Monarchy Fall 2009 Collection Review - Smoke & Mirrors

While hearts were singing, sighing and soaring worldwide on St. Valentine’s Day, the new Monarchy Autumn-Winter 2009 Collection migrated eastward from the left coast to make its New York Fashion Week debut at Bryant Park. Creative Director, Eric Kim unveiled “Smoke & Mirrors”, a blended presentation of menswear and womenswear that was one-part classic sportswear and one-part edgy highlights, with a wink and a smile of playfulness added for good measure. Some interesting styling choices subtly harkened back the post-depression era while underscoring the collection’s metaphorical title. “Flux” from the UK’s perpetually addictive Bloc Party provided the catwalk chorus for the collection’s 40 new looks.

This season, the Monarchy brand made the purposeful transition, wherein according to the show run, it has graduated from being a solely a t-shirt, hoodie, thermal, and denim line, to a fully integrated lifestyle label. The collection was heavily military-inspired, with outerwear, tailored looks, and wearable pieces that can be easily dressed up or down. Although denim was the primary focus of the collection, it was used in an innovative way and was not limited to an ordinary pair of jeans. “I believe that fashion is moving away from the overly detailed, bold artwork that so many Los Angeles labels are known for; it is moving towards a clean and sophisticated look. Bearing that in mind, the collection does not hide behind graphics, it stands on its own by being well designed, well tailored, and well constructed,” said Mr. Kim.

The triumvirate menswear approach sought to appeal to that 20-something rebellious spirit with a cause, wandering the city streets on his Norton by day and night in a cool motorcycle jacket; the 30-something man-boy formally entering the business world or advancing up the corporate ladder, ever so stylishly in classic suiting; and the more staid, serious separates representing the 40-something man who seems to have the world in the palm of his hands. This blend of classicism and whimsy targeted Mr. Kim’s 18-40 year-old demographic, the first tier who may still be searching to find themselves and are willing to experiment and take fashion risks; those on the career track who’ve been forced to grow up and conform to more societal conventions, but refuse to relent or hide their charismatic personalities; and the more mature customer looking to inject a bit tongue-and-cheek humor and light-heartedness into his wardrobe.

Interestingly enough, the term “smoke and mirrors” is a metaphor for a delusory, fraudulent, or insubstantial explanation. The source of the name is based on magicians' illusions, where magicians make objects appear or disappear by extending or retracting mirrors amid a confusing burst of smoke. There was nothing deceptive about this overlapping of contemporary and haberdashery influences—nor where the twain would meet, cleverly executed in Monarchy’s Fall 2009 presentation. The three-piece suit accessorized by a pocket watch and derby hat not only underscored a 1930’s influence, but also further exemplified the collection’s theme and was particularly reminiscent of “The Son of Man” by Rene Magritte. The French surrealist painter once said, “Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.”

Overall the silhouette was also quite dramatic for the womenswear with capes, high-collared and bib front blouses, high-waisted trousers, jodhpurs, and skinny pants, as well as cowl-neck or hooded dress, and reinterpretations on the classic trench coat. Herein the milliner’s choice for the fairer sex was a chic beret with playful pom-poms. Treatments and design details upped the ante with distressed applications, quilting double-layers, pin-tucking, multi-zips, asymmetry, and architectural elements. Autumnal mainstay patterns such as pinstripe and herringbone were well complimented by plaid and paisley. As with most collections this season, the palette was predominantly a neutral arsenal of ivory, caramel, khaki, olive, grey, charcoal, navy, and black.

My favorite looks included: the olive double-layer draped cape and ivory jersey hooded dress; an architectural collared heathered stone wool short coat with a long sleeve tee and black high-waisted jean; the ivory jersey hooded cowl dress and black leather high collared multi-zip bib coat; a black hooded cowl jersey shirt and black crisscrossed draped dress; the long sleeve white tee with hooded asymmetrical cardigan grey leather zip moto jacket and black high-waisted skinny jean; and a black jersey off-shoulder long sleeve dress and black leather high collared multi-zip bib coat.

It’s no wonder that designer Eric Kim has so effectively delivered a range that addresses the needs of such a diversified group of lifestyles. The Los Angeles native who began his career as a design assistant for Rampage has spent the last fifteen years building upon his foundation of experience with multiple creative and corporate positions in the junior apparel market. The FIDM alum has also held prominent positions with Pure Garden, Indigo Star, growing that line into a multi-million dollar brand; serving as CEO of Interstate, and launching Arch Angel, before going on to found the Monarchy brand with business partner Henry Kim in 2004.


Menswear tends to quite classic and straightforward with fewer, if not more subtle variations in trends, silhouette, color, and design details. The impetus for the Monarchy Collection was quite simple; the self-proclaimed sports car and motorcycle aficionado has said that amid “large class American brands such as Banana Republic, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Ralph Lauren, America needed a raw-edged [label] to compete with European brands such as Diesel, Miss Sixty, G star…”  Mr. Kim’s training in the juniors’ division has given him the exposure, experience, and distinct advantage of relating and appealing to younger generations. That first-hand market knowledge ensures that with Eric Kim at the helm, the Monarchy brand will always be infused with that same spirited vitality!

Images provided courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Newsgroup.

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