Tory Burch’s The Mercer Street Block Party show was a memorable affair, with a performance by dancer Lil Buck and drummer Cornelio and guests later invited to eat, drink and shop in booths from local businesses on either side of the outdoor runway. Another reason that the SS22 reveal that took place right outside the designer’s Mercer Street boutique in the New York’s historic SoHo neighborhood immediately grabbed out attention was that it was chock-a-block with modest looks. Long skirts and dresses and relaxed trousers reigned supreme during the sartorial spectacle, giving conservative dressers a lot to look forward to when the next season rolls around.
“Our Spring/Summer 2022 collection is inspired by Claire McCardell’s ingenuity and her legacy of American sportswear which revolutionised the way women dress. She discarded the rules of what women should wear, instead problem-solving for the reality of their lives,” the designer who planned the show to celebrate and support downtown New York explained in her show notes. “Her designs instilled a sense of freedom, encouraged self-expression and empowered women with a casual elegance that is as relevant today as it was in the late 1940s.”
The collection, which is part of the brand’s ongoing partnership with the Maryland Center for History and Culture, is all about jaw-dropping contrasts, whether it’s the colours, prints or fabrics. With a focus on casual elegance, the collection’s silhouettes include defined waists rapped, belted, or shaped with tech-knit bandeaus, broad belts and long sashes, balanced with full dresses and skirts. The bustiers, cleverly paired with relaxed trousers, ooze a contemporary vibe while jackets and sweaters come with sculpted shoulders and sleeves. Workwear details, unmistakable McCardell signatures, appear throughout, from hook-and-eye closures and double topstitching to exaggerated pockets.
The comfy pieces come in a mix of humble and luxury materials, such as silk chiffon with linen burlap or broderie anglaise, cotton poplin with matte jersey and tech knit with silk dupioni. There’s also crepe jersey, which drapes ever so beautifully on the long skirts and dresses. Additionally, cotton poplin in light and more compact weights has added texture: embroidery, topstitching and ruching that can be adjusted for different looks.
With joyful, unexpected combinations of red, fuchsia, lavender, blue, green and chartreuse, the collection comes in bold and bright colour mixes that aren’t normally seen together, but evidently work. When it comes to prints and patterns, Burch paid homage to McCardell's love of stripes. Chevron, shirting and awning stripes feature on cotton poplin and silk shantung, dimensional plaited-rib knits and delicate iterations done in broderie anglaise and pleated honeycomb eyelet. Addtionally, popstitching becomes a graphic grid pattern, and Madras and picnic plaids are printed and woven in different scales.
Accessories are also functional and versatile. Oversized tote, crossbody envelopes and hobo bags are crafted in suede, napa, double top-stitched leather and T Monogram raffia, coming with hook-and-eye closures. One standout piece of arm candy for the new season is the “Lampshade” tote, a new bucket bag silhouette, which is the inverse of a 1950s-inspired lampshade hat. Meanwhile, evening bags, which can be worn during the day, come in linen and leather, with long beads inspired by Bakelite on the straps.
As well as the pointed and rounded flats that are accented with ankle ties or studs, there are two reissues of McCardell’s designs included in the footwear. There’s a flat she created with Capezio in 1953 and a striped slik-cotton boot. Classic cat-eye sunglasses and sculptural silver jewellery round out the collection, showing a delicate tension between the retro and the modern.