So Hip To Be Square
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
It wasn’t just minimalism that Francisco Costa delivered for the 40th anniversary collection at Calvin Klein. It was the geometry of minimalism. Squares and cubes were the defining shapes, which were gracefully twisted or wrapped around the body to form what we know as dresses. The three-dimensionality of the cubes was maintained by way of a corner or a whole line jutting out away from the body. In some cases, stiff, square panels were contrasted against curves that looked inspired by Frank Gehry.
Because the collection so emphasized the sleek shapes of modern architecture, small things stood out. Shoulders curved out to meet sleeves with wide armholes. Strapless dresses had fabric that curved and draped around the body in a supple, seductive manner.
A slim-cut pair of pants was shown with a jacket featuring sparkling Lucite closures. A white trench — that formed a cocoon-like shape around the body — featured small, flat panels of shiny nickel. Small additions like these offered the closest thing to embellishment.
While the majority of these pieces played with proportion and dismissed convention, the collection also gave weight to garments that were just a shade less experimental — no padded angles of fabric or askew hemlines. But they were captivating in the details. Some pieces offered an illusion that made them special. One dress front looked like a sleeveless sheath dress with a short-sleeve bolero, but from the back, the jacket was clearly attached to the dress that billowed out from the body. Another featured a long, narrow cutout at the chest that gave the suggestion of a tunic — albeit a thoroughly modernist one.
The boldest color was from the one dress in electric blue: The short-sleeve shift had shoulders that were gently shaped into cubes and seaming that gave the faintest outline of a square just below the waist — like a crease in paper.
This jolt of color, plus a few dresses in blush and lilac, offered the exception to the rule: The collection was made almost entirely in pure white. And with the emphasis on geometry, the carefully shaped dresses gave the impression of drawings made on sheer tracing paper — or origami made from glittering sheets of silver paper.
Earlier in the week, the Calvin Klein label celebrated its 40th anniversary with a party to benefit the High Line. And it was wise of Mr. Costa to keep the celebration of the milestone separate from the collection. Mr. Costa chose to hone his own artistic vision and present it within the context of the fashion show — not the context of the anniversary.
The party made a splash — with celebrities, including Halle Berry and Molly Sims, plus spokesmodels Eva Mendes and Djimon Hounsou. But it is Mr. Costa’s talent that is the real draw. After a week of fashion collections that may or may not link up to trends, move shoppers, or create buzz, collections such as this one emphasize that fashion is design. Mr. Costa reminds us that though it is commercial, fashion is firmly allied with architecture and art.