_ELLE

Dispatches from New York: Women designers in New York – Luella and Katie for Marc by Marc Jacobs, the Mulleavy sisters for Rodarte, Tory Burch, and Jenna Lyons for J Crew

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Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier's first collection for Marc by Marc Jacobs

Yesterday, New York Fashion Week received a massive shot of adrenaline thanks to the debut of Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier, the British designers whom Marc Jacobs has cannily put in charge of his Marc by Marc Jacobs line. It was like a creative bomb going off. Here was an original point of view! New ideas! Yet utterly of this moment: a collection for strong women by strong women. In this case, it was Alice in Wonderland meets Akira, the Japanese cyberpunk action film about a fiercely rebellious member of a motorcycle gang. So throw in some motocross ninjas, samurai belts over crisp, tailored suits and toss in Alice with her plaits, giant bowed necks, layered cupcake pleat skirts and her stomping great boots with zig-zag sandwich soles. Mix all that up with Marc Jacobs’ DNA and you get a Marc by Marc line precisely right for now. Backstage, Bartley, who stepped away from fashion four years ago to spend time with her family, said they had been working on the collection since July. ‘You know when you’ve been saving up ideas for four years. When we first started, we had about seven collections,’ she said. Bravo to Marc Jacobs for having the vision to hire them.
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Left to right: Rodarte, Tory Burch, J. Crew

Rodarte’s Kate and Laura Mulleavy switched tack this season. Away from last summer’s rodeo-meets-Beverly Hills, 90210 – all showgirl bra tops, bare midriffs, braces, fringing and studs – towards an ethereal creature, wafting around in dreamy smocked dresses, who looked as if she might read existential poetry. First look: beret, geek glasses, pink peplum top and floaty trousers. This collection looked purposefully hazy – all those soft, ethereal colours - as if it had been conceived out of fading childhood memories: the pretty party dresses they once wore, the crochet tank tops, their fixation with 1980s fishtail skirts, their obsession with Princess Leia? The final models posed together swathed in long dresses that featured prints of Star Wars’ Luke Skywalker, R2-D2 and CP30 – probably not the gowns heading up a red carpet anytime soon, although there were plenty there to fit the bill.

At New York Fashion Week, so many clothes on the runway might as well be on the audience. There is often so little difference between what is being shown (to be sold in stores in six months time) and what is being worn, that you start to wonder who the hell needs another multi-ply cashmere jumper. Thankfully, Tory Burch had a surprising twist to her usual all-American girl. She wore armour. Not clunky, awkward metal, mind, but a fine black leather skirt pieced together with metal rings, say, or a short black leather coat rendered in knife pleats from bust to hem. She had been inspired by her parents’ collection of armour. (You might well ask what type of parents collect armour – according to Google, a paper cup tycoon and an actress who dated Steve McQueen and Marlon Brando.) It felt like a departure in terms of concept, but it was all done in true Tory style. Those tapestry brocades and rich florals will be snapped up by her fans.

Finally, anyone who’s visited the J.Crew store in London might be interested to know what the accessible luxury label, by creative director Jenna Lyons, has in store for next winter. Fuzzy furs, bomber jackets, men’s-style coats, bold print skirts, metallic jacquard dresses, gold sequined trousers, oversized sweaters, slogan sweatshirts… in other words, plenty of great things. But you might already have them in your wardrobe.

See all our coverage of Autumn/Winter 2014

See Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier first Marc by Marc Jacobs collection

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