New York Fashion Week: Day 5

The day began with Monique Lhuillier who said in her program notes: “This season’s woman is strong and confident”. Oh, so you mean to say that last season she was weak and insecure? Or that she will be next season? Be that as it may, these descriptions are just words and quite frankly, designers would be better off not writing such prose and instead concentrating on making great clothes.

But Monique can be forgiven because her clothes are consistently beautiful and the shows are always so appealing. Working in a predominantly neutral color palette and making a statement with green (moss, forest, muted jade) she experimented more with tailleur than in the past, as seen in the form of several narrow military inspired pantsuits which looked great. A greige linen taffeta trench coat paired with a black cocktail dress also looked modern. But the collection is always more about evening than day so the majority of the 36 pieces consisted of cocktail dresses and Grecian goddess inspired evening gowns, with features such as bubble hems, pleated bodices, open – or interesting backs, oxidized crystal embroidery, jewel encrusted collars, or jeweled sashes. Monique also used this show as an opportunity to launch her new hand bag collection comprised of luxurious clutches fashioned from exotic skins.

Michael Vollbracht seems to be getting more comfortable in his role as head of design for Bill Blass and certainly, his fans (and those customers in attendance) have remained loyal. The well liked and talented illustrator is obviously listening to criticism and taking it seriously. For one thing, the shows (which used to be too long and in need of serious editing) have shortened and tightened up immeasurably. This time, only 48 pieces were shown. Everything has become more fast paced (including the musical soundtrack). As for the clothes…let’s just say there were no surprises, Michael knows his customers’ needs and is trying to fill them. The collection as usual, ran the gamut from day (soft skirt suits, tailored pantsuits, trenches, clutch coats) into evening, focusing on dresses (as is the case on many other runways). There were brocade dresses, chiffon dresses, jersey dresses, and tulle dresses. There were puff sleeved organza blouses and skirts as well as long gowns with dramatic trains and an especially pretty wedding gown which served as the finale.

But after looking at Michael’s expressive illustrations (“Famous shoes in history”) for his just launched shoe collection which was included within the show program (done in his familiar and signature red, black, and white), I was reminded that more than anything, Michael is an artist. Once an artist, always an artist.

Derek Lam’s strong earthy 38 piece collection had all the hallmarks of what could best be described as “Great American Sportswear”. Easy, unforced, yet polished, many of the highly wearable pieces translated into gutsy fabrics, recalled designs from sportswear icons like Cashin, Beene, and McCardell. In fact, Derek used those names to identify specific looks in his run of show. He was not trying to hide the reference point – he was celebrating it.

The slouchy, cropped “utility” pant (something that was also shown at Marc Jacobs), has replaced leggings (been there, done that), and as usual, it’s all about beautiful construction, standout coats, trenches, jackets, and the interesting mix. For evening, Derek proposed going low keyed and sporty (as in the floor length navy paper taffeta anorak gown) or perhaps opting for one of his graceful, color blocked and pleated silk chiffons in shades of green, black, and brown.

Betsey Johnson is obviously obsessed with her new granddaughter. She dubbed her show, “babycakes”, and at the show’s end, she cradled the adorable Leyla in her arms. Eric Clapton’s famous song of the same name was the perfect accompaniment. Almost all of the 57 pieces were one form or another of the dress (the item of the season)…though there were swimsuits, jumpsuits, briefs, and assorted other play clothes. If I have one gripe, it’s that the lighting was so dark it was impossible to write notes or read the show list. But all was forgiven at the finale, when Betsey did her famously spirited cartwheel. Some things never change, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing! You go girl!

The young Mulleavy sisters (Laura and Kate), the duo behind the label Rodarte, showed fittingly at the Dia Center for the Arts. (Fittingly because the duo are inspired by art and have an artist’s approach to fashion design). The talented newcomers who were nominated by the CFDA this past year for Swarovski’s Perry Ellis Award for Womenswear (alas, they did not win- the honor went to Doo. Ri) seem to be far too young to be churning out such amazingly sophisticated, dramatic, and rigorously designed pieces that mirror couture. Heavy hitters like Anna Wintour and Julie Gilhart were treated to 26 outfits (mostly dresses although there were several fitted pantsuits) that were mind boggling in their ambitious concept and execution. Working in a mainly neutral color palette (black, white, grey) with hits of fuchsia and flamingo pink, the focus was on volume, (most often controlled), shape, construction, and artistic decoration which took the form of stiff bows, life like flowers, organza ‘waves’ (a signature) that decorated bodices, hips, and backs of dresses and tops, antique lace, ostrich silk tulle. Sometimes all the aforementioned were used together. To describe the collection as special, would be an understatement.

Unfortunately, because we were not confirmed at the Narciso Rodriquez show until the last moment, we were unable to cover the show. We still want to thank Pierre Rogier for trying to accommodate us.

By the way, I was pleasantly surprised to find an entire concession set up offering variations on what has been my favorite yogurt for the last 5 or so years: Fage Total Authentic Greek Yogurt. Quite frankly, after I discovered it, it was hard for me to eat any other brand; it’s that good. When I asked the woman behind the booth, who inspired idea it was to bring this treat to the tents, she said, “mine”. The woman, Julia Stambules, just happens to be the company’s public relations director. She told me that they will be back again on Thursday, offering the same assortment of flavors (including 0 % fat for those who are watching their calories), along with individual bowls of honey and granola (and plastic spoons) so you can make your own yogurt ‘Sunday’. Yum!

FYI: I also love the MAC Cosmetics corner…it’s comfortable and inviting, offers great free espresso (any way you want it), wonderful notepads and the best black felt tipped pens. And the people in charge are so accommodating and friendly. Okay…enough about the extraneous things….back to the clothes.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Notes from Bernadine Morris…

Forget Karl Lagerfeld and his success with continuing the Chanel name. Usually big fashion names disappear with the founders. Two big American fashion houses, Norman Norell and Claire McCardell, vanished after a few seasons.

Michael Vollbracht just might be an exception. This season, after a few earlier tries, he seems to have grasped the Bill Blass spirit. His collection was a big success, especially highlighting the two categories of clothes that Blass did best: suits and evening dresses. The suits were trimly tailored, many in pale shade for a spring-like air and the best dresses were mostly long with moderately full skirts and strapless tops. The skirts were often embroidered for a festive look. The collection as a whole was satisfying and did not look derivative. Vollbracht is doing well with his assignment.

Notes from Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg…

Heatherette’s ‘Passport to Paradise’ was one hell of a show, the theme of which was “Will you marry me?”. Starting with the fantastic styling of Patti Wilson to the lollapalooza atmosphere on the runway provided by “models” such as Paris & Nicky Hilton, Tinsley Mortimer, Nathalie and Theodora Richards and Lydia Hearst all decked out in the funnest get-ups we’ve seen this week.

The packed house went wild as the colorful clothes hit the runway. The shoes, created by Irregular Choice for Heatherette couldn’t have been more fabulous. “Vacation” music a la The Beach Boys pumped up the volume and made the usually morose and somber models come to life and really show off what they were wearing. Kudos to Babydaddy and Sammy Jo who did the soundtrack.

Other celebs on the runway were singers Julia and Mya who looked real cute in the clothes. And if all that was not enough, designers Richie Rich and Trevor Rains sent out a rockin’ dance troupe that brought down the house. The finale of the show gave us Miss P. Hilton and a real cute guy as the wedding couple. When he picked her up in his arms and carried her off the runway, everybody thought it was the end of the show. That’s when Rich and Raines came out to take their final bows. Oh, and yes, there was the a special appearance by Heatherette muse, Amanda Lepore, dressed in a barely there, little black something, holding up a white Holy Bible.

For A-listers only, The colorful “hatbox”, chock full of goodies, seems just right for travel and every girl’s boudoir.

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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