Hey, all you folks with English degrees out there — 3.1 Phillip Lim has a collection just for you … inspired by “cut-ups.” Um … for those of you who maybe missed class that day, “cut-up” is a literary technique dating back to those quirky Dadaists of the 1920s and popularized about 30 years later by author William S. Burroughs, who liked to take pages of text, cut ‘em up and rearrange them to create a new, alternative text. (Don’t try that at the library, thank you very much.)
Lim’s done something similar here with fabric, reassembling pieces to create “a push and pull tension between street and polish,” as the program notes state. OK, so what does that mean, exactly?
Well, patchwork, for one. At his runway show, held Monday at Skylight Studios, just beyond the grand historic post office building, there was plenty of patchwork, from a black “ditsy” (as he calls it) patchwork T-shirt dress (featuring a collage of flowers and worn with a cute faded botanical canvas duffle bag), to a “cut-up” dress, trouser, tee and pair of overalls (constructed from swatches of indigo chambray).
From there, he goes back in time, snipping out from history the popular ad campaign “I heart NY,” reworking it on modern, oversized tees where strips of fabric sometimes obscure part of the phrase. (Keeping it all multi-culti, he even offers a tee that says “I heart Nueva York.” Muy bien, señor.)
Perhaps most interesting are the sheer pieces with large patterns layered atop each other. On one model, you could see a sheer plaid tee through another sheer plaid dress, the plaids shifting and shimmering as she walked down the runway. The pieces were somewhat voluminous and full-cut, but the effect was surprisingly sexy, perhaps because of the hints of flesh beneath it all.
An unquestionably hot look: the super-cropped sweater worn over a pink plaid bralette and slouchy pants (and given how much torso is exposed with this look you’ll definitely want to invest in the bralette). There also are shredded jeans and jackets, and jeans and a pair of sweatpants with a built in “waist tie” that looks like a sweater or shirt tied round your waist.
Like the Dadaists and Burroughs before him (plus the slew of painters and jazz musicians who’ve tinkered with this technique), Lim's idea is to surprise, to defy expectations. The bigger question now is whether retailers will go in for such surprises. Given the skittish economy, it’ll be interesting to see what of this collection survives from runway to store racks.