The notes at Phillip Lim's show today explained that he had been exploring "cut-up," a Dada literary technique later popularized by William Burroughs and then appropriated by musicians such as David Bowie and Radiohead. Effectively, cut-up is a stratagem for nonlinearity: Write a ten-word sentence, pick out five of those words at random, and then reassemble them in an arbitrary order. Voilà. You could argue that cut-up, insofar as it applies to this latest 3.1 Phillip Lim collection, is just a pretentious way of saying mix 'n' match. Bin-diving eclecticism, and all that. But then, that's Lim's trick, isn't it? He takes rarefied ideas and makes them comprehensible and realistic. And he was at it again today.
Take, for instance, his interpretation of sheers. This season, more than a few New York designers have been promoting the idea that, come spring, women are going to want to wear see-through clothes. This is not an easy concept to sell. But Lim, using obscuring plaid or woodland scene appliqués, made the look modest enough to be convincing. The silk sheers were among the standout pieces in a show that was too often muddled by grunge-y layering and mixed-print sensory overload. But there were other looks that rang out as clear winners: Lim's patchwork denim is going to fly at retail; so, too, the shredded khakis and his printed, corded silk biker jackets.