Well, we didn’t see THIS one coming.
The Lake and Stars, the iconoclastic U.S. indie label, served up a Valentine’s Day surprise to fans of its edgy undies last week — a super-pretty five-piece capsule collection for Kate Spade New York.
And a very girly one at that: pale blush silk trimmed with bright neon pink and decorated with little pink bows.
Very romantic, very traditionally feminine and very unexpected from a trailblazing independent that is renowned for its statement-making, conceptual lingerie-as-streetwear collections.
The TL&S for Kate Spade collection includes a chemise, a sleep shirt, tap pants and bikini briefs, and a “signature” soft bra whose sheer nubbly mesh is the only thing reminiscent of past TL&S creations.
The obvious question about this collection is, what does The Lake and Stars have in common with the bright, tailored, primary-color world of Kate Spade? The answer is, more than you’d think.
To mark her 20th anniversary in fashion and home design, Kate Spade sought out collaborations with designers she admires for a “Things We Love” series of limited-edition products. The idea was to create “special items inspired by some of our favorite things and made by our favorite people,” she says in her store blog.
At the very least, being asked to contribute was a huge compliment to TL&S design duo Maayan Zilbermann and Nikki Dekker and an acknowledgment of their substantial impact on New York fashion in general.
And they’ve followed this sort of path before, working with established brands as a way of expanding their own capabilities and, let’s be honest, getting their own name out there. Past TL&S collaborations have included a limited edition sneaker (!) with Nike, a menswear-influenced nightshirt with Seize Sur Vingt, and a diffusion lingerie collection for Urban Outfitters.
An interview with the TL&S team on Kate’s blog doesn’t give much insight into why they pursued this new style direction, although Nikki says she likes to use pink “to show a different side of what femininity can mean.”
It’s tempting to believe that comment is meant ironically; after all, proto-feminist fashion designers tend to avoid pink colorways for fear of reinforcing gender stereotypes and offending the sisterhood.
But Nikki and Maayan have always taken a broad, open-minded and exploratory approach to the role of lingerie in culture and society. They’ve played with off-pink statements in the past, but this time it’s as though they’re reminding themselves that there’s room for traditional expressions of femininity as well, regardless of how politically incorrect they might be.
I suspect this collection might alienate some TL&S true believers. But there is typically so much buzz about The Lake and Stars‘ unconventional, fashion-forward looks that people tend to forget there has always been a powerful emotional undercurrent in their work; The Lake and Stars have always been romantic warriors as much as feminist fashion standard-bearers or sexual adventurers. And, apparently, there’s room in their arsenal for little pink bows.
So, back to our question: why Kate Spade, and why now?
Like anyone else working in fashion in New York City over the past 20 years, Nikki and Maayan couldn’t help but be drawn to Kate Spade’s enormously appealing aesthetic, even while pursuing their own radically different visions. And getting an opportunity to align themselves with a much-loved womenswear brand helps the pair bolster their cred as fashion designers first and foremost, not just subversive style renegades.
What they offer here is a small collection stripped of the complex hardware, interwining straps, arty references and geeky appeal that have defined The Lake and Stars thus far. Instead, this collabo gives them the opportunity to focus on exceptional tailoring and the challenge of creating something that is classically beautiful by anyone’s definition.
Longtime fans of the label might scratch their heads — the last TL&S collection referenced horror movies, video games and action figures — but by now they should have learned to expect the unexpected from a label that never does the same thing twice.
If the next collection from The Lake and Stars is made from burlap sacks or recycled tires, just remember we told you so.