"There is leather, but it'll be offered in stores," Rob Garcia said before his show after I thumbed through the rack, finding none of the fabric that was practically a calling card for the brand. "We were thinking for the runway let's show everything in non-leather variations because the fabrics were so strong."
The result was interesting. It was sort of a real-life example of seeing what you expect to see as opposed to what actually exists. In the three conversations I've had with other attendees since the end of the show, each one mentioned the leather usage in the collection -- either in panels on a jacket or in a pair of shorts -- and were quite surprised when I let them in on Garcia's little secret. Even I, with my own prior knowledge, had to do a double take on a pair of trousers that looked vaguely reminiscent of the buttery leather En Noir is known for.
The fact was an underscoring of Garcia's emphasis on fabrics in our interview. When asked what the brand's strong point was, he pointed to them -- "We do basics but our cotton t-shirt is a cotton that's blended with silks and modals" -- and when asked what was new this season, he effused about a new partner who helped him work on fabrics. It was a sticking point for the former Black Scale head designer.
On the runway, the collection was punched with color, another slight oddity for the brand. "Sometimes when brands do beach inspirations, they do popping and bright but for us it has that dark feel," he said pointing specifically to the dawn on California beaches as a starting point for the line. That turned into moody greens and dusty reds on the runway with the occasional palm frond print. Silhouettes were kept classic with bombers, utility jackets and biker pants with seams at the knees.
The major takeaway: this is En Noir with mass market appeal. Though it might stray from the branding that initially attracted Kanye West to its wares -- basketballer and current fashion "it" boy Russell Westbrook was sitting front row at the show -- this collection was a lot more palatable for a wider audience. A smart move seeing as the brand has a collaboration with Gap, out this fall.