Color My World


What’s there not to like about a collection entitled, ‘Smile: Fall 2009’? Where the clothes are broken up into three groups: De Nile, Lucky Charms, and Nuts + Bolts; where blanket coats are given names like ‘Blankie’ and ‘Horse Blankie’; where a pea jacket in oversized proportions sporting extra large gold buttons is labeled ‘Extra Happy Peacoat’; where exuberantly patterned, colorful knitwear is called ‘Fuzzy’ and ‘Cozy’; where tartan plaid dresses, skirts, and pants (in a few cases beaded), are entitled ‘Plaid Therapy’, ‘Multiclan’, and ‘Butterscotch Lozenge’; and where shimmering silver coats, (that quite frankly, look exactly like Reynolds’ Wrap), are actually called ‘Wreynold’s Wrap’ and ‘Silver Foil’? Welcome to the exuberant, joyful, madcap world of Isaac Mizrahi who returned to the tents (the New York Public Library to be exact) to stage his upbeat 40 piece Isaac Mizrahi New York collection which had everybody smiling on the way out. Who needs Prozac or Valium when you can have Isaac Mizrahi?

To all those sad, dour looking people seated in the front row (who never crack a smile, who take themselves, everyone else, and fashion, oh so seriously): put that in your pipe and smoke it. Simply put, Isaac really ‘nailed’ it. The quick tempoed presentation was pure Isaac all the way. From the eccentric, whimsical, and unexpected touches (like using open toed flip flops to accessorize winter clothes, or turning ladylike suede and leather satchels into hats), one never knows what to expect from Isaac, accept of course the unexpected. That and a tweaking of the classics, the playing with color and proportion, and an irreverent and intelligent sense of humor that thankfully, is never at the expense of the customer.

As absent as black was from the fall 2009 Isaac Mizrahi runway (there were a couple of black dresses but they were few and far between), that is how completely filled with black Francisco Costa’s Calvin Klein collection, presented yesterday afternoon at two back-to-back showings. In fact, out of the 35 pieces, there was only a mere handful that were not noir: dresses and coats in ivory/black degrade painted velvet or crackle paillete; a coat in ivory/black crackle printed shearling; a dress in ivory/black crackle paillette embroidered lace and a few laser cut velvet or slim mesh geometric velvet appliquéd evening dresses in sulphite (chartreuse) and juniper (a darker green). And it made quite a powerful, strong statement.

It was a study in black and a textbook case of how many things a designer can do with black to keep it from being dull and make it look interesting, thanks to innovative, sculptural cuts and the texture mixes and surface interest inherent in the amazing fabrication (black wool/silk jacquard, mohair jacquard, stretch silk crepe, crochet, hammered cashmere, embroidered wool, mosaic embroidered techno jersey, washed crystal bonded wool, felted wool, laser cut wool and silk, etc). The recurring theme was asymmetry (one shouldered or one sleeved dresses, uneven lapels), and there were cutaway or curved crescent hemlines, panels, and flaps which found their way on jackets and coats. Though dresses were cut close to the body, there was a noticeably elongated, eased up proportion. This was most notable in Mr. Costa’s terrific strong shouldered jackets which feature uneven, dropped notched lapels, roomier armholes, often buttoning low at the hip to further attenuate the proportion. Worn with a knee length panel pencil skirt, a crescent hem skirt, or especially, the fuller, cropped drawstring waist trouser, they formed the basis for a new suit. The outerwear was also stellar, including the contour detail pea coats, and painted velvet or crackle print shearing coats. There were no accessories shown on the runway, save for the black hair bands (the models wore their hair pulled back in loose chignons), and of course, the footwear (a high heeled open heel short boot, a Mary Jane pump, and an open heeled sandal in a variety of fabrics).

I loved Brian Reyes’s chic and sophisticated, nature inspired (stone quarries from around the world to be exact) 31 piece collection. From the innovative cuts, exacting attention to detail, strong tailoring, angular trench coats, to his beautiful cocktail dresses and evening gowns, it had a singular vision and a point of view. But it was his way with prints (very subtle as if lifted from nature) that really stood out. Particularly, the unique marbleized print that found its way onto several draped dresses and gowns. It was beautifully accessorized with knockout pieces by Roxanne Assoulin for Brian Reyes, and Manolo Blahnik’s towering heels, which unfortunately, proved to be impossible to walk in. At the beginning, one model almost fell and wound up taking the shoes off; by the finale, all the models were walking barefoot.

In the meanwhile, I realized I forgot to mention something yesterday, when I was talking about muses and inspirations. Noticeably absent from the tents this season was Shail Upadhya, the Nepalese gentleman who has in previous years, religiously shown up during Fashion Week, wearing head to toe outlandish, graphic, and eye popping ensembles of his own design. They ran the gamut from acid brights, oversized florals, and bold awning stripes, to graffiti like prints, or recolored camouflage (sometimes mixed together). Serious fashion insiders might have waved him off as just an eccentric attention seeker, but he was photographed all the time and became somewhat of a ‘celebrity’ in these past few years. Well, from the look of things on the runways (bright colors, bold pattern mixes, eccentric headwear), he was way ahead of his time. Even Narciso Rodriguez showed a graphic black and white camouflage ensemble in his most recent fall 2009 runway show). Who’s laughing now?

-Marilyn Kirschner

Zac Posen

Over the past couple of years, I’ve grown to appreciate Zac Posen’s creativity and perhaps I’ve even become a slight fan of the very young and very well connected designer. I believe it takes time to establish ones identity and to find ones niche in the world of fashion, and Zac has been getting closer and closer. That said; I was quite looking forward to his show last night. I knew I was in for something grandiose when I entered the tent and noticed a curious, large black cover stretched down the center of the venue. I walked past Anna Wintour, Hal Rubenstein and Hamish Bowles. Just as I turned to take my seat I saw Sandra Bernhard, Rachel Bilson (The O.C.) and Claire Danes sitting upfront, smiling for Patrick McMullan and Bill Cunningham. Across the way, I spotted Suzy Menkes, Glenda Bailey, Linda Fargo and Andre Leon Talley (difficult to miss, bedazzled in rhinestones!). “Miss J.” Alexander posed for the cameras in the aisle next to me when suddenly, a mad frenzy of flash bulbs attacked (the likes of which I’d never seen). Apparently, Nicole Richie is a celebrity with whom we’re still interested?? Or better yet, Nicole Richie is still a celebrity?

After my eyes finally adjusted and I stopped seeing large spots, I watched the black cover being drawn back to reveal five Steinway & Sons pianos — another live performance at a show. This time, rather than a rock band, we were treated to a concert by “The 5 Browns,” a brothers and sisters group of virtuosos that played at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. The pianos set the stage for what I assumed would be an elegant and sophisticated collection. I skimmed through the show notes and anticipated opulence when I read descriptions such as — golden optic lace; silver metallic jacquard; jeweled rose mink and floral coat; scarlet chiffon Valentine gown. Yes, the collection was definitely opulent but, excessive as well. Many looks were too busy or contrived. Dresses were laden with fabric in the form of cascading ruffles, cowls, crumb catchers, layers, folds, gathers and gores. That’s not to say that the precocious Mr. Posen didn’t have some stunners glide down the catwalk. No question, Zac is a talented designer. His draping and tailoring are superior but, I craved something more scaled back and refined.

“The collection draws on turn-of-the-century romanticism mixed with the heightened feminine silhouettes of the 1940’s.” This quote is a portion of Zac’s introduction to his Fall 2009 Collection. While I saw his vision so clearly in some pieces, I completely lost it in many others. 80’s silhouettes and “Dynasty” dresses seemed to veer off the theme. Zac placed emphasis on the shoulder both with size (which has been getting more padded over the past couple seasons), and with sleeve treatment. He seemed to focus equally on collars (as have other designers) – they stood high and were stacked with ruffles.

Several key designers showed clean, pure brights and a lot of black this week, while Zac Posen seemed to march to the beat of his own drummer. He offered mostly soft, muted, dusty tones which he brightened up with gold and silver metallic. Approximately half way through, he introduced shades of violet and scarlet as well as a fair amount mixing and matching of ditsy floral prints. Zac chose fabrics rich in texture and shine and I appreciated the textiles so much, I forgave the overburdened silhouettes. I preferred ensembles such as; the sleek, grey wool trousers paired with a fitted jacket that looked fresh with a narrow shawl collar, slightly padded shoulders and blouson sleeves; the antique gold jacquard liberty gown; the gingersnap plaid trench coat. Actually, the backgammon pattern mink coat was quite visually interesting as well.

The forty-four looks in the collection were definitely a labor of love – the workmanship was exquisite and the fabric research must have been intensive. As I stated already, Mr. Posen showcased some gorgeous pieces but, overall this wasn’t one of my favorite collections this week.
-Stacy Lomman


Ports Fall 2009 show was held at Bryant Park at the Promenade on February 19th. This time, Tia Cibani’s creations speak of India in all its splendor and glory at the time of the Mughal Dynasty.

All 36 designs were perfectly evocative of luxurious times with sumptuous fabrics paired with details seldom used anymore in the industry. With a very well written and descriptive press release, I took time to learn a lot about the infinite details put together to come with rich and elaborate clothes. From intricate patters bearing metal bullion thread to horn and polished glass buttons, the whole collection is a vibrant rendering of Ms Cibani’s inspiration, namely a legendary empress of Persian descent named Nur Jahan.

For daytime, the clothes were mostly constructed with wool gabardine, wool crepes, hardy twills, custom printed chiffons and crisp organdi. The colors were muted at times with coats that framed the silhouette with impeccable and masculine tailoring. The designer seems to have enjoyed alternating between tight fitting designs that rather demand a great line, and the strict and unincumbered masculine outline. Vibrantly dyed fabrics were the stars of the show, an infusion of color here and there with fitted bodices or flowing shapes.

I didn’t care much for the salwar ( harem) trousers, that, in my opinion were not tailored in a way to flatter the woman’s body. And some dresses seemed to be wearable only by someone sporting a size 0. A hard feat in an industry where the average woman’s size is a 14.

In an ironic twist, my favorite piece is “Danielle”, which consists of a Damask bolero, a dhotti black skirt and a salwar (harem) trouser with a black cap and black scarf. The pairing of accessories and clothing elements made for a very sophisticated yet edgy and modern look.

The evening wear was composed of rich gold and lames, sequins and flourishing adornments just about everywhere. A beautiful piece worthy of many compliments is “Anastasia”, a delicately patterned blouse with an extraordinary azalea colored velvet sharara trouser.. The blouse frames the upper body with a hint of color and pattern on an otherwise delicate fabric, and the trouser seems amazingly easy to wear with all their lushness and vibrancy; not many women would not look beautiful in this ensemble

While the runaway show was taking place, in the background was the music provided by the live band Red Baraat which consists of five band members, including its founder Sunny Jain playing the traditional Indian Dhol. The music was joyous and lively, a perfect backdrop for all this display of grandeur, art, culture and very well executed design.

-Muriel Geny-Triffaut

Douglas Hannant

Douglas Hannant is a designer who can always be relied on to create impeccably tailored clothes crafted from the finest materials. Yesterday’s gathering for the Fall 2009 fashion show took place at the newly renovated Plaza Hotel. It was attended by the usual “A” list socialites seated side-by-side with the fashion press in the hotel’s Edwardian Room.

In his new collection, the designer pays tribute to the style and elegance of a time gone by. Hairstylist Warren Tricomi styled the models with a sophisticated up-do reminiscent of the late 50’s and early 60’s (think Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s). Make up artist Vincent Longo updated the dramatic heavily lined eye that was so popular at the time, to give the models a clean, fresh look.

One of Hannant’s first offerings was a Double Face Knit Dress in Pistachio and Grey. Its shape was figure flattering and the contrasting colors worked well together. A black and white hounds tooth dress looked very smart and elegant and a burnt orange suede coat, in a color Hannant called Paprika, seemed as though Audrey Hepburn herself might have worn it.

Hannant’s eveningwear is traditionally the icing on the cake of his collection and yesterday’s show was no exception. He showed several glamorous looks in a variety of styles and fabrics. My favorites were the slinky satin gowns that exuded old world elegance and the richly textured Plum Silk Jacquard Strapless Gown.

Guests who attended the show were provided with a gift card to be used in the Plaza’s new retail shops and a black bag containing Vincent Longo cosmetics.

– Rhonda Erb

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– Rhonda Erb

Rhonda Erb

Rhonda Erb writes about fashion, travel and lifestyle from a New Yorker’s perspective in Better Bets. A self-confessed Instagram addict, her work has also appeared in such publications as Runway Magazine. Follow her at: Instagram: @betterbets Twitter: @betterbetsny tumblr:

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