A languid version of “California Dreamin'” played on the soundtrack as models paraded by in a succession of palm prints and breezy silk dresses. This was Yigal Azrouël squarely in his comfort zone.
If Azrouël isn’t in his studio, there’s a good chance you will find him in search of the perfect wave — in September in the Hamptons, perhaps, when the fall season’s storm systems churn up the waters, but more likely in his favorite place on the planet, Costa Rica, and more specifically the Nicoya Peninsula. The little-known hamlet in this Pacific Coast region reminds the designer of where he grew up in Ashdod, an Israeli port town near Tel Aviv. “I was just there three weeks ago,” Azrouël says of Costa Rica, his smile growing wider with the memory. “It’s just nature and nothing else; pure nature, pure sand, the ocean and beautiful sunsets and sunrises.”
We saw all of these elements in his Spring 2015 show in a Chelsea event space bathed in natural light via an easy collection that clearly evoked Azrouël’s first love (the 41-year-old designer has been a shortboard surfer since the age of six). From the 3-D palm leaf appliqués to the sarong pants, so close to looking like the pareo you’d tie around your waist after emerging from the water, the references in Azrouël’s Spring 2015 collection were unassailable. But more than that ease, Azrouël notes that he was eager to likewise conjure the elegance of early surf culture. “I feel like there’s a heritage there,” he explains. “For me, the feeling is much richer and more sophisticated, and that really appealed to me.”
Of course, you can read “surf culture” in the show notes and think all manner of bright colors and prints, but Azrouël is far more thoughtful than that. Sure, there was a palm print employed for several pieces, the trees rendered in deep garnet against sky blue, but under Azrouël’s hand the look was suited far more to Palm Beach than Venice Beach. Chambray pieces, especially a shirtdress with palm leaf embroidery, also worked that balance of elegant and effortless. Says Azrouël of his process, “I don’t really think about it much; it just seems to naturally come to me as I work.”
And yet ultimately there’s nothing overtly laid-back once all of his work and thoughts come together. Yes, Azrouël wanted to explore relaxed elegance, but it was still vital to imbue a sense of luxury, even if it’s the luxury found in a fond memory of golden sands and azure waters. “For me she’s a bit more lady-ish and feminine this season, but there’s something very cool about her at the same time,” he explains. “That sense of easy pieces gives you comfort, but you still look chic and put-together without trying too hard.”