Photos by Amanda Coen for EcouterreAs one of Project Runway's most polarizing contestants, Gretchen Jones can't be blamed for feeling a little, well, persecuted. So it's perhaps fitting that her Spring/Summer 2012 show—her first solo presentation at New York Fashion Week—took the form of a police lineup; her way of acknowledging, perhaps, the controversy with a giant wink and nod. Accompanied by the bluesy twangs of the Nouveau Classical Project and the unlikely services of a smoke machine, the 20 models presented a layered array of drapey, color-block separates in desert hues; ankle-grazing prairie skirts in hallucinogenic prints; and pinstripe-denim pageboy shorts, hems angled precipitously to suggest one of Jones's signature motifs, the chevron.
Each season, Jones cribs her inspiration from a book and a music album, this time from The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Castaneda and Horses by Patti Smith. Both, she tells Ecouterre, are about the “active pursuit of self-enlightenment.”
Castaneda’s descriptions of psychedelic-drug use in the ’60s, in particular, informed the frenetic explosion of patterns.
Castaneda’s descriptions of psychedelic-drug use in the ’60s, in particular, informed the frenetic explosion of pattern, all replete with ritual or personal meaning. It’s clear that there’s no extricating Jones from what Project Runway judge Michael Kors once derided as her “Lady of the Canyon from the ’70s” perspective but that, and her penchant for designing clothes she’d wear herself, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Certainly Jones will always have her detractors, but the longevity of everything bohemian must offer her some vindication, if not a ringing endorsement.”The prints reference the start of a cult following of my own,” she says, as if in response. You can almost hear the gears grind tentatively, then gently snap into place.