J. Mendel: Fall 2014

by Alex R. Travers

_ON_0334.450x675Poor Gilles Mendel. I’ve seen New York climatically suffer during Fashion Week before, but it felt as if no one was at his J. Mendel show today. Pity since it was one of the label’s best. From beginning to end, it had a fresh energy, defined by the designer’s enthusiasm to “push desirable decadence even further.” Maybe if the invited guests all had one of his long, luxurious mink coats, the bone-chilling wind and relentless snow would have been slightly more tolerable.

But if you did make it out to Lincoln Center for one of the last shows at the tents this season, you learned that Mendel wanted to “playfully break from tradition.” Of course, for a designer that has such a definitive aesthetic, you knew he wasn’t going to rage. Like a straight-A student taking a Saturday night off studying, Mendel’s rebellious actions were harmless. What he did do was incorporate new colors (jewel tones), asymmetry (tiered, diagonal pleating), and volume (a roundness to his outwear) with his natural silhouettes. It’s not as if he abandoned fur (this is J. Mendel, after all), or the utterly effortless-looking gowns his ladies love.

So what got Monsieur Mendel thinking about a break from tradition? He said the Ballets Russes was the inspiration for fall. It wasn’t the dancers or their costumes, per se, but rather the “romance of the ballet” that he wanted to channel. That translated well in his graceful dresses with draped bodices, which, the designer said, showcased a body in motion. And he picked up on the season’s trend of delicacy in a dark setting: luxe, flowing dresses paraded down the catwalk to the disruptive synth soundtrack of Planningtorock’s “Human Drama.”

That darkness was partly a function of the collection’s dive into an innovative, even mysterious, type of artistry, with daring furs and unexpected harmonies that challenged the eye. Mendel’s use of color was top-notch, too. The show notes listed hues like peridot and sapphire, and on the runway, everything looked luminous. So even if only a few fans made it out today, when the clothes do hit stores, Mendel should have nothing to worry about.