Ever run into a friend’s younger sibling, after years, and spend the whole time grinning at how much they’ve grown and who they’ve become? That was the second Atlantic Fashion Week designer showcase for me—an evening of cheek pinches and head pats, or at least the seated, acceptable equivalent: much-deserved applause.
The evening launched with Katrina Tuttle (katrinatuttle.com)—the Tuttle of Tuttle & Leonardo, now a solo act—showcasing a streamlined series of designs that has learned a thing or two about cohesion since last fall. Even though last Saturday’s showing was only a snippet of her Fall 2009 collection, which will be presented in its entirety later this week, each piece resonated with the same note of ivy-league romance with rich, masculine fabrics pleated, cinched and bubbled in feminine ways. Gorgeous, tailored coats were folded in among flirty tops, sleek pants, work-friendly frocks and a few evening pieces, including an elaborate, floor-length textured gown. If last season this line was in its youth, in only a few short months, it has skipped right over the awkward years and matured into a woman.
Last fall was our first peek at the showcase’s next designer, Veronica MacIsaac, and the winter months have done her wonders. Her debut collection was impressive, with simple yet stunning pieces embodying a classic air and traditional influences. But this collection has evolved—MacIsaac’s signature tartans are cut into bold silhouettes, from a fitted jacket with plump Juliette sleeves, to a near-tutu dress in bumblebee hues. She again took cues from her roots, and not just with tartan and Celtic knots: the tight pleats that sway at a Highland dancer’s knees were elevated to a pretty peplum at the waist of an elegant sheath dress and luxurious velvet was sewn into bodices, capes and dresses. Her collection’s classier designs, including a mid-collection shirtdress in a muted brown plaid and that peplumed sheath, took home top marks from me, while some of her racier pieces (including the bumblebee mini dress) were a tad too distractingly daring.
Turbine (turbine.ca), one of the cleanest, most cohesive lines in October, had some tough competition at last Saturday’s show. Although Lisa Drader-Murphy’s designs were as polished as ever and obviously the result of nearly two decades in the biz, they lacked a certain punch. The collection’s signature print (a black and white borderline psychedelic design) and cut (an asymmetrical batwing-sleeved tunic top) weren’t as exciting as her luxurious fabrics and wrap tops of last season and I just wasn’t sold—until Drader-Murphy herself came marching down the runway. Cinched in with one of the beautiful kimono-style belts we’ve seen from Turbine in the past (they peppered this collection, too) and draped in one of her asymmetrical tunics, the designer looked fantastic. With Turbine, it seems, a real body seals the deal.
Completing the night’s lineup, Anna Gilkerson’s Deux Fm (deuxfm.com) amped up the room with a poppy mix from local DJ Loukas Stilldrunk and filled the runway with a string of equally exhilarating designs. Adding a rocker chic edge to the flirty femininity she’s already mastered, Gilkerson’s Asian-inspired Fall 09 collection tinted the models in deep black, a breath of ice, heathered blues, rich teal, dark denim and a few kicks of ox blood. Playing with knits, Deux FM went from cozy to coy, with long sweaters tied over bitsy bikinis and leggings, to a delicate (and reversible) crochet number that played double duty. Gilkerson’s details kept me intrigued, in particular, a chain-link pattern coiled around necklines whose source was later found draped around the waist of a simple silk T-shirt dress. With stunning detail, an eco-approach resulting in delicious fabrics and an aesthetic that impresses again and again, Deux FM served as a refreshing finish to an utterly satisfying night.