Trovata Fall 2009 Collection - A Fashion Revolution

Trovata’s surfer chic approach to relaxed glamour may have found its origins along the piers of Newport Beach, but this poolside aesthetic has caught on far beyond the resort communities of California, Florida, and Hawaii fulfilling the needs of vacationers and business casual workers alike. For Fall 2009, the preppy-meets-poetic collection married conservative neutrals and androgynous silhouettes with romantic textures and whimsical accents. Manhattan’s westside Focus Studios served as the backdrop for this season’s presentation, overflowing with the sweet layered fragrances of magnolia and gardenia. A pathway of petals and pillar candles encased in hurricane vessels helped to soften what would have otherwise been a sleek, cold, cavernous venue—creating instead a warm, intriguing, intimate space. Flowering tree branches framed the stage entrance as models strutted out in 32 looks to Bobby McFerrin’s optimistic anthem “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”


Although the design team of Trovata has undergone a transformation or two since it’s 2002 inception from quartet to soloist, with the defection of Josia Lamberto-Egan who left the company (in June 2006) only days after the brand was awarded the coveted CFDA Swarovski Perry Ellis Award for Menswear. Sam Shipley and Jeff Halmos exited the company later that same year, forming their eponymous range Shipley & Halmos—still; one thing that has never wavered is the collection’s singular vision to produce wearable clothes at accessible price points. John Whitledge, the line’s Creative Director and lone survivor marches on, giving his utilitarian chic aesthetic a decidedly French savoir faire this season. And if ever there was a time for a more inclusive approach towards fashion with affordable and versatile pieces, that time is now!

The 2005 Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation award recipient cited the sexual and political uprisings of the late 60’s as inspiration, more specifically the six-week outburst of strikes erupting on May 3, 1968 in Paris, France. The 1968 protests were born from a revolt against Charles de Gaulle's economically booming, but stifling conservatism. That faithful day served as the prelude to a socialist revolution; what may have manifested in the freedom to wear long hair and purple trousers stemmed from Parisian university students’ appeals to be allowed to sleep together in campus dormitories and laborers demands for fair wages. Outrage amongst students quickly mounted into an aggression and campaign of blue-collar workers who also felt confined by union leadership. And while there were other rallies before and after Paris, this was the only [student] rebellion that nearly caused a national government to collapse. More than a rite of passage or a reaction to the repression of a conventional 1950’s era, this was an impetus for similar overseas marches in the 70’s and laid the foundation for one of the greatest progressive social and reform movements of the 20th century.


“When designing this collection we were influenced by French culture in the late sixties with the sexual, political, and cultural undertones that were mounting at the time… we were influenced by this concept of a true gentleman in a three-piece suit that wasn’t afraid to change his own tire,” offered John Whitledge. “To us, this collection was about liberation, but at the same time it was about holding a certain respect for the heritage that came before it.”

Intermingling the tenets of liberation and progress while paying homage to one’s heritage requires clever balancing and forces us to be somewhat introspective and self-critical. Coming of age… Experimenting with fashion… Asserting one’s individuality… How do you reconcile these disparate influences? Who do we want to be when we grow up? How do we see ourselves? We all want to have an impact or leave an imprint. In our youth, we tend to be more idealistic; we want to make a difference. Fundamentally, we want our voices to be heard and we want to leave the world a better place. The last presidential election was won on the ideas of hope and change, but how will we get there? Will we be dissidents or conformists? And how do we incorporate and translate those ideas sartorially? Clothing can be wonderfully empowering, becoming a representation of how we want to be perceived: bold or meek, daring or safe, playful or serious?

With the growing number of women advancing in the workplace, the emergence of metrosexuals, and many young working professionals delaying marriage and starting families in favor of focusing on careers and life-long ambitions, the fashion guidelines have become increasingly blurred as androgynous and dichototic references continue to overlap throughout ready-to-wear collections. Menswear has received a facelift of sorts with a direction that is more daring—transitioning from predominantly neutral palettes, injecting whimsy and visual interest to haberdashery and bespoke collections. Traditional menswear patterns (tweeds, checks, pinstripes, and chalk stripes) and silhouettes (boyfriend jackets, pea coats, vests, and jumpsuits/coveralls) have been feminized with softer contours, brighter color ways, tactile textures, or delicate accents. This modern approach to styling has also been adopted editorially and for runway with necktie blouses, suspenders, and newsboy caps narrowing the gender gap in recent seasons.

My favorite looks from Trovata’s blended sportswear collection included: the robin silk blouse and camel cashmere cardigan paired atop vanilla silk pant; a fern green Deville double breasted pleated military coat and black carafe silk crinkle skirt; the fancy metallic palais long equestrian blazer layered over a voyage suiting short and silk crinkle blouse; a black couler silk shirt dress and savoir tuxedo dress; and the black aboner suiting jumper.

How auspicious that John Whitledge would be inspired by the revolutionary politics of the 60’s as our nation is experiencing a renaissance of its own: rebuilding our infrastructure, reinvesting in our communities, identifying systems to replenish, renew, and revitalize our economy with alternative, ecological, and entrepreneurial solutions. Just as France was a leader for reform in the 60’s California has been at the forefront of some of the world’s most groundbreaking technologies. It’s no wonder that Trovata was born out of the ingenuity and foresight fostered in the Golden State.

One could make a direct comparison between the internal adjustments at Trovata and the political unrest of the 1960’s and even further still applying that analogy to a current movement in fashion towards a more pragmatic sense of luxury. With corporate executives overspending, creditors overextending, and skyrocketing unemployment rates, the cornerstone of our nation—retailers, automakers, and bankers have suffered profound losses sinking into the 21st century’s Greater Depression. We’ve witnessed a consumer backlash to the excess of the 80’s; consequently, the fashion industry is organizing a revolt of its own restoring that loss of confidence towards a more practical sensibility. On both sides of the pond, designers have all sought to deliver quality, innovation, and creativity! That message came though loud and clear with the reduced number of looks featured on the Fall 2009 runways; the decline in “weighty” embellishments; and the mantra to discard that wayward inclination towards fast-fashion in favor of something beautiful, lasting, and special!

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