I’m struggling to find an appropriate metaphor. You know how it is when you’re searching through a can of mixed nuts that is 93% peanuts and you suddenly come across a cashew? That’s a bit what it was like watching the J. Mendel show this afternoon. Sitting here watching what felt like more of the same, an almost monotonous diagonal pattern of red, tan, and black, when all of a sudden he’d throw in something totally different, completely unrelated to the pieces on either side of it, and then continue back along the diagonal line he’d been traveling.

Okay, it’s cold, so maybe my frozen brain isn’t the best at creating metaphors. Nonetheless, there were definitely some surprises in this J. Mendel fall/winter collection and they were spaced throughout the show to make sure we were all paying attention. Not exactly a bad strategy when snow is dominating conversation.

I am always careful in my approach to the J. Mendel label because I know old habits are hard to break and Giles Mendel comes from five generations of furriers. Fur is a language he understands and something with which he is more comfortable than most. So yes, we are going to see fur in most any J. Mendel collection. That is a fact one may as well expect before walking through the door.

This collection is also very heavy on leather this season. From the very first piece we see leather trim in the coats and full leather dresses. Even the handbags are covered in diagonal swatches of fur for the first few looks. Why Giles committed so many looks to the same deep red, tan, and black theme is a bit of a mystery. It’s not that the look is unattractive, quite the opposite, but when it’s coming at you look after look after look one begins to wonder if we’re going to see anything else.

The looks had just started to transition from fur to all leather when there it was, a dress made entirely of maroon mesh, almost completely transparent, still diagonally focused, but so much lighter, and sexier, than anything yet seen in the collection that it caused guests to catch their breath and re-orient their eyes for a minute. The very next look was right back to leather and the parade continued.

A few looks later came a short black/white checked dress done in diagonal wraps and over one shoulder. Definitely a bit drafty for the season, but not unattractive in the least. The next look was fur, followed by leather and so it went until a piece in blue lace, with a large panel sewn in diagonally from shoulder to waist, came wandering down the runway.

Are we beginning to notice a couple of patterns here? Mendel is most definitely in a diagonal mood this season, even with the solid fabrics of his evening gowns. There, he plays off the one-shouldered look to provide the diagonal feel he likes. At least there, the chiffon skirts are full and billowing. He also seems to have a thing for sheer fabric, the exact opposite feel from fur and leather.

Mind you, outside the fact I’m a fan of neither fur nor leather, there’s nothing bad about anything in this collection. They are all very solid, practical, and wearable designs. The surprises thrown in are a very different aesthetic, though, and I can’t help but wonder if Giles is testing the water for a new direction in seasons to come.


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