Jen Kao’s girl comes, goes, breaks hearts & steals jackets

In the world of movies there are two inevitabilities for the free-spirited, unfettered society girl: she is always gorgeous, and she always ends up falling in love. This means that disparate films like Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are strangely more alike than they seem. But the important thing is that we always adore that character, we always want to be her. She’s the girl who’s so cool that everyone wants to have her; yet so independent that she won’t let them. Even though she might have them for a night or two.

Jen Kao’s show at New York fashion week (NYFW) came with a detailed description – practically a handbook – to the inner workings of her fall 2012 girl, and it reads something akin to that cinematic stereotype. Only there’s no ending in which Kao’s girl softens and falls in love, no kisses in the rain. She’s a bit like Holly Golightly as she stumbles from bed, slipping her arms into a backwards men’s shirt and wearing it like a nightgown – except Kao’s girl styles the “night before’s leave-behinds” with more deliberate purpose. Anything she wants, she makes her own – “a gentle man’s overcoat, a simple man’s trench, a playboy’s tuxedo jacket, the newsboy’s lucky pants” – because she knows she looks great, and that for any man whose heart has just been stolen, a jacket is a willing sacrifice. Being at her mercy is an honour in itself.

Kao’s interpretation of the ubiquitous masculine-meets-feminine theme is better viewed in light of the knowledge of the girl she’s channeling – of the wanton way in which she comes and goes as she pleases, of the unapologetic way in which she “throws lavishly seductive and coveted items together” as if her mysterious beauty comes without an ounce of effort. Only then do the strange layerings of knits and corset belts over plaid shirts, the school-boy caps and winklepicker shoes, the melting pot of flapper-style dresses, Western lariats and collar-tips, and Oriental silks and jacquards, truly make sense.

Of course when it comes to channelling the free-spirited breaker-of-hearts for ourselves, our outfits won’t come with a handbook for all to read. So to convince our audience that we’re someone they all want to be, it’s important we wear our unapologetic layers of coveted items with conviction.

You can see all of the Jen Kao autumn (fall) / winter 2012 runway collection by clicking on a thumbnail on the left. From there you can browse through each of the pictures from the fashion show.

Also from this fashion show.

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Photography by Daniel P Dykes