Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Roger and Me"

The day belonged to Roger....no, not Vivier silly...Roger Federer, the U.S. Open champ and number 1 tennis player in the world, who graced Oscar de la Renta’s 1 p.m show held at 583 Park. When Roger walked in with Anna Wintour just as the show was set to begin, everybody stood to their feet and clapped and whistled and shouted yay!!!!! It was quite the scene even for a jaded fashion show goer. And looking around the room, you could see that the females were taken by the adorable, fashionable, and amazingly talented tennis star (who had a sweet smile on his face as though he was shocked by the reception). Oh, and Posh Spice (yawn!) was there as well, causing a paparazzi feeding frenzy of her own.

The Oscar de la Renta show was notable not only for its change in venue, this is the first time the designer has not shown at the Bryant Park Tents since their inception), or for Roger’s presence (he showed up last year as well), but for the rousing inspirational music and vocals of a rather unique musical group called The Polyphonic Spree. The traveling band is a self described "choral symphonic rock" group (I would describe it as ‘White Gospel’) consisting of 24 young men and women from the Dallas area, ranging from vocals to organ to tubular bells. Dressed in colorful, loose long dresses (even the guys), their look was diametrically opposed to the refined uptown elegance of Mr. de la Renta’s aesthetic, which made it kind of cool. (FYI…I’m not sure what it implies when I would rather spend my time talking about tennis stars and musicians than fashion…but you can draw your own conclusions).

As for the collection, let’s just say it was lovely, familiar, and vintage Oscar all the way, hitting upon all of the designer’s trademarks (matched and unmatched suits, in shantung, faille and stretch faille, viscose, boucle; sportswear pieces; hand crochet knits; dresses in a myriad of silhouettes; and of course, cocktail dresses and evening gowns). Instead of staying in the back, as is usually the case, the designer was visible to the audience as he stood in the main room, right outside the door as the models came out, observing the scene first hand. A beige linen viscose skirt suit (with a belted jacket and rounded shoulder and sleeves, worn with a pencil skirt) kicked things off. It was accessorized with an alligator belt, beige lizard clutch, beige high heeled perforated sandals and a pheasant turban for lack of a better word. (It’s hard to describe because it wasn't a hat and it wasn't really a turban, but it was very chic indeed and part of a whole feather ‘moment’ on this runway and elsewhere).

The predominant silhouette was a feminine one, with focus on the waist as belted jackets were called into play topping skirts (pencil skirts or fuller versions) and trousers (cut classically full), as well as belted dresses. Though a navy wool boucle dress, which could be described as a modified ‘sack’ made a case for something looser. The color palette was predominantly beige, cream, olive, navy and black with welcome touches of turquoise, and especially red. (The latter stood out in the form of a red fitted boucle sheath, and a simply beautiful red silk sponge crepe gown which was looked just great from the back due to soft shirring).

Oscar has always loved the casual elegance of knitwear and so it’s not surprising that his sweaters were standouts. Several, in white, seemed to be an ode to Roger as they were couture takes on the classic tennis sweater. One sleeveless navy silk and cashmere sweater had an outline of beads, onto which real beads were added for a bit of 3 d texture and whimsy. Other notable examples were the cream and brown hand tie-dyed cashmere silk cardigan (tie- dye is shaping up as a big trend this week) shown with a brown tortoise shell silk embroidered pencil skirt, and the copper silk sleeveless sweater which was shown with a white pleated silk georgette skirt. Since Oscar cited "bold geometric prints in earth tones with bright accents" as being at the heart of the collection, it was not surprising (especially since we are in a season of prints and patterns), that graphic Ikat prints (and ODR standby) would form the basis for day and evening.

And then there were the glamorous swimsuits. One in particular (a black cut out maillot) was arresting by virtue of its accessories: an enormous straw hat which seemed to be decorated with long colorful feathers (but upon closer inspection turned out to be long colorful pieces of straw) and a fabulous oversized tote bag. In terms of evening wear, there were as many short dresses as long, but one still cannot beat long for drama. My favorites include the gold tulle embroidered gown with bejeweled bib, and the group of black and white organzas: one featuring a mermaid skirt and a feather trimmed hem, and the finale, worn by Agyness (doesn’t it seem the blonde Brit gets to wear the best clothes?)…a silk organza gown with a petal embroidered black strapless top and a floor length white skirt decorated with one huge feather that went from the waist up.

Earlier in the day, Carolina Herrera showed her colorful, feminine and highly ornamental collection that was inspired by the watercolors of Jeremiah Goodman, and the "many layers of paint used to work in this medium". This was a statement about special pieces and evening wear, and there was really no daywear to speak of save for a few sundresses. The painterly mood paying homage to Mr. Goodman, was apparent not only in the color scheme (pool blue, pear green, brick red, peony pink and Clementine orange) but in the highly textural 3 D quality found in many pieces, which was made possible by raffia embroidery, oversized pailletes, and sculpted feathers. In a season of prints and patterns, there were plenty on this runway (dots, stripes, florals, often mixed together). Let’s put it this way, there was a lot going on (maybe a bit too much in some cases). The primary fabrics used were devora organza, printed gazaar, and lacquered chiffon, which were employed for full skirted cocktail dresses (many with full skirts), and long gowns.

Among the more successful themes was the employment of a casually elegant elongated cardigan (in solid or stripe), which was shown over printed dresses and separates. What didn’t work for me were the ‘cocktail shorts’. Not that shorts are a bad idea but making them unflatteringly full..well, not so much; they even made the models look fat. Actually, many of the ornamental embroidered tops shown with these shorts were quite pretty and would have looked far better if they were shown over anything else…a Jodhpur, a full or pencil knee length skirt, a full trouser. And in the end, it’s the simpler pieces that often manage to stand out. In this case, the pear green silk crinkle chiffon gown and the striped embroidered ivory georgette gown with pleating, both devoid of any fussy ornamentation.

It was strange attending an Anna Sui show so early in the evening. Like almost everyone else this season (except for Marc Jacobs who was back to his usual time (9 pm) and place (the 26th street Armory), Anna’s show was moved down from her usual Tuesday at 7PM to Monday at 5PM. In any event, I have to say this was not one of my favorite Anna Sui collections. Blame it on the era of her admitted inspiration ("The rehearsal clothes worn by the chorus girls in backstage scenes from Busby Berkeley musicals") and all the Andrew Sisters musical soundtrack…but somehow, it just didn’t do it for me. Too many tap pants, flutter sleeves, and gaudy sequins. The best pieces were menswear inspired, highly graphic, or just plain pretty. Among the standouts were the glen plaid menswear inspired suits; the cream pinstripe jacket and wide legged trousers; he black and white ‘Ziggy’ stripe sateen ¾ coat shown over a multi abstract checkerboard print crepe de chine blouse and white linen shorts; the red and cream block stripe short sleeved blouse and matching skirt; the tomato red and flesh deco scallop scarf print halter dress; and the finale (on who else, but Agyness again): a silver paillette long plunge front gown whose hem was trimmed with feathers.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Marc Jacobs: Record "High" or Record "Low"

It is a record "high" or a record "low" for New York fashion, depending on who is talking and who will take it. The new record is 2 hours and 4 minutes which surpassed last season’s delay. The much anticipated Marc Jacob s’ fashion show started at exactly 11:04 p.m. In a town that prides itself be ‘on time’ and professional, this is quite alarming. At 9:00 p.m., the time the show is slated to start, the buzz was that the clothes were not there yet. It is reminiscent of the Parisian shows in the 80’s, like Mugler and Montana without the grandeur nor the drama.

Still, Marc Jacobs’ many fans were entertained by the arrivals (some late) of his celebrity invitees. Courtney Love, Kelly Klein, Russell Simmons, Gilles Bensimon were some of the early ones. Padma Laksmi of Bravo’s ‘Top Chef" wowed the crowd in silk chartreuse coat and dress, while Carmen Electra made an entrance in a magenta cocktail dress. I was hoping that when I see Anna Wintour of Vogue, Jacobs’s staunchest supporter, the show would start shortly. I spotted Miss Wintour in a short vanilla trench coat dress at 10:20 p.m. However, it did not start then. At this point, the venue was still half full. The standing rows filled up much faster than the seating section as celebrities trickled in- Sheryl Crow, Heath Ledger, Tori Spelling and Victoria Beckham.
The production of the fashion show by KCD, held at The Armory, was indeed beautifully executed. Noteworthy is the ingenious set design of Stefan Beckman. The backdrop is a collection of prints by the German designer and architect Andrea Van Der Straeten. A pickled dark gray wooden runway was constructed and the stage had many panels artfully placed that resembled silver-gray window frames or picture frames. There were 3 video screens that projected the reference number of the garments (as in the French couture shows) and they simultaneously showed images of the models walking on the runway in their undergarments while the models were actually walking on the runway in their garments.

To the tune of Ravel’s Bolero, the show finally starts. This time though, everything was backwards. Marc Jacobs walks out first (almost running) and does his final bow, then the parade of all the models, then model number 56 wearing a gown and so on and so forth until we get to number one, the opening number with a dark aqua green chiffon padded denin cape. It is a clever way to de-construct the audience’s psyche.

If last season’s collection was an homage to YSL, Marc Jacobs 2008 spring-summer collection is a homage to all the other important designers collectively. There were references to Madame Gres, Chanel, Yohji Yamamoto, Chloe, to name a few. Ensembles on the runway might not be wearable by the everyday woman but some separate pieces certainly will appeal to them. This collection is in tune with the new trends of fashion. Marc Jacobs is indeed an artist; more so, he is a designer of ideas. The designer who brought grunge to fashion reinvents himself by doing creative spinoffs of classic garments giving them names like ‘A Quarter of a Satin gown’ or ‘Sequined Scrap Top’. And by the way, the ‘sequined scrap top’ with ‘sequined skirt" is a stunner.

In a former interview with New York Magazine, Marc Jacob says, "I love that reaction of love or hate. It's indifference that bores me to death." He will get his wish this time. People will love him or hate him for having them wait 2 whole hours. But record ‘high’ or record ‘low’, he is still a ‘fashion darling’, as of the moment.

-Anna Bayle

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