Designer Jackie Fraser-Swan Urges You to “Break the Mold” in the Emerson FW14 Show
The Emerson FW14 show, held on the evening of February 7th at Lincoln Center in New York City, was a beguiling witching hour thanks to the unique perspective of designer Jackie Fraser-Swan, who combined eerie, cryptic, and sinister elements with defiant punk attitudes, a hefty dose of rock ‘n’ roll coolness, and just a touch of femininity and romance. To underline the punk-meets-grunge quality of the designs, models wore Dr. Martens combat boots — many folded down, laced haphazardly, or featuring stud accents along their toes or side panels — or two-toned creepers, with their bold and chunky crepe soles. The in-your-face quality of these footwear styles perfectly balanced the femininity and softness of some of the designs — particularly the skirts and dresses crafted using more muted lavender silks — while reinventing glamorous, otherwise cocktail-ready frocks into youthful and street-ready designs.
One of the things I love about Fraser-Swan is that she’s vehement about steering clear of frothy, frilly, delicate interpretations of femininity, instead crafting clothing that conveys a sense of self-assurance and a willingness to defy conformity. One of the first ensembles to walk down the runway expressed this ethos perfectly, with a model donning a deep gray sweatshirt bearing the “Break the Mold” in black letters. The bottom half of the look echoed the notion expressed in this sweatshirt, with a black silk twill fabric fashioned into a slim-fitting, above-the-knee skirt and a sheer black chiffon fabric sewn onto its hemline and cut so as to float and hover along the lower half of the legs, right down to the ankles. This design, in an of itself, created an interesting and dramatic tension via the juxtaposition of lengths, textures, transparency, and rigidity.
In keeping with the notion of breaking the mold, a lot of the fabrics and prints revolved around grids and ceiling being broken and shattered. Some of the lavender dresses, for example, featured intricate silver lace trimmings with cut-outs that created the illusion of glass being cracked and smashed — a refreshing deviation form the traditional floral motifs seen in lace fabrics. Many of the sweaters and tops were embellished with black sequin appliqués so as to create a “shattered” effect (as shown below). If garments didn’t immediately communicate a sense of rebellion via shattered motifs, they did so by taking typically constrictive shapes or imagery — reminiscent of grids, bars, cages, chains, and glass ceilings — and using them in novel ways to communicate the idea of women breaking free from these molds and essentially bending them to their wills. One of the main chiffon fabrics used had stripes to create a windowpane effect (as seen in the one-shoulder evening gown shown second from top), while a black-and-cream wool fabric featured a grid-like pattern (as seen in the hooded cape shown at top, with its black leather trim). Fraser-Swan even created a custom print for her duchess satin fabrics dubbed “Spectral;” inspired by glass ceilings, this kaleidoscopic print incorporated overlapping, slanted, diagonal black, white, and navy lines, with diamond shapes created along the center. Even plaids were reinvented via the addition of clever leather accents and other rock ‘n’ roll touches.
In addition to this idea of women beating to their own drum, the predominantly black FW14 Emerson collection had decidedly wicked elements — the result of the designer’s fascination with American Horror Story: Coven. The run of the show, in many ways, seemed to echo the experience of Zoe Benson (Taissa Farmiga) in American Horror Story: Coven, so that the first few looks conveyed a more innocent and youthful energy — from the Red-Riding-Hood-gone-rogue vibe of the wool cape to the freshness of the blush pink and lavender tops and skirts (which, thanks to the shattered glass silver lace trim still felt slightly deranged) — and, as the runway show progressed, more gothic and glamorous looks ambled down the runway, perhaps a reflection of Benson’s own growing confidence as a witch. At some point in the show, you could practically see Zoe putting on her wide-brimmed black hat for the very first time and owning her magical powers.
Similarly, many of the dresses were reminiscent of the other key players in American Horror Story: Coven: the strapless gown shown above, second from top, with its sash-like embellishment over one shoulder and the crisscrossed fabric over the hips, felt like the type of piece Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts) would wear; while an above-the-knee dress with long sleeves in sheer chiffon (shown last below) felt like a more youthful interpretation of what you might find in Fiona Goode’s (Jessica Lange) wardrobe.
If Fraser-Swan is starting her own fashion coven, we want in!