The best magazine
The modern arts for clothing
"I could have sworn it was Balenciaga," says Lily Kwong, of a Joe Fresh biker jacket she recently spied on a girlfriend. "When she told me it was $50, it honestly blew my mind." Vogue asked Kwong—model, Columbia University student, and self-confessed bargain shopper—to take a spring shopping challenge at Joe Fresh: Find a look to start the season for less than $150. Armed with a checklist of new trends and 30 minutes on the clock, Kwong's hunter-gatherer instincts kick in the moment she walks into the store in the Flatiron district. "I'd like to try a dressed-up short for spring, and play around with more separates, not just summer dresses," she says, immediately scouring the racks. "Oh, and I definitely need a new pair of white jeans to replace the ones I wore out last summer; I still need my classics." She hones in on a stash of light gray flat-fronted shorts at $29 right by the entrance. The color is a good transition from her urban winter wardrobe, even if the office-appropriate knee-length cut is a little less radical than she might like.
"As I get older, it's much easier for me to figure out which silhouettes work and which don't," she says. "I know straight off the bat that this length of short won't work for me." She picks up a pair of white jeans with athletic panels along the leg instead. Given that she's also carrying an armful of Breton striped shirts—all under $30—the sporty twist is a good update on a perennial summer look. Then, on her way to the fitting room, a pair of white loafers catches her eye. At $89, the shoes will take a substantial chunk out of her budget, and won't leave room for the $59 jeans and a top. "They look just like a pair of Dieppa Restrepo flats I wore on a shoot for China Vogue—it's nice to put my heels away once in a while. Shoes make or break a look, don't you think?" she says, putting the jeans aside. On a second sweep of the shop floor, she finds a great minidress cut from signature orange scubamaterial ($69), a crisp white short-sleeved shirt ($29), and a light blue denim pencil skirt ($29), a look that would balance the books.
As someone who favors formfitting silhouettes like her cousin Joseph Altuzarra's ultra-sophisticated curvilinear dresses, the voluminous trapeze dress isn't as flattering on as it is on the hanger. The breezy separates, on the other hand, are a total hit. "I found this one up in front next to the khaki jackets," says Kwong to a shopper who compliments her on her new shirt. "You know, I haven't worn short-sleeved button-downs like this since I first moved to New York five years ago. But somehow right now it just feels, well, fresh." 2 Assembly New York Muse Margo Ducharme's Favorite Downtown Spots "She came into my store four years ago to buy a pair of Victorian boots," recalls Assembly New York designer Greg Armas, when he's asked how he met his wife Margo Ducharme. "I was pretty aggressive and she was intrigued—and maybe horrified! Then one day she offered to get me a juice, and after she came back with it, she proceeded to drop it all over the floor. I laughed—there was pink smoothie everywhere."
Assembly, a well-regarded menswear line with a shop on Ludlow Street, has just launched its first women's collection for fall 2012. Ducharme, who has piercing blue eyes, a wealth of wavy hair, and a name straight out of Tennessee Williams, is a photo-based artist, the creative director for visuals for the line Raquel Allegra, and, not incidentally, her husband's muse. Armas started the new division because so many women bought his men's clothes. They were drawn to an aesthetic he describes as "stoic on the outside, teddy bear on the inside," by which he means slouchy black suit jackets made of over-dyed vintage quilting material and inconspicuous-looking pockets that turn out to have fur linings. "It's discrete luxury," Armas says. "I hate fake glamour." Today, Ducharme exemplifies these fashion ideals in a white shirt from Assembly's men's line paired with a pale divided women's Assembly skirt made of a heavy, curiously appealing burlap-like fabric. She has agreed to show us her favorite spots around the East Village and the Lower East Side, the places that inform her work as an artist and also, in that odd osmosis shared by creative partners, inspire Assembly collections as well. Our first stop is Narnia, a long, narrow vintage shop owned by Ducharme's friend Molly Spaulding. "She has excellent taste!" Ducharme explains sotto voce, "and her shop is a resource for design teams—in a subtle way she gives a heads-up, pointing out what they should know about." Gazing at the racks of footwear, Ducharme confesses, "It's always the shoes here for me," but others shoppers might fall for a patchwork velvet poncho, or an ankle-length antique calico skirt, or even an exuberantly embroidered denim jacket that bears a surprising label: Chico's. Our next destination is Mast Books, where the walls are whitewashed and a window display features Andy Warhol Et Al: The FBI File on Andy Warhol and an anthology titled Beat Coast East: An Anthology of Rebellion.
Ducharme settles on a monograph by On Kawara, an artist who she says had a profound influence on her when she lived in Toronto. (She grew up in Canada, on Lake Huron, but lived all over the world before coming to New York in 2008.) Ducharme's beloved bitters tasting bar, Amor y Amorgo, isn't open yet, so we settle on another kind of libation at the Whole Earth Bakery, which she loves not least because "it's open until 10:30 p.m., and you can bring your dogs." Today she opts for a coconut shake, but a juice concoction of kale, collards, parsley, and other ingredients called Great, Great Green is also something Ducharme considers a real treat. At Still House, a favorite boutique on East Seventh Street, there are candles that look like rocks, rings like frozen pieces of string, and bracelets woven from a plethora of wispy chains. Ducharme buys tiny silver and gold starfish from a collection residing in a blown-glass bowl. Our last stop is the Audio Visual Arts gallery on East First Street, where you can plug your headphones into the AVA Silver Sound Box, mounted on the exterior wall outside the gallery, and listen to "Aural Contact," a project by the artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan, including extracts of, among other selections, the trial of Saddam Hussein. Today, the performer Grimes, a.k.a. Claire Boucher, is inside the storefront, hosting an exhibition of her drawings. Grimes, 23 and baby-faced, looks about seven feet tall in her platform shoes and green hair, and seems like a very sweet version of Kembra Pfahler. "I am so happy to meet you!" Ducharme says, unhooking her earphones and extending her hand. "I've been listening to your songs nonstop!" 4 No Kidding: April Fools' Fashion Fashionable guests recall the glory and glamour of the storied Ritz Paris, which, before closing its doors for renovation, hosts Kate Moss in haute couture one last time. A little wit in your wardrobe can go a long way this season—look no further than Prada's fantastic flame-heeled, turbo-boosted sandals for proof. So rather than pulling the wool over your eyes and playing a prank, we thought it would be more fun to throw the spotlight on rib-tickling, fabulous fashion that would make the ultimate statement on April Fools' Day—pieces that are not necessarily as they seem. Go on, crack a smile, and accessorize your look with a chic gag or two. The joke, as the say, is on you. When all in the space of 24 hours the weather can take you on a roller-coaster ride of dipping and rising temperatures that appear to touch on every possible season (as seems to have been the norm these past few months), what is considered an appropriate way to dress? "We're really good at ripping down and piling on now," says Gregory Parkinson, who frequently designs with a trans-seasonal sensibility. "It's really hot one day and then freezing the next, or it's freezing in the morning, then boiling by twelve o'clock, so layering has become part of everybody's wardrobe."
That's certainly the approach many style-savvy women have adopted in response to the perplexing atmospheric conditions, but there are a few things to consider when planning a ready-for-anything look. Vogue's Senior Market Editor Meredith Melling Burke believes in mixing heavy winter coats with summer dresses, while Fashion Writer Chioma Nnadi advises on wearing "pieces that aren't too precious, so you can stash them in your bag as the day goes on." Here, three Vogue staffers break down hour-to-hour how it can be done. 5 Prabal Gurung Puts His Vibrant Stamp on Spring Nails "I've always thought of nail polish as a full stop—the final period—to a girl's look," says designer Prabal Gurung. He's talking about the punctuative power of the right manicure and its ability to instantly accessorize, and sometimes change, the way a woman wants to dress. Gurung's lush floral-print pieces—inspired by the Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki's Sensual Flowers series—were among the most celebrated at the spring collections, and this month he's figured out a way for his devotees to have them, quite literally, at their fingertips. It all started about eight months ago, when the iconic American nail brand Sally Hansen approached him about a new collaboration. "We had been working together for the past few seasons," Gurung says, referring to the graphic orange-spliced manicures (spring 2011), black-splattered graffiti nails (fall 2011), and plummy two-tone fingertips (spring 2012) their manicurists created backstage at his shows. This time they had a different proposal: Using new technology, they could now re-create one of his prints in miniature, layering micro-pixels of polish onto a slim adhesive strip that could be pressed onto the nail in one quick step. To Gurung, the prospect of a Prabal-print manicure was instantly appealing. "I loved the idea that any girl could have a piece of the collection," he says of its egalitarian, under-$10 price tag. The challenge was to capture the visual impact of the original runway designs on a much smaller scale. "With florals you can easily go too sweet. I wanted them to be beautiful but with a [hint] of imperfection, a kind of tech-y quality, for that little bit of edge," he says. This month, he gets his wish with the launch of Prabal Gurung for Sally Hansen Salon Effects: limited-edition nail appliqués in Sweet Marble Floret (a galaxy-like constellation of pastel petals plucked from his drop-waist tea dress) and Good Morning Glory (a cluster of tiny stenciled flowers that riff on his opulent violet blooms).
In case you're in the mood for a color-coordinated pedicure, they will be accompanied by a trio of polishes custom-made to match the shades of bold magenta, purple, and turquoise in his collection. They've already got at leastic admirer. "These are amaz-ing!" exclaimed model Ruby Aldridge, who sat for the very first Prabal-print manicure for this shoot, as she slipped back into her own T-shirt and jeans. "Can I wear them home?" Prabal Gurung for Sally Hansen Salon Effects collection, $9.99 each; at drugstores nationwide. 6 Year-Long Summer: Gregory Parkinson's Trans-seasonal Collection for Anthropologie Ask Gregory Parkinson to describe the aesthetic he's translated from his core line into a capsule collection of breezy tunics, tank dresses, skirts, and cardigans for part of Anthropologie's Made in Kind designer initiative (launching April 5 under the name, GREGORY by Gregory Parkinson), and he'll tell you this: "It's a pretty kind of camouflage—we all need some kind of battle dress to face the world." It's not the response you'd expect from the Los Angeles–based designer who cites his nearby haunts—the beaches dotted around north Malibu and on the south side of Hawaii's Big Island—as a few of his inspirations. But then, Parkinson's of the thinking that women today are setting their sights beyond the shoreline when it comes to stocking up for spring: "They want things they can visualize wearing for more than a couple of months at the height of summer," he says emphatically. And while this heady mix of tie-dye prints splashed in vibrant autumnal hues looks perfect for a bit of sun-drenched sight-seeing, it's also easy to imagine them layered up with denim and heavier knits and carried through to early fall. While with this collaboration Parkinson has succeeded in converting time-honored signatures into a clutch of easy pieces with the potential for far wider reach, the British-born designer sees it as a subtle evolution of his brand in more ways than one: "Prints have been good to me, but over time I've had to take them in a direction that feels newer," he says of the subtle patchwork of floral fabrics he's sliced into a familiar tie-dye base; an eclectic technique he's been exploring over the past few years and which features heavily here, setting his work apart from the influx of color and pattern that's washed over the runways of late. "It's about creating proportions and depth," he continues. "So only some parts of the print are revealed." And with hopes of appealing to different body types, age groups, and even environments, it makes for a very pretty cover-up indeed.