June 05, 2013 New York
Jen Kao's Resort collection was inspired by a trip to the museum, where Basquiat and Gauguin got the wheels turning. The tension she saw between them negotiating, between control and spontaneity, was what she set out to explore. Accordingly, even within individual pieces, there was the push and pull of tailoring and flow. Sometimes, push and pull had too much yank. Kao was enthusing about the strange alchemy whereby technical sketches, which are flat, became actual, physical clothes, which are not. Dresses dangling squares of fabric like fluttering scrims didn't quite prove the point. But leather cocktail dresses with severe bodices and floaty skirts straddled the divide, and were more fun than cerebral. That's where Kao hits her marks. White cotton dresses with pleated panels had a clever zing; even simple looks, like a denim vest with matching stovepipe jeans, when enlivened by an odd choice—a rich grass-green color—were peppy and smart. Slub-jersey basics inspired by painters' canvas, on the other hand, managed to seem both comfy and overthought.
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