Monday, September 14, 2009

Derek’s ‘Brief’ Encounter

All Photos:

Derek Lam's program notes stated “Ode to Summer…something I heard on the radio…Asbury Park, Rehoboth beach, P Town and Key West…Patriotic, optimistic, free for all”. A carnival carnal and a little bit tawdry. Glitter dust. Summer love. A summer fever, some bittersweet memories. I wish you were here”. Derek is known for putting his spin on American sportswear, but this collection was a departure in that it was decidedly dressed up, somewhat retro in feeling (think 40’s pin-up girls), and downright feminine and sexy (there were halters, strapless corset dresses, the ubiquitous use of draped jersey, and it was all very short, accessorized with high heeled sandals).

It was also colorful (in addition to black, white, wheat, and khaki, there were hits of yellow, jade, turquoise, apple green, and red). And it was patriotic. Stars were a recurring theme, showing up in the form of jacquard prints, patchwork poplin, and they even decorated belts. In one standout black and white poplin dress, a huge star appeared to explode on the front, and the theme continued onto the star studded wrap belt. FYI - by now we all know that the Costume Institute’s upcoming exhibit in May, “American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity" , (tracing the archetypes of dress and femininity from 1890 to 1940, and then examine how they affect how women are perceived today), so this seems rather timely.

Do you recall the season that Miuccia Prada showed almost her entire collection over skimpy briefs? The tops: sweaters, coats, jackets were all rather hefty and substantial, but beneath those pieces, there was practically nothing. (Though in Miuccia’s hands, it was not at all sexy or titillating but almost unisex). While Derek didn’t show everything over barely there briefs, he was making a statement about the leg he introduced a ‘one piece’, which was not only offhandedly paired with an ivory tropical wool jacket with black satin trimmed collar, but replaced the more traditional dresses or gowns that normally serve as a runway show’s finale.

Out of the ‘Blue’

If the words “folkloric, homespun, boho, batik, artisan, crochet, braided, rope, tie dye, and patchwork don’t seem to gel with the seductive sexiness long associated with Herve Leger, you might want to think again. As I have always said, sexy is in the eyes of the beholder, and sexy is as sexy does. In the spring/summer Herve Leger by Max Azria collection presented on Sunday, the program notes emphasized the “folkloric beauty of home spun technique with the sophistication of couture” and went on to describe the “allure of authenticity”. Of course, keeping most of the dresses at thigh length, and cutting them as close to the body as possible, doesn’t hurt the cause either. Nor does putting the models in such towering riveted cork heeled platforms, that a few of them could not keep their balance on the runway.

It wasn’t until number 21 (out of 34), that a dress that looked more like a dress than a bathing suit, and was actually a few inches above the knee, and cut with a ‘forgiving’ flared skirt, appeared. And those few pieces, in pumice ribbon and crochet, were really quite pretty and far less predictable than bare beaded and strapless bondage dresses. Also looking good was the grouping in shades of blue (dark denim, indigo, and sky blue, sometimes mixed together collage style). A denim multi jacket that took its cues from a cropped moto/jean jacket, shown over a fitted denim blue batik patchwork mini, and a black suede/denim jacket in a similar shape, thrown over a black beaded crochet bandage skirt, looked of the moment and broke up the repetitiveness of the skimpy, barely there bandage dresses.

‘Midnight at the Oasis’

In her show notes, the designer cited influences from Orientalism to Pre-Raphaelite in terms of the palette, and called the spring/summer collection, ‘Oasis’. Diane von Furstenberg is a renowned globe trotter and her world travels seem to always show up on the runway. This season, once again, it was all about a jet setting, colorful, exotic nomad, with more than a touch of the ‘gypsy’. And it was a continuation of Diane’s stable of signatures: her love affair with the dress; the lavish use of prints and patterns (florals, animal prints, abstract and geometrics, etc.); the abundance of color; textural plays involving macramé and eyelet; the use of draping and asymmetry;

the almost drunken use of embellishments and gold (gold coin, gold mesh, gold foil); and a veritable pile on of accessories. This time, oversized, rainbow hued bangles adorned each wrist, there were ornaments in the hair, bags were so oversized they could carry the world, and of course, there were the sexy shoes. To say there was a lot going on at the show, is an understatement: you almost didn’t know where to look first.

‘Taylor’ Made

Rebecca Taylor’s well received collection shown on Sunday was continuation of her girlie aesthetic. There were her beloved prints (tiny florals, pin dots, leopard); the short skirts and abbreviated corset dresses; the lavish use of ruffles and peplums; the sweet and pretty blouses; jumpsuits; one shouldered tops; and a group of mini cocktail dresses in eye popping solid colors like cobalt, scarlet, cyclamen, and orange sherbert.

Also looking good were those items or those pairings that were unexpected, untraditional, and offhanded. For example, a gray sweatshirt fabric one would normally associate with active sportswear and the gym, was transformed into a chicly draped and sophisticated cocktail dress; a nautical blue and white striped top (which was actually hand painted), was paired with a gilded draped short skirt; a menswear inspired navy shadow striped sleeveless jacket was belted with a wide denim and lime Liberty floral turnlock belt and shown over gilded trousers.

“I’ll have what she’s having”

It’s impossible not to notice the beautiful Gisele staring up at you in all the magazines, wearing nothing but a classic tan London Fog trenchcoat ( In the picture, the coat resembles a Burberry but instead of being well into the 4 figures, is closer to $100. I guess that’s why she gets the big bucks.

-Marilyn Kirschner

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

CFDA "Cop-out" Over Thin Model Controversy

Diane Von Furstenberg, facing her first major issue since assuming the role as the new president of the CFDA issued the following statement regarding the "too thin model controversy": "It is important as a fashion industry to show our interest and see what we can do because we are in the business of image...But I feel like we should promote health as a part of beauty rather than setting rules."

So, after a meeting with industry leaders that included Anna Wintour and several members of her staff (what happened to representatives of other major fashion publications?), health professionals including a nutritionist, psychiatrist, physical trainer, model agency booker and a representative from the pr firm KCD, the best this group could come up were some non-binding "guidelines" for designers that included providing more nutritious food backstage at fashion shows, scheduling fittings earlier in the day for young models, and encouraging them to get more sleep?

The CFDA recommendations fell far short of Madrid's banning models who have a body mass index of less than 18 and the recent "manifesto" by the Italian Chamber of Fashion that proposed models should hold a license issued by a panel of health experts and city officials attesting that they are in good health. And Didier Grumbach, president of the Chambre syndicale de la haute couture, has indicated that he plans no action regarding regulating the weight of models.

Perhaps the best way to approach the issue is to take the decision away from the designers who have neither the training or time to enforce standards and put it in the hands of the doctors? Why not require all models to have a recent certificate (say no more than a month before NY shows) from a doctor stating that he or she is in good health? Certainly most designers, the CFDA and even 7th on Sixth could mutually agree to enforce this minimum requirement?

-Ernest Schmatolla

(For more on the "too thin model" controversy, check out Eric Wilson's article section C page 2 in today's The New York Times)

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