Photos: Marcio Madeira
BCBG Max Azria has nearly 500 stores worldwide, and filling them with the merchandise mix befitting a “lifestyle brand” can distract from ready-to-wear: the line technically known as BCBG Max Azria Runway and one of a mind-boggling 22 brands shaped by the indefatigable Parisian-born Max Azria, the founder, designer, chairman, and CEO of the BCBG Max Azria Group (read: empire, and surely the subject of more than one business school case study). But those who write off BCBG Max Azria as a mall store that embarks on twice yearly shopping sprees for design cachet haven’t been paying attention for the last few seasons, during which the Runway collection has blossomed into one of fashion’s well-kept (and most affordably-priced) secrets.
Most impressive is the line’s smooth yet innovative design evolution, which can be traced from last spring’s collection through that of this fall and on to the spring 2009 collection presented last Friday at Bryant Park. Spring 2008’s frothy translucency and textured layers gained opacity and greater structure for fall but retained consistency with wrapped leather belts, prim pleats, and ruffles. For spring 2009, the collection managed to toughen up without tightening up: relaxing the silhouette with draped silks and jerseys in an urban palette of grays (here a dove, there a shimmering anthracite) and brights (fuchsia, orange, dark teal), sometimes used as ’80’s-flavored colorblocking. These clothes—Grecian formula dresses, cropped jackets, and yes, jumpsuits—are made for a land where sun, fun, and skyscrapers aren’t mutually exclusive.
The innovation this season for BCBG came in the proportions, which the show notes described as “evok[ing] the sensibility of innate seduction” while “exploring the functionality of everyday classics.” Gone were the leather-tied waists of last spring and fall, but they were echoed in strappy platform sandals and a few thick belts accented with chunky parallelogram buckles that would make Zaha Hadid smile. The only problem with draping that takes one’s breath away when viewed loping down the runway is its tendency to lose some of that magic in still photographs, a format that was equally unkind to the subtleties of the collection’s color palette—a dazzling one-shoulder ruffled number in gas blue georgette turned floppy and grayish when frozen on film under the klieg lights. Fortunately, BCBG will likely avoid this problem by signing up for spring the same photographer it used for its ethereal fall campaign. His name? Patrick Demarchelier.
Previously on UnBeige: