Holly Fulton is a fashion maximalist. She also revels in bad taste—and she'll admit as much herself. "I love it," she said after her show this afternoon. "Stupendous bad taste, it totally inspires me." What makes Fulton compelling is that she doesn't do camp; her affection for the gauche is totally sincere. Her strategy is to take the cringe-worthy and make it chic. That's a tough trick, but Fulton has a habit of pulling it off, as she did again this season.
Fulton's latest collection was inspired by, as she explained, the idea of a woman who blows her vacation budget on clothes, and so instead of heading to Saint-Tropez, goes to the tacky English resort town of Margate. She treated the seaside theme very literally, applying shells and shell laminate as embellishment, and creating an aquarium print and embroideries based on coral. There were also crystals, checkerboard and zebra motifs, and foulard prints, as well as the Deco-esque illustration that is a Fulton trademark. As noted, she's a maximalist.
That decor was often applied with relative restraint, as on a fitted sheath with a black-and-white placement print that combined the Deco, zebra, and checkerboard themes, and that had turquoise raffia strung along its hemline, or on a silk halter dress with squares of shell laminate arrayed around the neckline and an aquarium print floating down by the floor. Fulton's best look—the super-short A-line dress that closed the show—was even more pithy, claiming only a witty print that combined zebra and seashells. Somehow, it was terribly elegant, in a mid-sixties aristo way.
Fulton likes to cite the influence of Versace, and like Gianni Versace, she's got the right touch with a bombshell look. The killer in that department was a white patent leather miniskirt embroidered all over with coral-shaped raffia and worn with an abbreviated, zebra-patterned strapless top. The top, it turned out, was an intarsia knit, part of a group of knitwear the designer introduced this season. Women who are intimidated by Fulton's more over-the-top pieces may find themselves gravitating to those knits—they had a graphic pop, and could put the right finishing touch of bad taste on an otherwise impeccable outfit.