New York Fashion Week Notes: Day 8

Ralph Lauren ‘Black’ Label

Ralph Lauren Fall 2011 Collection
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And I mean ‘black’ literally since out of the 53 looks that came down the runway yesterday at Skylight Studio, where Ralph Lauren showed his fall collection at two back-to-back shows, almost each and every one was either all black, mainly black, or black enlivened with hits of white (as in white shirts), lacquer red, which often came by way of the high heeled red satin open toe pumps, or mixed with multi colored prints or patterns with a hard to miss Oriental flavor (one standout was the red silk shantung embroidered smoking jacket worn over a crisp white shirt and black pinstripe trousers, and shown beneath a black cashmere cocoon coat trimmed with long hair shearling). If it wasn’t black, it was trimmed with black, such as the good looking chestnut tweed double breasted coat and hacking jacket, both of which had black curly shearling collars.

One always expects Ralph to switch gears from one season to the next (but he does it in his own way, within his own ‘oeuvre’), and since last spring was a study in prairie chic, I guess it was safe to say he would completely go in another direction for fall. And so he did. This was a sophisticated, completely urban vision, one that was quite slick actually, and it didn’t hurt that many of the fabrics used, (black silk, silk/wool, leather) thanks to technology, were given a shiny, glossy, polished finish, which heightened the effect.

It was pure Ralph through and though, with its emphasis on strictly tailored, shaped and molded jackets, perfect trousers (pleated and narrow), tuxedos, skinny sweater dresses that fit like a second skin, velvet shawl collared smoking jackets, and fabulous coats (it’s hard to forget that amazing, long, black glossy leather trench coat with shearling trim collar, which was shown with a black polished leather pencil skirt, black turtleneck sweater, and accessorized with a black satin pleated peep toe with red lacquer heel).

A subtle art deco vibe was apparent in the 8 black floor length gowns that formed the finale. Bugle beaded, embroidered, or done in silk panne velvet, they were simple yet dramatic, and a few had alluringly cut out backs. Not so subtle were the two, especially the finale, which featured a fabulous bugle beaded collar and matching ‘hood’. When RR took his bow to a standing ovation, he was wearing a black turtleneck and black distressed jeans (he is always wears a version of the look he is proposing on the runway). It was pure class all the way.

Francisco Costa Wipes the ‘Slate’ Clean

Calvin Klein Fall 2011 Collection
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If someone wanted to know my definition of what ‘modern’ is, vis a vis clothing for our times, or my definition of a collection that is at once youthful yet sophisticated, appropriate for a range of ages, and easy yet still quite structured and sculptural, formal yet informal, sporty yet couture, I would tell them to look at Francisco Costa’s fall winter show which was presented at two back to back presentations yesterday afternoon. The 35 piece collection was whittled down to shades of gray (slate, mercury, smoke), desert, wheat, stone, black and white and played out in luxurious and innovative fabrics such as bonded alpaca and cashmere, alpaca jacquards, needle punched shearling (coats); technical silk twill (pants); silk ribbon jacquard, technical jersey, and technical silk boucle (sheaths); mercury/cotton (shirts).

The silhouette he seems to be most taken with – it was the first outfit out and one that repeated itself but in slightly different variations, was the use of a lean cigarette pant cropped to the ankle  and not a skintight jean or legging, nor a wide trouser pant but something chic, elegant, and in between, worn with a coat that hit just above the knee, in a slightly rounded shape, worn with a white cotton long sleeved shirt. When it wasn’t a coat, it was a cropped jacket with a ‘baseball collar’, a collarless or zip front jacket in leather, or an easy yet beautifully shaped ‘sweatshirt’ with abbreviated sleeves (of course, his sweatshirts are made of alpaca jacquard).

And when it wasn’t a white long sleeved shirt, it was a white, wheat, or black sleeveless shirt. Sometimes, it was an above the knee length skirt, which formed the bottom half of an outfit, and those were needless to say, perfectly cut to be easy, not tight or constricting, yet done with a controlled volume. Dresses (sheaths, shifts and shirtdresses) also fell slightly above the knee (there was not one long dress or gown to be found in the entire collection), and they were also, cut to perfection and innovative. One new dress shape that repeated was the ‘two piece sheath’ that, thanks to tromp l’oeil seaming, appeared to be a two piece dress in the front. Some of the dresses made effective use of fabric mixes. The most ‘evening’ the collection got, was the group of metallic jacquard shifts (in slate and wheat), with fold detail, scoop back, or scoop arm.

There was absolutely no jewelry, not a handbag, and the only accessory were the shoes: a rounded toe, ankle strap sandal or pump on a slight platform, boasting a chunky, low heel (some were white, which gave a clean modern somewhat mod look to the darker clothes, and others matched the outfits) made from wheat hair, truffle hair, and brushed calf. It was hard not to notice that thanks to the comfy, grounded footwear, the models (with their hair pulled back into youthful straight ponytails), were not only ABLE to walk down the runway (wow- what a novel idea!!!), but seemed to literally jaunt down the runway.

This brings up another point. I may be missing something, but I TRULY do not understand the fascination many women, as well as some designers, still seem to have with ugly ugly ugly orthopedic (if not worse) looking, heavy, platform high high heeled footwear that renders them almost cripple. I’ve seen countless of them during fashion week, and mostly, they have been hunched over and almost unable to navigate the sidewalks without leaning on something – or someone. Is that what they perceive as attractive…or modern????? I don’t think so. Especially in the city, when one should be able to move at breakneck speed. Certainly, being able to walk briskly, gracefully, or just walk at all, seems to be what ‘modern’ is all.

To ‘Dye’ For…

Isaac Mizrahi Fall 2011 Collection
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Isaac Mizrahi’s noon time show, held at Exit Art yesterday, was in one word a HOOT! (okay, two words). It was quirky, imaginative, and insanely off the wall, and like no one else’s. According to the run of show, the collection was dubbed, ‘Cake’ but a look inside the program revealed nothing of a descriptive nature, other than the names of the 26 models. The first model came down the runway, a vision in lavender (a below the knee length coat and dress), with a puzzling poodle like oversized black ‘fixture’ sitting on the top of her head, followed by a model wearing a pale green dress with a large bow; at which point a ‘waiter’ walked down the runway holding a mint green cake with the same large bow in front, the audience got a hint of the madness to come.

Some of the colors (mint green, marigold yellow, hot pink, purple, gray, black) as well as the prints and fabrics (confetti crystals, oversized florals) which were used for the collection of coats, dresses (some long, some abbreviated), elongated skirts, cropped pants, floor length ball skirts, evening gowns, were literally mimicked by the dyed to match layer cakes, (brought out by serious looking ‘waiters’ taking their turn down the runway), AND by the dyed to match poodles that came out with the models.  I thought I’d lose it when one model, wearing a hot pink strapless gown, came out holding a hot pink dyed poodle; and when after a model wearing a short blue and purple floral coat, accompanied by a dyed blue poodle, was followed by a waiter carrying a layer cake covered in the same blue and floral fabric.

(FYI, I don’t even want to guess what sort of dye was used but I would hope it’s not permanent).

 In addition to fashion and the theatre, Isaac has a fixation on layer cakes and poodles? In addition to the models resembling poodles, there were poodle pins affixed to some of the outfits, replicas of miniature poodles topping layer cakes, and there were dyed to match bags in ‘poodle’ cloth. (Thankfully, Isaac stopped just short of showing poodle skirts). When Isaac walked down the runway, he was wearing a poodle pin affixed to his jacket, and holding the leash of what I assume, is his poodle. (Coincidentally, this past week was the Westminster Dog Show in New York, so the timing was not lost on me). Needless to say, the audience was in stitches and we all needed this after 8 days of covering shows. What a perfect way to (almost) end fashion week. Bill Cunningham, taking it all and capturing it on his camera was similarly amused, exclaiming in glee, “Not a moment too soon”, and then he literally dashed down the runway to get a better shot of the last model, wearing a black gown, accompanied by a black poodle.

In the meanwhile, luckily for me, there was an appealing new bakery a few steps away from Exit Art, because after looking at all those ‘cakes’ during the course of Isaac’s show, I developed quite a sweet tooth.

FYI, as I strolled down west 39th Street, on my way to Calvin Klein, I saw a man handing out blue buttons saying “We all get dressed for Bill” (a quote made by Anna Wintour many years ago), along with postcards advertising the long awaited public release of the “Bill Cunningham New York” documentary. It will have a two week run, beginning March 16, at the Film Forum on Houston Street (you can buy tickets online, and can watch the trailer at Coincidentally, I literally bumped into Bill, coming out of the first Calvin Klein show, and showed him the button and the postcard and in true BC form, he sort of embarrassedly shrugged it off and quickly changed the subject to fashion shows. You gotta love him!

-Marilyn Kirschner

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.

1 Comment
  1. Models are great by wearing black tuxedo or black suits. Being fashion model is not an easy job also not all the time money matters, creativity should be consider to gain and earn more.

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