"Geisha nurse" was the conceit this time out for the Assembly New York women's collection, the second the CFDA/Vogue short-listed brand has produced. In the hands of another designer, "geisha nurse" would have been a more or less arbitrary mash-up of references. Assembly's Greg Armas made an interesting connection between the two icons of femininity: service. And he elaborated the theme through a relaxed yet exacting collection leaning heavily on nurse whites and uniform blues. (There was also a Congolese print thrown in, Armas said, because it felt right to have something "opposite" in the collection, too.) As is typical for Assembly, the action here was mostly happening in close-up—the slippery hand of a Tencel button-down in denim blue; the unbelievable fineness of Armas' raw-edged knits; the fetishistic refinement of buttons and button coverings. To say that Greg Armas pays attention to detail is a bit like saying that zombies are relatively into brains: It understates the matter, a lot. And that micro-focus is what gives Assembly's clothes an air of polish, despite their slouchy mien. That said, there were some macro effects here as well, notably the crisscross drape of tops, and the austere majesty of a tonal blue coat.
Armas is still sharpening his point of view on womenswear. But his take on men's clothing is fully developed—at this point he can play around the edges of his look because its signatures are so well defined. For Spring, Armas evolved his soft-suited look in a few interesting ways: There was a new trimness to the silhouette of a double-breasted khaki suit, and this season's high-waist pleated trousers looked fit for a downtown Fred Astaire. In a standout look, Armas paired a Nehru-collar shirt with a jacket stripped of most of its buttons and all its lapels; it sat, attractively, in the gray zone between a jacket and a cardigan (a jackdigan?). Throughout, the materials Armas used were pliant and inviting, and it was nice to see him incorporate a little of the print from the women's collection. In future seasons, he might consider adding color—that seems like a no-brainer way to expand the Assembly menswear vocabulary. And even if it's not a no-brainer, Armas is up to the challenge.