Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Carolina On My Mind

(Photo: Firstview.com)

Carolina Herrera’s show notes spoke of "an alluring confidence in the women who inspired fall”. “A sophisticated feminine attitude and striking details, reveal an integrity to luxury”. And that was luxury with a capital L. In fact, there was so much luxury on display, one could almost call it an embarrassment of riches. But I wouldn’t call it wasn’t an embarrassment; it was actually quite well done. Ms Herrera bid adieu to the artsy side she seemed to favor in recent seasons, and returned to her luxe sportif roots.

(Photo: Firstview.com)

Certainly, there were enough understated cocktail dresses and gowns, as well as dramatic red carpet worth entrance makers, with sculpted pleats, fluid ruffles, embroidery, etc., to keep her social swans and celebrity customers (including her number one fan Renee Zellwegger) happy for another season. And in the case of the latter, there were enough sleeveless, one shouldered, or strapless creations to show off her well toned form.

(Photo: Firstview.com)

But for me, it was the strong daywear that stood out, (in a color palette of camel, Prussian blue, deep red, and an okra floral print), the stellar coats (many of them in camel), and the creative use of embroidery and fur, mainly sable. And oh boy, the fur was flying yesterday morning; so much so that Carolina might become PETA’s number one enemy. I also loved the crisp white cotton shirts (Ms. Herrera’s signature item) used beneath some of the coats and jackets, and classic slouchy menswear trousers, sometimes in banker’s pinstripes (skinny jeans and leggings have their place but after awhile, one longs for another proportion and these looked right). Standouts: the chocolate sable and faille brush stroke print jacket with grey wool wide leg pinstripe pant; the camel crocodile and wool jacket shown with stone mélange wool wide legged pants; the double face wool cashmere cape with a an embroidered mohair scarf with fox trim, paired with a windowpane wool wide legged pant; and the sable trimmed camel double face belted knee length that looked as though there was a sable bolero over it until you saw the entire back was covered in sable. Accessories were Manolo Blahnik’s high heeled shoes (not one boot in sight), the jaunty brimmed hats by Albertus Swanepoel, and belts by Bennett Liberty (all done especially for Carolina). By the way, I liked the way she used a thin red belt to define the waist, for both day and evening. What looks better with camel than red?

The straw that broke the ‘camel's’ back

(Photo: Firstview.com)

Speaking of camel, the camel (or camel hair) coat, an iconic menswear item, is a timeless and classic wardrobe staple for women as well, and the camel coat was THE coat for fall 2009. From the look of things, it’s continued into this season (and for good reason). It’s flattering, chic, always in style, a perfect neutral which literally goes with everything, and like the tan trench or khaki army jacket, it keeps on being re interpreted. And no matter how you do so, it still looks great.

(Photo: Firstview.com)

IT was hardly surprising when I looked at the run of show, (before the 19 piece Yeohlee show began), to find that camel coats would be a major focus of the collection. In fact, the first three items out were different variations on the theme: a camel single cylinder cocoon coat, a knee length camel funnel neck coat, and a camel ‘cadet’ coat, shown with either narrow cuffed pants in grey fleece or kazimir, or over a watercolor plaid silk shirtwaist dress. They were all shown with the chicest, most simplified and hard to find perfect pumps: simple, low heeled, feminine yet sturdy at the same time (sometimes with bare legs, sometimes with ankle socks). And were also accessorized with cozy, knitted hoods or large neck scarves (in black white mélange, oat two-ply melange, grey or black wool). The program notes also revealed that Yeohlee was inspired by artist Kazimir Malevich’s Black Circle springing out into a cylinder. (Thus, the double face camel wrap coat, a dress in pewter laminated jersey, or a jacket in lime grey brushed angora plaid)

Yeohlee is one of the most consistent and talented designers today, and almost nobody makes a coat quite like Yeohlee. I can attest to that fact because I am a coat collector and have several of her pieces and they not only stand the test of time, they are insanely fabulous, foldable, packable, seasonless, weightless, timeless, and magically versatile and practical (did I leave anything out?). I always think of her Urban Nomad Collection and her concept that clothing becomes one’s environment outside. So true. And I kept thinking, I’d love to add any one of those shown yesterday, to my collection. In addition to coats, standout pieces were the grouping in black/white mélange hand knit, a Spacebond (sort of a pale greige color) 3 cylinder jacket, aviator cape, and cadet dress with an interesting shoulder detail; two pewter cylinder dresses, and two perfect little black dresses.

Reese's 'Pieces'

(Photo: Firstview.com)

Tracy Reese is in an upbeat, girlie, and downright sexy mood this fall based on the 40 pieces she showed yesterday afternoon. The emphasis was on the body (abbreviated skirts and narrow pants namely jodhpurs). Short dresses (frocks and shifts) appeared throughout in myriad of fabrics (everything from lace spliced jersey and shaded square jersey, to an expressionist grid). In many cases, they were paired with a thick loopy 'fringed' neck scarf. This Mongolian lamb like fringed fabric, (a replacement for real fur?) also appeared as a coat and several cropped jackets. While there were other faux and distressed faux furs, as well as distressed faux leathers (as in one gray faux leather coat), apparently Tracy is not making a politically correct statement about being anti fur because the real thing was used as trim on the short sleeves of several cardigans. Speaking of which, cardigans were also a recurring theme and there were several good looking coats, the best of which was a graphic alpaca plaid. The color palette was predominantly black, grey, ecru, camel, and brown and blush with touches of a smoky blue, and several abstract patterns. Glittery jewelry (mainly necklaces) by Gerard Yosca added shine.

Monique’s Crimson Tide

(Photo: Isabelle Erb)

It may have been too late for Valentine’s Day, but Monique Lhuillier, who always shows a crowd pleasing collection which is a variation on her signature themes (if something is not broke, why fix it?) cited soldier like inspiration from “Chinese warrior and military suits” and promised strong silhouettes, strong shoulders, lots of leg, lots of ‘edge’ and a tough chic vibe. Hence, her love affair with crimson red, either alone or used in combination with black. Best pieces: the dragon lacquered mattelasse mini dress with gold encrusted cuffs that opened the show; the crimson jacquard coat with red piping and oxidized metal epaulets; the crimson halter dress with gold leather chain embroidery; the black and white tweed jacket and skirt with grayed tulle trim; the noir crocodile embossed velvet coat with oxidized crystal epaulets; the dragon lacquered mattelesse trench; the black and nude pleated tulle gown with nude floral embroidery, and the jaw droppingly beautiful Shanghai red duchesse draped gown with floral skirt.

-Marilyn Kirschner

The Daily Bet

DOTS Gloves

If you have ever stood on the street on a cold day with your hands freezing while you try to operate your iPhone or iPod Touch, these are the gloves for you. DOTS Gloves have three dots embroidered on the thumb and two fingertips that allow you to use the touch screen of your iPhone or iPod Touch without risking frostbite. They come in three styles, so stop suffering to stay in touch.

DOTS Gloves, $15-$25

- Rhonda Erb

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What’s in the Air’

Photos: Firstview.com

The weather was so glorious yesterday that it’s hard to imagine anything could happen which would spoil the good feelings. But it did and this one takes the cake. I boarded the bus provided by Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, right after the 1 p.m. Tracy Reese show ended, to head downtown to Donna Karan, who always shows her collections at 711 Greenwich Street. The ride was uneventful. The show was scheduled for 2 p.m. and we got there a few minutes before the show was to begin --approximately 2:30.

The 41 piece collection went by the title, ‘What’s in the Air’, and Donna cited inspiration from the elements: “the sky, water, wind, sand, earth and fire” (what else is new?) Whereas the designer seemed to revisit her roots for the fall collection (where all her familiar ‘best hits’ were re invented and re imagined), spring was a bit more esoteric and experimental (and what’s with those unnecessary Stephen Jones hats, Donna?). While there were a smattering of coats and some pants, it was primarily about artfully deconstructed and fitted skirt suits, worn over stretch body suits, in innovative fabrics (such as viscose matte stretch twill and silk/nylon stretch taffeta) which allowed for fabric manipulation and a feeling of movement.

Evening consisted of Donna’s familiar draped gowns (many of them narrow yet falling away from the body, exposing the sides and backs) in viscose/silk crepe jersey and viscose/silk satin devore. Admittedly, these are not the easiest dresses to pull off if you need to wear any sort of undergarment, or if you are not over 6 feet tall and weight under 100 pounds, like Donna’s stable of models.

The color palette carried out the ‘elements’ theme throughout, in barely there non colors such as pumice, storm, blush, and sky blue, not necessarily the most flattering shades to wear for most women; which made the periodic appearance of ‘fire coral’ (lacquer red by any other name), even more appealing. This turned up in form of a stretch taffeta coat, stretch canvas strapless dress, organza shell; a double linen envelope jacket and double linen scissor pant; a nylon stretch dress with coral branch belt; and a viscose/silk satin devore evening dress.

And since I was sitting across the room from Anna Wintour, who I knew was headed out to the U.S. Open men’s finals (she kept looking at her watch and checking her cell phone), I was reminded that red was the power color worn so well by her good friend Roger Federer this season (though he lost his match last night). By the way, Anna made her quick exit out a back door right before the show’s finale.

‘Dumb and Dumber’

Well anyway, after the show, I looked for Stephanie, the sweet intern who was trying to be helpful and in charge of getting show goers on the bus (in her fuchsia dress, she was hard to miss). She was also in charge of getting us up to the Yeohlee show at 4 (it did seem as though we would have a bit of time to kill but I thought that was wise). We waited and waited and finally, the bus came back and picked up a group of us. It was only after the bus left, that we were told it would make one stop, on West 21st street, where Thakoon was showing at 3. I assumed the bus was dropping show goers off to Thakoon to see the show. Well,I was wrong! When we got to the venue, Eyebeam, at 10th Avenue and west 21st street, we were told that we were going to wait until Thakoon ended, and then bring those attendees to Yeohlee, on West 35th Street.

When a few of us complained, it was obvious that Stephanie did not have the authority to give directions to the bus driver to drive us to Yeohlee or to bring us closer to transportation. She had to answer to ‘higher authorities’, specifically, Katie, at the ‘Command Station’ at the Bryant Park Tents. There were many of us who were irked because this was a huge waste of precious time. We were literally sitting and waiting on the bus for what turned out to be nearly two hours and literally felt we were being ‘hijacked’ and had no choice but to wait. And on top of that, when we finally got to 34th and 7th, just a few blocks away from Yeohlee’s showroom, the bus driver headed east, all the way to Madison Avenue in order to make a turn back to 35th street! We could have simply gotten off the bus on 7th Avenue, walked two blocks, and had gotten there a half hour earlier than we did (it was about 4:30 when we arrived). It was a true comedy of errors though it wasn’t really funny. I blame it on lack of communication and poor organization. But regardless, it was unacceptable.

Birds of a Feather’

In the meanwhile, when I walked into the Yeohlee showroom, in addition to FIT’s Valerie Steele and Patricia Mears, Elsa Klensch, and Joan Kaner, I spotted Iris Apfel sitting in the front row. Of course, she’s the original ‘Rare Bird’ (‘Rara Avis’ was the name given to exhibit mounted by the Met’s Costume Institute several years ago, when they paid homage to her colorful and eclectic sense of style). Coincidentally, after I read Yeohlee’s program notes that I found there was actually a ‘connection’ between Iris and Yeohlee’s collection, which was called, ‘The Shape of Sound’.

In addition to the “invisible sonic dimension of sound”, Yeohlee cited tropical birds with their colorful plumage as inspiration for a well edited 21 piece collection that was all about form, texture, and movement. And it was departure for the designer in that it was less severe, austere, and minimal than in the past, and dare I say, more colorful, playful and very feminine! There was a veritable explosion of color, and the use of a print (a fuchsia, green, buttercup ‘Macaroon Dot’ which was fashioned into a ‘bird’ dress and was also used for a peplum jacket paired with a striped sailor top and fuchsia cotton pique shorts). And, can you imagine there were even ‘ruffles’.

But not your typical ruffle, this is Yeohlee, so it’s always about the arduous, brilliant, and innovative manipulation of fabric, and working it into a theme where every detail tells a story. And so, a stripe embroidery fabric mimicked a musical score; sound was envisioned as ‘waves’ (as seen in the stripe embro wave top worn with a black jersey wing skirt); interlocking sound wave patterns were woven onto the top of a black jersey dress; and the wave theme continued in several metallic brass matelasse dresses, which exposed the fabric’s soft white cotton interior, (“a link to the contrasting surfaces found in melodic duality” according to program notes).

Carolina's a ‘Basket’ Case

Could it be that Carolina Herrera is taking boxing lessons with Ralph Rucci to help her stay in great shape? Perhaps that would explain why a longtime Rucci inspiration: the intricate forms, textures and techniques used in the ancient art of Japanese basket weaving, has found its way into her spring 2010 collection where they were translated onto fabrics, prints, and could be found in the interlacing of the accessories. Hence, there were stone rope weave jacquard linens, straw striped linens, embroidered rope weave printed cottons, and basket weave jacquards (like the asymmetrical gown that ended the show).

Carrying out the nature theme was the predominately neutral color palette, based around stone, straw, ivory, caramel, and amber, with hits of amethyst and rose. While there were probably more evening gowns shown on this runway, than on any other thus far, there were also knee length and ‘tea length’ dresses, many of which were beaded and embroidered, which added further texture, shine, and surface interest. And the designer apparently feels very strongly about the new ‘short’ suit (a belted jacket worn over shorts), because they were a recurring theme, several of which were beaded as well.

Blame it on Rio

Attending a Carlos Miele show is often like taking a quick trip to Brazil. Carlos's forte has long been his exuberantly colored eveningwear and he didn’t disappoint this time around. But in addition to his dresses and gowns, he included more separates this time, which made for a nice balance.

Standouts include the group of pink degrade silk chiffons (a mini dress was shown with a nude tropical wool pleated bolero, a long gown was shown beneath a nude silk chiffon vest with colorful silk ‘deadlocks’, and the pink degrade silk chiffon was used for a tank top and paired with nude wool pants and a dark denim bolero). Black and white beach and city photo prints found their way onto long and short dresses, and python and snake prints turned up in the form of separates and evening gowns…one, in silk charmeuse with a deeply plunging neckline, was standout.

Mirror like embroidery added texture and shine to a nude tropical wool jacket shown with stiff dark jeans; decorated a black wool jacket which was paired with nude tropical wool shorts, and completely covered a black silk bolero, which was thrown over a black silk tank and wool mini. All I know is when the show was over, I was somehow hungry for Brazilian food.

-Marilyn Kirschner

"Move Over Eloise": Douglas Hannant At The Plaza

Photos courtesy Douglas Hannant

The Park Avenue set has a new outpost to call home. Designer Douglas Hannant opened his first retail boutique last month in New York’s Plaza Hotel. There is no sign of a recession in Hannant’s chic new flagship store. The elegant boutique, designed by Geoffrey Bradfield, features white Venetian plaster, mirrored walls, and white marble floors. Located on the street level of the Plaza’s retail area and in close proximity to Hannant’s loyal clientele, one assumes that the store will fare better than some of the hotel’s other retail establishments.

To celebrate the boutique’s opening, Hannant presented his Spring 2010 collection at a cocktail party held Monday night in the Plaza’s Terrace Room. The theme was a tribute to Venus, the goddess of love, and the space was draped throughout in large swaths of white fabric. The designer’s new looks were displayed on mannequins mounted high above the crowd, as fashionistas and socialites sipped champagne while listening to an 80’s music mix.

In keeping with the theme, Hannant’s new offerings were predictably elegant and goddess like. The color palette included pale shades of blue, yellow, pink, lavender, and green. Two of his most striking gowns were in delicate prints, one in porcelain blue and another in a multi hued floral pattern.

Since not every night can be a party, even for Hannant’s social set, the collection also included skinny pants paired with soft blouses, knee length dresses and well-tailored suits. In addition to the designer’s luxury ready to wear, a new line of accessories will be sold in Hannant’s boutique. The line will feature jewelry, shoes, hats, and evening bags.

- Rhonda Erb

"The Daily Bet" by Rhonda Erb

The Sharpie Bar

Photo: Caroline Erb

On Monday, everyone’s favorite permanent marker, Sharpie, debuted its very first Sharpie Bar in the lobby of the tents at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. Designer Betsey Johnson headlined an event to introduce her exclusive Sharpie Shirt. While there, she demonstrated her doodling skills using the colorful markers. The Sharpie Bar will be open until September 16th and Betsey’s shirts will be available free of charge, while supplies last.

Sharpie has designed personalized markers for many designers at the Tents and you can design your own by visiting their website.


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