When fashion meets literature, only good things are about to happen. Stacey Bendet, Alice + Olivia’s creative director and self-proclaimed vintage lover knows that and isn’t afraid to let herself get carried away by a good book whenever she finds one. For her Alice + Olivia fall/winter 2016-17 ready-to-wear collection, unveiled at New York Fashion Week, Bendet couldn’t help getting viscerally inspired by Garth Risk Hallberg’s debut novel City On Fire.
“I was reading that book City on Fire, and I just became really fascinated with that moment. New York City was financially bankrupt, but culturally, it was exploding,” she later declared, revealing the collection’s main protagonists – New York and the Seventies.
Bendet’s choice to celebrate New York isn’t, however, only linked to Hallberg’s book, as the fashion designer is feeling a significant and worrisome change of direction within the city’s cultural life, and is determined to bring it back: “Right now, we’re watching so much creativity leave New York—every artist or musician is moving to L.A. was craving that moment when it was all right here.”
Besides its New Yorker settings, City of Fire whisks its readers back to the Seventies, catapulting them in a city literally divided between the good and the bad, as on the one hand bankruptcy and gritty criminal gangs were taking over a city, where never-seen-before artistic and music movements were relentlessly flourishing. Among them, punk rockers, hippies and hip hop artists were surely helping many suburban kids and young adults escape from New York’s criminal, yet quite magnetic side, making the Big Apple one of the world’s most influential cultural centers.
Bendet perfectly managed to merge her desire to let New York thrive again with her passion for vintage clothes, serving a strong lineup that is destined to overwhelm us with its bright colors and fancy silhouettes. Both the hippie and the punk rock movements got involved in this FW 2016-17 rtw collection, as the fashion designer particularly enjoyed intertwining the two main themes together mainly utilizing a well-tailored mishmash of different patterns.
“When I started Alice + Olivia, all of my inspiration photos were of my mom in these amazing bell-bottom pants. I wanted to go back to that era…of rock ‘n’ roll, of empowered women,” she told WWD, emphasizing even more her willingness to celebrate women. “If that’s not a girl power moment, I don’t know what is.”
And her lineup is indeed for a strong independent woman, who has fun playing with different styles, cuts and even color-blocking motifs. From bold green to blue, from yellow to red and of course black, the lineups really has it all, and isn’t afraid to use it.
As for the lines and cuts, Bendet made sure both boho-chic and the glam rock styles had their time to shine, meaning that she managed to treat us us both to layered maxi gowns and mannish suits, alternating flared-sleeve coats with asymmetrical curve-hugging mini dresses and even studded jackets.
Paisley motif, animal prints and floral patterns adorn most of the retro proposals, taking advantage of Bendet’s colorful mind. Thanks to her great attention to details, the collection also delivers unique accessories that are just the icing on the cake, as they better define and emphasize each look with an even stronger boho-chic or punk rock allure. With all the sinuous cuissardes boots, animal-printed handbags and big hats we could rightly state less is more was definitely out of her wheelhouse here.
It doesn’t however mean she doesn’t enjoy minimalistic forms of art from time to time: one of the collection’s key pieces is a long-sleeve geometric-print gown inspired by American minimalistic painter and printmaker Frank Stella, whose works were greatly influenced by Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline.
Photos courtesy of Vogue