Wednesday, April 14, 2004

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Roland Nivelais's Fall 2004 Presentation a Winner:

Roland Nivelais & model wearing green satin and organza gown

Roland Nivelais may not be a household name, but he has been quietly staking his claim in the fashion world for over 15 years, and is certainly well known and well respected by the cognoscenti. The charming French born designer (who has retained his equally charming accent) is an American citizen and a long-standing member of the CFDA, and first launched his label in New York. I first became aware of him in the 80’s, when I was an editor at Harper’s Bazaar, and we routinely featured his couture-like gowns and dresses in our editorials.

Last evening, I attended a lovely, small, and very civilized cocktail presentation of his fall/winter 2004 collection, held at his showroom at 202 west 40th street (where he has been for 5 years). Like his clothing, the showroom is chic, classic, and refined, and it was a lovely venue in which to see the beautifully constructed and fabricated suits, dresses, and evening gowns that he describes as being “feminine, glamorous, sophisticated” and “not so obvious- sexually”.

Black satin fitted evening suit trimmed with ruby red satin

The well-edited and very succinct collection is unapologetically not for everyone, nor is it meant to solve wardrobe problems for working-women. As he put it, these are clothes meant to be worn for “5 p.m. and later...or perhaps for “an expensive lunch”. He makes no apologies about the fact that he “doesn’t understand sportswear or casual clothes”. How refreshing! A designer who knows what he’s good at, what he’s passionate about, and does not want to please or appeal to everybody.

Ruby satin gown with a train back

Standouts included the green satin and organza gown that was hand beaded and hand dyed “5 times” to achieve the degradations of color; the molded torso black and pink strapless degrade sequined gown with organza ‘petal’ bottom (at $4500 this is one of the most expensive items on the collection; the most expensive item is the $4700 brocade strapless gown trimmed with Russian sable); a group of black satin fitted evening suits with a molded jackets, one of which featured a winged collar trimmed with ruby red satin; several little black dresses that were anything but dull or run of the mill; and a long black column that was a knockout and truly an investment piece.

Left: black and pink strapless degrade sequined gown with organza ‘petal’ bottom

He counts Sigourney Weaver (whom he describes as “not a fashion person”) as one of his loyal customer- she sure has the body and stature to show off his designs- and his collection is carried in such upscale stores as Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Neiman Marcus. Though he has in the past staged formal runway shows, the smaller more intimate presentation seems to suit his aesthetic, and when I asked if he might consider doing a formal show next season, he said, “probably not.”

- Posted by Marilyn Kirschner

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