by Alex R. Travers
Sometimes combining loud colors, tile prints, and a half dozen other ostentatious concepts breaks the gimmick jinx by subverting beauty into a twisted fantasy. The prankish touch of womenswear designer Tom Mora came in handy when he was crafting this season’s collection for J.Crew. Mora tells us that the inspiration for the Fall line came from a trip to Marrakech. Fine. But I saw so much more. The collection was a show-stopper, highlighting a smartly designed, buoyantly funny take on “ugly chic” without making you gag on it. Even the kaleidoscopic prints carry J.Crew’s DNA—a preppy American sportswear feel that hits on the essentials. I see Mora do this in two ways. First, he combines the busy prints with clean-cut colors. Second, he mixes dressy with non-dressy. The result: an understated look with elements of exotic magic.
By spinning something fresh out of fabric very familiar, Elie Tahari once again proves that he’s still got it. For the Fall 2013 collection, Tahari focused on body-conscious silhouettes, including fitted pants and voluminous tops. The outcome was playfully hip. Norma jackets had raw-edge textures like exposed zippers and exaggerated collars. The pants were smartest when they stayed simple, which they pretty much did. The designer drew inspiration from Gordon Bunshaft, the architect of the Lever House and Yale University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Tailored pieces featured mixed media pairings like quilted jacquards and oversized knits. Everything looked perfectly comfortable. The standout piece was a Preston coat, sculpted with clean shapes and covered with a warming fur.