Style & Fashion

New York Fashion Week

The day Katharine Hepburn came to New York Fashion Week

The Daily Beast

February 13, 2018

When designing his latest collection, Gilles Mendel had one film star uppermost in his mind: Katharine Hepburn. The designer, representing the fifth generation of the eponymous J. Mendel label, hosted visitors at the Ladurée in Soho, so there were macaroons to nibble on alongside the furs and gowns if you so wished.

I didn’t see anyone wishing to nibble on a macaroon, except in the restaurant proper whose patrons quietly observed the brief burst of fashion madness unfolding around them.

Mendel was inspired by Hepburn’s strength: her tomboyish demeanor during the day signaled in a pair of mustard tapered slacks, and then in a range of fitted day-dresses and drop-dead evening gowns “you might see her in later in the day.

Hepburn and Lauren Bacall were Mendel’s early favorite film stars: women of substance, with male suitors who had to be as strong to be worthy of them. The colors of the beautiful, beaded, and carefully structured pieces–”A woman likes to feel secure in a dress as well as beautiful,” noted Mendel–were heavily autumnal: reds, browns, mossy greens predominated.

Mendel is an urban creature, he said, but his girlfriend loves nature, and he was inspired by the paintings of wild, isolated spaces of Canadian artist Tom Thomson. High fashion and such outdoorsy earthiness might seem unusual bedfellows, but Mendel has spiritedly married both.