New York Fashion Week Notes

“Message” to Michael

Spring 2014 Michael Kors white linen crepe jacket,
white linen gauze dance skirt

Michael Kors presented his spring show Wednesday morning, and while the 56 piece collection certainly had enough of those distinctive wardrobe staples that have become the designer’s signatures, I was a bit disappointed. Michael’s shows are nothing if not spirited and energetic, and this one just fell a little flat. I guess I was expecting a blockbuster given his recent honor (exactly one week ago he received FIT’s prestigious “Couture Council Artistry in Fashion Award” and all that positive energy and feedback can really stir a designer’s creative juices).

Michael Kors barley tissue python cap sleeve tee
indigo cashmere cotton denim slit skirt

The overall color palette was chic and neutral, relying on white, sand, pearl, sand, barley, indigo, black, but at times it got a bit too murky; and I’m not sure “nutmeg” is the most flattering color for evening wear. I did not especially like the little pansy print which was used for a number of pieces (it looked a bit old fashioned and ‘last season’, and even Karen Elson couldn’t manage to do justice to a pansy printed crepe de chine dress with clunky lace up platform sandals). The short skirts, short shorts, and briefs were often, too, well, brief, considering his customer and price range and the pairing of briefs with some otherwise standout coats, looked a bit forced and contrived. While the golden sable ‘ring’ worn over the pearl cashmere and cotton sweatshirt and sand crushed techno cotton trousers looked chic (sort of a glammed up version of Lauren Hutton), the oxford and white crushed cotton stripe boyfriend shirt and indigo bonded denim shorts would have looked just fine without the white fox ring. And did he really need to show those small fur pieces for a spring collection? (Jean Shafiroff wore Michael’s white fox stole to the Couture Council Luncheon last week and considering the warm summer like temperature, it looked a bit silly).

Michael Kors white cotton linen gabardine chesterfield grass white
stretch jersey mini paillette vine halter gown

On the plus side, his tailleur, classic chesterfields, and trenches, never disappoint (and they didn’t this time either). He has a way with simple sportswear separates that is always appealing: for example, the sheer white linen gauze turtleneck and white linen crepe pants (in my opinion, it’s hard to improve on a perfect white turtleneck sweater and perfectly cut white pants). His “dance skirts”,  which showed up throughout the collection, are flattering, easy to move AND dance in. His pythons, another signature, are always stellar, and they looked good in a neutral color called barley (in addition to separate pieces, python was used for shoes and bags). His “luxe” takes on ‘denim’ were a neat idea; his are made of indigo and chambray cotton and cashmere.

 Michael Kors white linen gauze turtleneck
white linen crepe pant

In a season of shirts, especially men’s inspired oxford stripes, Michael’s oxford and white striped silk georgette stripe blouse and sand gabardine skirt looked especially good. The wide legged trousers (almost wide enough to resemble a skirt) looked chic, and are a nice respite from skinny jeans and leggings (though many women seem to resist wearing them and they are admittedly hard to pull off unless you are tall or really understand proportion). Proving the grass is greener on the other side, I thought his grass hand embroidered daisy high rise bikini looked fresh, as did the finale, worn by Karen Elson: a grass white stretch jersey mini paillette vine halter gown, shown under a white cotton and linen gabardine chesterfield.

By the way, I was at the Tents just about the time the Anna Sui show was about to begin and I have never seen a more motly crowd hanging out in the reception area. I don’t know if they were show attendees or not, but they looked very bridge and tunnel, Times Square. In any event, on my way out, I saw a man hawking several pairs of boots, right at the entrance to the Lincoln Center Promenade. When I told him they looked interesting and I wanted more information, he handed me a sheet printed out with more detail. The product is called Go Go Galosh (http://www.gogogolosh/), and they are packable all weather boots that will be available soon. They zip up, fit right over your shoes (any heel height), are lightweight, comfortable, easy to walk in, have no skid traction soles, and are available in several colors including red, purple, fuchsia.

-Marilyn Kirschner

“Don’t Mesh with J. Mendel”

Spring 2014 J. Mendel white stripped shadow fox jacket
with white paneled lace top and lace crepe skirt

The J. Mendel show was held at the Theater in Lincoln Center on what felt like the hottest day of the year.  Gilles Mendel began his career apprenticing under his father at his fur salon in Paris.  In 1981, he became CEO and designer of the company and opened his first boutique, eventually moving to Madison Avenue where the company’s flagship store remains.  The company expanded to include a ready to wear collection in 2002 and established itself as a luxury brand catering to a high society clientele.  The exceptional quality and luxury of the clothing is what distinguishes it from the numerous fashion houses. While J. Mendel is predominantly known for its furs, over the past couple of years his dresses and gowns have been popular among celebrities such as Taylor Swift and Sandra Bullock. 

J Mendel nuage and soleil color blocked dress in silk with pleated skirt

This collection was indicative of the move of Mendel into luxury wear and gowns with very little fur displayed.  Gilles said he was introducing the concept of “sporty chic” to the runway  a common theme at this years shows.  The color palette of the collection was of the pale spectrum including green, pink, grey and yellow.  The problem with the use of these colors is that the clothing appears dull regardless of the richness of the material.  The first pieces in pale green were extremely mini and lost their impact due to the muted color. The white fox over the white paneled shirt and skirt was a cleaner, sharper look.  Lace was abundant with a geometric meshlike motif in white, pink and black. The appearance of mesh and lattice in much of the collection lent complexity and delicacy to the garments.  The jungle motif sprinkled throughout in green jacquard and grey and silver was not a strong part of the collection – jungle and luxury silk, in this case, were not a welcome combination.  Black and white were used in conjunction with a green jacquard jungle motif which was another odd ensemble.  The use of soleil throughout was a nice sporty touch in the silk short pieces and elegant in the gowns. 

J Mendel red jasper mixed lace off the shoulder gown
 with silk crepe asymmetrical wrap skirt

The introduction of shirts and wrap skirts appearing as gowns in white and red geometric lace, was a welcome addition of evening separates and beautifully executed.  A favorite look, and one which Mendel has become an expert in, was the grey python motorcycle jacket over a patent leather grey skirt.  Additionally, the grey mink with metallic graphic lace inserts was a knockout- the richness of the fur vest with the lattice inserts made this vest dress a piece of art.  The collection  concluded with the specialty of the Mendel house – its use of noir in everything evening; a lace paneled black pantsuit, lace paneled black dress and lace black skirt and shirtensemble. 

J Mendel noir graphic lace embroidered gown

The finale, and one that did not disappoint was the noir graphic lace embroidered gown with a black cut out mesh bootie.  This dress was sexy, racy, bold and paradigmatic of the type of unparalleled style the house of Mendel is famous for. J. Mendel’s show was a risky triumph. The sparse usage of fur and the new sporty motif were brazen moves forward with a return to streamlined elegance in the finale.  The abundance of sheer dresses and very mini-mini skirts point to a new momentum toward a younger, edgier customer. The Mendel label has been in existence for five generations and collections like this ensure it will stay for at least five more.

– Lieba Nesis

The Daily Better Bets by Rhonda Erb

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On and Off the Runway
Hollywood Glam
Malan Breton Collection
Photo; Isabelle Erb

Old Hollywood merged
with 60’s and 70’s British pop influences in Malan Breton’s Spring/Summer
presentation.  The resulting looks were both polished and sophisticated but
still a touch avant-garde.  The designer drew upon his background in film,
music, and costume design to create body conscious, hourglass silhouettes for
the women and precisely tailored suits for the men.  The models’ hair and makeup
fit the dramatic mood that filled the room as a female soloist performed
throughout the presentation. 

Not So Mad Hatter
Anya Caliendo Collection
Photo: Rhonda Erb

milliner Anya Caliendo’s presentation at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week was arguably
the most unique collection shown this season.  To celebrate the fifth year of
her millinery business, the designer created “Confessions”, a book of “short
stories” told in hats.  Caliendo’s designs ranged from voluminous hats,
reminiscent of Alice in
to jewel encrusted Mickey Mouse ears.  Each hat was crafted by
hand, using no machine stitching or glue.  To say that Caliendo is passionate
about her craft would be an understatement.  “I live, breathe and dream couture
hats,” she confesses, having apprenticed under Rose Cory, milliner to the Queen
of England and millinery master Stephen Jones.

Gran Canaria
Douglas Hannant Collection
Photo: Courtesy of courtesy Fashionising
For his spring 2014
collection Douglas Hannant drew upon the painter’s palette of hues found on Gran
Canaria Island, a Spanish archipelago located in the Canary Islands.  He showed
dresses (both long and short), suits, and pants that captured the essence of the
island’s “dunes, sea, and sky.”  Silhouettes and fabrics included two-piece
tailored tweeds as well as sheer tulle dresses with flowing skirts.  Hannant’s
Sunset Shadow dresses incorporated the varying shades of dusk, in contrast to
the simplicity of his more neutral pieces, the standout of which was his
effortlessly elegant Ivory/Gold Embroidered Beaded Gown. 
Rock & Roll Elegance
Photo Isabelle Erb

Each season, the
sheer number of gowns created by Venexiana designer, Kati Stern, is a marvel in
and of itself.  Her Spring Summer collection consisted of an amazing 73 gowns,
predominantly in shades of blue, blush, green, aquamarine, and gold.  The
multi-talented Stern, who is both an architect and musician as well, always uses
the most elegant fabrics, sparing no effort in elaborately enhancing her designs
with elements such as beads, sequins, and ruching.  Stern does, however, love to
rock and roll, and her sumptuously dressed models are always strutting the
runway to an up-tempo beat. 

– Rhonda Erb

Rhonda Erb

Rhonda Erb writes about fashion, travel and lifestyle from a New Yorker’s perspective in Better Bets. A self-confessed Instagram addict, her work has also appeared in such publications as Runway Magazine. Follow her at: Instagram: @betterbets Twitter: @betterbetsny tumblr:

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