Fashion Week Debut: Woolrich John Rich & Bros Black Label

Fashion Week has, in recent seasons, expanded past the central tents to include presentations by adventurous designers seeking to do something different. Galleries west of 10th Avenue have come to represent such boundary-pushing talents, and the debut of Woolrich John Rich & Brothers Black Label by Paula Gerbase in such a location was a purposeful move.

The dark, cavernous space surrounded a sparse handful of models in the new collection, behind whom a trance-like projection screen broadcast runway footage that almost looked three-dimensional. At the core of the collection were the requisite wool coats and hearty cable knits, but was infused with Gerbase's sophisticated, impeccable tailoring.

Beside the outerwear were the pieces intended as Woolrich's first foray into serious ready-to-wear: There was an oversized T-shirt dress in sheer silk georgette, a navy-slashed-with-black cashmere draped dress, basket-weave cotton trousers, flannel pleated trousers, a quilted cropped sweatshirt and a silk slip dress that played cohesively with its heavier counterparts.

"It was about finding a femininity inside very masculine workwear garments from the '40s," said Gerbase. "I started by removing the outer layer and looking at the inner layer, looking at men's undergarments and rendering them with femininity."

We asked Gerbase about the resurgence of heritage brands. "I think that in menswear, heritage has always been important, and maybe in womenswear it hasn't been so much so, but I think women are getting more interested in where their clothing comes from and how it's made. And I think it's really exciting because the customer is becoming more savvy."

At the heart of it, she says, is the quality and workmanship of fabric: Gerbase is a Savile Row veteran, and working with the Pennsylvania woolen mill has been a dream from the get-go. "I'm a fabric geek, so I was really excited when they approached me." 

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