Tuesday, November 15, 2011

In review: Christopher Straub Spring 2012 Collection

Text by Beth Hammarlund, l'étoile founder/creative director
Photos by Peter Holme

Christopher Straub unveiled his Spring/Summer 2012 collection on Sunday afternoon at the Westin Hotel in Edina, and it was without a doubt his strongest collection to date.

The Project Runway alum presented 21 sea-inspired looks that further revealed his strength with prints. The collection featured three original prints that Straub created, using his own digital photography as a building block. Though two of the prints highly resembled prints from Alexander McQueen’s legendary “Plato’s Atlantis” collection, they were truly executed within Straub’s aesthetic.

This was not the designer’s first foray into prints. His Spring 2011 collection included an original green and cream patterned motif that was fresh and sophisticated and left me wanting more. It was exciting to see the designer pushing further in that direction, and I’m interested to see where he goes with it.

A knee-length shift in golden earth tones and a fluttery number in sea greens and blues were chic and extremely wearable. The dresses themselves were tasteful, if simple, but the prints transformed them from off-the-rack basics to conversation pieces.

Straub showcased his signature densely packed petals, but instead of the flowery concoctions we’ve seen in the past, he graduated to spiky black stars. Thanks to Dolce & Gabbana, stars are having a moment on the runway and in editorials. The choice was extremely on trend, without being too on-the-nose. That said, the aggressive pieces felt disconnected from the rest of the collection to a degree that was almost jarring. The dress was overwhelming, but with the right styling, the mini-skirt and bolero jacket could be excellent statement pieces.

Structured ruffles in white python adorned dresses and skirts, and an extremely interesting top. However, the hardware details on the pieces were so small, they almost looked like pins holding the folds together. It was an unfortunate effect that did no justice to the strong construction.

The collection included a large selection of separates. A black and white print elevated a well-tailored blazer from simple to eye-catching. An incredibly accessible piece, it could be worn by both teenage rebels and ladies who lunch. (Just don’t let them know that they’re wearing the same thing). Straub had another hit with a chic belted jacket in white python print that would be elegant with wide-legged trousers or over a fitted dress.

However, several looks missed the mark. A strapless mini-dress with a ruffled detail was sexy and fun, but it belonged in a Whitesnake video. (There is nothing wrong with looking like one should belong in Whitesnake video, as long as the individual is aware that she looks like she should be in a Whitesnake video.) Compared to Straub’s other more sophisticated pieces, it felt dated and over-the-top.

Three pairs of leggings strutted down the runway, but there were no trousers in sight. The printed leggings were fun, but ultimately, printed leggings are still just leggings. They made little of Straub’s technical abilities and cheapened the otherwise interesting tops with which they were paired.

A dramatic cap-sleeved gown in white python closed the show. The finale dress found an found an appealing balance between ethereal and stark, but it was the penultimate look that reigned supreme over the collection. A full-length gown featuring fluttery sleeves and a high neckline, it would have felt overly conservative, and potentially girlish, in a solid color. But in Straub’s original print, it was at once edgy and sophisticated.

Straub still struggles with editing, and there were a few elements of this collection that could have been scaled back. Fewer ruffles and several more inches of hemline would have raised the level of sophistication. However, several looks showed a new sense of restraint. Straub constantly pushes himself, and though his collections are uneven, when he hits it right, the results are mouth-watering.

This review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Child Neurology Fund, an organization which funds research and treatment for children with brain disorders. In addition to bringing attention to the cause and raising money for the organization, Straub also made a little girl’s year by designing a one-of-a-kind piece to wear in the front row. After the show, she joined Straub onstage and assaulted him with the kind of fierce hug that children save for those that they truly adore. You’d be hard-pressed to find a nicer guy.

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