Friday, September 07, 2007

Where oh where are the clothes to wear?



Yeohlee collection (photo by Anna Bayle)

Day two and all I can say is….where are all the chic, ‘wearable’, flattering, and desirable clothes? As a woman who wants to look smart, chic, pulled together, individual, and not dull or matronly, I haven’t really found much thus far that I myself deem appropriate, or that I would personally care to wear…with a few exceptions…but more on those later. Unfortunately, I did not go to Thom Browne’s show (whose location was alas, one of the ‘best kept secrets’ on the planet). But since I love his aesthetic, and I’m very into menswear inspired tailoring at the moment (and the no nonsense, non fussy, and non fashiony aspect of menswear), I’m sure I would have found something there…even though it was all for the boys.

Quite frankly, after looking at the runways…and the show attendees, these past few days, I find myself going back to what Ralph Lauren, soon to celebrate his 40th anniversary, told Elle Magazine (in the September issue): "It may sound strange, but I’m somewhat anti fashion. Overly stylish people sometimes look wrong. I’m more about living- how great people look in the right clothes, in the right environment"! That my friends….is ‘it’ in a nutshell!

Interestingly, as I walked up 5th Avenue from the Bryant Park Tents the other day, the ONE woman who caught my eye, was not wearing a tricky, contrived outfit, while teetering around on unwieldy high heels, but was turned out in an impeccably tailored black pantsuit with a crisp white shirt. The jacket had double vents in back and her pants were slightly rolled up to above the ankle…all the better to reveal the black ribbon from her flat black espadrilles that encircled her ankles and enabled her to easily stride along the avenue.

The look was unstudied, chic, timeless, seasonless, and comfortable. And she made it her own. I do not understand how women can go to shows or work all day wearing very high heels or platforms all day long (nor do I find it attractive to see a woman who can’t walk in uncomfortable shoes). I think the notion of chic implies comfort. As Geoffrey Beene once said, "a woman must be able to do headstands" in his clothes (or something along those lines).

Well, in any event, comfort is probably not THE most important ingredient for Miss Sixty, (the first show of the day I attended) but there was plenty of sportswear, knitwear, easy dresses, etc. within the lineup. They bill themselves as an "Italian lifestyle brand famous for its trend setting denim" and boasted Demi Moore, seated front row center. I actually did not think it was Ms. Moore at first, since she looked far skinnier and far younger than I had thought. But when I spotted her red Kabala bracelet, I knew it was her. And of course, the paparazzi feeding frenzy was a dead give away.

According to the show notes, spring summer 2008 is all about ‘duality’, and Creative Director and Co-Founder, Wichy Hassan, drew inspiration from Andy Warhol’s 1966 cult art-house film. But the best way to describe the 49 piece collection is "Ghetto Fabulous"…sexy, out there clothes (mini dresses, short shorts, skinny jeans, high heels, lots of skin, lots of gold chains, lots of lame, lots of shine, lots of ‘everything’) that are not for the timid or the faint of heart.

In fact, many of the outfits had J.Lo ‘written’ all over them, particularly the large brimmed hats with clear plastic brims. Best pieces were the patterned jersey knits that recalled Missoni’s zig zag, flame stitched sweaters from the 70’s; the simple, abbreviated, two tone chiffon dresses; the graphic and oversized circle prints and patterns that were a recurring theme; and interesting use of their over scaled logo…found in one OVERSIZED shoulder bag (it bigger than the model who was toting it) and a nylon trench.

I think the best thing that could be said about the Bill Blass collection, shown informally from 11-1PM at the Celeste Bartos Forum at The New York Public Library, is that it was short, to the point, well edited and certainly looked more youthful than seasons past (no jarring colors or patterns…nothing forced, obvious, over the top, or ‘in your face’).

The 28 pieces (which were shown on models vignette style), were admittedly inspired by the Bill Blass archives and were selected for their "subtle embroideries and couture techniques". ‘The Bill Blass Design Studio’ as they call themselves (they apparently don’t want to ‘advertise’ their names since the label has had such bad karma with past designer collaborations) collectively made the decision to leave the daywear and impeccable tailoring (a signature of Bill Blass), to the showroom and make a statement with the frothy, feminine "party dresses" which recalled the "remarkable women who wore them" and paid homage to the PYT’s (Pretty Young Things). Certainly, there was no denying that the models were all PYT’s themselves. But let’s face it, Bill Blass the brand was all about Bill Blass the man. How long can the company survive on archives alone?

The Cynthia Steffe collection, entitled, ‘Sonic’, marked the debut of Waleed Khairzsada (formerly of the now defunct label Naum). Waleed stated that his inspiration was "energy, vibrant colors, sport motifs and movement and the collection was all about "vitality and rebirth.new shapes, new proportions and reworking of classics" but unfortunately, it just didn’t add up and the clothes did not merit a runway presentation. One does not need to stage a fashion show to present a line of long droopy dresses and lifeless prints. The high points were the abbreviated, art inspired color blocked dresses which had some energy and pizzazz but there were not enough of those pieces.

Badgley Mischka was a rather joyless collection to say the least. While the popular and dapper duo cited "easy languor with precise tailoring inspired by American expatriates like F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, traveling the world on Art Deco ocean liners" as inspiration, these were just words. Face it guys, you are not sportswear designers (the khaki cotton gabardine trench dress was alright but do we really need to go to Badgley Mischka for a khaki cotton gabardine trench dress?) The suits (matched and unmatched) looked old fashioned and contrived and hardly modern, the hats were silly, the swimwear was tacky and the models looked like amateurs. As for evening (the place where the guys made their name), among the standouts were a group of ombre chiffon dresses and gowns in shades of white, Aegean, cobalt, peppermint and ultramarine…some with jeweled straps.

Getting back to Yeohlee, she is arguably one of the most consistent designers today. Her collection, shown at the elegant W Hotel in Union Square, was quite frankly, one of Yeohlee’s best, making perfect use of her architectural vocabulary that relies on arcs and ellipses.

Citing inspiration from "A post-apocalyptic world, with a nomadic lifestyle influenced by conservation and the environment", it was simply chic and deceivingly simple and the designer experimented with crafting a square box from cloth. The color palette was rigorously edited down to white, ivory, mocha, stone, straw, midnight, and shades of gray. The latter made quite a statement, and was most effective when shades, from light to dark, were mixed together, and when fabrics and textured were mixed. This was exemplified by Yeohlee’s smoke silk chiffon ‘oval’ blouse and silvery gray double face duchesse satin ‘pyramid’ skirt (which had the dramatic effect of an ankle length narrow column), and most notably, her face framing, narrow ¾ sleeved silvery grey double face silk duchesse satin ‘crescent’ jacket worn over a smoke silk chiffon ellipse blouse and her signature high waisted, lean charcoal Egyptian cotton pants.

One of Yeohlee’s strengths has always been her coats, and this season, was no exception. My favorite was the luminous ivory and stone gloss cotton ‘arch’ coat (3/4 length and collarless) which was worn over an ivory cotton jersey and sandstone Egyptian cotton high waisted narrow pants. And by the way, it was not surprising that the Museum at FIT’s chief curator, Dr. Valerie Steele, wearing an architectural textured black cotton coat by Yeohlee, accessorized by crisp white pants, flat sandals, and a large red bag, was one of the best dressed women in the room.

-Marilyn Kirschner

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