Fashion: New York

American designers have a reputation for safe, soft designs. It took an Austrian to put them first on the fashion map, literally. Styling by Sophia Neophitou. Photographs by Francesca Sorrenti

Above white dress with pleated back panel, by Helmut Lang

Left grey chiffon dress with back boning, by TSE New York, designed by Hussein Chalayan

Americans are not known for their high-flying style. They might excel at sportswear - look at the average American tourist and their trainers will be the most up-to-date thing about them - but they cannot compete with Europe at setting the trends. In the past, American designers have been accused of plagiarism. They don't have any of their own ideas, say the critics. And isn't it convenient that they show their collections two or three weeks after London, Milan and Paris have shown theirs? Just enough time to make those crucial alterations, add a few all-important show-pieces guaranteed to catch the camera lenses of the world media and to water down any extreme ideas that popped up on the catwalks of innovative, uncommercial old London.

But the Americans aren't happy to be seen as copycats. They want to be the trailblazers. And when the influential Austrian designer Helmut Lang, who moved his headquarters to New York last year, decided that he simply couldn't wait his turn to show his spring/summer '99 collection along with the rest of his adopted city, all hell let loose. Lang held his show in September, more than a month before the scheduled New York fashion week. And such is his power and influence that Calvin Klein and Donna Karan followed suit. Of New York's most powerful triumvirate, only Ralph Lauren, confident with his billion-dollar empire, stood his ground. He watched his fellow designers run around like headless chickens in September and coolly showed his own collection last week, along with the rest of New York's designers, including Daryl K (for Kerrigan), downtown Manhattan's most wanted young name, Anna Sui, and Marc Jacobs.

Next spring, the New York shows will open the season, a privilege usually given to creative London, which appears to be being squeezed off the schedule. Key British designers may be forced to move their collections to the wider arenas of New York and Milan. American designers will be required to show their collections ready six weeks earlier than usual. No mean feat. The fashion press will be waiting with bated breath. We know Helmut Lang can be a fashion innovator - he is European, after all. But can the rest of them come up with new ideas of their own?

For summer '99, Karan and Klein have done pretty well. Klein's green- and-red graphic assymetric dress points the way forward to a colourful summer, while Karan's pale blue muslin dress is obviously inspired by the Japanese school of design ... but, of course, made her own and - most importantly - womanly and wearable. Of those who showed later, Daryl K, who was born in Ireland but who now calls New York her home, has cracked the secret of making edgy, modern sportswear with her own strong signature. And TSE New York, the collection designed by London based Hussein Chalayan, is the perfect blend of just enough innovative ideas to make a commercial line stand out from the rest. And that is the secret of New York fashion: it is all about finding the perfect balance between art and commerce. With Helmut Lang's presence to stir thing up a bit, it would appear that the balance is just about right.

Here we photograph the best of the summer '99 New York collections - from those who showed before Paris, and those who waited. Tamsin Blanchard

Above right white cotton wide-leg trousers, black top with white and blue sleeves, by Daryl K

Right red jacket with black hood, also by Daryl K

Above right pale blue muslin dress, by Donna Karan

Right green and red asymmetric dress, by Calvin Klein

All clothes will be available in the UK from next February

Model Marianne Schroder

Make-up Jorge Serio at Garren NY

Hair Zaiya at The Agency

Stylist's assistant Warren Noronha

Arts and Entertainment
TV Review: Sabotage, a meltdown and, of course, plenty of sauce
News
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
i100'Geography can be tough'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Louis van Gaal looks dejected after Manchester United's 4-0 defeat by MK Dons on Tuesday night
sport
News
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
Video
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
i100
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Head of IT (Not-for-Profit sector) - Lewes / Brighton

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + 5 weeks holiday & benefits: Ashdown Group: Head of...

    PE Graduate?

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Are you a PE graduate looking for a ...

    Primary Teacher

    £90 - £135 per day + travel expenses: Randstad Education Newcastle: Key Stage ...

    Humanities Teacher

    £100 - £150 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Permanent Teacher of Humaniti...

    Day In a Page

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?