New York Fashion Week officially kicked off on Friday, February 3rd, but the calendar was crowded with several events, parties, openings, and formal shows in the days before. And with the Bryant Park Tents becoming more and more commercial, it seems as though the off site venues (as inconvenient as they may be) will now be providing some of the more interesting and memorable fashion moments. Certainly, it is that whole group of new young designers (the ones that are not yet household names), that everyone will be watching as we wait to see who the next Calvin, Donna, Ralph, will be. One such designer worth watching is Jose Ramon Reyes, the young, talented, Dominican Republic national, who showed his collection vignette style on 21 models, on February 1st at the very elegant National Arts Club in Gramercy Park.
Comprised of Italian and Swiss fabrics, (retailing from about $150 to $2000), his collection epitomizes the idea of young couture - polished yet relaxed, sporty and effortless, and speaks volumes about the designer’s love of unexpectedly mixing elements of sportswear, preppy, and sophisticated (not to mention ‘boy meets girl’, day for night, and high and low). Admittedly inspired by the eclectic look of Margot Tennenbaum, the line is noteworthy for its obvious attention to detail such as pleats and tucks, impeccable tailoring, shape (he manages to deftly balance volume with narrow to make it modern and easy), and construction.
Kenneth Cole as usual, kicked things off on a rainy and mild Friday, February 3rd, moving his show from the usual 10 a.m down one hour to the ungodly 9 a.m. As I arrived at the tents to pick up my schedule, assorted free reads, bottled water and donuts, I realized it was not even 9 a.m. on the first day of shows and my bag already felt as if it weighted two tons. By the way, speaking of the unseasonably warm temperatures, this brings me to my observation of what is shaping up to be the very first bona fide fashion trend at the shows: the stubborn wearing of heavy fur trapper hats regardless of what the thermometer reads, both outside and indoors.
Kenneth is always able to put a smile on even the grumpiest of early morning faces with his usually caustic and funny pre show snippets (this time he addressed three ‘syndromes’- ‘Obsessive, Fabulous Disorder’, ‘Air kissed Challenged’, ‘Cat walkers Anonymous’), and once the show started, the audience was treated to vintage Kenneth, “ modern clothing re-envisioned with a classical aesthetic”. The 47 piece collection featured no nonsense clothes for men and women in a subdued, neutral, typically fall palette, and was strong on tailoring (including some great jackets, shearlings, and wonderful trench coats with a military feel), knitwear, unmatched suits, and a group of knee length asymmetrically draped jersey cocktail dresses a la Mme. Gres in muted shades. Nothing screamed “fashion victim”, nothing looked forced- it was wearable, understandable, relatable, and easy. In the meantime, in the “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” category, the miniscule t shirts left on every seat were emblazoned with the logo, “Fight the F Word, Support the O.F.D. Fund”, which had many guests (who obviously wouldn’t fit into them or want to wear them) wondering out loud who they could give theirs to. As I left the Tents, I did receive one useful freebee (given the warm and wet weather): a small sample of “Tresemme” Extra Hold European Hair Spray.
Henry Jackson, a bi- coastal designer who works in San Francisco and here in New York, presented both his men’s collection (sporty, functional, casual, with a decided Western flavor (‘Brokeback Mountain Chic’), along with American Gambler, a new line of high end men’s and women’s clothes, at the Bryant Park Tents. Wholesaling from $350 to $5,000, and comprised of wool, cashmere and angora sweaters, goat suede skirts and silk velvet evening gowns, the outfits were given names like Poker Player, Day Trader, Daredevil, Explorers, Croupiers, Playboy/Playgirl. Alas, there were too many tricky items (Liberace capes for men) that seemed forced, contrived, and overly designed and unfortunately did not fare as well as his more down home basics.
The Red Dress is the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness and the focus of The Heart Truth (a national awareness campaign that warns women about their risk of heart disease). Friday February 3rd was also National Wear Red Day, and the fourth showing of the Red Dress Collection, fall 2006- a fun and lively crowd-pleaser which partners top designers and music industry icons. The invitation suggested you wear something in red, and seeing all the red outfits, it seemed many took this to heart (pardon the pun), including Stan Herman, who wore a red sweater and red scarf in different shades. The show was almost one hour late, and according to a security guard, the designers were clashing on several aspects of the proceedings. Was this a great fashion moment? Well, no, but it is always a fun, upbeat show, and highly entertaining, with some of the top musical legends wearing red dresses or gowns, accompanied by the soundtrack of one of their signature songs.
This time, the pairings included Lindsay Lohan and Calvin Klein, Nelly Furtado and Betsey Johnson, Lee Ann Womack and Carmen Marc Valvo, Fergie and Daniel Swarovski, Deborah Harry and Donna Karan, Patti Hansen and Nicole Miller (accompanied by the Rolling Stone’s “I can’t get no satisfaction”), Bebe Neuwirth and Narciso Rodriguez, Sheryl Crow and Ralph Lauren (by the way, she was smiling even though it was just announced she split from Lance Armstrong), Eartha Kitt and Kai Milla (she received the biggest round of applause and a standing ovation), Michelle Phillips and Tracy Reese, Leann Rimes and Zac Posen. Last but not least, there was a special performance by the ageless and legendary Elaine Stritch, great legs and all, in a short Charles Nolan, singing, “You gotta have heart” (what else?)
Nicole Miller showed a wonderfully visual and tactile collection that evoked a vintage, ethnic, eclectic feeling but yet remained polished, modern and wearable, and looked like clothing that a woman may have collected, or had a long time, rather than having the appearance of store bought and brand spanking new. Held fittingly at the beautiful, old world elegant New York Yacht Club on west 44th street, the designer claims to have been inspired by Byzantine plates, and the rich muted colors (olive, teal, tobacco, claret) scarf and border prints (which reminded me of Pucci in their graphic nature) were interestingly paired with hefty double face wool, wool herringbone, distressed leather and shearling.
Actually, some of the pieces and put togethers also reminded me a bit of Romeo Gigli in the 80’s. Nicole had some interesting jacket and coat shapes, presented some nifty new takes on the suit, kept silhouettes mainly narrow and at the knee but also played around with volume and proportion, (as well as sleeve lengths) as so many other designers seem to be doing. And best of all, on every seat was an enormous, heavy weight silk twill scarf in a wonderfully oversized mosaic print which even ‘out- Hermes’ Hermes, and is big enough to use as a sarong, halter, or almost anything else.