story by Lisa Radano
photos by Aeric Meredith-Goujon
When was the last time you were invited to a proper garden party, with pink lemonade, finger sandwiches, and badminton? And when was the last time such a locale was to be found downtown Manhattan and not 500 feet from the West Side Highway? If you were lucky enough to pack into Rachel Antonoff’s very popular presentation of charming, uber-cool, you’d have the answer to both those questions.
Moving through tunnels of high hedges positioned to create nooks, each one with a quirky theme such as “Tennis Elbow Square” and “Earthquake Garden,” we found models posed, eating cake, playing with the somewhat confused looking cat, and taking turns carving their initials into a faux tree with just a hint of hostility.
The well-edited assortment of trousers, shorts, shifts, skirts, and blouses clung close but softly to the body. Fabrics were country club-breezy cotton, linen, and seersucker, with a few stripes tossed in for fun. A graphic print was based on the Eames film Powers Of Ten, Antonoff explained. “The green print is actually an aerial view of the gardens of Versailles, which made me think, how cool would it be if we were all inside that print?” Hence the maze of hedgerow that her avid fans crammed themselves into, among them Lena Dunham who had cut her hair the night before and was getting pixie styling tips from Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power). But back to Eames’ film, which viewed the earth from one meter above a picnic blanket, out to deep space, then all the way down and into a single atom, and which Ms. Antonoff so deftly explored in her deceptively simple clothes. From a distance, the clean preppy feel of them belied the up-close details of fagotting, tiny pleats, and the embroidery of girls names in a rainbow of primary colors here and there, along waist bands and hems. “Those are based on the way girls sign one each other’s yearbooks at the end of the year,” explained the designer. The same detail was found on the models’ nails.
The deconstructed oxfords and platform jellies in clear and colored plastic were the designer’s “all time favorite” of her standing collaboration with Bass. Intellectual inspiration and tiny, almost private, details gave the clothes a sense of having sprung directly out of Ms. Antonoff’s journal. No wonder she has gained the attention of other young creative women like Dunham (Ms. Antonoff named a dress for her famous fan and hopes to see the clothes on the upcoming season of HBO’s “Girls”). Dunham’s articulate praise for the work exceeded not only the publicists’, but also the designer herself. “I love her clothes because I really get her references! My tomboy sister can wear them. My sixty-year-old Mom can wear them. And everyone feels totally comfortable in them and looks great!” — suggesting perhaps that, dressed by Ms. Antonoff, anyone can be a cool girl.