Opening a Leonard show with a cadre of pristine white looks is a statement of intent that requires gumption to follow up on. Creative director Yiqing Yin once again delved into the brand's archives and questioned how to breathe new life into prints. "I wanted to bring the house's prints in three dimensions," she said backstage after the show. Certainly the answer lay on a more subtle path than radically updating shapes or working new prints, as others have attempted in the past.
That is perhaps the very reason Yin's appointment has worked out so well. So instead of stopping at the surface or even the structure, she breathes new life into them through textural play, working finishings like a secondary palette of effects.
She grazed through the lush fields of possibility, picking out elements rather than whole prints. Her creative process is labor-intensive, but the result comes across as nonchalant, almost naive. One sweater had appliqué flowers popping out. Ropes made of rolled-up printed fabric swung down the front and found an echo in the frayed strands that tumbled from unstopped jacquard. The nubbly surface almost looked like a reverse.
What felt intensely new was the negative space that surrounded the print elements. To wit, the printed shoulders of a parka stopped to leave the body a solid blue: it was a modern proposal. Likewise, a voluminous overcoat in black and white had kinship with a floral design, but renewed its appeal. Back to those while silhouettes. Up close, they revealed marvelous textures that caught the light and traced the faint outlines of Leonard designs. In the end, what the prints figured was inconsequential.
Beyond offering new season fare, what Yin introduced at Leonard was a much-needed sense of youth and playfulness. What the Leonard woman had been waiting for was someone to help her play with print. In giving the brand a relatable identity beyond its history, Yin redesigned the game itself. From the assortment of guests in her designs, that's what they needed to have fun.