Monday, September 08, 2008

A ‘Platform’ for Change

Boy…the promoters for Mercedes Benz Fashion Week certainly did not exaggerate when they promised a heavily election themed setting for the Bryant Park Tents (the main venue once again, for the New York Spring/Summer 2009 Collections). A bit corny and predictable but hey, this is no ordinary election year so why not milk it for what it’s worth? Even from blocks away, it would be virtually impossible to miss the blown up, poster sized red, white, blue campaign ‘buttons’, decorating the 6th avenue entrance. But thankfully, they were not endorsing a political candidate, but rather, fashion, with slogans such as “Fashion Wins”, “Vote Fashion”, “Wear Your Vote”, “Super Model Delegate”, “Hope, Change, Shoes”, and “Fashion, Change”.

And speaking of ‘change’; as the campaign slogan for one Presidential candidate in particular, and the mantra of the season, it’s been impossible to escape hearing, reading, or seeing the word these days. Of course, forgetting politics, there is perhaps no industry more than fashion, where the notion of change is so inherent. Like it or not, whether it’s subtle and under the radar, or obvious , it’s all about change: changing seasons, changing inspirations, changing styles, changing trends, changing merchandise, changing windows. After all, how else can the retailer tempt their customers and entice them to dig deep into their pockets, if not with something ‘new’ and ‘improved’ (hopefully) and something she doesn’t already have?

There are numerous sayings, which include the word ‘change’ that apply to the world of fashion, such as, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”; “change for change’s sake”; “quick change artist” (Miuccia Prada and Marc Jacobs are two celebrated designers who are known to completely ‘change’ their tune from one season); “…for a change” (the PETA protesters were out in force for a change”, as they were Sunday morning in front of the Tents, or “Marc Jacobs started his show two hours late for a change”, or “Anna Wintour was watching good ‘friend’ Roger Federer play in the finals of the US Open Finals and missed the Diane Von Furstenberg Sunday show for a change”.

Of course, this season, thanks to Hurricane Hannah, the men’s final was moved from Sunday to Monday at 5 pm, and so Anna was sitting front row center at DVF. Now the question is, will she make it to the Marc Jacobs 9 pm show at the Armory? (It’s a collection she never misses). Let’s put it this way, if she does, it means there was a ‘record breaker’ of one kind of another. Either the match ended in record breaking time, or the Marc Jacobs show began at a record breaking late hour. Maybe Marc should think of installing several large screens at the Armory, televising the tennis match in progress. It would give the show attendees something more interesting to watch than, say, Posh Spice or Mishka Barton making their entrances.

And speaking of change - no doubt we will witness some interesting ‘changes’ during the coming week, and actually, while Donna Karan’s Sunday morning DKNY show was not exactly revolutionary, it was certainly different from those of the recent past. Instead of showing at the Stephen Weiss Studio in the far west village (her venue of choice), Donna chose the Bryant Park Tents in order to accommodate a larger crowd, in celebration of the label’s 20th anniversary. While Donna is an avowed world traveler and citizen of the world, she has always drawn inspiration from New York and even uses the city’s urban landscape (including the Statue of Liberty) as the symbol of her brand. A photo montage in black and white, showing New York symbols (the Empire State Building, subways, Soho) preceded the 74 piece collection which she described as “modern and eclectic”. It was also sporty, energetic, youthful, sexy, and very short (the abbreviated mini skirts and dresses boasted a curved bell shape silhouette). Sports and athletic influences abounded (anoraks, hoods, drawstrings, zippers), as did the idea of utility and function (thanks to techno fabrics), and there was an overall feeling of ease thanks to the use of volume, which looks fresh. It was also all about the idea of offhanded mixes (boy meets girl; day and night; soft and hard; dressed up and casual; street and couture). Other recurring themes were prints and pattern mixes (including an overblown graphic ikat print that looked especially good in the form of a short full hooded coat thrown over a striped top and mini skirt), as well as graphic color blocking (black, hot pink, and chartreuse), the latter of which formed the finale in a group of draped mini dresses, many of which had pronounced bows).

By the way, in celebration of the 20th anniversary, Domaine Chandon, the leading sparkling wine producer in Napa Valley, created a limited edition “Twenty Year Cuvee”, featuring DKNY’s signature New York skyline imagery and one bottle was placed on each show attendee’s seat. While I thought this to be a nice touch, I also thought it was rather impractical because unless you were going straight home, had an office at the nearby Conde Nast Building, or a car and driver at your disposal all day, it would be a rather heavy addition to one’s bag. Still, it didn’t stop me from taking my bubbly. You may draw your own conclusions. Cheers!

Tracy Reese was inspired by nature (hey, it’s spring, what else is new?) and form, for her soft, feminine and romantic 45 piece collection. Delicate florals, lace (colored this time), peplums, blousons, ruching, and frills were recurring themes and while there was an emphasis on dresses, the eggshell pleated trouser which opened the show, shown with a matching hued frilled sleeve‘t’ looked pretty darn good, as did a pale oleander trench covered with delicate roses. Tracy used the runway show as a way to ‘inaugurate’ (see, there’s no escaping the Presidential election) her new Black Label collection which she refers to as an “upstairs version of the core items of Tracy Reese”. Comprised of frothy organza, chiffon and brocades, (many with necklace like embellishments and appliqués that obliterates the need for accessories); one standout in particular was a beautifully shaped pastel floral jewel encrusted knee length dress.

The Herve Leger by Max Azria show notes spoke of the “seductive sophistication” of spring 2009, and promised “graphic slices” and the use of “body revealing optical illusion”. Sexy and body revealing it was, as one would expect, and out of the 34 pieces (including a finale of rather risqué barely there swimwear that often left nothing to the imagination), more than half were the signature mini bandage dresses that have become synonymous with the label. Which is precisely why the pieces that seemed more interesting to me were the ones that were less obvious and predictable: a knee length grey and neon coral leather dress with airbrush inserts; a molded grey zip front top that resembled a scuba jacket; a supple cropped black leather vest that would look amazing paired with gray flannel trousers; a graceful floor length black bandage mesh gown with beaded detail.

Diane Von Furstenberg dubbed her collection “Rock Goddess” and while she cited Diana Vreeland as inspiration (“Diana Vreeland taught us we could be goddesses and rock stars” is how DVF described it in her show notes), it seemed more of an homage to uber stylist Rachel Zoe (seated in the front row) with its boho flower child vibe and emphasis on long flowy gypsy dresses. I suppose Diane was signaling ‘change’ when she decided to open the show with a rather loose floor length black plisse wrap dress, rather than something printed (and somewhat fitted), which is far more in keeping with her signature. Best pieces were the khaki cotton lace up safari dress (an ‘homage’ to the late YSL that seemed to come out of nowhere), simple white cotton lace dress, a gold sequined blouson blazer shown over a floral long dress, a group of ‘Missoni-esque’ crochet knits (a deep spice striped cardigan and dress), the graphically patterned chiffon and mini caftan dresses, and a ‘lollipop’ (white, green, pink) striped sequined shift trimmed with teeny tiny ruffles.

Marilyn Kirschner

“The ‘Printcess’ and the Pleat”




Colorful prints and feminine silhouettes marked the overall feeling of Tuleh’s spring ’09 collection last night at West 26th Street. Little rosettes of printed chiffon sat brightly atop the cushions of every chair. A little sneak preview, if you will. Andre Leon Talley, Martha Stewart and Hamish Bowles were just a few important names in attendance.

2008 marks the 10 year anniversary for the Tuleh label, and staying true to his point of view, designer Bryan Bradley displayed a montage of floral chiffon printed dresses and classic styling with a slight 50’s influence. The silhouette was narrow and body conscious, but it never revealed too much. Although I found the collection to be a bit disjointed, it felt grown up, evoking an air of sophistication entwined with flirtation. The classic Tuleh foundation was present, though it seemed Bradley pushed the envelope this season. While it’s important for designers to experiment a little so they don’t become too predictable or formulaic, we hope they don’t veer too far and lose their fans. In this case, there shouldn’t be a problem, as Bradley has a strong and loyal following.

The show commenced with tailored, elegant skirt suits and dresses in satin and other novelty and lace fabrics. Prints were introduced and chiffon blouses were ruffled, pleated, layered and gathered, all the while maintaining a sense of the body. Fabric cascaded and flowed in a sheer, mesmerizing array of blurred color, as prints were gloriously utilized in long, billowy dresses. Bradley seemed to use one style (or variation of) to cut in several different prints. It was interesting to see how the same dress changed due to switching up the print.

Bradley mixed it up toward the middle, where things seemed to go slightly awry. Pencil skirts “sported” seemingly athletic inspired side pockets, and long (ankle length) column skirts branded with the same patch pocket, revealed a slight bit of skin underneath the side slit (yes, side slit). There was a printed silk robe-like blouse with fur cuffs, and another one with ostrich feathers. Maybe I’m just a purist, but I don’t see the need for fur in the spring (or anytime for that matter).
Mixing patterns has been a constant in the Tuleh shows, but there were a couple of “graphically challenged” ensembles that passed down the runway, including a narrow, camouflage type capri pant and canary yellow, floral chiffon blouse. I’m a fan of mixing contrasting patterns, but for me, this didn’t work.

As per usual, Bradley played with some luxurious fabrics; jacquards, metallic and sheer laces, and sequin decorated were among a few. One of my favorite looks was a sexy black pencil skirt, paired with a fuchsia and red chiffon blouse flaunting a soft, flouncy bow tie and wide, elbow length, crystal pleated sleeves. This look captured exquisitely the concept of sophisticated femininity. Overall, Bradley delivered a good season and the Tuleh label should continue to please its followers and recruit more as it enters its second decade.

-Stacy Lomman

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