New York Fashion Week Notes – Day 6

Youth is Wasted on the Young

Ralph Rucci Fall 2011 Collection

I always look forward to seeing Ralph Rucci, but I have to admit that my interest and curiosity was peaked even more so this time after I read WWD’s weekend column asking designers “What were they thinking?” as far as their upcoming collections. Ralph Rucci’s answer was pared down to one word: “Youth”. Many words have been used to describe Chado Ralph Rucci (the designer and the label), but the word ‘youth’ has never exactly been one of them. And how ironic. Marc Jacobs went in a decidedly older, more grownup, and sophisticated direction this season, and RR is thinking ‘young’.

But in all fairness, it wasn’t that young. Nor should it be. Ralph’s customer is not teenage and that is not who he is going after. And anyway, ‘youth’ has more to do with a state of mind and spirit than chronological age. One look at the almost 90 year old iconic fashion star Iris Apfel, seated in the front row and looking ‘mahvelous’, confirms that truism. Having said that, as it turns out, the items that really stood out for me this time, just so happened to have a decidedly more youthful spirit as they were perhaps not as overworked as others.

The 61 piece Chado Ralph Rucci collection shown on the eve of Valentine’s Day, appropriately opened with head to toe red (and the shade also formed the finale). The eye-catching and crowd pleasing opening group consisted of a short red Mongolian lamb coat accessorized with a red scarf wrapped around the head, and ‘fierce’, tall red suede high heeled boots; a knee length red vinyl belted raincoat; a red wool jersey short dress with an open work trellis design; a red chinchilla tunic; and a red sable ski parka.

Standouts that followed (which could be considered ‘young’ in mood and spirit) include a tan ‘puffer’ coat with a Chinchilla vest, worn with tan trousers; a mod-ish white vinyl short coat with massive black fox cuffs; a white ultra suede tunic and floor length black velvet skirt; a white wool floor length coat and matching gown, both of which had sheer feathered hemlines; a short sleeved black wool challis dress that could be considered as a perfect LBD and a black wool and broadtail dress featuring a nude illusion halter neck top; a short black lace dress which was shown with a fitted black openwork spider web cardigan; a positively divine freshwater pearl twinset which was paired with a short, full satin skirt in ivory which was banded with a wide tomato red hem; and a short red embroidered chiffon and feathered dress, shown with sheer red long gloves.

A Chip off the old (color) block

Narciso Rodriquez Fall 2011 Collection
(All Photos:

Last night, American sportswear was alive and well and inhabiting Narciso Rodriguez’s runway at Lincoln Center! He managed to meld the world of art and fashion, bringing a new level to the idea of utilitarian fashion, and did it brilliantly and succinctly. It was strong and masterful in every way, including its conception and realization. I have always loved graphic art inspired patterns, and the strict, chic, timeless, seasonless, fail proof combination of black and white (which is a perfect foil for the use of other shades). And this was really the best of both worlds. Rendered in black and white, ivory, shades of gray, blues, red, pale lavender, the show reminded me of what, up until last night, had been my all-time favorite Narciso collection, shown several years back in February.

 Well edited, fast paced, and to the point, it spoke volumes about a strictly pared down vision predicated on menswear inspired coats in eased up proportions; they hit just above the knee to midcalf, elongated jackets both of which were collarless and stripped down of all superfluous decoration. Satin tops (many were color blocked giving them the look of a chic Jockey shirt), and elongated sleeveless or tank dresses some of which were graphically color blocked, covered with an abstract print by artist Iris Schomaker, and a few beauties had strips of sheer chiffon or chiffon overlays. The focus was on innovative fabrication (strips of cashmere or wool to create a contrast patterns, bias cut flannel, leatherized wool, laminated chiffon anybody?), expert tailoring, the play of masculine and feminine, soft and hard, and especially, the effective use of graphic color blocking was achieved in a number of ways using different color combinations.

For example, a collarless black wool coat with an ivory panel down the front, had black satin sleeves spliced with red, and was shown over black pants with ivory stripes down the side; an elongated black jacket banded in white was shown with white pants with black stripes down the side; a black coat with contrasting white panels was shown over white pants and a color blocked top in black, lavender, and navy; a black 7/8 coat which revealed red panels on the inside, was shown over a black satin top and a narrow lavender skirt (it was beautiful the way the coat was made so that it opens to reveal that flash of color); a jacket that was half red and half ivory, was paired with black pants. The models’ hair was slicked back into buns and the only accessory used was a pointy toed, pancake flat boot that hit mid knee.

The World ‘Accordion’ to Vera

Vera Wang Fall 2011 Collection

Vera Wang is one of the most consistent designers today, and she is also one of the few female designers who completely looks like their clothes; and visa versa. For her, it’s (very) personal. (I won’t name names but many if not most women designers would not be caught dead in a good deal of the ideas they send down the runway, and you know who they are). Not so with Vera, whose tightly honed personal aesthetic has also become the jumping off point for her collections.

One has come to expect the ‘mousey’ color palette with an emphasis on shades of gray, black, and brown; the mix of street wise and couture; the second skin leggings or skinny jeans; the grounded black leather platform ankle booties; the offhanded mixing of masculine and feminine, of day and night; the body conscious layering predicated on a perfect balance of urban grunge, athletic basics, and elements of utilitarian, played off touches of below the radar, subtle luxury. (No in your face, matronly bling, over the top excess, or fashion victim-y status symbols for this cool cat who, at 60 +, has an enviably athletic and lithe body thanks to years of ice skating).

A few days before her show, Vera jokingly told “I think I now own a pleating company”. Duh! One need not be a rocket scientist to figure out that Vera is obsessed with pleats these days and they would show up throughout her upcoming runway show. And they did; no fewer than 5 different types in fact, including French Accordion, box pleats, and knife pleats.

Her fall collection, held yesterday at Lincoln Center, was not just tightly edited and whittled down to 36 pieces; it was also whittled down to basically one idea (pleats!) with variations on that theme playing out from start to finish. Thus, there were variations based on the cool and hip layering of a pleated skirt in wool or chiffon, over a skinny pant (in stretch wool flannel), shown beneath some sort of gusty, sporty, utilitarian, fur trimmed or (detachable) fur lined outer layer with an oversized collar (be it a cropped vest, a sleeveless jacket, a ‘boyfriend’ inspired blazer, or a ‘scuba coat’ in leather, mélange wool twill, or quilted satin).

When the pleats were not the foundation for layering, they were on their own, in the form of a one piece, multi pleated, chiffon dress. Standouts include an ivory cupro shift tank dress with French accordion pleats and stitching detail; a mustard chiffon sheer long sleeved pleated dress with a high gathered neck, a pebble chiffon multi pleated high neck long sleeved dress, a cardamom chiffon multi pleated racer back gown with a high low hem and pleated strap detail, and several versions in a flesh tones dusty pink.

-Marilyn Kirschner

The Daily Bet by Rhonda Erb

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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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