It isn't saying much to assert that this season's Imitation collection was more realistic than the previous one. Last season, Tara Subkoff returned to New York fashion week with an Imitation collection composed primarily of pajamalike clothes—her vintage-inspired peignoirs and tap shorts made for quite glamorous daywear, if you're a slip of a girl who works from home. This time out, Subkoff showed plenty of things you could wear outside without getting a summons for indecency, along with plenty of other pieces that would definitely land you in court. The question is who—aside from the odd time-traveling, screwball comedy socialite from the thirties, or a film noir vixen from Big Sleep-era L.A.—is looking for these clothes?
That's not a knock on Subkoff's cinematic imagination or her inveterate preference for old Hollywood glamour. It's fine for a designer to have particular taste. But Subkoff doesn't seem to have much interest in finding ways to make her references practical, or relevant to today. She has some interest—witness the gray suits in sweatshirt jersey, which were a bit of a misfire, or the fine wool trenchcoat with vampish cutout sleeves—but she has a tendency to overdevelop her easy ideas and give short shrift to the more challenging and interesting ones. That trench, for instance: Why didn't that cutout-sleeve idea get more play? And the cool T-shirt dress, draped in the back, in graphic green and black burn-out velvet: Why didn't we see more of that material? And in the meantime, why did Subkoff need to show a dozen iterations of sheer, shimmery chiffon dresses? Her instinct seemed to be to take a finished look, like a wool suit, and devolve it back to the point where it felt like (yes) pajamas. (To wit, a version of the suit in a tank and tap shorts combination.)
The collection shown was large, and it had its strengths. Subkoff showed a fugue of grays, together and alone, ranging from slick silvers to stone. And she did have one killer dress, a clean, long-sleeve, body-hugging jersey sheath that swept the floor. Her tailored, high-waisted long skirts were nearly as good, and every bit as sexy. For a designer who emphasizes dishabille so much, Subkoff should really take note of the fact that she's at her best when she does covered-up.