Emerson, Son Jung Wan & Kaelen Spring 2012

While I love seeing the big-name designers of New York Fashion Week, I always try to make it to a few up-and-comers' shows. After all, fashion is always about what's new, and you never know when you're going to come across the next Alexander Wang or Phillip Lim. (Case in point: Back in February 2007, I saw, and loved, a fledgling designer by the name of Jason Wu.) Of course, it's kind of a toss-up, but, hey, hope springs eternal.

Emerson is a fairly new label out of Boston; with only two previous collections under its belt, this was the line's first showing at New York Fashion Week. Designer Jackie Fraser-Swan was inspired by that old chestnut, "lightness and darkness," and while that might be a pretty vague theme, it translated into interesting mottled and tie-dyed prints and lightly textured fabrics. Less imaginative were a series of jersey pieces with bandage details—compared to the structured, tailored separates and leather items, they looked almost slapdash. Still, it was all very wearable, and definitely a promising start.

I attended Son Jung Wan's first New York show last February and decided not to write about it because, well, some things are better left unsaid. I was quite impressed, however, with her spring/summer collection, which featured dreamy metallic neutrals with interesting textures, pleating, and beaded accents. There were a lot of trapeze-type tops, which felt very light and warm-weather appropriate, as well as skirts that hit between the knee and midcalf--while pretty and undeniably feminine, the collection seemed geared toward a fairly young working woman (that is, after all, who can generally afford to buy these things), with suits for day, sparkly dresses for night, shorts for the weekend. While the collection could've benefited from some editing, you got the impression that Son Jung Wan kept coming up with more occasions for which to dress her customer and just couldn't help herself, which, like her clothing, is charming.

Kaelen Farncombe has been one of my favorite emerging designers of the past two seasons, and her latest collection pretty much solidified my impression that she's one to watch. For spring/summer, she continued to explore minimalism in an ethereal series of nude, cream, pale blue, and soft orange, with some stripes and a wallpaper print for good measure. What was most interesting to me was that she took macramé--a medium known for its bohemian hippie-dippiness--and seamlessly incorporated it into the collection. In other words, making macramé look minimalist is no small feat. Nor, it should be mentioned, is making very wearable-looking shorts, which Kaelen also did quite well. My absolute favorite look, however, was this pleated white dress, which is just so clean and simple and perfect. It's the kind of thing you'd buy for a second wedding but that you'd really want to wear again and again and again. I think the true test of a good designer is the ability to transcend trends in favor of timeless design, and if Kaelen keeps coming up with frocks like this, I'd say she'll be around for a long, long time.

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