February 01, 2008
Stefan Miljanic's background includes stints at Calvin Klein, Banana Republic, and Abercrombie & Fitch, but before all that, he was an artist. One of the questions he's asking himself with his own label Gilded Age is this: How is what he does now connected to art? Here's what he's come up with so far: He's on a quest for perfection, he's doing things by hand, there's no mass-production involved, and he's looking to create some sort of emotion. Those answers added up to a fall collection that was a standout for its originality and desirability. You want backstory? Montenegro-born Miljanic is mesmerized by the history of his adopted city, particularly the way it was at the turn of the twentieth century, when New York was transformed by philanthropic industrialists at one extreme (the designer staged his presentation in the Woolworth Building) and waves of immigrants at the other. So Miljanic uses the methods of yarn spinning and dyeing that were used at that time, and he cuts his fabrics into pieces that also evoke the past.
In his fall collection, that meant a peacoat with a higher button stance, inspired by a train conductor's coat, or the other outerwear pieces he called railroad coats, or the boiled wool Henleys. The four-button suits from Miljanic's new capsule collection of tailoring also had a superficial period feel (There Will Be Blood was the obvious topical reference), but they were cut slim from soft wool cashmere, which immediately made them much more now than then. A suit in a windowpane check had pick-stitched lapels for added bespoke appeal. Miljanic sounds like a man obsessed when he talks about fabric research (unsurprisingly, much of his production is in Japan, heartland of the fashion obsessive), but even the most casual acquaintance with this season's cashmere hand-knit (Loro Piana yarn, requiring 71 hours of work) or five-pocket pants (dyed with volcanic mud or persimmon juice) is enough to demonstrate the artistry at work.