February 07, 2013
Speaking after his show today, Richard Chai explained that he envisioned the men and women wearing his new clothes as a kind of army. "I was imagining them marching together in lockstep," he commented, and that statement really did help to make sense of his show. The unifying principle here was discipline. Military references expressed the theme most overtly: Both the collections boasted a fair amount of olive drab; in the womenswear, Chai expanded on the conceit by creating a jacquard in a pattern redolent of camouflage, while his menswear featured uniform trim as embellishment. More generally, though, the discipline was witnessed in the collections' lack of slack—tailoring was key throughout, and it tended to be strict. The rule applied to a woman's pencil-slim skirtsuit in lavender flock jacquard, and it applied to a man's double-breasted wool coat with emphatic pockets and lapels. Perhaps the signature silhouette for Chai this season was his short, fitted, squared-off jacket, either buttoned or zippered all the way to the throat, which he executed in versions for both sexes. Another important theme was check—more angles, there—and some of Chai's best looks for both men and women came in a shiny, windowpane polyester with a built-in hint of rumple. That bit of softness was welcome. Loose tweed parkas had a similar moderating effect. Overall, the collections were quite varied—both the menswear and the womenswear digressed in passages, getting a touch mod here, and a bit ethereal there, and very English natty for stretches. This may have been an army—Chai sold that much—but marching in lockstep? Not exactly.