Today’s fashion is not only influenced by 1997 nostalgia, but as the documentary series Dreamland remind us, through the corporate structure established at the end of that decade. For example, in 1997 Marc Jacobs was asked to develop a ready-to-wear collection for Louis Vuitton, one of the oldest and most famous leather goods houses in the world.
Many accessories companies have followed suit. In 1997, Kate and Andy Spade ask AsFour to create a capsule clothing line. Now that the company offers a wide range of products spanning multiple categories, recently appointed design directors Tom Mora and Jennifer Lyu were challenged to apply the brand’s unique playful quirk to all of their offerings.
So far, results have been mixed – but not for lack of care or trying. A few questions at hand. One is that translating Kate Spade’s signature eccentric style into clothing often results in prints. Combine that with the label’s longstanding ladylike aesthetic, and you start entering Emilio Pucci/Lilly Pulitzer/Palm Beach territory that Kate Spade doesn’t “own.” Plus, references to other brands in this Pre-Fall collection read like a “lite” version of the original, not what customers came to Kate Spade for.
The most convincing and freshest designs (mainly accessories) are the ones Mora and Lyu double down on Spadeisms. As the company turns to 30 next year, Design Director returns to the estate of artist Alexander Girard, with whom Kate and Andy Spade have worked once 1997 remix. An intarsia sweater gleaming with Girard’s sun was a fresh, Instagram-friendly statement piece. Also a sculptural lemon jumper, a lucky eye beaded tee and striped railroad jeans. There are many reasons to fall in love with a cleverly designed wicker and rattan lemon slice bag; besides wishing for a head-to-toe match, they may also simply dislike fruit-print dresses. “Quirk” translates across categories differently.
I left previewing this beach-inspired collection with hope for the future. Mora and Lyu really had a charming sense of detail, from the novelty bags, to the pearlescent shell buttons added to the shirts, to the eye brooches on the pendants. The truly special pieces, the ones you won’t find anywhere else, are the “Lemonade” of the collection.