There are two kinds of people who seem to dominate fashion: those who live for nostalgia and those who cringe at the thought of, even for a second, looking back. As such, fashion collections tend to be either active or reactive, as they seek to either promote singularly new aesthetics or dig up and re-embellish old ones. The Ruffian Fall/Winter 2014 collection, however, did a little bit of both.
The Ruffian show started somber but elegant, as models marched out against a subtly evocative but simple emerald-lit backdrop. The show began with relatively little fanfare, considering the theatrics that other NYC fashion shows sometimes promote. The lighting was bright and straightforward, and the clothes, colorful and in full view, were the focus.
At first look, the clothes appeared girlish and luxurious, harking back to bygone eras and the kinds of color palettes that a film like Anna Karenina, in its most recent 35 mm incarnation, might evoke. The clothes were marked by voluminous, feminine silhouettes, flourished collars and enviable, decorative shoes. The show’s lineup was a mixture of somewhat playful, doll-like silhouettes and almost austere, all-black ones, creating a combination that spoke, alternately seriously and frivolously, of the opulence and luxury of earlier times. There were light, full skirts, ribbon-tied waists and pouffed-out shoulders. These elements, taken alone, might sound more appropriate for China dolls than modern NYC ladies. Subtle details and styling, however, kept the collection relevant and in check.
The models’ hair was slicked back and their faces were painted with dark, almost harsh lipstick. Under the bright lights, despite their feminine frocks, the models took on expressions that seemed serious in a grown-up way. The overall effect served as a reminder that these clothes, like the women who wear them, are representative of a world of legacies. Stories of opulence, luxury and prosperity decorate our collective cultural pasts. Living in New York City, most of us are fortunate enough to experience reminders of this opulence regularly, as inhabitants of a prosperous city, and even those of us on limited budgets can wander into the Plaza Hotel now and then. Yet, even there, we cannot escape the realities of our newly interconnected world, where economic and social realities seem ever-present in our global consciousness. The Ruffian Fall/Winter 2014 woman, in all of her glamour, must know this. Thus, she is ladylike but somber, luxurious in shocking colors and ornate prints, yet somehow still serious and restrained. Luxury in today’s world, after all, would be outdated were it not self-aware.
It feels strange to call a collection like this restrained, yet after voluminous, this was the first word that came to mind. Restraint was found not so much in the silhouettes or fabrics as in the details themselves. Collars and all-black pieces dotted what could have otherwise been a light-hearted collection. Restraint existed, too, in the models' attitudes. The Ruffian girls did not pretend to be any happier than they were, and this is precisely why the collection, both opulent and sober, felt like a sigh of relief or even admittance.
The Ruffian girl may wear colorful clothes, but her attitude is up-to-date and informed. We live in a world where beautiful frocks like these exist, and yet where not everyone gets to wear them. Rather than delight in her privilege with the glitz and glam of more ostentatious brands, the Ruffian girl knows that it is better to be self-aware and thought-out. There is a timelessness to the Ruffian collection— a sense that things have always been good at times and bad at times— and that luxury, in its many forms, has persisted throughout.
Read the original review here for Twenty6 Magazine.
(Photo credits: Style.com)