The Finale (Or Should I Say, Finally!)

The last day of New York Fashion Week is traditionally saved for the heavy hitters, or at the very least, those names who have become synonomous with American Fashion. I guess you can say that Ralph Lauren has always owned the morning, with his two back-to-back shows at the Skylight Studios. It was not until Ricky Lauren took her seat in the front row, that the show I attended began. Dressed in bright kelly green trousers, a navy polo (with an oversized white polo player), natty navy blazer, and high heeled black and white spectator pumps, she was carrying the huge Ricky bag (named after her), in black crocodile. She looked just great and she is almost always dressed to mimic what her hubby is showing on the runway. Well, not this time. In fact, far from it.

Ralph Lauren Spring 2012 Collection

Ralph is in a decidedly soft (and light) mood these days, and almost his entire collection was rendered in what one would call traditional spring colors (easter egg, jordan almond shades). There was robin’s egg blue, citron, celery, daffodil, celadon, blush (which was really pink), ivory, white, and coral. There was no navy, no black, and the darkest color used was probably olive drab. Fabrics included georgette, crepe de chine, hammered satin, tulle, silk chiffon, and beaded chiffon, and bouquet florals showed up as accents (mainly accessories: scarves and bags). As usual, there were a variety of lengths, proportions, and silhouettes. Ralph’s aesthetic is always about the play of boy meets girl, soft and hard, day and evening, and while the overall mood was romantic and feminine, that flip side of the coin (the expert tailoring, the menswear influences, etc.) are always in place.

Ralph Lauren Spring 2012 Collection

There was a decidedly Gatsby-esque feeling throughout and the show opened with separates in a mix of colors and fabrics: cashmere or mohair ‘vintaged’ cardigans that were made to look moth eaten (I kid you not), were shown over soft floral georgette skirts, and short sleeved cashmere sweaters were paired with crepe de chine culottes, for example. Straw and raffia wedge sandals, jaunty hats and caps, and fabulous bags (floral scarf bags and beaded bags with exaggerated fringe trim) accessorized everything.

One of the strongest, and most signature groupings was in shades of ivory and white and this is when I feel Ralph is at his purist and best (the simplicity of an ivory hi gloss silk tank dress or one of his superb double breasted jackets and wide legged menswear inspired trousers). At one point during the show, right after the group of pastel hued georgette dresses, the feathers really began to fly, (literally), as ostrich feather capes, boleros, jackets, (in the pastel shades shown throughout) were thrown over everything from chiffon and beaded dresses to wide legged trousers and lame tops.

Ralph Lauren Spring 2012 Collection

As usual, his finale of long dresses never disappoints: there were languid gowns of intricate beaded ivory georgette, tulle, chiffon, and panne velvet and a silver grey organza beaded bustier and ivory jersey long skirt looked especially good. But for dramatic simplicity, nothing can beat the graceful ivory jersey gown (which would make a beautiful wedding gown by the way).

A Blass from the Past

Bill Blass Spring 2012 Collection

The Bill Blass collection, designed for the second year byJeffrey Monteiro, was shown at the Union League Club on 37th street between Park and Madison Avenues. It’s very traditional, conservative and old world, down to the wood paneled reception area where mimosas were served to waiting guests and a piano player was providing background music. It felt more like a cocktail party than a fashion show, and I thought it seemed very ‘Bill Blass’. As for the clothes well, yes, they to were very Blass (in a way) and I’m sure Bill would think some of the pieces were “snappy” (an expression he used quite frequently). Among them: the natty navy serge twill gold buttoned blazer, pea coat, and the black and white stripe suiting double breasted blazer, shown with a black and white dot georgette bow top, and white cuffed tuxedo pant. A red long sleeved georgette gown with accordian pleat skirt was perfectly pretty and a yellow double face hooded mackintosh was in keeping with the sporty mood. That said, it was all rather predictable (it’s spring so let’s do nautical: navy, white, red, yellow, black, and stripes), a tad too straightfoward, it lacked a point of view, and there was nothing in the clothes to show anything of the designer.The t shirts with the double b logo were a bit corny, and did they really need to show white knit short shorts that more closely resembled underpants?

In the Flesh

Calvin Klein Spring 2012 Collection

I was scheduled for the 3PM show and when I arrived at 39th Street at approximately 3 PM, the 2PM show was not yet over. There was quite a paparazzi feeding frenzy when Uma Thurman came out of the venue looking unbelievable in a Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein blue dress. It was not until I got home later that day, that I saw an email forwarning me that the show would start at 3:30PM. Regardless of the snafu, Francisco Costa’s shows are always a wonderful way to end the long week because you are sure to see fashion in its purist form, with everything whittled down to the barest minimum.

Calvin Klein Spring 2012 Collection

This season, the term “bare minimum” is especially apropos, because there was a hard to miss feeling of lingerie throughout (including the color palette of barely there, whisper soft nudes, flesh tones, and soft make up shades). Slips and slip tops were seen throughout the collection and transparent mesh added another dimension. The predominant silhouette throughout the 26 pieces, was elongated, languid, and lean. While the clothes followed the lines of body, they never hugged or constricted it. There was nothing tight.

Calvin Klein Spring 2012 Collection

The basis of this line is the dress, specifically, a slip dress in layered tulle, metallic silk, or silk crepe; dresses with peplum details; jersey or viscose dresses that were fluted and pleated in back. While they stood on their own, they were the perfect compliment for a narrow shawl collared jacket or coat (Francisco is taken with shawl collars this season and some of them were exaggeratedly low). The juxtaposition of something so feminine and soft, against something a touch masculine, was especially effective. Francisco also offered new suits and proposed wide legged pants. He also showed wide legged cropped culottes which are sure to be controversial as they are hardly the most flattering or easy to wear.

Calvin Klein Spring 2012 Collection

When Francisco did not use blush, nude, pale wisteria, or gardenia, he opted for black (which he called lacquer), and it looked particuarly good. Standouts were the lacquer double faced silk crepe reverse seam slip dress; the lacquer viscose crepe pinch pleat jacket worn over a fluted tank dress; the silk crepe long sleeve t shirt and reversed satin jacquard sculpted pleat skirt; the black double faced silk pinched waist jacket, long sleeve t, and wide legged pant, and the black silk satin shawl collar jacket, silk mesh long sleeve t, double faced silk crepe wide leg pant.

“I’ll Have What She’s Having”

Photos courtesy the Museum at FIT

For me, the week could not have ended on a higher note. Nor could it have been more ‘fit’-ing. I attended the opening of ‘Daphne Guinness’, the new exhibit at the Museum at FIT which runs through January 7, 2012. There have been many exhibitions celebrating the work of great designers, but not many have had as their subject, an individual collector. The Honorable Daphne Guinness, known for her dramatic coif and her impossibly towering platforms, is a style icon extraordinaire who has inspired countless designers, not the least of whom was the late Alexander McQueen (the two were extremely close friends who collaborated together for many years).

In this exhibit of approximately 100 extraordinary pieces, about 40% are by the late designer and about 24 of those are garments that have never been displayed until now. Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel makes up the next biggest grouping, and there are designs by Valentino, Christian Lacroix, Dior, Givenchy, Tom Ford, Rick Owens, Dolce & Gabbana, and Gareth Pugh. Co-curated by Daphne herself and Valerie Steele, the exhibit is carefully divided into groups which really show the depth and breath of her amazing, enviable collection, and it tells quite a story.

Daphne is almost always seen around town in a beautifully constucted uniform of black and white (favoring fitted suits with crisp white shirts with pronounced collars and cuffs – just like her friend Karl Lagerfeld) and she has a ‘thing’ for uniforms. So it really should not have come as a surprise that while there are certainly some over the top pieces, the majority of what is shown (much of it in black, white, gray), could best be described as classic, beautifully tailored, and very elegant, and if you take away the extreme shoes and accessories, the look would be ladylike, if not a bit dowdy. (I myself would kill to have some of the chic suits and coats, and judging from the admiring guests, they felt the same way). Note to self: go back at a quieter time and have a better look.

The only bad thing about seeing this exhibit right after fashion week ended, and in retrospect, almost everything shown paled by comparison. For more information, visit

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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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