On the fifth day of New York Fashion Week, Tracy Reese gave voice to her models — literally. Victoria Beckham presented a light-hearted collection that relied on colours inspired by play dough and ice cream. And the Public School label offered a pointed message on immigration.
Rihanna didn’t walk into New York Fashion Week. She rode through it.
The pop star and fashionista kicked off her Fenty Puma 2018 spring-summer collection on Sunday with motocross bicycles flying high in the air, ascending above a dreamy display of powder pink mountains and sand — as the audience watched in awe.
Rihanna rode on the back of a bike — in true rock star form with one hand displaying the sign of the horns and her tongue sticking out — after the models strutted around the race car-like catwalk at Park Avenue Armory.
She wore a fitted, long sleeve army green shirt with a plunging neckline, a bright green jacket wrapped around her waist, thigh high boots, and sunglasses. She was confident and cool, and her collection delivered a similar vibe.
The clothes were a mix of fitted and loose pieces, ranging from oversized jackets to tight dresses to shiny swimsuits. Most of the items paired two colours: The navy blue pieces featured hot pink embellishments, while orange and black made up the various athletic suits.
While the clothes, worn mostly by women and some men, could be used at the gym for working out or even gym-selfies for Instagram, some were for the beach. There was a cropped top hoodie, low waisted, knee-length shorts and fashion-forward one-piece bathing suits. One model even wore a towel over his head.
Rihanna’s audience on Sunday included members of the fashion world, but also some of her music peers, such as rappers Big Sean, Fabolous, Yo Gotti, Dave East and Cardi B, whose song Bodak Yellow (Money Moves) is currently No 3 on the pop charts.
Diplo, the Grammy-winning producer who has worked with Beyonce, Justin Bieber and others, said he took a helicopter from a gig to make it to Rihanna’s fashion show.
“I think music and fashion are so coincided together, and with [Rihanna], she is like equal parts a music beast and a fashion beast. And everybody has a little bit of it, they mix it up, but she’s been doing it since she started,” Diplo said of Rihanna, who released her first album in 2005. “Like, she’s always been on both sides. So she’s a veteran in that world. So it’s amazing to be here for her show.”
Last week, Rihanna — born Robyn Rihanna Fenty in the Barbados — launched Fenty Beauty, which features makeup designed for all skin colours. The 29-year-old said she wanted to be sure all women, no matter their complexion, could use to her products.
“She’s a great businesswoman,” R’n’B singer Jheke Aiko said of Rihanna at the show. “She’s definitely a great role model for young girls, especially girls of colour, to look up to and see all that she’s doing.”
While Rihanna debuted 50 different looks at the show, the overall highlight? A black dress revealing some of the waist, paired with a baggy army green jacket to give it the Rihanna edge.
And if there’s one thing Rihanna is, it is risk-taker: She didn’t even wear a helmet when she rode on the bike.
Entering the Tracy Reese presentation on Sunday afternoon, you immediately noticed something unusual about the models standing on the stage: They were speaking.
“They’re saying something about themselves, why they’re doing this, what their hopes and dreams are, the women they admire in their lives,” Reese explained. “Often when you come to these, people don’t look at the women, they’re looking at the clothes, and that why we’re doing this. I wanted people to see the woman in the clothing, and hear something about who she is.”
The remarks were unscripted, and very personal. One model was speaking in Spanish, saying that her mother was the person she admired most in the world. Another, in English, was saying: “A woman is strong, a woman is love, a woman is beauty.” Still another was saying, “I am strength, I am grace, I am a woman.”
Attending the show was Whoopi Goldberg, who noted that Reese, who’s known for being one of Michelle Obama’s favourite designers, is “especially good at recognising that women’s bodies are different. And they’re big and small and wide and thin and that’s who she creates for. So there is something for every person on the planet in Tracy’s collections, and I love that.”
Reese has long offered up a runway that is diverse not only ethnically but in terms of size and shape. She also often combines professional and non-professional models in her shows — a rarity.
Diversity on the runway is something other designers have slowly caught up to, Goldberg noted.
“It’s what you kind of have to do now,” the actress and TV host said. “If you want to sell the clothes. She’s always known and she now can design for everybody — as you see here, there are black women, white women, Hispanic women, Asian women... this is the world stage. So I am so proud.”
Often, designers are asked who their “muse” was when designing a specific collection. Reese said her muse was simply “every woman who wants to look and feel beautiful in clothing. I thought, ‘Let’s highlight the women that are wearing the clothes.’”
“I love that they’re getting to share who they are,” she said.
Victoria Beckham has a six-year-old daughter, which probably explains some of her colour inspirations this season: play dough and ice cream.
“It’s not too sickly sweet, but it feels fresh and happy,” Beckham said of shades like a bright pistachio that appeared on her runway. “I used to wear so much black, and now I really enjoy wearing colour.”
After a night of two glitzy shows — Alexander Wang’s outdoor event on a dead-end street in Brooklyn, and Philipp Plein’s extravaganza that included a striptease in a giant martini glass — Beckham’s Sunday morning show felt like a peaceful trip to a tea salon. And in fact, tall glasses of ginger iced tea were offered to guests as they entered.
With husband David and son Brooklyn looking on, the former Spice Girl, who launched her label nine years ago, served up a collection that featured light, summery fabrics and even a little glitter on the shoes and on the ankles, in the form of sparkly ankle bracelets.
“I love the sparkly shoes,” she said. “And the little anklets. They are just so cute. It’s like a fresh way of wearing jewellery.”
Her main goal, she said, was to create clothes that are easy to wear. “For me, that’s how I want to dress,” she said. “You know I didn’t want to create a collection of showpieces. These are clothes that you can wear, and that’s important. Yes, fashion is fantasy — but you can really wear these clothes.”
She also wanted to stress that light doesn’t necessarily mean weak. “I wanted to show how delicate can be strong,” she said.
For their runway show in lower Manhattan, Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne of Public School chose a spot with significance to the history of immigration in New York: the 19th-century Five Points neighbourhood, occupied by waves of immigrants from different origins.
Asked if the design duo been thinking about the current political situation, Chow simply pointed to his cap: “DACA Dreamers,” it said, expressing solidarity with the young immigrants who came to the United States as children and are living in the country illegally.
“It was symbolic that we meet here to celebrate the immigrant experience in New York,” he said, “and their contributions, what they bring to New York and to the world.”
How was that reflected in the duo’s designs, which were displayed on a runway in a long, narrow alleyway? Through the depiction of everyday items that are often tossed aside, Chow explained after the show.
“The plastic bag, for example,” he noted, “[is] something that people may discard or overlook. When you think about immigrants and their contribution, they’re overlooked.”
A succession of plaid garments — shorts, shirt dresses, skirts — resembled those ubiquitous square plastic laundry bags with zippers. A number of garments were covered with loose-fitting translucent tops — trenches, jackets — resembling clear plastic bags. There were “shopping bag” tops, and orange garments that looked exactly like the plastic bags sent out as the invitation to the show.
Also on display: the design team’s knee-covering sneaker boot, a collaboration with Jordan that was released on Sunday at a pop-up shop outside the runway show.