Patrik Ervell's windfall from the Ecco Domani fashion prize gave him
the opportunity to, as he put it, "flesh things out." One noted a new
self-consciousness in the designer's work (clothes are now stamped
with the season and the name of the style), but any apprehensions
longtime fans might have had about the compromise of Ervell's
signature subtlety were allayed by a setting that was stark yet
spiritual: a studio on the West Side Pier with sunlight streaming
through clouds of frankincense and myrrh, with Glenn Branca on the
sound track. "Insistently modern, but not cold," was how Ervell
described the music.
He could equally have been talking about his clothes. Like his most interesting peers, he has taken to the notion of "American" tailoring as an antidote to Europe's "grotesque and precious" inclinations. That made for a larger, more generous, unstructured silhouette, with sleeves rolled back on jackets and soft, slightly dropped shoulders. Ervell's "American" trench had a storm flap, shirred wrists, and no epaulettes or belt ("not so precious and dainty" is the way he put it). His research in the New York Public Library yielded a boxy wrapped jacket derived from the hanten coat of Japanese laborers. (Ervell tapered the kimono sleeve to make it more agreeable to Occidentals.) Such general generosity allowed the designer to layer clothes in intriguing ways: nylon jackets worn under alpaca cardigans, say, or artfully unstructured blazers.