Lauren Kovin is a New York-based designer whose highly individual approach to womenswear has generated a lot of buzz, even though she has only been producing her own collections for just over two years. This has translated into editorial in magazines that many young designers can only hope for – such as Dazed and Numero- and her first capsule collection was snapped up by buyers at Oak.
Unlike most designers, Lauren Kovin’s background is in the visual arts. Maybe this accounts for her sculptural approach to shapes, very particular palettes and an overall aesthetic that stands out in a field of designers attempting to replicate the look of the moment with one eye on commerce. In Kovin’s case it seems that the old adage about persisting with what you believe in rather than making what you think others want might just be paying off.
As with any designer, Lauren Kovin’s work has a number of reoccurring themes or strands: the interplay between slinky, sheer garments and more architectural coats or jackets; strong fields of colour contrasting with occasional precise textile patterns; architectural complexity over fussy decoration. All of this adds up to a unique sensibility, particularly on the American fashion scene that has traditionally had a bit of a reputation for finding it difficult to accommodate young designers on the more artsy fringes.
All of this is, of course, a generalization. The American scene for young designers has undergone immense change in the last decade. On one side, the success of designers like Rick Owens in the international arena has questioned the tried and tested market-driven formulae of successful design. And, on the other hand, as some have noted, the up side of the recession for young American designers is that the pressure to achieve financial success immediately has provided space for design that is less commercially defined.
Whether any of these constitute a reason for the appearance of designers like Lauren Kovin on the US fashion scene in the past few years is rather speculative. Nonetheless, Lauren Kovin’s approach is neither the traditional vision of glamour nor that rather corporate approach to the smart practical look favoured by a lot of American professional women. Sensual and svelte rather than overtly sexy; sculptural rather than statuesque, hers is a vision that combines practicality – for example the clinging pajama-like basics that are a feature of both the current and previous collections- with a certain quirkiness. Note that the ‘pajamas’ are usually made in luxurious fabrics and colours that make a strong statement that overshadows their more utilitarian practicality. In the FW10 collection, for example, we find a series of shimmering basics in Space Age metallics, accented by dark cape coats and bold textile prints by Jesse McGowan.
Furthermore, whilst the pared down aesthetic of both the clothing and the brand’s identity make them likely to appeal to women who want to make a statement rather than being spoon-fed the latest trends in prêt a porter, it’s not that Lauren Kovin is without commercial savvy. With relatively limited resources, she has still been able to make some very smart moves, such as the production of a series of ‘banned’ commercials distributed via Youtube. Directed by Jesse McGowan, these snippets feature the collection pieces in a suitably lateral context, entirely in keeping with a brand that plays with ethereal concepts whilst producing very real clothing.