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Richard Chai LOVE SS13 Show — Sporty Minimalism

Minimalism was the overarching theme of the Richard Chai LOVE Spring 2013 collection, showcased on the morning of Thursday, September 6th, the first day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City. The New York-based fashion designer’s two-year-old contemporary line was showcased alongside his menswear collection, with the two coming together through a shared sporty aesthetic and a muted color scheme consisting mainly of taupe, slate, putty, sand, powder blue, white, mauve, lilac, lavender, and graphite shades with the occasional pop of yellow (albeit a very understated, almost pastel-like iteration of the color).  To create the desired emphasis on athleticism, Chai reinvented many of the garments we associate with fitness, turning the typically dowdy sports bra into a silky showpiece with a floral print or fil coupe embroidery; tailoring skirts to resemble those you’d find on a tennis skirt but using softer materials like cotton jersey; giving his dresses halter necklines to expose muscular shoulders; adding racing stripes to trousers and jackets; using a crinkled cotton material for color-blocked tech jackets featuring slouchy sleeves or relying on lightweight denim rather than thick and cumbersome twill or nylon when crafting hooded anorak jackets. Perhaps most surprising of all was Chai’s use of neoprene — the stretchy, rubber-like material so ubiquitous in the fitness apparel realm — which he incorporated into many of his pieces, from standard exercise fare like biker shorts and sweatshirts to unexpected garments like tailored shirts and flounce skirts.

Though it would’ve been easy to veer off into a gym culture reverie with so many sporty elements, Chai infused just enough femininity and whimsy into the pieces to make them feel urban and sharp. A chalk white neoprene shirt, for instance, was shaped so as to create a peplum-like flounce at the waistline, while iridescent pailettes were embroidered onto tee shirts to add a holographic effect, their round surfaces switching from neon green to yellow gold under the runway lights. Color-blocking was key to Chai’s collection but, given the similarity between the tones used, the effect was significantly more understated than what we’ve seen in seasons past, giving garments a sense of movement and a contemporary vibe rather than referencing the Cubist or Bauhaus movements. Similarly, geometric cut-outs seemed organic, rather than bold or severe.

Only the latter part of the collection seemed to steer away from the overriding theme, with Chai’s use of gold silk lurex and his overly exuberant incorporation of sequined embroideries (meant to create a holographic effect) confusing an otherwise tightly edited and thoroughly cohesive collection. Sure, he may have intended to present these pieces as a futuristic take on sportswear-inspired contemporary pieces, but the  flow of the show didn’t really allow him to establish that narrative.

The Richard Chai LOVE SS13 collection, then, will surely speak to many a consumer — particularly the dresses, skirts, and tanks (less so for the biker shorts, tech pants, and tech jackets) — given the easiness and versatility of most pieces. Sure, it wasn’t the most conceptual or theatrical collection and it seemed geared to wowing sellers above all else, but it seemed to accomplish that feat rather well. That being said, as someone with a penchant for the dramatic, I was really hoping for more color in the collection rather than a virtual sea of taupes, as well as more avant-garde silhouettes. Nevertheless, I was impressed with Chai’s expert tailoring, which you can see for yourself in the photos shown here, along with the video of the finale walk embedded above.

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