Ralph Rucci Collection (Photo: Ernest Schmatolla)
Obviously, nobody but the ‘guy upstairs’ has control over the weather (though there are undoubtedly many fashion designers who believe they can ‘walk on water’ and as such, are in an equally authorative position from which they can ‘call the shots’). But regardless…while we luckily enjoyed fabulous weather this past week, contributing to a smooth schedule and good moods, Thursday and Friday were a whole other story and magnified the need for more centralized shows. By everybody….including the ‘Deans of American Fashion’.
To force fashion’s biggest names to trek all the way downtown (for Ralph) and then go uptown to see Vivienne Tam, and then go downtown again to see Donna Karan, and back up to the tents for Erin Fetherston is cruel and unusual punishment, especially on a soaking rainy Friday. While there was a 7th on sixth bus dispensed to take a large group to Greenwich Street for Donna, it was hot, pouring so hard you couldn’t see out the windows, everyone was cranky, and unfortunately from my point of view, it was not worth the miserable commute.
I’m sorry to say that I was disappointed in Donna Karan's show. In a season which has emphasized cut, shape and structure, athletic wear, luxe sportif, and a streetwise, utilitarian feeling underlying almost everything including eveningwear…Donna’s ode to “Urban Diversity” relying on silk charmeuse, viscose, silk georgette looked a bit droopy. The 50 pieces seemed redundant and much of it didn’t seem especially flattering, easy to wear, or particularly modern (though the first several fluid, draped charmeuse and viscose crepe jersey dresses looked promising). Speaking of dresses, there was an emphasis on the dress (no surprise there since this is a dress season) and Donna made a statement with her ‘kaftan’ dresses both long and short, for day and evening. There was a group of trompe l'oeil jackets and coats (they were 1-piece but had the effect of a vest worn over.
When she finally sent out an elongated and easy petrol blazer in hopsack over a jersey wrap shell and viscose linen and satin twill jodhpur, the more structured muslin cotton jacquard hooded jacket with the appeal of an anorak, layered over a short patchwork panel dress in voile, a gray viscose and linen satin twill hooded coat with drawstring waist over a layered tank and pleated short skirt, and black/incense over scaled ‘cracked earth’ printed linen coat, things started to look up. An ‘incense’ and bone ombre dyed silk charmeuse plunge wrap evening gown was simple, arresting, and dramatic. Too bad there weren’t more of those.
Back at the tents, the highlights of the day (and the week) were to be found in the consistency of last two shows, both of which were at the Tents: Doo.Ri Chung (who just won the Perry Ellis Award for Women’s wear), and Ralph Rucci, who is celebrating his 25th anniversary.
I just loved Doo Ri. It was short (only 28 pieces), beautifully conceived, well thought out, detail oriented, and a complete evolution of what has come before. As always, there was an emphasis on gray, white, cream, black (with a touch of celadon and green), gathered jersey and draping, beautiful blouses (many with draped hip details), the trench (this time a grey summer wool trench that was softed through gathering and had a trompe l’oeil layered sleeve), and graceful chiffon or jersey gowns. It was predominantly short and leggy, with a modern sportswear vibe underlying it all. But no spandex leggings here.
Instead, Doo.Ri introduced a wonderful quilted fitted jersey pant with Lycra that was an elegant version of a legging and offhandedly paired them with pretty tops including a cotton tuxedo halter on Cecilia that looked young and fresh. Nothing looked forced, over designed, unflattering. Geoffrey Beene’s influence (she once worked for the designer) was palpable (yes, that’s indeed a ‘good thing’) but she benefits from her young woman’s perspective which helps to feminize it. FYI, Anna Wintour was sitting in the front row wearing an off white Burberry trench over dark, drainpipe jeans. It was a great look for her and a welcome departure from her more dressed up and elegant visage.
To an audience including customers like Iris Apfel (still the coolest one in the room wearing a colorful vintage Gianni Versace printed leather tunic over stiff dark jeans and Mongolian lamb accessories), Tatiana Sorokko, Joan Kaner, Casey Ribicoff, Martha Stewart, major retailers and editors, Ralph Rucci showed both spring ready to wear and fall 2006 haute couture. All the usual signatures, magnificent details, volume, extraordinary mixtures, and drama were there - just what you would expect. Drop dead evening gowns like the copper hammered satin blouson gown with trapunto satin duchesse sleeves, or the nude matte alligator satin duchesse gown embroidered with Ralph’s own script, which closed the first portion.
While the show was consistently exquisite and mind numbingly executed that doesn’t mean there were no surprises. But perhaps since the runways were filled with sportswear and athletic influences, many of the items that stood out were those that were simpler, more subtle, or had an underlying sportswear sensibility.
For example, the brown matte python jacket with the ease of a baseball jacket, was worn with white leather jeans; a tent shaped copper silk rain jacket was paired with a narrow ‘jean’; the belted ‘Barnett Newman’ raincoat in tan with a graphic wide band of black inserted with red trimming the sleeves and hem, was shown over ‘practical’ black silk taffeta pants and a jaunty black flat boot, the way Iris Apfel would actually wear it. (No scratch that; she would probably add her cheery red and brown duck shoes like she did last evening); a little twin set (covered with his scribbly script), paired with an a-line brown matte python skirt was indeed Ralph’s couture vision of that classic standby. An easy knee length coat and skirt was fashioned from natural python.
The active sportswear feeling continued into the haute couture portion: there was a chocolate brown paillette ‘jogging suit’ worn under a brown silk gors de longres and alligator raincoat; a black Russian broadtail ‘shirtwaist’ dress with ivory noh cufflinks; a black computer chip ‘athletic halter’ worn beneath the black embroidered Russian broadtail and barguzine sable coat and skirt.
But still, who could forget that parrot green satin skirt suit with barguzine sable lining worn on Alek Wek, or the black velvet gown whose skirt was entirely covered with feathers, or the finale: the black moiré suspension infanta with the arrestingly cut out back?
Notes from Bernadine Morris...
Vaudeville shows always saved the best entertainer for last. So it was with the New York spring shows. Chado Ralph Rucci, the last show on the last day (it even started an hour late), was the prize. It followed headliners like Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan, and still the audience managed a thunderous standing ovation.
It was worthy. The clothes were all of couture quality, and so was the workmanship. They would have been impressive in Paris or Milan. There were coats in sable and Persian lamb, but not everything was over-the-top. Shift dresses made an impression too, though they featured inserts of leather and embroideries to enhance the often-black exteriors or all-over embroideries for evening. Almost half the styles were listed as couture, which should save couture fanciers the expense of going to Europe.
But the regular ready-to-wear collection also had its gems, which included calligraphy prints,white leather jeans, and intricately cut-out bodice tops. Cinnibar was a featured color, lending its warm glow to a raincoat as wello as a suit and dresses, but every style was worthy. II is an extraodinary collection and a tribute to dressmaking.
Ralph Lauren continues his immutable way. This time his clothes are neatly divided into three segments. The first focuses on black and white stripes for his casluar styles which include shorts and vests. A series of dresses in allover black and white prints and festive gold and lame styles are proposed for evening all within the simple Lauren framework. Ever so often a 1920s chemise appears in a contemporay collection. Lauren has one of the best ever. A conemporary touch: it is worn over a white T shirt.
There is hardly a straight line in Donna Karan's collection. Everything is draped within a inch of its life. Some are draped to one side. Others take the form of coats over pants. For variety, there are straight long dresses in colors darkening to the hem. Patchwork effects are also seen. Karan is an individual who goes her own way.
Pale shades in brocade and linen are the majos thrust at Vivienne Tam. whose styles look particularly wearable.l To add variety, there are many decorative effects, including pailletes, crochet work and appliques. Lime is one of her favorite colors after the pale ones.