Monday, September 10, 2007

"Here Comes the Sun"

For the past several days, it has seemed as though the Bryant Park Tents were the setting for some rather lackluster if not disappointing shows and the more significant fashion moments have been off site (WAY off site). Well, the Bryant Park Tents redeemed themselves today. They were not merely centrally located and convenient, but proved to be the place to be for some rather satisfying shows.

I have never really been much of a Peter Som fan, but I was interested to see what he was doing because as of next season, in addition to designing his own collection, he will be head of design for Bill Blass. After viewing his well done 35 piece collection with its decided (whether by accident or not) nod to Mr. Blass via its attention to "snappy" smart tailleur (far more than in previous seasons), my first impression is that this design marriage should be a good fit. The word 'snappy' always comes to mind when I think of Mr. Blass because he used it quite often in describing his own designs (those that he found to be especially wonderful).

My second impression is that we now know where the tailored day clothes that were deliberately left out of the Blass spring 2008 installation, in favor of couture like evening wear, went. They found their way onto Peter's runway. Among them were a group of natty, shrunken and piped Eton blazers which were paired with white cotton ‘boy shirts’ and counterbalanced with the femininity of a knee length full skirt. These also showed up in ice blue washed brocade, pale grey seersucker, and best of all, a silk and cotton faille pixel-tweed (the most ‘Blass- like of the bunch). In this group, there was also a knee length redingote paired with a grey linen Donegal sweater dress.

Interestingly, I've noticed that Peter has been wearing his tie a la BB (i.e., loosely knotted in that studied/nonchalant way) ever since being named head of design for the iconic label. Perhaps he hoped that Bill’s ‘soul’ and spirit would rub off and inspire him. I suppose it has worked. (The one thing that was missing from both Peter’s runway and the runway of Bill Blass was COLOR. Don’t forget, Bill made the observation years ago that rich women don’t wear black and favor color. So I suppose color will be in the future).

There was no lacking of color at Michael Kors’s energetic, and exuberant collection yesterday morning. When the first outfit came out (the lemon and white double face wool tricotine tennis dress with Eugenia Kim's visor cap with yellow plastic beak), followed by the rainbow striped cashmere sweater dress, all I could think of was that the Beatle's upbeat anthem, "Here comes the Sun" which opened Vera Wang's collection a few days ago, was far better suited on this runway. This was obviously a crowd pleasing collection (most people I spoke with had nothing by high marks for the designer who was doing what he does best). One need not dissect and analyze clothing that is understandable, relatable, and universal in its appeal ("Sexy American style with a sporty edge" is the way MK summed it up in his program notes).

To me, it also ‘smacked ‘ of Palm Beach and as I looked over the runway at the front row across from me, I saw Aerin Lauder and Melania Trump, both of whom have homes there. Come to think of it, the collection was very Melania and I could definitely imagine her boarding hubby Donald’s private jet wearing many of the pieces, including the ¾ length natty navy crepe duvatine captain’s coat with large gold buttons (shown over a matching skirt and a white cashmere turtleneck), or the white double face wool gabardine trench, shown over white stretch wool gabardine trousers and white cashmere sweater. (There is nothing that looks as crisp as navy, white, and gold and I personally think it’s almost impossible NOT to not look amazing in the combination).

I could also imagine Mrs. Trump in the floor length violet cashmere t shirt gown with the matching cashmere cardigan coat (she has the height, the body, and the money to afford it). And speaking of money...bold gold accents were everywhere. There were pronounced gold buttons and gold hardware on coats and jackets; chunky gold chains on bags; there were gold bags, clutches and oversized satchels gold jewelry (gold chains, cuffs, and pendants from M&J Savitt); even gold hats (the large brimmed sunhats by Jacques Le Corre were fabulous). There were also gold tunics and gold dresses (the gold bullion brocade tunic worn over crisp white cotton shorts was an especially very Michael combination). Graphic stripes were a major statement, whether in navy and white or in saturated color. The finale was a group of graceful long silk chiffon and jersey gowns (one in a guava and apricot ombre with an empire waist, one in sunshine silk chiffon, and a strapless number in apple green)

Richard Chai’s well edited and well styled collection, based around a soft neutral color palette of pale gray, steel, silver, powder, ecru, khaki, ivory, and white had two ongoing themes: active sportswear (anoraks and bomber jackets that worn often unexpectedly paired with floor length skirts and dresses) and menswear (elongated blazers, trench coats, trench jackets, balmacaans, chesterfields, sleeveless vests, waistcoats, tuxedos).

Richard’s fresh idea for a new suit (suits, both matched and unmatched were all over the runways by the way) is a pale gray single breasted jacket made from men’s suiting fabric, worn over a matching sleeveless fitted shirt and tailored "biker trouser shorts" (which were more like Bermudas). Two steel cotton /linen ribbed sweaters (one with a deep v and the other with a mock turtleneck) looked just great with their sleeves pushed up over a crisp white shirt and a shirtdress (respectively). Everything was accessorized with high heeled silver pumps or booties.

Reem Acra is known for her eveningwear and the 40 piece collection (whose common thread was an "emphasis on the waist and the refined feeling of luxury"), was entirely comprised of evening coats, evening separates, cocktail dresses and gowns. She cited Old Hollywood glamour with a "young, modern twist" as inspiration but unfortunately, I couldn’t help but think it looked a bit old fashioned. That said, highlights include a narrow knee length iris (purple) satin strapless dress; a white off the shoulder cotton blouse worn with a black chiffon skirt with plisse ruffle detail and another white ‘confetti lace’ blouse shown with a black knee length skirt; the gold sequined slip dress with chiffon hem; and the tulip (bright yellow) chiffon corseted top gown.

Diane Von Furstenberg is a bona fide Princess (she was married to the late Prince Egon Von Furstebnerg) but known more as the Princess of Prints. While the 44 piece collection, was not entirely prints they were certainly (as always) the main focus. Because the collection was called "Under the Volcano" (it’s "every woman’s fantasy to escape daily life for the exotic adventures of faraway shores") and the rousing song "Bali High" from "South Pacific" played as the first model came out, it was hardly surprising that the prints and patterns (many of which were oversized, bold and graphic) had a decidedly exotic, island feeling. There were printed wrap dresses, sundresses, shirtdresses, caftans, tunics, and even printed safari suits. Patterned headscarves in matching or complimentary motifs carried out the theme.

I just loved Tuleh. I thought it was wonderfully edited, perfectly proportioned, fabricated, and colored (there was no black), it did not look studied but rather personal, (actually, most of the pieces looked like something you would ‘score’ at a rarified couture auction). Above all, the models looked just great in their outfits. And at a time when tailoring and structure is beginning to look mighty good, Bryan Bradley went back to his roots and instead of a collection that was high-mindedly intellectual and deep, he gave the gals what they initially came to love him for.
Based on the cover of the show program, which was written in Italian, ("Alta Moda- in vacanza- A Nuova York"), it’s a sure bet that Bryan is having a love affair with Italy and must have vacationed somewhere fabulous (of course I think anyplace in Italy is FABULOUS) prior to conceiving the collection. Broken up into 7 passages, the 36 pieces were classic Tuleh.

Classic Tuleh Girls was all about chic, refined, elegant knee length coats, like one in an oversized bronze houndstooth lined in hot pink satin and shown over a hot pink satin dress, or the fabulous zebra printed beauty with full elbow length sleeves; The New Couture was all about the suit, as exemplified by the red skirt suit featuring a fitted jacket, ¾ sleeves and shown over a knee length pencil skirt; Le Studentesse had a chic collegiate vibe (the bias plaid knee length belted wrap coat shown over crisp white pants and fitted navy cardigan with a pearl belt sewn onto the waist and shown over an a line white skirt were perfect examples; Le Festaiole was all about dresses…cocktail dress like the tiered purple pleated knee length number or the colorful abstract face printed dress; Intermission (Beach Girls) was what else…all about swimwear (and not Speedo maillots but glamorous dressed up swimwear of the sort one would find in Capri or Portofino.

I loved the first one out…a hot pink bikini which was shown under a moss green and white abstract printed chiffon caftan coat and accessorized with a mind-blowing oversized brown leather shoulder bag with long fringes made from colorful scarves (bellissimo!); Le Principessine Borghesi was an ode to special, dressed up structured pieces, like the midnight sequined coat edged in white satin; and the finale, BB was, well, I suppose Bryan Bradley’s personal best (I coveted the ivory brocade coatdress printed with pink, silver, and gold birds and sporting an amazing jeweled belt with chiffon ties).

Philip Lim is such a hot label and was such a highly anticipated show (it was held at the Celeste Bartos Forum) that apparently, many of those with invitations and assigned seats did not make it inside. (Ironically the invitation was made to resemble an official navy blue passport so in this case, I guess you could say it for many, it was a passport to ‘nowhere’). A source told me that she showed up very early (the show was called for 6 p.m. and she arrived at about 6:05) and the people at the door were instructed by security that they could only let a specific number inside as it was already filled to capacity. And as if the Red Sea was parting, a hand went into the crowd and plucked out the likes of Hamish Bowles, Paul Cavaco, Neiman Marcus’s crew, etc. as the less important onlookers stood idly by.

Marilyn Kirschner

Nicholai


photo: Isabelle Erb

Nicholai Olivia Hilton, better known to the world at large as Nicky, debuted her namesake collection, Nicholai, at the tent at Bryant Park on Sunday night. This is not the first foray into fashion design for Ms. Hilton, whose other labels include the more casual "Chick" line of denim wear. Although sister Paris was nowhere to be seen, the audience of adoring Hilton fans included parents Kathy and Rick and friend Russell Simmons.

The Spring/Summer 2008 collection was playful and easy-going, featuring several outfits with short shorts and bikinis. There were bright whites as well as jewels tones and a great deal of sparkle and fine detailing in the form of beading and embroidery.

Ms. Hilton was at her best with her dresses, many of which were as interesting from the back as from the front. These looks would photograph perfectly on someone who walks the red carpet, very much like Nicky Hilton herself.

-Rhonda Erb

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