Monday, February 06, 2006

New York Fashion Week: Day 3

Designers Hanii Y and Gene Kei, the duo behind Y&Kei (Water the Earth) are obviously in a sophisticated mood this season as evidenced by a collection that was decidedly addressing one’s more dressed up moments (cocktail parties and galas). The duo worked within a pared down and pleasingly classic palette of neutrals (ivory, black, midnight blue, and charcoal gray) enlivened with hits of pale lavender and a golden floral burnout, and what they are proposing for more laid back celebrations would be, say, a pretty blouse, shrunken cropped jacket, or ruffle trimmed cardigan, worn with narrow cigarette pants, one of their pretty knee length cocktail dresses, or perhaps a full skirted trench in a glittery midnight blue. For big time evenings, (or a trip down the red carpet), their solution could easily be one of their floor length draped jersey gowns, specifically, the finale - a breathtaking and crowd pleasing shimmering silver lame Goddess gown with long skinny sleeves, and the surprise of a beautiful deep v neck back. It was simple and unadorned, but highly dramatic.

Twinkle by Wenlan Chia and Tracy Reese presented collections that while completely different in mood and feeling, had one thing in common: strong knitwear (I guess you can call them ‘knit wits’), especially textural, tactile chunky hand knits (a bona fide trend that seems to be appearing this season, in addition to designers playing around with sleeve lengths and shapes; tent and trapeze shaped coats; many of which owe their inspiration to vintage, tent shaped dresses and evening gowns; a plethora of pants - from lean and narrow legging like versions and cigarette pants, to wide legged trouser styles; the pretty blouse and menswear pant combination; more attention to cut, construction, and tailoring and less of a reliance on gimmicks and tricks).

Wenlan, who is known for a certain youthful and playful quirkiness in her proportions and silhouettes, added the surprise of chunky knits, often in a bold geometric patterns, to softer and more fluid pieces, but often the knitwear item was the strongest part of the equation, such as her white chunky knit short sleeved ‘vest’ with a peplum waist, or the banana and black chunky knit cardigan with elbow length sleeves, juxtaposed over a printed silk charmeuse floor length ‘twist back’ gown.

Tracy Reese, who was inspired by the “elegant 40’s” and the concept of modernism in architecture and the decorative arts, went in a far more sophisticated and grown up direction this season, where the notion of “controlled volume” was very much on view. Working in a color palette of rich dark traditionally fall colors- aubergine, mahogany, dark camel, rust, heather, black, and ivory, enlivened with shots of copper and gunmetal, this was a very appealing and wearable collection of pretty blouses, Hepburn style trousers, comfy, cozy knitwear and outerwear (many of the latter featured toggles, wood or horn buttons). While there was eveningwear, it was the day portion (like the charcoal toggle sweater worn with a heather grey tie tunic and mocha leather knee length skirt) that stole the show.

Doo-Ri Chung proves the adage, “the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree” because the former Geoffrey Beene assistant continues to show her formidable talent and a fondness for many of the same staples and signatures that her former mentor was famous for. Such as, an ability to cut and drape, a love of fluid fabrics, a fondness for cropped boleros and shrugs, a desire to make beautiful, elegant, and graceful eveningwear, and this season, a love of menswear (Geoffrey Beene was known for making creative use of menswear fabrics and in fact, he had the ability to turn humble menswear fabrics into something far more alluring.)

This season, in addition to a group of wistfully beautiful tent shaped evening gowns in silk jersey or charmeuse, (often with tulle overlays or crystal embroidery), some of the standouts incorporated a plaid wool melton fabric in surprisingly feminine ways. For example, the plaid melton jacket with very full elbow length sleeves, worn over a wide legged pant… or the plaid wool shrug with face framing sculpted ‘rosettes’ juxtaposed over a floor length silk organza and jersey gown.

Diane Von Furstenberg left her West Village lair (the scene of last season’s fiasco which left several front row editors injured) and showed for the first time at the Bryant Park Tents to a packed and very social crowd including such guests as Diane Sawyer and hubby Mike Nichols. She called the collection ‘Working Girl’ because, as she put it, “I always wanted to be a working girl and live a man’s life….I became one and hope to be one for a long time”. To ‘work’ the theme, the models sauntered down the runway to the beat of Dolly Parton’s famous hit, “9 to 5” as well as Donna Summer’s “She works hard for the money”. Though the 53 piece collection of day and eveningwear started with an updated version of Diane’s iconic wrap dress, featured various takes on the suit and offered dresses that one could easily go to work in (depending on one’s job of course), the surprise were the eye catching and graphic pieces comprised of an oversized black and white houndstooth, paired with a traditional tartan plaid.


Tuleh’s Bryan Bradley is certainly serious about presenting a quick, fast paced show. In fact, I think he broke his record last night with a show that could not have lasted more than 15 minutes – if that- from beginning to end. The designer is also serious about, well, his continually evolving serious side, a complete turnaround from what the label ‘Tuleh’ was at its inception with long gone partner Josh Patner. (Remember when they were known for the socialite friendly light and giddy floral coats, dresses, and party frocks). This season, the collection, comprised of 35 pieces, was broken up into passages with names like Vassar Girls, Suitcase Girls, Edie Beale, Tuleh Girls, Fur, Miriam, Wealthy Women, Strangers (The Other), High Rollers, Gala Gowns, and Tuxedos and within this, the best pieces were the serious clothes (40’s inspired suits, coats, furs, cowl back cocktail dresses, and long gowns) that were almost severe in their pared down construction and lack of ornamentation.

-Marilyn Kirschner

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