For a designer so invested in the look of the street, Yang Li
sure does wear his heart on his sleeve—or at least somewhere not far underneath it. The men and women populating his runway this season may have come off slouched and gritty, what with their biker jackets, baggy pants, and Vans. But inside, they were poets: youth facing a hard world with a cold stare, but nursing broken hearts. If that sounds a bit much, the teenage tenderness of this show was a large part of its generous charm. Li is a designer who treats fashion as a vehicle for emotional expression, and occasionally in this collection he captured something fraught and vulnerable, letting his girls get lost in their clothes and unfinishing his looks in ways that added an air of dreaminess. Sometimes the romance bordered on the overindulgent; too many of the models were tripping over their pant legs and their skirts, which was a forgivable offense, but the kind of thing that sounds a cautionary note. However, there was no arguing with Li's military-inspired jackets and suits for both men and women, or his robelike coats for the girls in either a satiny couture fabric or a camo-patterned burgundy jacquard.
In general, the women's clothes had a much more developed point of view. Li has really stamped the maxi silhouette as his own. It was nice to see him finding ways to elaborate his aesthetic via other proportions and lengths, though; he does seem to understand that his predilection for oversizing will pay diminishing returns. The men's looks, meanwhile, were sharp and well executed, even if the designer's own point of view wasn't altogether defined there. Still, the catwalk had feeling as well as cool—a tricky balancing act to pull off, and one that stands Li in good stead among the new generation of Paris up-and-comers.