“Naughty Narciso”


Ooh la la! The subtle implication of bondage played a role in Nariciso Rodriguez’ runway presentation of Spring 2009 last evening on West 26th Street. Strapping and taping details spiced up the otherwise demure pieces in what manifested into a very cohesive show.

Though the scene was not as chaotic as Monday’s Marc Jacobs frenzy, the show attracted a sizeable number of “A-listers” including; Jessica Alba, Julianna Margulies, Gwyneth Paltrow, Debi Mazar (of HBO’s “Entourage”), Isabel Toledo, Kelly Klein, Hal Rubenstein, Linda Wells, Glenda Bailey, Hamish Bowles and Andre Leon Talley.

Mr. Rodriguez’ show was one of the most successful of fashion week thus far highlighting elegant, understandable styling. Represented by impeccable tailoring, clean lines, sculptural shapes and pared down prints and color, the pieces were unmistakably Narciso. Garments were complex and well thought out, but never overworked. Fabrics consisting of natural fibers such as cotton, linen and silk, were kept to a minimum, further contributing to the tightness of the collection. While black and white were the staple colors, Rodriguez livened it up by introducing an acid yellow, linen dress, followed by dusty aqua, cayenne, coral and a touch of bright red and green toward the end. Black and white graphic prints in linear and small geometric patterns, also offered a break from the slightly solid assortment.

Yet again this week, the shape was streamlined with emphasis on the waist and shoulder. Rodriguez featured jackets sans lapels, opting for open squarish and angled V neckline shapes, or stiff stand type collars. Proportion was balanced using skinny pants to counter wider shoulders, and dresses demonstrated fuller skirts to off-set body conscious tops. Rodriguez played with asymmetry and shape, many times adopting a body wrapping technique, suggestive of Azzedine or Leger (perhaps due to the resurgence of the label). Models were bandaged like mummies in solid columnar dresses with one long sleeve (and the other side bare armed). Another asymmetric (and particularly interesting) dress in black and white knit looked as though two balls of yarn attacked the model winding feverishly around till she was trapped. Skin was revealed through forbidden, angular cut outs, and backs were provocatively exposed in different variations creating a sense of risqué.

Zippers appeared on a vast number of outfits, mostly set in the back of dresses (with taping exposed). They were attached to fabric chocker collars acting as an adjoining metal hitch to the rest of the garments. Jackets also turned to the zipper to preserve the linear theme, skipping buttons which may have otherwise created a distraction. Contrast taping delineated seams and crisscrossed over waistlines eliciting an awareness of restrain and constriction.

Although the collection accented the idea of restrain; it also aroused a feeling of overall ease. Perhaps it was due to the fact that Rodriguez set pockets into every look, allowing the models to comfortably saunter down the catwalk. Or, maybe it was the comfortable fabrics or the body grazing, flattering silhouettes. Whatever the case, one thing is certain; women will want to wear these clothes. And after all, isn’t that the point?

-Stacy Lomman

Monique’s ‘Platform’ for Change

Monique Lhuillier’s spring show, dubbed “Luxurious Tropical Island Chic” was inspired by “sandy walks on the beach” during a recent island vacation, and referenced nature, which is figuring to be a consistent theme throughout the collections thus far. The color palette consisted of sand tones, fossil whites, sea blues and sun yellows and there were wave prints, basket patterns, golden wheat stalks prints, and straw braiding. In addition a casual, laid back islandy, vacationy vibe carried all the way through thanks in large part to Bruno Frisoni’s platform sandals, a cross between an espadrille and the Cork-Ease (remember those?) and the only shoe used on the runway. Offered in luggage brown and bronzey gold, they were the perfect neutral and were paired with everything: stiff dark denim lean pantsuits, jewel encrusted denim dresses, gazar trench coats, pearl embroidered short sleeved costs, chiffon, organza and illusion lace cocktail dresses, heavily bejeweled jeweled shifts and tulle ballgowns. While they may not be for everyone, they were a nice unexpected surprise and far less predictable than say, high heeled stiletto sandals. My vote for the ‘coolest’ dresses are the knee length ‘Taj’ jeweled embroidered halter cocktail dress outlined with black and the gold silk chiffon embroidered cocktail dress with a low draped back.

It’s a given that Betsey will break up the week and the day with a fun party/fashion show which celebrates life and speaks to the little kid inside all of us; you know, the one that doesn’t really want to grow up, just like Betsey, who manages to stay forever young (it’s obvious her granddaughter Leyla, is the apple of her eye and will keep her forever young). In that respect, it’s one of the most consistent shows during Fashion Week with its kid’s birthday party exuberance and wide eyed innocence, providing the perfect excuse to stop, take a breath, and realize that, business aside, fashion is not exactly rocket science, doesn’t cure cancer, and is basically, superficial and fun. The show could easily have been called ‘Petticoat Junction’ because there were endless hooped skirts (long and short), often tiered and shown with petticoats to exaggerate their fullness, plenty of ruffles (ruffles upon ruffles), eyelet, rose prints, ginghams, and nightgowns. Just when it was all getting a bit too sweet and frothy, thankfully, out came a sober group in black (a romper, a fitted military jacket, a cutaway jacket with tails). Another nice surprise were the chic Chanel inspired white quilted patent bags: one with a gold chain and the other with a top handle.


The PETA protesters were out in force right before Dennis Basso’s spring collection, but they really didn’t need to waste their time – given that Dennis showed very few furs. This proved to be unfortunate because the ready to wear (full sleeved mousseline blouses, knee grazing day dresses, chiffon gowns, floral jacquards and floral prints) was rather ordinary at best, the layering and proportions looked clumsy, and the colors were off. The most successful idea was the use of lace in combination with Russian broadtail and alligator (one grouping in white was notable), and an abbreviated camel alligator vest shown with a silk taffeta batik plaid dress was chic. But those special pieces were few and far between and in a sea of dowdy prints, the pieces that looked the best were the simple black dresses. But do we really need to go to Dennis Basso for simple black dresses?

Vivienne Tam

“In the Garden With Yves”… “Peonies open quickly after spring rain, chiffon petals unfurling, Voluptuous blossoms swoon heavy on silk stem, sap rising in teardrops glistening on crisp taffeta.”…

The above extract is of a poem written by M Huang and submitted to the guests attending the runway show of Ms. Tam, it resounds to the beat of this fascinating collection.

Vivienne Tam showcased a collection using a mix of materials – some of humble origins like stiff cotton duck along with luxurious silk and gleaming florals. Of course, peonies were the stars of the show : of the 39 designs featured, I counted 20 whose description include the word “peony” in it.

The show was all a perfect and well balanced exercise of design for
clothes for every and any occasion: Ms. Tam succeeds in offering unique
and outstanding designs that can respond to the demands of different
lifestyles. INES, a wool pinstripe suit is a perfect rendering of
efficient design for the working woman coupled with the sexiness and
allure that makes one feel well, just that – one and not another.

The designer’s talent resides in her strong sense of balance. What is
vibrant should be vibrant. Long, flowing dresses adorned with florals
are reminiscent of a delicate spring. As a surprise, other florals
with bold colors and stronger tailoring create a different mood linked
to the rich and complex Chinese culture. Ms. Tam excelled with the
finely pleated floral dresses as well as the ones with red tones that
made for a very alluring and exotic look.

In contrast to many designers, she barely cinches the waist. She
wants the fabric and the adornments to create the structure of the
whole design. As a result, everything seems weightless and easy to wear. A
very important consideration for the woman of today’s world. The
designer artfully exploits the fabric to become the reason for the
design. The beads that weigh dresses are precisely scattered for a
very special effect. A beautiful wrap dress in a purple jersey shows
the detail of a different pleating technique on the overlapping side
of the dress, creating interest and bringing a clear sense of style.

From suits and jackets to dreamy dresses, the result is a delightful
journey to a land where the designer artfully blends East and West and
offers us a collection that “makes sense”: from a chic and
effective working woman during the day, to a elegant and
glamorous one at night, all desires are filled in a delightful way:
hence the diversity of the collection, where wildly colored florals
collide with strict and reserved dresses.

– Muriel Geny-Triffaut



Ernest Schmatolla is publisher of Lookonline since 1994. It is the longest running fashion site on the Internet.

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