New York Fashion Week – Day 7

J. Mendel got off to a late start at the tents (with many empty seats having to be filled in at the last moment) thanks to the flooding and heavy rain wrecking havoc with the schedule and public transportation. But notwithstanding nature, some of the city’s most visible social swans (who are major customers, and as such, are constantly being photographed at high profile social events clad in J. Mendel, AND big fans of both the company and the dashing French born head of design, Gilles), managed to get to their seats in order to view the latest creations for spring (and figure out early on, what they will be buying).

There was Lauren Davis, Helen Schifter, Jennifer Creel, et al., taking in designer Gilles Mendel’s embrace of architecture, volume, structure, and play of hard and soft, thanks to his new use of ‘hard’ fabrics such as mikado, gazar, and organza, now playing off the house’s signature silk chiffons. The crowd pleasing finale, (a group of diaphanous, entrance making silk chiffon and silk organza gowns in shades of steel gray, anthracite, espresso, opal), were not the only things which had the front row social set swooning over.

It seems that with each season, J. Mendel becomes less about fur and more about ready-to-wear (great suits, sportswear separates, dresses). This time, there was more of an emphasis on the sportif and utilitarian (but naturally, it was hardly your ordinary pedestrian approach). A white cotton canvas pea coat with pleated back was accessorized with a silver disc necklace; a straw silk file windbreaker was trimmed with pearl and mink, paired with a gold paillette t shirt and cotton canvas short; a cotton denim coat dress was worn over denim shorts.

And the innovative Gilles has been successful in making fur seasonless and lightweight by applying mink and sable to layers of organza, enabling him to treat fur as just another luxurious fabric, and making a case for showing fur for spring. We saw several furs on Bryan Bradley’s runway for Tuleh, however, who else but Gilles would so convincingly design a fur sweater that looks like a Fair Isle pullover, and show it with denim shorts?

While other runways may have had their fill of appealing short tulip shaped dresses, little black cocktail dresses, tunics, prints (dots, florals, graphics), sleeve interest, patterned sweaters, brocades, Cynthia Rowley was the only one to offer each attendee a tasty 3 course lunch in a basket, complete with printed menu (I kid you not). On each seat at Gotham Hall, there was a straw basket filled with a can of Tab ‘energy’, prosciutto, watercress, arugula and chile ricotta cheese in a fresh tortilla; watermelon, Jicama and bean sprout salad with Yuzu vinaigette, and lonesome dove white chocolate/dark chocolate. It was yummy and courtesy the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, which is opening on 9/19 at 29 west 21 street. All I can say is that I don’t envy the people who had to clean up the absolute mess that was left.

Ballet and dance are proving to be major influences this season, but naturally, each designer approaches it differently. Vera Wang, an athlete herself (ice skater, dancer), who has been running around town in leggings and sweaters before almost anyone else, admitted that the romance of the dance life, the ballerina’s rehearsal layers, and the ”emotionally charged space of the geisha’s wardrobe” were the basis for her collection.

But in Vera’s romantic, artistic vision, a legging is hardly just a legging, and ballet inspired layering is not going to look like something out of the Capezio store. For example, a black dancer’s warm up wrap was shown over a mouse grey silk tunic dress with sequined sleeves, and layered over black charmeuse cropped pants; a steel cashmere zipped cardigan was thrown over a blush waffle organza dress with baroque embroidered pockets and layered over black drawstring chiffon warm up pant. Everything had the designer’s dreamy, ethereal touch, and was an evolution of what she has been doing up until now. All her signatures were there: the neutral color palette (and the ‘mouse gray’), couture like fabrics (chiffons, washed organzas, silk taffetas), and of course, the often billowing, voluminous shapes, beautiful backs, fabric manipulation. However, sometimes, her artistic efforts became a bit overwrought and there appeared to be too much going on. Many of the outfits had so much fabric in the front, that even the models looked pregnant. It’s not something too many of us mere mortals could pull of.

On a sad note, one page inserted within the run of show read, “Dedicated to the memory of C.C. Wang”, her father who had just passed away that morning. When she took to the runway, she was understandably in tears. We express our deepest, heartfelt sympathy to Vera. I can’t think of anything more difficult than putting finishing touches on a collection right after your father passes away. That she was even able to go through with it, and take her bow at the finale shows what a professional she is.

Like last spring, and this fall, Calvin Klein’s Francisco Costa is making a case for sheer and layering. And like last spring, the emphasis is on white, hits of yellow, midnight navy, and black (though this time he added a palest mint green); shape, and construction. But unlike last spring, (where the clothing was spare and clean, even though the fabric was artfully manipulated), this season, there were too many tricks and the result was often forced and contrived. It appeared the designer who has just won the CFDA Award for Womens Wear, was trying too hard. And I was not the only person who noted vestiges of Helmut Lang in the artsy approach to street wear and sportswear. Francisco had more success when he stayed away from too much gimmickry and tricks, and focused on the shapes and construction.

The collection was predominantly based around short dresses (sheer stiff organza airly layered over athletic white tank dresses, or sportswear inspired mesh and techno ribbed fabrics), voluminous short dolman sleeved trench back blousons (in stiff silk taffeta or organza); short dolman sleeved coats, short skirts (just above the knee) and slouchy cropped pants. One of the best and most appealing looks was a black silk taffeta short full sleeved cropped jacket worn over a tank and the slouchy cropped black silk taffeta pants that hit just above the ankle. Worn with a heavy platform sandal it expressed perfectly the notion of luxurury sportswear (with a streetwise vibe).

It’s also about luxurious fabrication and texture mixes, as exemplified by the white crocodile trench coat, and the navy alligator short sleeved blouson jacket. A heavy platform sandal balanced and grounded the voluminous shapes, and large structured box shaped bags accessorized some of the day wear.

By the way, on each seat there was a pair of Calvin Klein oversized sunglasses in a wonderfully sculptural small black patent leather bag that zipped on top. The glasses are perfect for hiding your face (especially on those days you go out without make up and don’t feel you look your best), And the small bag is so chic, it could easily do double duty as an evening bag.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Notes from Bernadine Morris…

Elegance has surfaced in recent shows. One was by Vera Wang who began by making bridal gowns a few years back and soon advanced into evening dresses which had her own personal style. They are light and floaty and do not resemble other clothes around.

Francisco Costa has been applauded for taking over the Calvin Klein collection. He has given it his own stamp and they to are gently conceived. He starts with white and some other pale shades in sheer fabrics, plus linen. He then moves on to black. including a flyaway jacket with a full skirt and some attractive leather styles. Mr. Costa look as if he will make a success of the Klein look and he does it judiciousl without recourse to tough chic.

Notes from Rhonda Erb…

Zac Posen presented his Spring/Summer collection in the Tent at Bryant Park last night. The crowd swelled to capacity as a steady stream of A-list celebrities filed in. The front row faces included Kate Bosworth, Kanye West, Emmy Rossum, and the legendary Lauren Hutton, to name a few.

The collection, entitled Japanese Royale, featured frothy skirts, over sized bows and cravats, billowy sleeves and blouson dresses in neutral hues of white, gray, and sand punctuatedwith bright aqua orange and pink. The final look was a magnificent
gold and silver confection called the Gilded Gown, which floated down the runway and was almost as wide as it was long.

All seated attendees were treated to a shiny black shopping bag filled with make-up and other cosmetic goodies.

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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