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Richard Chai Feb 20013 M ReayIIMG_5997

No jacket required

Warm outerwear was conspicuously absent from the catwalks of Sandy-ravaged New York

TextColleen NikaPhotographyMark Reay

With New York Minute, Rolling Stone contributing editor Colleen Nika freelances for Dazed, reporting on New York Fashion Week.

For a New York Fashion Week on the precipice of historically severe wintry assault, remarkably few Autumn collections thus far have shown a sign of caring about Mother Nature's searing ice and wind.  That is to say, designers are perhaps - willfully? - focusing on the lush destinations that they imagine their intended audience gracing at leisure, than how and why they travel - and how comfortable the journey to get there is. This marks a perceptible shift from a year ago, when American designers like Rag & Bone and Altuzarra placed so much attention on extravagantly executed (and weighty) coats, there was little reason to pay their under layers more than a passing thought. Or when Proenza Schouler, Alexander WangHelmut Lang and even Jason Wu looked to outerwear as a form of protection against something symbolically harsher than the elements, with London's own Christopher Raeburn having taken that sangfroid warrior concept to a wonderfully rendered extreme. We'll see if any of those designers mentioned - none of whom have presented yet - evolve the outerwear dialogue as the week unfurls, but so far no one's decisively picking up that baton from last season. It's obviously far too early to play oracle just yet, but as of now, it seems Fall 2013 is off to a comparatively vaporous start, in all contexts of that word.

To begin with, most of the clothing seen has simply been lightweight, as if 'winter' simply registers as 'indoor drinking parties'. Nothing wrong with that on a surface level:  Creatures of the Wind focused on geometry and texture, which required slim silhouettes; Erin Fetherston found her footing again in a balletic steampunk reverie. Designers who reliably excel at lovely, art-y frocks, Costello Tagliapietra, presented yet another collection of breezy, nature-inspired jersey dresses. As always, the ecologically-conscious duo utilized Air Dye for their trademark tie-dye effects, with this particular palette seemingly culled from the burnt hues of an Indian summer, a time of crisp decay and piercing mortal beauty in one. There were a few wraparound coats and modernized fichu-like knitwear pieces, but overall,  it was a weather-averse collection, for the type of fortunate woman who can theoretically appreciate the aesthetic boons of winter, but can escape its seasonal discomforts. 

The irony, of course, is that no one caught up in the February Fashion Week vortex has that luxury. But at newcomer Erin Barr's debut runway show a few hours later, it was as if we collectively developed a harrowing case of amnesia, reverting (or forwarding) to Spring. The electrical palette - black, aqua, and purple - was attractive, and with her simple shifts, subtractive leatherworking, and zipper details, Barr understands the perks of being a minimalist; she just needs to execute them a little more convincingly to stand out from the fleet of other post-Lang/Klein disciples emerging on the NYC design-scape. And yes, it would have been satisfying to see the models wearing proper winter fabrics; the sculptural qualities of say, a fine wool or even a scuba rubber, would have given Barr a chance to demonstrate the scope of her patternmaking, which aims for severity, in a more advanced medium than the standard body-con dresses she presented.

Conversely to all of this, a few brave souls kept the emotion of winter alive. Ascendent newcomer Heather Lawton is positively obsessed with stern leather outerwear, to the extent that her whole physical (ice-planked) set celebrated a sort of sub-zero serenity. Her best looks were full-length, fur-hooded coats that conveyed the balance of elegance and athleticism that Moncler (especially under Raeburn) excels at. Fellow noir-minded peer Kimberly Ovitz presented Rick Owens-informed leathers in a similar vein, while Kenneth Cole turned out a surprisingly strong - and dare I project, Matrix-inspired? - collection, which included some hardcore, pull-no-punches trenches, gloves and sweaters. Especially with the snow hitting showgoers in only a few hours now, these are the collections that feel the most empathetic to the seasonal plight: clothes to protect, to inspire, and to transform.