Friday, February 19, 2010

Mr. ‘Bond’


I suppose you can refer to Francisco Costa as Mr. Clean but Calvin Klein himself, already has that title. So I'll call Francisco Mr. Bond because of his frequent use of bonded fabrics (more on that later). Talk about minimal and architecturally pure. Francisco Costa’s collection for Calvin Klein, a rigorous exercise in self control and attention to meticulous detail, all but stood by itself this season. There was nary a fur, nary a muffled neck scarf, nary a hat, nary a bag, nary a print, and (almost) nary an embellishment in sight. What there was, was pure, unadulterated beautifully structured, expertly cut, shapes: amazing outerwear, shifts, jackets, separates, and column gowns, and details such as rounded shoulders, engineered darts or drapes, raglan sleeves, embossed pockets, draped backs. The feeling of menswear was exemplified by the relatively simple yet highly effective midnight silk folded raglan shirt and midnight wool/silk tab front embossed pocket trouser worn by Sigrid. It was such simplistic perfection, the members of the audience almost gasped when she walked out.


The clothes followed the lines of the body without being constricting, and while there was experimentation with volume, nothing was ever exaggeratedly full, unflattering or voluminous. In a season where so many have almost blinded with superfluous ornamental decoration, Francisco added texture and surface interest to coats and dresses through glazed and embossed double faced cashmeres, hammered, or polished cashmeres When he used sequins or silver lurex (as he did in the elongated columns at the end of the show), it was done in the most subtle way. It’s obvious that each season, Mr. Costa strives to perfect his craft and he been delivering with clothes that are feats of perfection in terms of cut, construction, and fabrication. And this season was no exception. The color palette was pared down to the almost expected black, midnight, off white, ivory, gray, with just a touch of color in the form of a royal blue he called ‘aurora’ (my best guess is that black will outdo this hue).


There was the continued experimentation with fabric techniques to get just the right results. For fall, it was to be found in the ‘bonding’ technique (bonded viscose, bonded silk pointelle, bonded boiled wool). In a season of truly stellar coats, Francisco’s really stood out, such as a black bonded silk pointelle embossed pocket coat, a midnight bonded stretch technical wool storm flap trench, a midnight bonded boiled wool/cashmere/leather storm flap pea coat shown over a midnight sheer silk mock t and an engineered dark skirt; the ivory shearling storm flap trench, and a black double faced hammered cashmere cape with its curved hem. There were also the brilliant fabric combinations, where leather was effectively employed (an ivory silk crepe leather sleeve blouse with shown with an ivory silk crepe tab front trouser, and midnight leather was used with bonded boiled wool and cashmere in one very chic pea coat).


The footwear consisted of a tumbled calf metal heel bootie and a ‘stingray’ ankle strap skinny heel sandal, both on relatively high platforms. These, in addition to the elongated and narrow shape of many of the pieces, which were flatteringly form fitting, lean, and attenuating, made the already statuesque and amazingly proportioned models (including runway ‘stars’ like Kristy Hume, Stella Tennant, and Karmen), looked even more like (beautiful) tall drinks of water.

Boss ‘Tweed’


Almost nobody does tweeds like Ralph Lauren (somehow, after I leave any one of his shows, I basically want to ‘live’ in my chic tweed hacking jackets, jodhpurs, and riding boots), and he was definitely in a tweed mood for fall. The collection, which was presented at two back to back runway shows at Skylight Studios in Tribeca, was played out in the designer’s much beloved muted neutrals, and Ralph was making a case for the interesting contrasts that lie within the ongoing yin and yang of masculine and feminine, day and evening, soft and hard (this is what helps keep fashion looking modern and believable). But of course, none of this is anything new for RL because interesting pairings have always been one of his strong messages throughout the years.


But getting back to THE message for fall: it was all about the mix of hefty menswear inspired tweeds (mainly brown and moss wool tweeds), charcoal wool/cashmere herringbones, and donegals with softer more feminine elements: namely, jewel toned silk velvet separates (blouses, skirts, and jodhpurs) or wispy floral silk georgettes: flutter sleeves blouses, midcalf skirts, and floor length gowns (he’s another designer this season, who’s made a case for longer lengths and with few exceptions, most of his skirts went from below the knee to the floor). A moss washed wool Shetland tweed frock coat which was shown over a charcoal wool and cashmere herringbone vest and Rivington floral silk georgette skirt epitomized the concept. As did the olive mélange chesterfield coat thrown over the Ludlow floral silk georgette gown.

The strongest group from my point of view was not the opening (I’m not a wispy floral kind of gal), but the group that followed which consisted of rich mixes of black mélange wool tweeds, suedes, cashmeres, Shetlands, and donegals, and vintage like dark brown shearling pieces (bags, vests, leg warmers).


Standouts: The black mélange wool tweed cutaway jacket, shown with a black cashmere turtleneck, brown wool tweed cropped ‘boy pants’, and accessorized with a dark brown hand burnished calf leather Ricky bag; the narrow black tweed/wool coat shown over black leggings and a black cashmere sweater, and accessorized with a chocolate alligator shoulder saddle bag; the moss cashmere and wool Donegal tweed jacket, chocolate cashmere turtleneck, Donegal wool tweed skirt, and brown shearing hobo bag; the knee length caramel brown shearing vest (really, a sleeveless coat), which was shown with an espresso cashmere turtleneck, brown wool covert spat, chocolate crocodile clutch.


A group done all in all black and black morning stripes (not the most interesting), was followed by another grouping in black which was somewhat ethnic (this was exemplified by the black ottoman passimentary embroidered coat). The evening finale was comprised of silk georgette florals, with names like Saint Germain, Bloomsbury, Chelsea, and Le Marais, fashioned into floor length gowns which were bare on top and fitted through the torso, featuring skirts that were flounced and tiered. The last dress out was interesting in that it was juxtaposed against a moss felted cashmere cropped shawl collar jacket.

Just a note, Ralph has more often than not, been known to devote an entire collection to an all out Americana theme, though that was not the case this season. I found it curious or interesting at the least, that he would chose to emphasize a print (specifically, florals with decidedly European heritages and names) for a collection shown in such close proximity to the opening of the Costume Institute’s ‘American Woman, Fashioning a National Identity’ in May. Well, I guess we are all so very international and global these days, n’est pas? In the meanwhile, his show last season was all about variations on that all American fabric and wardrobe staple: denim, and I guess Cathy Horyn was trying to pay homage to that aesthetic when she showed up in her well worn jeans (flat boots and non descript black jacket) for this show and the rest of Friday’s schedule. Well, it sort of didn’t work - there’s real life chic, relaxed glamour, and there’s just plain poor.

Isaac’s Tall Tale


I often wonder what the madcap and always entertaining Isaac Mizrahi is ‘smoking’ (and I mean that affectionately because I adore him). Especially, when I read the fantastical and imaginative 'essays' describing the inspiration behind one of his shows. (If nothing else, he must have some amazing dreams)


This season, the theme was Central Park Story Book and he spun quite the tale, a fable consisting of “girls trying on glass slippers, flaps coats, and ending with evening clothes that might be confused with camping gear" (I kid you not). He spoke of ‘glorifying’ the bag lady, observing that “every upper east sider has at least once admired a bag lady” (yikes, I admit, I have!) He even used phrases like ‘Geoffrey L.L. Bean or ‘Buffalo Bill Blass’ to conjure up the proper irreverent mood, and went on to describe the show as a kind of “upper east side camping trip where the rocks have new uses”. He’s nuts, what can I say? But we all love him because he’s so unique and so, well Isaac.


The collection was presented at the Tent at Bryant Park, and the stage was decorated with bare trees made to resemble Central Park during the winter with the Manhattan skyline in the background. The 45 pieces were broken up into 5 groups: Parka Avenue, Society Samurai, Vagrant Fairies, Fish & Wildlife, and Seven Winter Fairies. Dresses and outfits were given names like Luncheon armor, Cocktail warrior, City sweats, Diamond crocodile, Toggle town, Manhattan cable, Furry, Wooly, etc. It was all very Isaac: the glamorous evening takes on survival wear (quilted coats, glittery quilted fur trimmed vests with quilted and fur trimmed hoods; dressed up survival parkas; lame utility pants; crystal toggle buttons), the shaggy orange knee length coat; the group of abbreviated shifts that were so overly embellished with crystals, they glowed in the dark; and the finale, a group of strapless evening dresses and gowns in muted, pale shades with poufy organza skirts. When the Seven Winter Fairies made their appearance on stage at the end, a snow machine made fake snow (just we needed, more snow). We all know that Isaac is neurotic about his love for Manhattan (in a Woody Allen kinda way), because he has admitted that he cannot bear to leave the city and hates to travel. So I guess you can call the show, an homage to Manhattan.

-Marilyn Kirschner

The Daily Bet

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-Rhonda Erb

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Ralph’s Got the ‘Blues’


Ralph Lauren showed his spring 2010 collection at two back-to-back showings downtown on Hudson Street. His program notes made mention of these trying and difficult times and the “resilient spirit of America”. He was inspired by the “character of the worker, the farmer, the cowboy, the pioneer women of the prairie living authentically through challenging times”, and the ‘honesty of their work wear and its reinterpretation”. This theme played out for both day and evening (a metallic ice blue lame voile overall gown, anyone?). Save for the vintage prairie flowers, a grouping in white, and a pink gown at the end of the show, which was shown beneath a blue pinstriped jacket, almost the entire line was a study in shades of blue. It was signature ‘Ralph’ and both the designer and his wife Ricky, were wearing their faded denims in a display of harmony.


The show opened with western inspired work wear and denim in a range of washes, silhouettes, and proportions: fitted jackets and boxy jackets, roll cuffed relaxed jeans, and overalls. (But ‘honesty’ and ‘authenticity’ has its limits; Ralph did not show these pieces with dirty and soiled workmen’s boots but metallic high heeled sandals). This was followed by what Ralph does better than anyone else: different takes on the haberdashery lightweight wool navy pinstripe 3 piece suits (fitted jackets, vests, shirts, pants, broadcloth shirts, ties - the whole nine yards). Then came the whites followed by a grouping in faded blue ombre charmeuse (workshirts, carpenter pants), and then the embroidered and beaded evening pieces.


For Ralph, it’s always about unexpected combinations and mixes, and so, while the vintage chambray single georgette beaded gown was pretty, it was the more unusual pairings that stood out (the indigo cotton striped jacket worn over a faded blue ombre organdy work shirt and faded blue stretch denim pants; the vintage chambray georgette beaded top and faded blue ombre charmeuse jodhpur, or the aforementioned indigo cotton striped peak lapel two button jacket thrown over a faded pink ombre gauze embroidered gown). FYI, since there is almost no living designer more synonymous with 'American Style' than Ralph Lauren, you can be sure many of the attendees at this year’s "Party of the Year" (in honor of the exhibit, “American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity”, will be wearing something by the designer.

The ‘Rain Man’


You can always expect the unexpected, and theatrical from Isaac Mizrahi, though you never know what that will be. How funny fashion is, now that so many designers have seemingly ‘caught up’ with Isaac in terms of using bright colors, stripes, madcap pattern mixes, and injecting a feeling of lighthearted whimsy into their collections (remember his fall 2009 collection?), Isaac has moved on to something else.


And that something ‘else’ (though of course there is still Isaac’s sense of playfulness and whimsy) was decidedly chic, tailored, classic, and spectator-y (I loved the black and white spectator flats and low heeled shoes that were shown at the beginning). And the ‘something else’ also had more than a feeling of vintage YSL in the shapes (the tailleur, the pleated trouser pants, the tuxedos, the use of black and white, the dresses and gowns decorated with large flowers, the use of transparency in the form of sheer black ‘cages’ over dresses).


And then of course, there were the chic straw hats. Whereas last season, Isaac used pocketbooks turned upside down as hats, the only place bags were used (and they were classic and elegant as well), were on the arms of the models. Soon into the show, it began to ‘rain’ from the ceiling, and on cue, a guy dressed in a black jumpsuit ran out with an umbrella, to shield the models from the downpour. At the end, a golf cart appeared. I’m still not sure what the symbolism was; after all, Isaac was not hawking umbrellas and there was not one raincoat amongst all the beige (the main color story was the use of tan or beige mixed with strong pastels). Could it be that Isaac is spending a lot of his free time on rainy golf courses?

‘Needle’ in a Haystack


If nothing else, Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein had to put on one of the most quickly paced shows this season. There were only 35 pieces, but 35 pieces can last an eternity (lumbering music, slowly paced models -you know the drill). But Francisco had one exacting artistic vision and he delivered it quickly and to the point (the models walked by so quickly it was hard to take notes). It shouldn’t be a surprise that since fall was almost entirely all about black, there was hardly any black at all (when it was used, it was used as an abstract ‘print’). A grouping in white opened the show and there was also porcelain, bisque, shades of gray, and hits of color in the form of pale jade, shell pink, coral, and yellow.


Francisco has become known for his use of innovative fabrics and this time he introduced what the program notes described as ‘needle punched’ cotton voile or silk chiffon which was used along with double faced cotton poplin, nylon, rinsed double faced cotton voile, pleated cotton, silk gazar, and silk organdy. The result was somewhat rumpled and highly textural: surface interest without the use of any decoration. And each piece (be it a racer back dress, a coat, a gown) had its own organic shape. Speaking of organic, that would be the best way to describe the collection as well as the ‘prints’, which were very free form and abstract, (some looked marbleized in shades of gray, black, and porcelain, while others seemed to mimic the sky right before a storm).


Everything looked light and airy; nothing clung to the body, yet volume was controlled. While there were some pants shown with jackets, long skirts, (often paired with elongated racer back tank tunics), and a smattering of gowns, it was a ‘short’ story, and a dress story at that. Almost everything was short (but wisely, not too short), and when coats were shown, they were the same length as the dresses beneath. The overall effect was modern, if not somewhat Zen like, and a Japanese influence was hard to ignore. This was even apparent in the footwear (mainly lacquered calf t strap sandals on a very low platform). Hurray!Once again, another designer has endorsed a lower heel for spring. While it was certainly innovative, well conceived,and beautifully done, the clothes are not necessarily the easiest to pull off for most women and admittedly, this is not a collection for everyone (and that's apparently fine with the designer).

-Marilyn Kirschner

"The Daily Bet" by Rhonda Erb


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Monday, March 30, 2009

Calvin’s Fall View: Some of This & Some of That. All Au Moderne in Color and Monochrome.

All Photos: Greg Kessler for Calvin Klein

Judging from what was on view at Calvin Klein’s Thursday, March 26 informal showroom presentation, the clothes, jeans, underwear and accessories collections for women and men, all seem to have much in common, which means that nearly everything shown is cool and moderne; young, wearable and with it.

No matter if everything was shown on models, on hangers by classification and color, or via still-life presentations, the story here begs the question of whether Klein is somewhat moving away from his expected minimalist viewpoint. Sure, there there is still lots of black, grey and white going on, but on the flip side, there is more color; lots more color across the collections, especially notable and unique when considering all of the vibrant jewel tones Klein has chosen to play with for Fall'09.

So, is the collection, on the whole, predictable Calvin? Well, on one hand yes; on the other hand, no. And, that is what makes the whole package so interesting because, while the collection is pure, expected Calvin Klein, there are still some new and neat tricks, coupled with a few surprises along the way. And, these factors serve to set such a refreshing tone for many of the pieces seen during the showing

First up, in the main room, there was a line-up (by category) of healthy, cheerful, fresh-faced models, each of whom were obviously there to portray Klein’s easy-going, fresh and definitively American look. The models, some of whom were obviously older than fifteen years of age, which was so nice to see, showed off the pieces informally to a well-attended audience of fashion editors, many of whom were given a personal walk-through of each grouping, by an equally good-looking and cheerful group of Klein’s PR and marketing people. Again, this was very pleasant to see vs. the sometimes morose, uncaring and rude PR people many editors encounter when covering collection openings; informally in showrooms and more formally at fashion shows.

At Klein’s event, everything was all good and lots of fun. It was just great seeing all of the sportswear, apparel, jeans and underwear on cheerful models (a refreshing surprise from the sullen, blankly staring models usually seen at events such as these), interacting naturally with one another (and the editors). Side-by-side with the models and the clothing and underwear, were the ample, still-life-tableau-styled accessories groupings – handbags, luggage, duffels, backpacks, footwear, scarves, ties, gloves and the like, most of which which went well with the clothing – nicely served up in groupings of day-into-evening leathers, faux animal prints and suedes.

On the whole, Klein’s idea for Fall is all about curvaceous, generous shapes and silhouttes, rendered in rich, jeweled tones of emerald, ruby and amethyst. When it came to womenswear, fabrics such as deep-pile felts, satins and cashmere blends are accented with velvet trims, heavy studs, lace and sequins, making for a interesting, if not somewhat out of the ordinary, statement here. Especially unique is the lipstick red, belted, funnel-neck cashmere coat, which brought to mind, for this editor at least, a young and lovely Nancy Reagan. Another great look is the easy-but-closer-to-the-body, black puffer jacket with super-long sleeves, that looks so right for cool to cold weather wear. It is wonderful to see a chic, little,cozy jacket like this one, that doesn’t make the wearer resemble The Michelin Man.

Moving on to the well-dressed guys, Klein favors a type of rejuvinated, modernized take on classic styling, by way of his classic peacoat, now looking zingier and more contempo by way of black and grey contrast seaming. Another neat twist on how Klein dresses today’s young man suit is the heather grey flannel two-button number, worn with a traditional white dress shirt and heather wool twill flannel top coat with grey suede gloves. Klein does have his way with menswear, because this collection is not only strong and good-looking, but thoroughly masculine across the board.

Shown right along with all of the clothes and accessories in the room are Calvin’s underwer offerings, worn, of course, by models in tip-top, athletic shape. Called “Black” and “White”, and shown in an array of classic styles, in lightweight Microfiber and stretch cotton, these pieces are good looking, but seem just too basic and staid for Klein’s customers. After all, if one is going to wear Calvin Klein inside and out, shouldn’t everything work from the inside out? With this part of the line, that simply is not clear. However, what does work and what is clearly Calvin Klein underneath it all, is the definitely sexual part of the women’s line, embracing bras, g-strings, garter belts and lace/mesh hipsters in French Leavers lace with soft mesh and microfiber. As the show program explains, these pieces are “woven with antique machines to achieve vintage touches”. A nice touch, indeed.

The new Calvin Klein Jeans Body collection was presented separately in its own little room. A few shirtless men and women in little tops – not as cheerful and interactive as the models in the main room, but all with great bodies, of course - stood in the center of the room, showing off the new jeans, while several jeans-clad men, slouched against the walls. Seeing all of this instantly brought back visions of the old-school Calvin Klein jeans campaigns (print and TV), especially the very suggestive images, which gave the designer so much publicity(good and bad).

Ad campaigns aside, and while jeans are jeans are jeans, and so on and so on, and each company and each designer tries hard to make the statement their own, Klein has made big business out of designing jeans and, in this case, the new collection has its place. As the show program says, these jeans are “engineered, tough, yet sexy, for a contoured profile-enhancing fit.” Done in a classic, skinny cut for women in nouveau rinses of copper and rusted iron, and for men, in a straight leg style, in copper rinse and destructed ore, the $79.50 pricepoint seems reasonable.

Oh, and by the way, just to make sure that every invited guest left the event still feeling happy, a pair of jeans in the requested size, fit and wash, was handed out to each editor in a special Calvin Klein Jeans gift bag.

– Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg