Shortly before the start of the 3.1 Phillip Lim show today, a man came out and splashed some kind of fluid around the catwalk. It seemed plausible—if only for a moment—that the fluid was kerosene and that the man was going to light the Lim runway on fire. Not only would an inferno have been dangerous and thrilling, but it would have been fitting, too: This was a collection with a scorched-earth attitude. Lim’s inspiration this season was bikers, or more specifically and rather weirdly, girlfriends of bikers, and he abstracted that theme into a general air of menace. There were lots of literal references to biker aesthetics here—a preponderance of leather, patch-covered denim, and moto jackets, vests, sweatshirts, and even dresses. Those looks will move at retail, particularly the motorcycle vests and jackets that had a fluid, feminine spin. But the most interesting pieces in this show saw Lim interpreting his theme more liberally and conjuring a kind of shrugged-on, to-hell-with-it errant-ness. The collection’s standout garment, for instance, was a big, purposefully ragged shearling coat with contrasting asymmetric lapels; Lim repeated the coat a few times, in different color combinations, and each time it looked compelling and new.
Another superb coat, an asymmetric trench in teal wool, was a nattier riff on off-ness. Outerwear was an overall strength of this collection, in fact, and Lim did nearly as well with his trousers, which ranged from slouchy numbers (somewhat redolent of Céline, though that’s hardly an anomaly on the New York runways this week) to taut knit track pants with moto-inspired quilting to super-skinny jeans patchworked in horizontal stripes. The main quibble here was the patched—as opposed to patchworked—denim. Frankly, those looks were a bit glib. But overall, Lim was up to something really intriguing this season, giving rough looks a sense of polish.