Yigal Azrouël has never been hyped. He's not a wunderkind or an industry darling, and his brand doesn't have a strong signature look. He's got a sensitive radar for the new, but he also has a deep-in-the-bones attachment to the idea that clothes ought to be wearable and that women ought to look good in them, which has kept him from producing any truly directional collections. Until now, perhaps. At his show today, Azrouël asserted a desire to join a different fashion conversation, one that's more about ideas and less about merchandise. It will be interesting to see how his customers respond.
According to Azrouël, his inspiration this time out was "nature's architecture"—the accidental architecture of cliff faces, waterfalls, and rock formations. That reference may have been less important as a visual key than as the source of the collection's meditative, indeed Zen, tone. Silhouettes were simple—tent dresses and lean apron dresses predominated—and the palette was forcefully neutral, aside from the bright blue licks on a few hand-knits. Thus texture came to the fore—a good thing in the passage of softly rumpled cotton failles and in perforated cotton knits. The eyelets, however, were a little clunky. Azrouël also may have overreached with some of his hooded looks—he was onto something with the caped and hooded jumpsuits, but unlike, say, J.W. Anderson, he lacks a natural instinct for awkward proportion. The strongest pieces here—the full skirts and full-skirted dresses—show the designer's predisposition for grace. And the flashes of open back on those Spartan apron dresses, and their cutaway cleavage, further reveal Azrouël's appreciation of the female form; it's not his way to disfigure or obscure it. Still, the calmness of this collection felt authentic, like a deepening of the relaxed attitude Azrouël typically strikes with his clothes, and he is to be commended for his willingness to be, for once, strange.