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NYFW: Michael Kors and Tory Burch come out on top

 (Tory Burch)
(Tory Burch)

Michael Kors takes a trip to St. Barths

In a week marred by heatwave downpours in New York, Michael Kors was praying to the weather gods ahead of his al fresco, riverside SS24 show this morning. It worked, and his collection was unveiled in front of the postcard vista of the Manhattan skyline and Williamsburg Bridge to a Burt Bacharach soundtrack.

Good weather was on the mind, as this season he was thinking about the dopamine effects of a holiday. “Even if the world is very confused and upside down, I try to find the positivity and the optimism,” Kors said at a preview of the show. He thinks that a vacation, time off, is a great feelgood unifier of the human experience. “I don’t think anyone in February in any city in the world says, ‘oh I hope the weather stays bad’,” he quipped.

Youthful sixties sensibility (Michael Kors)
Youthful sixties sensibility (Michael Kors)

Looking to “the magic of how a holiday transports you,” on his moodboard were Sharon Tate, Jackie Kennedy and Jane Birkin, whom he said, as a Brit living in France had a very American sensibility in the way she dressed. Also on there were pictures of his mother on vacation in St. Barths. She passed away suddenly earlier this year; the collection’s joy and lightness felt like a fitting tribute. What is the act of getting dressed up if not an assertion of our own vitality and vivacity?

You could see a youthful sixties sensibility in the collection’s abbreviated crochet dresses and sheer lace layers (a long white maxi dress with bell sleeves was a dead-ringer for a style worn by Birkin in 1969; her beloved basket bags however were reworked with straps and in soft nappa leather). The Kors core customer may not holiday in the way you or I do, but even in coach class, there is a renewed appetite for making an event of holiday dressing. Kors was right to scoff at the idea that a woman would ever use her makeup bag as a clutch. He knows that we do still, despite the lure of hand-luggage-only travel, want options. Kors addressed this with a canny emphasis on practicality; bags could be packed flat, shirts proposed as evening wear options, easy blazers to throw on when it gets chilly at night.

Gladiator, thong and Capri sandals grounded each look (Michael Kors)
Gladiator, thong and Capri sandals grounded each look (Michael Kors)

He was also obsessed with flat shoes this season: with gladiator, thong and Capri sandals grounding each look.

Kors explained that when he sees women struggling to navigate cobbles in super high heels he thinks “you lost the pleasure of the whole place!” But went on to add that a pivot to flats, and ergo practicality, “doesn’t mean I think you should have to give up any glamour or fun.”

He didn’t need to make the caveat – the show did it perfectly for him.

Tory Burch’s woman makes for interesting company

Something has happened to the Tory Burch woman in the past few years. Always a good looking gal, in recent seasons she has become more willing to reveal her depths, idiosyncrasies and complexities. She’s got stories to tell, recommendations up her sleeve. She is the queen of odd, surprising elegance. She makes for interesting company.

Presenting her brilliant SS24 collection in the canyon-like Gilder Center wing of the American Museum of Natural History in front of an audience including Uma Thurman, Naomi Watts, Tiffany Haddish and Suki Waterhouse, Burch gave her woman plenty to delight in.

Emily Ratajkowski takes the catwalk (Tory Burch)
Emily Ratajkowski takes the catwalk (Tory Burch)

“In a chaotic world I wanted a bit of calm but I didn’t want minimalist,” she said backstage post-show. “Taking things that were traditionally restrictive to women and reclaiming them.” See the crinolines here reinterpreted into airy, springy dresses.

Although the collection was about a mood (or, not to be too pretentious about it, but a theory) than a direct lift mood board inspiration, there were hints of the sixties in the collection’s flat shoes and abbreviated hemlines. Those short skirts were new stomping grounds for Burch, who noted that “women have never been more into having no rules and wearing what they want to wear.”

Lightweight fabrics and flat shoes (Tory Burch)
Lightweight fabrics and flat shoes (Tory Burch)

A sense of movement thrust the collection along. Lightweight fabrics and flat shoes enhanced the feeling of ease. The curved lines of the newly opened Gilder Center were echoed in the aerodynamic lines of the clothes and accessories, be it the sloped shoulders of a blazer or the ergonomic silhouette of a clutch bag. A sense of levity also helped amplify the bounce of it all. Note the ‘pierced’ flats, for instance, or the cow jewellery. Burch found interesting ways for her woman to make herself known – be it implicit, or in the case of bell embroideries, explicit. There is always room for a little bit of fun; Burch doesn’t equate seriousness with stuffiness.

“How do you create pieces that have complexity but not be tricky,” had been on her mind when designing. Complex but not tricky? Not a bad mantra for the Tory Burch woman.