City-owned and privately leased, Elizabeth St. Garden is open to the public daily, weather permitting. Luckily today, after a night of torrid downpour, spring is in bloom, and I am headed to Kate Spade’s SS20 show in the garden.
Originally home to a public school that was torn down in the 70’s, the land was due to become housing, but the apartments were never built. The one-acre lot was then leased to Elizabeth Street Gallery owner Allan Reiver, who planted greenery and used it to store sculptures. Until 2013, the garden was open to members of the public who entered through Reiver’s gallery. But that year, a handful of community members convinced Reiver to let them open an entrance on Elizabeth Street in return for volunteering to take care of it. After a history of public/private ownership debates, Elizabeth St Garden is still in the midst of fighting for its land ownership, but put one foot forward today with Kate Spade donating its entire SS20 show fee to NYC Public Parks to retain the public space.
Continuing the spirit of generosity, I am handed a keepsake as I enter the garden: an oversized tote “that fits everything”. Guests are presented show notes printed on biodegradable card made from wildflower seeds with an invitation to bury the notes in the ground thereafter, providing the opportunity for flowers to sprout. “For Spring we’re on a city safari”, the notes proclaim. “…where every turn, and every wardrobe choice, is an adventure.” I sit and wait for my adventure to begin.
Community collars and floral-laced peek-a-boo dresses navigate the garden to Lana del Rey’s cover of Sublime’s “Doin’ Time”. There’s some relief in surrendering to Lana’s chilled-out version at this moment in time: If we are living in a period of tribes and tribulations, Kate Spade SS20 is an interesting re-work of the handmaid’s tale. Existential futility is denied by Glass’ casting choices, the most accurately represented to real people I have seen in any show for a long time.
The show is “an homage to no two women ever wearing the same thing the same way”. NY iconic actress Debi Mazar walks with her daughter in dandelion and frond printed dresses, a same-sex couple holds hands in chic tweed suiting, twins walk together in crochet overlay dresses, there are old people, a pregnant model, a sprinkle of models and there’s even a lady with a chihuahua. All carrying some kind of fanned foliage or floral bloom. Walking on a purpose-built pebbled pathway. Yes, Pebbles.
Spring ‘20 will be the first season in which Kate Spade will produce its footwear in-house: with Glass looking to leverage Tapestry Group’s resources to gain control over design and production. Lana’s slinky arrangement and a fluttering bridge see the models glide across the rocky pathway in flats and wedges “I think it’s about just the ease of walking, with the idea of women walking in New York City. It’s just more realistic and that’s what my team and I wanted, it’s what we wear” said Glass.
Realistic doesn’t mean boring, however. Glass pulls the fashion cards with open toed platforms in vanilla and mustard, and a pair of open-topped runners with a black ankle strap reminiscent of Marni. In keeping with the beauty and neighbourhood character of the garden, deep olive leathers and white elongated dresses juxtapose the jungle of prints. SS20 is a perhaps a more imagined and inclusive woman than the previous season with a few key returns including a novelty bag in the shape of an elephant, called “Tiny”.
A delicious new addition to Kate Spade’s bag line will undoubtedly be the cross-body belt bag, shown in American mustard and a tweed print with teal pockets. Over the shoulder, around the waist, loose in my hand; I’ll be carrying one and you should too.