Thursday, February 19, 2009

“All Dressed Up and Somewhere To Go”


From left: Anna Wintour, Marc Jacobs, John Myhre and Harold Koda

What could be better for an avid fashion and art aficionado (my major in college), than merging both worlds and in the process, feeling as though you have the awesome Metropolitan Museum of Art all to yourself? (well… almost to yourself).

I was extended an invitation to attend an early morning press preview (for The Costume Institute’s upcoming exhibit (May 6 – August 9, 2009) “The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion”, http://www.metmuseum.org/

Underwritten by Marc Jacobs with additional support provided by Conde Nast, this will be accompanied by a gala, (long considered to be ‘The Party of the Year’) to be held on May 4th, with Honorary Chair Marc Jacobs and Co-chairs Kate Moss, Justin Timberlake, and Anna Wintour.



The event was called for 8:30 a.m., with comments by Thomas P. Campbell, Director; Harold Koda, Curator in Charge, The Costume Institute; John Myhre, Creative Consultant; and designer Marc Jacobs) to begin at 8:45 and unsurprisingly, the press conference started precisely on time since the 80 or so invited guests (members of the press including international figures like Suzy Menkes and Hilary Alexander) had to make it to their early morning shows. After coffee and a light breakfast, we were led into the Velez Blanco Patio, where a blown up black and white image of the most famous ‘supermodels’ in the world (Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz, Christy Turlington, and Cindy Crawford) served as a backdrop for those taking the podium. Photographed by Peter Lindbergh for British Vogue, January 1990, the gals were all dressed in Giorgio di Sant’Angelo bodysuits, and across the room, there were 13 dress forms clad in the late designer’s iconic and dramatically draped silk stretch mesh gowns, (Donated by Martin F. Price, they made quite a statement and served as a teaser of what is to come).



Thomas Campbell was introduced by Elyse Topalian and talked about the muses of the fashion world that will be the subject of the exhibit: those models who inspired designers, photographers, and the men and women who wear their work. He thanked Marc Jacobs (whom he called a “creative genius”) and Anna Wintour, for their support of the exhibition.

Harold Koda then took the podium and discussed how this exhibit will explore the fashion muse through a 50 year period beginning with Christian Dior’s New in 1947 and said the women were primarily editorial models, mainly in American magazines, and referred to the “memorable images from editorial coverage”. He divided the periods as such: 1- 1947, ‘The Golden Years’ exemplified by Dovima, Dorian Leigh, Suzy Parker; 2- The 60’s ‘Youthquake’ (Jean Shrimpton), ‘Exotic’ (Veruschka); 3- 1967 – 1977 (“The most challenging period”. At Vogue, this saw a new athleticized ideal epitomized by Patti Hansen and Lisa Taylor; 4- The 1980’s and the ‘birth’ of the ‘Supermodels’; 5- The 1990’s and “the connection with our sponsor”. Harold Koda was referring to the “ultimate supermodel” Kate Moss who made her debut in that “defining moment”, Marc Jacobs’ groundbreaking ‘Grunge’ Collection for Perry Ellis in 1992; 6- “The Branded Body” (the symbiotic relationship of models in fashion advertising). Mr. Koda also told the crowd that the one thing Marc Jacobs requested about the exhibit was “to make it fun”.

John Myhre got up and described in quick detail about how the exhibit will be laid out, and then Marc Jacobs took the podium, dressed in his new ‘uniform’ of choice: a fitted dark gray cashmere pullover and black kilt. His controversial, love it or hate it fall collection over, he looked relaxed and ready for Paris where he shows Louis Vuitton, yet he seemed a bit nervous as he read from his short and to the point prepared notes.

Though Marc admitted, “I am always inspired by the models that come into our offices”, he wasted no time in identifying the ‘ultimate supermodel’ Kate Moss. “She was the energy that brought the clothes to life”, “she defined a time, a feeling” he said, in reference to that ‘grunge’ collection. In closing, he quoted the late Yves St. Laurent, (who obviously served as a muse of sorts for his recent resort 2009 collection) “A good model can advance fashion by 10 years.”

And speaking of muses and inspiration, it’s hard to forget how much of an inspiration the late Stephen Sprouse has been for Marc, ever since they collaborated together for Louis Vuitton. And most recently, Marc’s use of those 80’s inspired acid brights, had many of us thinking about Sprouse again. (As usual, it got all of us talking, and disagreeing. WWD thought it was brilliant, and others, like The New York Times’ Cathy Horyn, said it was hard to find something to like about it). But whatever your take, the one thing that is obvious, is that color is officially ‘back’.


Michael Kors Fall 2009 Collection (Photo: Coutorture.com)

It’s not exactly a revolutionary observation that color elicits an emotional response and the use of color in fashion can go a long way in curing the blues. They are invariably crowd pleasers and certainly had people clapping at Michael Kors yesterday morning (especially when that neon pink double face cashgora melton coat and matching cashmere tunic came down the runway). Of course, Michael opened the show with a chic black wool satin trench coat followed by a black cashmere reefer and it wasn’t until #8 that he got into color (an acid shredded fox coat and matching cashmere dress. What made his use of color successful, was that there was nothing especially cartoonish about the rather classic, pared down, simplified shapes (no football shoulders here) that were used.

Michael’s 71 piece collection (with nary a long dress, print, or pattern, in sight) made a case for projecting a strong, optimistic, positive image, even if the economy has all of us sitting on pins and needles and feeling down. It was all about the philosophy of “looking good is the best revenge”. The focus this time was on a decidedly dressed up, architectural, structured, sculptural look (down to the sculpted killer heels), with attention paid to cut, tailoring, and the perfection of time worn classics, ‘investment’ pieces: strong coats, great jackets, well cut pants, sculpted suits, draped tuxedos, must have parkas, the perfect white shirt, crystal or gunmetal dresses (some with cowl back), perfectly cut ‘sliced’ sheaths (so what if some of the molded black leather dresses recalled Balenciaga for fall 2008?). These are intended to be ‘keepers’; those ‘go to’ items one can always rely upon, regardless of the vagaries of fashion’s ins and outs.

For Michael, it’s always about the use of luxurious fabrics like stretch cashmere, wool and satin, felted wool and felted wool jersey, stretch gabardine, organza tweed, double face cashgor melton, silk faille, neoprene, plunged leather, and fur. And let’s not forget the accessories: bold silver and gold jewelry, chic clutch bags, oversized glamour frames, sleek belts, oversized fur trapper hats (the bigger and the brighter, the better!)


Richard Chai Fall 2009 Collection (Photo: Coutorture.com)

Following Michael was Richard Chai’s vision for fall: no neon brights here, though there were shots of color and pattern within the predominantly neutral 21 piece collection. The young designer has amassed quite a following (to wit, Vogue’s Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington were seated in the front row) and deservedly so. His strong signatures: innovative tailoring (exemplified by several coats and jackets with ‘lifted’ shoulders, and unexpected mixes (fabric, texture, color, pattern), were very much on display. In a season of pattern mixing and plaids, Richard’s poppy streaming plaid, looked especially good when paired with leather to ‘tough’ it up.

Standouts include the umber ‘plunge’ leather draped front coat with lifted shoulder worn with a poppy streaming plaid printed wool silk sateen draped knee length dress; the lifted shoulder umber brushed wool shaped cutaway jacket paired with a charcoal mohair cardigan and umber plunge leather wide leg pleated trouser; the poppy streaming plaid printed wool satin cut away jacket, silk voile burnout shirt and wool sateen slim pleated pant; the umber confetti printed silk top with printed pailletes worn with an umber confetti printed pailletes slim pant.


3.1 Phillip Lim Fall 2009 Collection (Photo: Coutorture.com)

While 3.1 Phillip Lim may not have staged his best showing thus far, there was still plenty to like among the eccentric 51 piece collection for men and women. Once again, it’s all about the young designer’s signature off handed mixes, resulting in something youthful, quirky, and offhanded, (as though the woman quickly and unselfconsciously threw herself together in a very personal way). Adept tailoring, printed dresses, Sergeant Pepper influences, gauntlet gloves, shots of gold, graphic embellishments, Mongolian fur chubbies, peaked shoulders, cocoon shaped knits and coats, were some of the recurring themes.


Alexandre Herchovitch Fall 2009 Collection (Photo: Coutorture.com)

The word ‘eccentric’ would also describe Alexandre Herchcovitch’s fall collection, which was the designer’s most scaled down (and shortest) runway show I can recall, and where key trends du jour continued. By that I am referring to short lengths, pattern mixes, sequins, leggings, layering, long leather gloves, and fuzzy fur trim (in some cases one can tell it’s real fur and in other cases, it’s hard to tell what the fabric is and at Herchcovitch, it was a case of the latter). Here, a furry looking material (mohair?) in dark gray, covered sleeves, shoulders, and bodices of several black dresses. But since offhanded prints and pattern mixes have long been Alexandre’s signature, it was not surprising that the strongest part of the collection was the opening, which mixed a red and purple abstract splattered floral print (for lack of a better description) with pieces in bold sequined horizontal stripes, in some cases, turning up as footless tights or legwarmers layered under short skirts and dresses, or peeking out of out of cropped trousers.
By the way, I thought I would recap a few of the more obvious ‘trends’ and recurring themes seen on the runways thus far:

The eccentric hat; the colored fur; leggings and tights; sequins; layering; fur chubbies; fur trim (sometimes very fuzzy and furry); short (as in abbreviated coats, dresses, skirts); pattern mixing; peaked shoulders; menswear inspiration; leather gauntlets; cocoon coats .

-Marilyn Kirschner

Narciso Rodriquez


Narciso Rodriquez Fall 2009 Collection (Photo: Coutorture.com)

Sitting cheek to jowl with the A-list fashion pack, as everyone waited with baited breath for the Narciso Rodriguez show to begin, this editor was caught up in the heavy mood of anticipation for what was to come. Knowing that this designer always puts his best face forward just about every season, the air was filled with the fragrance of haute fashion, eleganza and sophistication beyond compare. Always known for impeccable tailoring, deluxe, most luxurious fabrics and an opulent sense of fashion across the board, it was certainly expected that Rodriguez would not disappoint for the new season.

The show began calmly with beautifully groomed, reed-thin models, sporting khaki wool twill coats, white viscose knit x-neck sweaters, khaki wool gabardine pants and white silk crepe dresses, seen plain or printed. Well, everyone in the house breathed a sigh of relief, as they readied for what was to appear next on the catwalk. While the designer definitely showed a preference for on-the-down low hues - black, of course, which is everywhere during this edition of Fashion Week, is also at the top of the list here - there were the fun and vibrant colors of the moment - citrine, purple, pink and yellow (or as Rodriguez says of the latter hues; "highlighter pink and yellow") that really hit the mark. Rendered in an array of viscose knit dresses, wool tweed jackets, viscose knit cardigans, wool/silk coats, et al, these kinds of crazy colors made everyone in the audience sit up and take notice. Additional shades of blue, bronze, gold, pewter and platinum obviously interested Rodriguez, as he incorporated these cool tones with other deeper, darker, more morose colors across the collection.

Mixing prints and patterns so deftly, that to the untrained eye, a viewer might think that the clothing was "painted", when in actually it was the studied art of a master craftsman and designer, such as Rodriguez has always been in the past that brought prints such as the silk camouflage pattern seen on several coats, dresses and pants, that totally made a unique statement and set this part of the show apart from other looks in the show. Shown with whimsical bucket hats - reminiscent of Courreges,. Paco Rabanne and everyone's favorite 1960's stewardesses, flying for Pacific Southwest Airlines, the grooviest airline that at that time, flew from San Diego to Los Angeles to Seattle - worn over the face, showing only the models' eyes peeking through the hats' cut-outs, the clothes came across as whimsical, fun, zippy, and cool; descriptive words not generally associated with a high designer such as Rodriguez.

But, in the end, this season was not the designer's shining moment. Overall, the clothes did not match up to what everyone always expects from Rodriguez, especially when it comes to the grandeur, expensiveness and finite tailoring that has, up until now, really has defined his style and been his signature. When colors, prints, patterns, accessories and the music that the models are walking to, capture more attention than a particular designer's actual clothing collection, than it might be time to rethink the repertoire. For this editor, the question that begs to be answered is whether or not what hit the runway was the Narciso Rodriguez designer line, or simply a watered-down, diffusion collection under the name of "NR".

- Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg

Anna Sui’s Belle Epoque


Anna Sui Fall 2009 Collection (Photo: Isabelle Erb)

For many reasons, Wednesday always seems to be the most trying day of Fashion Week. By this time it appears that we have all waited in one too many lines and rushed to one too many shows, and everyone’s patience seems to be wearing thin. The fact that yesterday was also a dreary, rainy Wednesday did not help matters very much. Little did I know that I need not have despaired. As I took my seat in the Tent at Bryant Park on Wednesday night for the Anna Sui show, I found myself reinvigorated by the soundtrack of classic French tunes mixed with more modern fare, like Blondie’s Sunday Girl.

Leave it to Anna Sui to provide the perfect antidote to a lackluster day. Her recent collections never fail to delight, as she expertly crafts her designs in the style of her chosen theme. For Fall 2009 she has conjured up a mixture of Belle Epoque meets Bohemian Hippie Chic. Those in attendance to enjoy the show included Allure Editor in Chief Linda Wells, seated across the runway from Taylor Momsen, who plays Gossip Girl’s Jenny Humphrey. A celebrity model even graced the catwalk. Daisy Lowe, daughter of rocker Gavin Rossdale and British singer- turned designer Pearl Lowe, made her only Fashion Week runway appearance last night.

Sui’s collection mixed ornate patterns and intricate prints with flouncy dresses and skirts and thermal leggings. Silhouettes channeled Chanel and French can-can girls. Colors and fabrics ranged from heavy black crushed velvet to light and airy print chiffons in bold colors like turquoise, heliotrope, and gold. The looks were accessorized with elaborate feathered hats and the occasional tiara and long gloves. Chunky shoes and boots and coordinating bags rounded out the ensembles. I especially liked the floral print dresses with cinched waistlines. They were at once tailored and feminine.

As an added treat, each seated guest received an Anna Sui shopping bag filled with assorted goodies like perfume and cosmetics. I left the tent relaxed and refreshed, having enjoyed my visit to Anna’s French Salon.

-Rhonda Erb

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