Year after year, New York Fashion Week showcases the breadth of American fashion. One category that has always been important at U.S. retail is the contemporary market. Here, WWD rounds up key brands’ proposals for spring 2024.
Last summer, former Neiman Marcus fashion director Ken Downing joined Xcel Brands Inc. as the new creative director of Halston.
“This is the first season that I have officially had my touches as creative director on Halston,” Downing said during an appointment, pointing out an updated, chic cotton poplin shirtdress with exaggerated train and a jersey T-shirt dress boasting a blown-out portrait of Halston himself (based on an image from the ‘60s) in black and white printed sequins.
“I think when many people come to Halston to create, they get very caught up in the past,” Downing said. “I think what’s so important about someone like Halston is that he was not only prolific but wildly irreverent and bold in the moment that he lived in. His sensibility was all about creating clothes for how women were living for that time in their life.”
Downing certainly isn’t getting lost in history, but rather bringing the brand forward in elevated fabrications, as seen through his strong debut spring collection.
“It’s important to me that as the selection continues to evolve, that it’s very trend relevant. It has to be trend relevant with color, silhouette and its news to speak the same language that other cool collections are having within the marketplace. There are women of many ages who know and love Halston — it’s their go-to for mother-of-the-bride, bat mitzvah and galas, but there’s an entirely new girl who I want to see in Halston.”
Yes, there was a caftan, but its bodice was stitched closer to the body; ditto for lengthy cardigans, which came in ultrasoft cashmere in a silhouette based on one in the archive, best seen in sunrise ombre shades, paired with a matching tank and trousers, or over extensive occasion dressing. Downing leaned into Halston’s signature cocktail and evening dressing with an assortment of joyfully hued numbers with details spanning from on-trend 3D floral appliqués and draped panels to rounded, architectural high-leg cuts and ruched gatherings.
Fashionable sportswear was of equal importance to the creative director, as seen through oversized, boxy blazers; vintage-inspired black sequined trousers, and bold sequined suiting (ultra-fun in a custom leopard motif or sunrise ombre), and two airy anoraks, to name a few.
Vince creative director Caroline Belhumeur’s work often references art but this season she looked closer to home, taking images from her creative team and their favorite “moments” as a way to set her on her seasonal path. “How can we influence each other?” she said of the exercise.
Her silhouette is made up of long lean shapes but a touch softer than in season’s past. Long maxiskirts, a staple, remixed with a sheer on sheer fabrication with beaded trim, chic little bomber jackets, a slipdress with a sheer overlay over the shoulder, offering a bit more coverage but still on trend. Belhumeur always injects color in a thoughtful way, here with inky blues and sherbet peach tones that paired well with her gray separates. “Gray is a new neutral,” she offered.
Tailoring continued with a looser pant but her blazer has shrunk a bit, balancing out the overall proportion for the season.
A recent trip to Japan helped shape Tanya Taylor’s spring offering, infoming both how she styled pieces and the color palette. “I was able to look at their culture and think about how they do things that are surprising, unexpected and what it looks like,” she said, adding she was particularly intrigued by how the Japanese interpret sport. “There’s always stripes and they’re always askew, with a weird print.” A style choice, in fact, that is very in line with how Taylor creates her own collections.
Everything is very tactile, with shots of bright color mixed in, like a chalk stripe short structured-sleeve colored shirt with lime colored maxiskirt or a red watercolor floral print shirtdress topped with a white ruched bustier. A crochet knit tank with nautical stripes and white long skirt and new takes on denim (a denim slip-style dress) are season-less ways to add a lot of punch to a wardrobe.
It’s a busy time for Taylor, who’s opening her first store on the Upper East Side, giving her a chance to meet her customer face-to-face and see how they interpret her work. It’s the real-time data that will continue to shape her work. “It’s so exciting so see them come in and see how they interpret the clothes,” she said.
Christian Juul Nielsen has a bit more time on his hands these days, having stepped down from his role at Hervé Léger. “I have time now to focus a bit more,” he said backstage before his runway show. Juul Nielsen looked toward the tales of Hans Christian Andersen, like “The Ugly Duckling.” The transformation from the swan represents beauty and growth and the motif was found across a white sheer lace gown for his girl and on a white long-sleeve T for his guy.
Knits are thinner-gauged with handmade details, shirtdresses are askew with his ruffle details creating a bubble-like skirt. Several pieces had doodles, adding a bit of flourish. “It always gives that like sense of something nautical and maybe more classic but has like a little bit of this artful touch to it,” he said.
Fairy tale whimsy is a good match for the visually colorful plays he makes with volume and silhouette. Denim, a recent category felt vintage, acid washed oversized bomber jacket or a bralet with paneled maxiskirt.
Juul Nielsen couture training shines, though, particularly with a few intriguing finale gowns marrying tulle with voluminous cotton; they would stand out on a red carpet.
The label continues on its path of growth and wardrobing its customer for all the parts of her life.
Pulling back focus a bit, distilling the brand down to what its woman wants in her busy life today, “Quiet luxury is such a moment right now but how you do that in spring is very different, like tailoring and and making it softer and more feminine and the color palette, which is a lot more muted,” said Veronica Swanson Beard and Veronica Miele Beard.
Stripes stand in for their print message while the new crest logo is on metal buttons on sharp blazers. They styled them with wide-leg denim and shirting included a subtle dart at the back, nipping the waist. Tailoring is loose and skirts are A-line and straightforward. “The versatility of clothes for us is really, really important,” said Miele Beard.
For shoes — a growing category for the brand — the duo proposed a few new ideas, including a gladiator that snakes around the ankle and a cap-toe mule. “Elevated neutrals, I think is a really important for shoes right now,” Swanson Beard said.
“This will be the first collection in our new Beverly Hills store, which is a milestone for our L.A.-based brand. It just felt like the right time to take stock and really center our woman and her needs. She has a discerning, elevated eye but needs clothes that are functional. She’s not interested in flash, she wants quality and polish,” A.L.C.’s Andrea Lieberman explained of her more clean and refined approach for spring.
The silhouette is structured on top and volume on the bottom. “Our woman has a body and wants an alternative to hiding it in oversized tailoring.” Super thin cardigans that can be layering pieces, a ribbed knit dress with side stitching and cotton shirting were all easy to understand pieces that will live in a wardrobe for seasons.
Lieberman said the brand is seeing a lot of success with directional blazers, button-up shirts, sleek dresses and sets, and she continues to deliver remixed versions of these classics.
Israeli designer Ohad Seroya put the fête in Retrofête Tuesday evening, bringing Tel Aviv’s nightclub scene to New York City for a debut runway show.
“It’s all about celebration. Everything we designed, we just wanted to make people happy, to be together and enjoy life,” he said backstage, referring to him and his partner Aviad Klin.
In just five years, the pair have built a substantial business trading in sexy, highly embellished party clothes. That’s thanks in no small part to their fan base of next-gen supermodels like Elsa Hosk, Jasmine Tookes and Shanina Shaik, all of whom stomped along the white carpeted runway wearing Retrofête’s first shoe offering, which consisted of some stiletto boots with functional utility pockets.
Pulling together a collage of childhood memories, Seroya used camouflage dotted with pailletes as a reference to his father (a former IDF soldier) for utility separates, while palm frond accents, most visible on a gold bustier top worn with slouchy denim, took their inspiration from his trips in the desert. Elsewhere, denim was patchworked into an uber cool duster coat to top a simple white tank and shorts look.
This being Retrofête, knockout cocktail and evening dresses were most prominent. They came crystal-studded and python-printed with the brand’s signature goddess draping, but the most interesting proposition in the collection lay in its tailoring with exaggerated, power-shoulder blazers worn over skinny capris.
After looking to Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli for resort, Kobi Halperin took an artist with a more personal resonance as spring’s inspired — fellow Israeli Sigalit Landau and her salt sculpture series.
“She’s basically interfering with nature, nature reacts and creates something that is quite beautiful,” he said of Landau’s process, which uses the natural salinity of the Dead Sea, allowing rock crystals to form on everyday objects. Mostly, her work concerns environmental deterioration — heavy subject matter for a designer banking that his contemporary clothes are optimistic and easily read.
Nonetheless, Halperin translated the idea nicely. For his first attempt at a runway presentation, a mound of salt was placed in the center of the room around which models walked. He divided the collection into parts, starting with the Earth represented by black, khaki and terracotta used in peasant dresses and his signature soft tailoring. As the show progressed, white lace insets and three-dimensional flowers grew more prominent as if salt crystals were forming.
The bulk of the collection was all-white before diving into shades of soft blue — an obvious nod to water. The highlights here included a pair of billowing chambray pants with a matching shirt unbuttoned to the navel, flashing a crystal studded bra underneath. It was classic and casual and just a bit raunchy. Also cool was a swirl print used for a simple T-shirt and pencil skirt inspired by a bird’s-eye view of an oil spill.
Cinq à Sept designer Jane Siskin created a diverse, yet cohesive spring collection that took inspiration from the south of France.
“The inspiration was really Old Hollywood romance and the south of France — a Côte d’Azur, Brigitte Bardot kind of moment,” Siskin said. “Our prints are very feminine and embody what we think that feels like. It’s a lot of fluidity, and then a touch of feminine.”
The collection offered a balance of structured tailored pieces, like the embroidered trench coats, with airy, feminine styles like lightweight white dresses. On the more tailored side, Siskin created her own take on sportswear, designing tailored separates that had a business casual vibe, but still an ethereal lightness thanks to the use of satin and organza fabrics and embroidered detailing.
Siskin balanced the tailored looks with her signature feminine dresses, which she created in a color palette of light yellows, pinks and purples, and embellished with design details like cutouts and ruffles.
PatBo designer Patricia Bonaldi stepped away from her signature party dresses this season, creating a collection that leaned into the brand’s beachwear DNA.
“This collection, it’s about the ‘70s in Brazil,” Bonaldi said before her runway show. “There was a movement called Tropicalia. It was a musical movement. It was inspired by the ‘70s and it’s a mix of everything that was happening in the ‘70s with a tropical touch.”
This inspiration showed in the collection through a series of neutral-colored separates that were designed with Bonaldi’s signature, hand-crafted bead work. There were see-through dresses embellished with wool, fringe and beadwork, swimwear designed with floral appliqué and lace and fringe-embellished jackets.
Much of the collection was designed in a beige or white color palette — a departure from the designer’s use of neon and bright hues that she explained came from customer demand — however, Bonaldi created some of the collection’s dresses in bold hues of chartreuse, emerald green and fuchsia that stayed true to the designer’s established design codes.
For her dresses, Bonaldi leveraged her craft in beading to design an array of multicolored pieces that gave a modern take on her signature style.
Mara Hoffman’s spring collection played off the feminine themes of her resort lineup, delivering more refined pieces for dressier occasions.
“I feel like the resort [collection] set the tone for this dressier occasion and then the intentionality of spring was to play out the real wearable wardrobe aspects of the collection, so using our tried and favorite fabrics,” Hoffman said. “There’s a lot of hemp pieces within it, like easy dressing and easy suiting, playing with bright colors, but again making the things that you’re going to be able to wear over and over this season.”
This aesthetic came through in several styles, such as a hand-placed striped dress, sculptural jacquard blouses and billowy dresses paired with dress shirts. The collection also offered new takes on bestsellers, such as the brand’s Adrian jacket created in a cream hue. The collection furthered Hoffman’s resort offerings by expanding into new, bright colorways and delivering new styles in the designer’s popcorn fabric.
“We moved into this townhouse, which used to be my house and is the oldest on the block,” Linga Franca founder and designer Rachelle Hruska MacPherson said on the second floor showroom of the brand’s Jane Steet headquarters and ground floor storefront.
Inspired by the brand’s move, the spring collection was filled with Jane Street and Greenwich Village inspirations, including Jane Jacobs, who “saved downtown New York,” she said. Hand-drawn prints boasted maps of the neighborhood (which looked great on a washed cotton pajama-inspired sets with feather trims); script embroideries included excerpts of poems by John Cheever, and child-like floral embroideries were inspired by Jane Street Garden.
Known for her signature knit program with hand-stitched embroideries, the designer and her team have been evolving the brand by introducing a more robust assortment of ready-to-wear; spring, which is currently available for pre-order, offered a strong extension of the brand’s ethos.
Within spring, there were chic sheer tulle layers (tops and midlength skirts) with allover script embroideries in cheerful, contrasting colors; a form-fitted, draped maxidress with embroidery running down its front and back center; easy linen tailoring and even playful sheer mesh camisoles embellished with allover mirror sequins. To accompany the looks, knits were available beyond signature cashmere in price-friendly Peachskin cotton or came in the form of swimwear cover-ups inspired ribbed and striped boyshorts and cotton and alpaca blend oversized camp shirt.
For PH5’s first runway show, founder Wei Lin and designer Zoe Champion took inspiration from factory life, paying homage to Lin’s mother’s factory that produces the brand’s garments.
“It’s life at the factory and we really have a whimsical and playful take on something that everyone thinks is boring,” Lin said. “We want to flip it around and showcase the lives and the energy and the beauty of a factory.”
The spring collection utilized PH5’s tried and true design methods, like its signature wavy style and knitwear pieces, and took them to the next level with new silhouettes and fabrications. Styles included flowing, asymmetric skirts, layered knitwear and the brand’s knitted denim that it introduced in its resort collection.
PH5 continued its affinity for innovative fabrics with the use of a UV fabric, that made some styles turn a bright neon green, and the use of a thermal fabric that changed the garment’s colors with a model’s touch.
Danielle Guizio updated many of her tried and true silhouettes for spring and crowdsourced color ideas from her Instagram following when designing the collection. These styles include the brand’s matching cotton sets, paillette skirt, Paloma set and chiffon set.
“On my Instagram Stories, because it sold so well, I just asked my followers in a q&a, ‘what other colors do you want to see in this?’” Guizio said about a matching cotton set. “And it’s so funny because whenever I do ask for that, people usually give feedback of the same color — like 90 percent of people said to do it in a powder blue — so that helps set a tone for the collection and understand, one, the color palette that I have in mind, but two, the color palette that my customer actually desires.”
Guizio leveraged her customers’ feedback and her signature cool-girl aesthetic to reimagine these pieces in summer prints and colorful styles. The Paloma set, for one, was updated in a red and white gingham pattern accented with a delicate cherry ornament. Her chiffon set was also updated in a bold red hue, while her bestselling paillette skirt was made with smaller sequins, which was a recreation of a style Guizio had made for Olivia Rodrigo.
The essence of L’Agence is always about taking their customer from day to night.
For spring, chief executive officer and creative director Jeff Rudes and fashion director Tara Rudes Dann continued to elevate their ready-to-wear offering and denim anchors with a subtle “Renaissance Revival” undertone.
The most obvious iteration of this inspiration came through a cloud and cherub-printed silk organza Sarita slip gown and matching trench. “A lot of time, the print dictates where we’re going,” Rudes said, “Fabric is everything, it inspires the whole thing.”
For their chameleon customers, as Rudes Dann described, the duo amped up their versatile offering of chunky knits, soft suiting, and a good amount of glammed-up occasion looks. A highlight of the collection came in the form of statement tweedy jacket and sharp blazers with opulent embellishments, like a baby blue version with gold hardware, paired with low-slung jeans and denim heels.
“In denim, there’s an emphasis on a very distressed wash,” Rudes said. “We experimented with what menswear was selling for years. Rise-wise, low-rise is coming back for us in a major way and retailing incredibly well, but it’s not to takeover, but be in addition to all the shapes and sizes.”
Nicole Miller took a new approach to designing her spring collection. Under the label of Nicole Miller Signature, the designer is now homing in on specialty made-to-order girly, festive occasionwear.
“We are launching a spring 2024 Signature collection, which will be limited edition. Some of the pieces will be made to order with a six-week lead time. The collection will be live on the website in mid- to late-September for custom orders and pre-orders. The price range will be from $400 for a solid top to $2,000 for a fully embellished evening gown; most dresses will be in the $900-$1,000 range,” Miller told WWD.
Miller said the collection’s inspiration stemmed from a trip to Palm Springs for its Modernism Show, as seen through her a wallpaper-inspired cocktail dress, rendered completely in sequins. The idea extended into a mood board filled with Slim Aarons photographs and resulted into an assortment of party-minded specialty cocktail shakers with ‘60s influence (shot in the very Aarons vein in a house on Fire Island). Styles nodded to Mia Farrow and Twiggy and ranged from silk organza shirting and white floral eyelet blouse and pant with tonal hand-beaded embroideries (the most casual pieces in the lineup) to little retro sheaths and little sets covered in colorful sequin hand-beaded embroideries, silver pailettes or 3D floral appliqués.
Miller said she plans to debut edited, specialty collections twice a year; her spring line — a meld of modernity with adorable, retro flare — was a nice kick-off to her brand’s evolution.
“I’m really thinking about the legacy of the brand,” creative director Kate Wallace said. The spring season sees her full stamp on evolving the brand forward with a colorful monochromatic looks with “intentional” neutrals peppered though.
Prints, a Lam staple, were here still, like watercolor florals on a several dresses. There were plays with texture too with slightly crinkled fabrics on shirting, anchored with white shirt and denim. “Taking it back to American sportswear,” Wallace said. Suiting had a bit of stretch and Wallace brought cashmere knits into the equation, a buttery soft fabrication she felt the brand was missing. They will pair well with the updated denim, another brand hallmark that continues to grow.
Wallace is now firmly planted in and is ready to spread her wings while continuing the legacy of Derek Lam.