In just two years, Fforne has become one of New York's hottest labels, a testament to creative director Paul Helbers' exacting talent and vision. In a dimly lit downtown studio, Anastasia Cooper, a singer-songwriter whose work Helbers describes as “psychedelic folk music somewhere between Nico and Leonard Cohen,” sang to the crowd (which included Carmen Dell' Orefice sitting in the front row next to Morgan Spector). and Annabelle Dexter-Jones, a cool combination that captured the brand's appeal). Cooper's performance set the tone for the seductive collection that followed, in which Helbers explored body-caressing silhouettes. “The curve is our signature,” he said a few days earlier in his SoHo studio. “What's new this season is that we're adding techniques like modeling and draping, which I do directly on the body, and these techniques give sensuality and femininity. There are a lot of almost liquid silhouettes, a bit like Madame Grès.
This was particularly evident in a new jacket shape, created without lapels and cut with princess seams. “We kind of reduced [the jacket] at a minimum,” Helbers explained. It was part of the opening look, crafted from gabardine crepe and worn over a jersey draped collar top and tucked into wool pants with a meticulously pleated elastic waistband that truly redefined the way a luxury brand should now approach an elastic belt.
A vibrant shade of emerald green was one of the stars of the collection. It looked utterly luscious when paired with white, either as easy pants worn with a cotton poplin shirt with an oversized dolman sleeve that created a cape effect, or especially in the delicately draped jersey top and ruched with spaghetti straps backless which was worn with subtly voluminous trousers in heavy satin. “We wanted to take these ultra-thick couture fabrics and give them some ease, so we smoked the waistband, which gives it a subtle triangular pleat,” Helbers said. “They look very round and have a kind of fullness that you normally have on a couture dress.”
There is indeed an undercurrent of couture silhouettes that resides at the heart of Fforme. Take the long shift dress in crepe jersey in an earthy brown shade with delicate gathers at the neckline then more floaty at the middle of the waist; or the dark olive cocoon coat with a raised shawl collar to frame the model's face. (Helbers wants you to wrap yourself in your coat, so he made sure the collar could stand up and, more importantly, stay upright.) His evening proposals were particularly exciting: a simple dress with semi-sequin embellishments. -transparent was worn under one of the dresses. the brand's signature jackets with a rounded sleeve (as the model walked and her dress caught the light, it became a spidery vision), and a more structured mid-length black strapless dress in black gabardine had a slightly balloon skirt that ended at mid-calf. In a way they were on opposite ends of the spectrum, one sleazy, the other stiff, one more outwardly revealing than the other, but they both had the same natural appeal.
The final dress was made from hammered lamé and actually had two pieces, a simple column dress with a sculpted bust and an asymmetrical overpiece that went under the left bust and featured a ruched detail on the opposite side. “The idea is that you can throw it on over anything and it will make it an evening outfit; it creates a frame with whatever you’re wearing underneath,” Helbers explained. He drapes all the clothes himself in his workshop in Paris, and listening to him talk about his approach is reminiscent of a conversation with an artisan who works with his hands. Although the clothes his customers will wear are not made by the designer himself, we have the feeling of being welcomed into an intimate creative ritual. A rare feat.