Looking back at the impressive roster of winners for Ecco Domani, you can’t help but wonder at how uncannily spot on the judges are for predicting emerging new talent. Almost all of the winners have gone on to flourish in their careers: Elise Overland, Rodarte, Ohne Titel, Zac Posen, Alexander Wang, Erin Fetherston, Proenza Schouler. Truth be told, talent is everywhere and the right kind of exposure is hard to come by. Every year, Ecco Domani chooses 7 young designers for a $25,000 grant and a show at NYFW. This year Joseph Altuzarra, The Blonds, Prova, Prabal Gurung, Siki Im, Salvor and Organic were the outstanding finalists.
There’s been a lot of talk about Joseph Altuzarra lately. New Yorkers love him and for good reason. His creations feel elegant, sophisticated and timeless without the fuss. The Parisian born art history major culled design experience by working with Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler and Givenchy. Sounds like a veteran, yes? And he designs like a dream. The black leather stitched dresses made me sit up straight in my seat, at full attention, with my neck craned forward. Paired with tall black pumps and thick ankle straps, the ensemble exuded strong, confident sensuality. Luxurious black goat fur trailed down the front panels of a coat with leather stitched sleeves. Fitted pencil skirts bore strapping belt details. And then a daring red velvet tuxedo dress appeared, all sleek lines, feeling unrelentingly sophisticated. Have I seen this before, I kept thinking, short velvet dresses abounded in the 90’s and the sudden appearance of it felt vaguely familiar and reaffirming in some way. It was as if a velvet red dress is just what I needed and I didn’t know it. And isn’t that the mark of a great designer? When they show you something you never thought you wanted and then suddenly it is exactly what you were missing?
Celeb-approved favorites The Blonds are strengthening the bond between fashion and music, or fashion and performance, via their glam heavy creations. If you’ve seen recent photos of Fergie (Black Eyed Peas) you might take pause in her cyborg metallic get up, all shiny, knobby joints, strong robotic shoulders, and a silvery sheath of a corset. And maille. I just love the use of chain maille. I know it’s very Knights
of the Round Table, but let’s face it, chains are hot and they are not going away anytime soon. The duo behind the Blonds, Phillipe and David, are not afraid of hardware; the shiny, silvery, drippy, chain-like additions that can fall off a structured dress or studded corset. Swarovski Crystal, Ostrich Feather and Python skin are all employed and made to be worn in a Rihanna or Katy Perry moment.
Siki Im has a quiet, minimalist aesthetic that translates well for menswear. Working mainly in colors of black and white, his shirts looked crisp next to cropped black turtleneck sweaters and wide trousers and skirts. Slippers were discreetly worn and derbys perched nonchalantly on the heads of models. A surprising twist was the appearance of kimono like trench coats (with hoods!), that gathered in the back in small, dark folds. I felt a keen appreciation for his melding of traditional Japanese and western influences and how he did not shy away from
feminine shapes. The art of draping is distinctly east-asian and he is successful in designing a menswear line that represents all of those aspects in a serene and beautiful way.
Prabal Gurung is another designer that has been getting a lot of attention. His strength lies in his distinct, precise tailoring and wonderful two or three tone color blocks that can appear in a sharp sheath or long camel coat. A beautiful ostrich feather dress with swarovski crystals lent a softer touch to the line and the oxidized silver and black stretch lace dress felt current and modern. The attention is well deserved and one can already see a signature style emerging.
An interesting category this year was for accessories. And the New York label Prova was recognized. Former Vogue Fashion writer now turned jewelry/accessories designer continues with the animal trend, printing silk scarves with leopards and fringing them with glass beads. It was a bit hard to see the scarves or the jewelry as they went down the runway, but the look seemed to be one of luxe safari.
In the sustainable design category (the first this year) was the label Organic. The label is dedicated to working with native and local growers of textiles who believe in creating fabrics via organic and sustainable production. The seven looks that greeted us was surprisingly urbane and equestrian. High waisted shorts and pants were the mainstay in beautiful tweeds worn with buttoned up white check flannel shirts and riding jackets. A beautiful, trailing floral print silk chiffon dress looked straight out of the pages of Mrs. Dalloway.
Designer Ross Menuez has travelled across Nicaragua by motorbike, dabbled in aerospace DIY experiments and spent months at sea on the fishing boats of the Pacific Ocean. It is these travel experiences that created the line Salvor. Print heavy, tribal and flowing, the looks were all about the drape and collage of graphic prints. Something interesting to note was the prints looked pixelated, computerized, as if tribal was entering some kind of digital evolution. His knitted print leggings looked like entire lit up city blocks, if seen from above. Easily something I would wear.
Photos by Stevyn Llewellyn