Wednesday, February 07, 2007

New York Fashion Week: Day 5

Michael Vollbracht’s collection for Bill Blass yesterday was by far his best since taking over as head of design for the veritable label. The crowd pleasing show (he even received a standing ovation), was not only upbeat, well edited, and fast paced (it’s obvious that he has listened to critics in the past), but he hit all the right notes and came the closest to evoking the mood and spirit of the late Mr. Blass.

Several outfits were described as ‘Halston-like’ or ‘Norell-like’ and in his program notes, he explained why he is ‘obsessed with the two legends”. As he put it, he “fell in love with his (Norell) sequined mermaids years and years ago when I was a very young designer." And Halston? “because his simple philosophy looks so good in this era of over-designing”. And he continued: “And of course Blass - because it is my job to knock him off”. Michael not only has a sense of humor…but he’s honest.

Like Marc Jacobs, Derek Lam did a complete about face from the previous season, but unfortunately with less successful results. Known for his classically based vocabulary predicated on the idea of ease and sporty elegance (not to mention his talent when it comes to outerwear and trench coats), the fall line was puzzlingly routed in the hard edged 80’s with more than a touch of tough chic and Nicolas Guesquiere for spring 2007. But instead of looking modern or futuristic, it looked contrived and very difficult to wear (extremely short skirts some of which were shown with bare legs and given the temperatures outside, they not only looked strange but seemed unbelievable).

Not surprisingly, the best pieces were the simplest - including several day dresses, coats (a white tech sateen trench with anthracite cashmere felt and black and white wool Sherpa lining which was worn inside out; a banker’s grey and light grey felt flannel pea coat), and two simply beautiful gowns that closed the show; one in white and the other in French blue with a hood. Too bad there weren’t more of these.

Doo.Ri has certainly earned the name, “Jersey Girl”. The inventive fall collection, built around her signature fabric (silk jersey), was an evolution and continuation of the award winning designer’s ongoing experimentation with draping, and her love of a curved hemline for tunics, blouses, and dresses. Actually, the dresses and tunics looked one in the same since they were the same length, and she proposed them over skinny pants or thick opaque Wolford tights and a black wedge sole shoe which blended into the stocking so you couldn’t tell where one started and the other began.

Some of the tops featured bra like construction and many featured arrestingly cut out backs and layering. Doo.Ri also continued her love affair with suspenders (using Swarovski crystals to decorate them on an emerald jersey dress). Colors were unusual, interesting, and quite flattering and they all looked great played against black - her basic neutral. There was navy peacock, evergreen, emerald, and Bordeaux. And by the way, you didn’t expect a Doo.Ri collection to be without a trenchcoat did you? Of course not. And in fact, a full black wool trench shown over a silk halter dress with an organza hem, started the show.

Narciso Rodriguez was held on 26th Street right off 11th Avenue (which seemed to be the coldest place on the planet last evening thanks to the wind chill factor hitting the far west reaches of New York). After the paparazzi got their fill of Rachel Weisz, Claire Danes and Jerry Seinfeld, the show finally began (only 40 minutes late which by fashion standards is on time).The collection was a welcome palette cleanser and very signature Narciso. It was also testament to the way in which certain seemingly simple things (a pared down color palette of black, white, ivory, camel, grey, and especially the combination of black and white) can be so powerful. Narciso’s architectural, minimal designs looked especially good after days of fashion shows presenting dizzying (but not necessarily notable) ideas for next fall. His were lean, minimal, chic, and completely wearable with nothing gimmicky or tricky. And it looked pretty darn good. Pared down to white, ivory, camel, black, navy, grey, with a touch of emerald and turquoise (in the form of ski inspired anoraks), there were all the signatures one comes to expect from Narciso. There was hardly an accessory in sight and not one fur was presented.

Pants were very narrow and elongated, the jackets were boxy and hip length, and the coats (which are always the best pieces on the line, especially for fall/winter) came in three lengths…above the knee, slightly below the knee, and ankle length. And the latter were the true standouts and the highlights of the collection. Even though I like short coats for practicality, I must say that the military inspired white and black wool coats with sculpted collars, wide self belts and sweeping hemlines, worn over narrow pants and boots, made the short coats look insignificant. Not to mention that considering the frigid temperatures, seem especially attractive right now!

Just a note: In case you were unaware that designers tend to give away seats to those who have no connection with fashion whatsoever - this is a true story. A friend of mine, a fashion writer, told me she got a standing ticket for a specific designer (I will not name names)…even though she successfully interviewed this person. When she got to the show venue, she happened to look at some of the names on the seats..and found one for a person at a specific nail salon. I guess the designer uses their service quite a bit, but regardless. The nail salon employees should not be given priority over insiders and fashion pros in my opinion.

Another note: I was reading Cathy Horyn’s review of Marc Jacobs in The New York Times today and she ended it with, “If you felt like ditching your layers, it was no accident.” Ironically, this is not the time to ditch layers but to pile them on. It was exactly one year ago that Marc proposed the urban nomad layers (not to mention the oversized fur and knitted hats) for his fall collection and I remember thinking how great it looked and how practical it would be for running around the city in the freezing cold. Well, this week was the perfect time to put those layers into work and it worked for me.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Other Shows:

Heatherette

“Over the Rainbow” was the theme of the Fall 2007 Heatherette fashion show, but that can only begin to describe the crowd-pleasing extravaganza that took place in the tent at Bryant Park on Tuesday night. First there was the scene on the runway as celebrities like Carson Kressley, Alan Cumming, Kelly Rowland, and others made their way to their seats. Accompanying them was a random assortment of characters including someone with an oversized, irridescent, hot pink bouffant and a gentleman who remembered his top hat but forgot his pants.

Then the real show began, everyone was provided with a pair of hot pink 3-D glasses, the better to see acrobats somersaulting on the runway to introduce Traver Rains and Richie Rich’s collection. There was a large rainbow colored scarf draped toga style, and dresses made of blue gingham tiered ruffles and what looked to be foam shaped into a bubble. Other pieces included white glow in the dark t-shirts emblazoned with quotes from the Wizard of Oz and a tasteful one-piece bathing suit in pale pink.

The eagerly anticipated finale featured children in ballet tutus heralding the arrival of Glinda the Good Witch of the North (Amanda Lepore). Finally, Rains and Rich made their appearance escorted down the runway by Kimora Lee Simmons.

I’m sure that I’ve omitted many pertinent details of the Heatherette experience. Lets just say that a good time was had by all and you simply had to be there.

-Rhonda Erb

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