Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Whimsical Return To The Scene

In the early 90s, a young designer named Christian Francis Roth came into the fashion industry "like a splash of tonic." He immediately won the hearts of the New York City fashion world. Despite the acclaim of critics though, his business failed to make money. The designer of the totally adorable Crayola crayon dress realized that a deluge of press coverage just wasn't enough to make it. That being the case, he decided to take some time off from the design scene to learn the business from the production side.

Roth designed the iconic Crayola dress (above) in 1990.

Welcome to 2009 and here is Roth, older and wiser, making a big return with a new collection to be released under his own signature label, Francis by Christian Francis Roth. It will be positioned between the upper-end contemporary and entry-level designer tiers. Although he has aged since his fashion debut when he was 20 years old, his collection is still young at heart. He calls his Spring 2009 lineup "Gangs of New York."

“I first got the idea looking at my 16-year-old daughter, Annie. She and her friends travel in packs and have a similar look. They’re like little gangs,” Roth says. A few weeks later, he watched Walter Hill’s 1979 cult classic, The Warriors. He knew he was on to something from the opening sequence, which depicts New York City gangs, each dressed in their signature uniforms, boarding the subway. “I almost choked when I saw it,” says Roth, who for this collection created six high school cliques, which hit the runway in a Nolita gymnasium. First came the After-School Specials (Upper West Side prepsters), then the Lace- ups (jocks), the Downtown Locals (graffiti-happy hipsters), the Twill Seekers (Upper East Side WASPs), the Pieces of 8th (inspired by St. Marks Place in the 1980s), and finally the Tie Breakers (twisted black-tie prom wear).

Each set included spirited riffs on classic high school stereotypes, such as oversize crest patches on blue blazers; strappy silk dresses designed from a ’70s NYC subway map (a ringer for one shown in The Warriors); shifts with drawings by graffiti artist Meres; and a blown-up interpretation of Lacoste’s signature alligator and Ralph Lauren’s Polo pony in a brawl. “We got a call from Lacoste after the show,” Roth says, “but when I told them we weren’t producing the shirt and that it was just for fun, they asked me for a souvenir!”

Obviously, several pieces from Roth's new collection have immediately been added to my Spring '09 Must-Buy List. This man seems to have the remarkable ability to truly understand the most unexpected of creatures, the quintessentially streetwise New York Woman, in all her nuances and eccentricities. Roth is in the business of originality, irony and just plain irresistible clothes.

To say that I can't wait to see what else is to come from this label would be a massive understatement. I'm always a sucker for a ready to wear line that's dripping with creativity.

Welcome back, Mr. Roth. The wit and sense of humour that you have put into this collection is truly refreshing.

Photos: New York Magazine


Keira-Anne said...

I was watching this fashion show earlier this evening on TV. There were definitely some cute pieces, but I'm not sure how I feel about a fashion show in a high school gymnasium. Trivial, I know.

J said...

LOVE this stuff! I'm really happy something with 90's flair is coming back rather than just more 80's.