Tuesday, February 07, 2006

New York Fashion Week: Day 4

Marc Jacobs' Show:

Monday evening, an hour and a half later than first scheduled, Marc Jacobs presented his Fall/Winter 2006 collection to a packed house at The New York State Armory. The collection was restrained in its use of colors but displayed why Marc is Marc, a designer who can borrow from the past and still create a collection that is both fresh and innovative.

Mr. Jacobs's latest designs are in keeping with the trends of the season: Paul Poiret and his Orientalistic touches, Madame Gres and her masterfully designed drapes, and Christian Dior with his "New Look" are all prominent influences. He shows great talent in emulating Madame Gres -- she would have been impressed. After all, she was, and still remains, the most outstanding designer to have worked with pleats and drapes.

Highlights of the collection included a knee-length evening dress of different silky colors with a touch of dark red velvet evocative of the Orient. In much of the collection, pleats are so artfully placed that the body is never restricted, but enhanced, the proportion keeping in balance with the nature of the fabric and its eventual restrictions. A putty-colored day coat was a great example of artfully placed pleats and folds that allow a shawl-like pattern to go over the shoulder. Surprising and beautiful was the black and white evening dress with the multiple folds and pleats hanging from every part of the design.

Mr Jacobs gave a nod to his past collections with a brown and beige houndstooth patterned coat. The rest of the collection was a constant flow of new ideas, new ways to wear clothes and accessorize them. The neutral color palette helped identify the mastery of each design. Grays and taupes were prominent but, here and there, colors emerged to remind the public that Marc Jacobs can show incredible talent with just about anything he designs: a richly colored red skirt with applique flowers in the same fabric was definitely a standout.

Marc's collection may not be for everyone. However, he is one of the very few American designers who can be counted upon to bring up new ideas, take chances and point the way to new directions where others less daring will follow.

-reported by Muriel Triffaut

More observations and trends from the ‘frontlines’ …plaids are all over the place (and perfect timing since the upcoming exhibit at the Met’s Costume Institute is ‘Anglomania’ sponsored by Burberry), as are pleats, and if you thought that volume was dead, think again. Menswear touches abound, as do full, pleated and cuffed pants. Vintage inspiration for designers shows no signs of abating. It’s about looking strong and confident this season, not wimpy and delicate. Certain things are passé (and if they’re not, well, they should be)..the notion that one has to suffer for fashion, or suffer in order to look good….I don’t know what could be less chic or less attractive than looking painful and downright uncomfortable in one’s clothes or in one’s shoes.

What looks great to me is ‘cozy, comfy chic’…incorporating elements of practicality, comfort, and luxury. Clothing that not only looks great but feels great. One of the biggest ‘trends’ thus far is paring a chunky hand knit sweater with something unexpected, like a delicate dress or evening gown. The juxtaposition is very modern and very easy to do. Just look in your closet or in your hubbie’s). What else is passé? Looking too glamorous, too put together, too ostentatious and nouveau riche….(well of course, these things have been ‘out’ for awhile…) It’s all about the idea of what is ‘appropriate’. And if you need to be told what is appropriate, well, then you need far more than this website.

As for the shows... I must say I was a bit disappointed with Carolina Herrera’s collection. Sure there were some perfectly nice things, but I was not that crazy about the colorful prints, and in a season where it appears that knitwear, coats, and outerwear of all kinds rule the roost, hers somehow missed the mark. I was also disappointed with Cynthia Steffe’s presentation. Too many wide Bermudas (who wears these anyway?) Too much unrelieved black (unrelieved black usually only works when it is beautifully shaped, constructed, or fabricated). And too many really skimpy pants (do we really need to see every inch of a model’s anatomy? I think not).

And in a season of noteworthy hand knits and 3 dimensional chunky knitwear, Cynthia’s fell a little flat. And please, enough what that annoyingly loud blaring music. Why do designers think they have to turn up the volume and render the audience practically deaf in order to get their attention? For me, the exact opposite happens. I simply want to leave.

On a brighter note, I was not disappointed in Oscar de la Renta’s show (which FYI, started 15 minutes after it was called for. Practically unheard of in fashion circles). But beyond the clock, Oscar had the right ingredients, the right mix, and just got it right, hitting all the high notes in his inimitable way. Interestingly, it was not the evening portion that shined (yes, there were pretty dresses and gowns, but we all expect that), but the day part, where Oscar infused luxury with a certain modern youthful vibe, experimented with volume and sleeve proportions (long gloves were called into action to work with all the short sleeved pieces), worked with textural and tactile hand knits and shearlings, and offered many wonderful coats. This is turning out to be another great season for coats by the way and designers have apparently been raiding the vintage stores and archives for their retro/modern shapes.

Betsey Johnson’s upbeat, funky, signature collection was a fun romp. Even the program, (Showbook, ‘Sweet Betsey’…a take of on ‘Playbill’) was novel and creative. Of the 58 pieces, many of which were typically Betsey (young, sexy, flirtatious, and often very short), there some nice coats (including a well cut tan trench and one short bright plaid with looped yarn collar and hem that reminded me of my vintage Lilli Ann…perhaps Betsey has been doing the rounds at the vintage shows as of late, like everyone else), and some noteworthy dresses (like the emerald green chiffon empire waist floor length shirtdress or the purple short balloon hemmed satin strapless with red beaded heart appliqué on the front).

At the end, Betsey came out with a sign that read, ‘Grandma to Be’ and went over to her daughter Lulu, sitting in the front row and who is obviously expecting very shortly. She then did her trademark cartwheel down the runway to the delight of the audience. Way to go, Grandma! Oh, I forgot to mention, on each seat was a small hot pink shopping bag with black ribbon which held some ‘goodies’. Forget the goodies…the bag is so cute and the color is so great. Perfect with all black.

Reem Acra promised to “redefine evening dressing”. Well- that’s some tall order but she did show some perfectly dreamy and ethereal dresses with a very youthful feeling, in primarily neutral shades. Many of the pieces were jewel encrusted, beaded, and embroidered, and many of the gowns boasted high empire waists and very full, floaty skirts. In addition to over the top feminine confections like the embroidered bodysuit with sheer sleeves worn with an amazing floor length hand ruched floret skirt in black, she proposed a black high waisted boiled jersey skirt with twisted tulle overlay worn with a ‘simple’ white paper taffeta shirt, or the nude lace bodysuit paired with a tuxedo trouser trimmed with “mitered galloon detail” .

Child Magazine’s positively irresistible second annual fall children’s fashion show held at the Bryant Park Tents, comprised of 45 top brands in children’s fashion, footwear, and accessories and representing the hottest trends for the upcoming season. I was seated across from Kimora Lee and Russell Simmons (their two little girls modeled Baby Phat Girlz pink tweed capes). And I was also right across the aisle from Lindsay Lohan, whose little sister was in the show. Also in the audience…models, designers, and fashion editors all with their precious little bundles in tow (including Cynthia Rowley and Bill Powers, Frederique, Lucy Sykes and Euan Rellie, Mary Alice Stephenson. Talk about ‘All in the Family’.

While Zang Toi’s show was elegant, civil, and soothing (the lovely background music was a wonderful counterpoint to the craziness of the day and the week), and the collection (for men and women) was an ode to the Upper East Side, he did go a bit overboard in some spots (like pastel antebellum evening gowns) which seemed out of step with the world around us. It was his more restrained, tailored, sporty, and subtle pieces that stood out, like the gray mohair plaid wrap that reverses to silver fox, the black shearling city wrap with utility pockets worn with hip hugging bootleg jeans, and the narrow black wool and cashmere pullover with built in wide diamante bracelets at the wrist worn with menswear grey wool cashmere diagonal twill trousers also sporting a built in diamante belt.

The moment I saw Karl Lagerfeld’s New York-Paris Chanel pre-fsll collection, held in the 57th street store, several months ago, I just knew that during New York Fashion Week, and elsewhere, there would be other designers who would also convincingly layer pants under skirts. Karl said that he wanted to “modernize” the traditional Chanel tweed suit. But what struck me, in addition to being modern, was that it made so much sense - especially with our crazy weather patterns as of late, and with the amount of traveling most of us do. Layering is not only the perfect solution, but it infuses a feeling of cozy, comfy luxury, which looks so right at the moment.

Well, leave it to Marc Jacobs, the last show of the day, and for me, the most satisfying one so far, to do just that. His collection, a study in layering and volume which could easily work for women of all ages depending on how one decides to wear it, was a breath of fresh air, fashion with a capital, ‘F’. Though it was ‘designed’ (it had a decidedly Japanese vibe), and very put together, with its appealingly muted shades, oversized plaids, amazingly chic coats and jackets, inventive combinations, it looked easy, comfortable, and practical and exuded a feeling of laid back luxury, not one that is over the top and ostentatious (which looks so wrong right now). It also looked personal and individual, as if the outfits were created at the last moment, by the inventive wearer, to satisfy her mood of that moment.

-Marilyn Kirschner

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