Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"Star Spangled Smiles"?

What better way to mark the 6th anniversary of September 11th, (which turned out to be the first gloomy, rainy day since we began marking the horrible event), than with a line up of fashion shows guaranteed to put a smile on our face, make us feel good, look good, (or all three)?

Yesterday, Monique Lhuillier presented arguably her best collection thus far. In her program notes she said the season is "all about embracing your femininity" (what an understatement) and stated that her inspiration for the sublimely feminine, frothy, airborne collection of silk tulles, organzas, and chiffons done in fabulously soft and flattering shades (vanilla, mint, latte, pistachio, butterscotch), was "a box of her favorite Laduree macaroons". (Think about that the next time you feel guilty about having indulged in a high caloric dessert!)

What was notable about the show, in addition to the way Monique un-selfconsciously mixed short cocktail dresses and long gowns together, is that there was no attempt to do simplified, pared down daywear (in an attempt to be all things to all people) as in past seasons. The reason? It became clear to her (while vacationing abroad where she constantly saw customers wearing her dresses) that what her customers want is "special pieces". And so, when she did show a suit, it was not a minimalist menswear suit that could easily be found elsewhere, but an unapologetically couture like, feminine and beautifully constructed suit (like the butter and gold metallic tweed jacket with a draped shawl collar, shown with a matching high waist pencil skirt, and a crème 4 layer organza blouse with an exaggerated ruffled collar).

Another interesting point which speaks volumes about Monique’s talent, is her obvious ability to experiment with volume and make it look flattering. How many designers can create a two, three, or four tiered chiffon evening gown with a modified balloon hem, that doesn't look cumbersome? You know the answer.

It's hard to pick just a few beautiful dresses out of the line up of 34 but among the mind-blowing gorgeous whipped confections were the peach silk tulle strapless asymmetrically draped gown with softly draped tiered skirt; the latte silk chiffon v neck asymmetrical draped cocktail dress; the nude illusion tulle one shouldered draped gown with a 4 tiered skirt and hand printed pistachio flowers that had me wishing I had someplace to wear it; the black silk organdy halter blouse with ruffled collar which was perfectly counterbalanced with menswear inspired black silk and cotton canvas high waisted trousers; the grey and white dot print taffeta corseted gown with asymmetrically draped soft bubble skirt.

Richie Rich & Traver Rains broke tradition with seasons past, and moved their wildly popular and entertaining Heatherette spring summer show, from the Bryant Park Tents to Gotham Hall. And while the smaller space could have been a recipe for disaster (after Monday night’s Marc Jacobs show which was delayed two hours I was sure this would follow suit), the show was well organized, actually started under one hour late and was a fast paced, entertaining (if not campy), romp. And as always, there were pieces that could actually be considered commercial and wearable.

The show, featuring designs for both men and women (though it was heavier on the women’s side) was a tribute to America from start to finish. Called “Star Spangled Smiles” (how could you possibly resist that?), the program itself was done up in patriotic red, white and blue, and the homage to the USA continued on the runway where a group of youthful high energy rappers kicked things off.

The first group out was an assortment in shades of white, ranging from full skirted strapless mini dresses to bicycle shorts (all highly embellished and textural) which was accompanied by the iconic song “Born in the USA”. This was followed by a group of colorful conversation prints (dresses, sportswear separates, etc.), which lead to a group of campy Americana (including several deconstructed ‘flag’ printed dresses in red, white, and blue). The most charming moment was when a group of the most adorable tiny tots (boys and girls) took the runway wearing miniature versions of what was shown for the grownups. The finale, (a curtain call of the red, white, and blue numbers) marched out to the pulsating sound of “American Woman”.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Tour de Force

In a season of pretty, attractive clothes, Calvin Klein. or rather his successor. Francisco Costa has produced an earth-shattering, spectacular collection.It goes against the grain. It is lower calf length, almost all white or pale shades like gray, slender .and uncomplicated. It is quite different from everything else being shown. It is a tour de force and people looking for more complicated clothes will have something to get used to. They probably won't get it.

But at a time when modernity has little place in fashion, it is a spectacular achievement. It is comparable to Chanel or Poiret banishing the corset in their day.or maybe Saint Laurent civilizing the pants suit. He is to be commended for having a vision for the twenty first century and making fashion feasible for today's lliving. The clothes are also supremely beautiful. Calvin has found a worthy successor.

-Bernadine Morris

The Simple Life?


photo: Isabelle Erb

Zac Posen does not disappoint. His Spring/Summer 2008 show was an extravaganza, and well worth having my ticket checked six times before being allowed to wait in the large mob outside the velvet rope. And wait we did… in the sweaty foyer, a tight crowd of all kinds mixed together – coiffed, frizzed, young, old, short, tall, casual, decked out – you name it.

From the booklet on our seats, the words of Zac Posen: “My collection is an homage to early American settlers and their insistence on simplicity and craft.” I certainly wouldn’t have guessed it, since his designs clearly require precise tailoring and boast exquisite details; more than a handful utilized feathers, multiple layers of lush ruffles and even a few with grand – yet subtle - ornamentation. He did manage to tie the imagery into the names of the majority of the pieces – windstorm blouse, wheat skirt, crow gown, and so forth.

The show began rather soberly with black straight leg pants, a black hat embellished with long feathers, shaker shirts and skirts, prairie skirts, and a crystal wheat brooch. Glamorous solid colored dresses with flowing ruffles in bright red, yellow, purple, and aqua provided a stark contrast to the smart corporate ensembles of black, cream, white and beige. Dovetail skirts, bandeau tops, bow dresses and a twisted ribbon gown showed his devotees that once again, Zac Posen’s vision provides for diverse essentials and does anything but bore.

There were but a few notable guests behind the first few of celebs and editors in their safety zone: two beautiful pre-schoolers with long, curly hair on one side of the runway; a man with a greenish glittery cowboy hat on the other.

Revelers in the front row included Anna Wintour, Demi Moore, Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters, Lucy Liu, Martha Stewart, Ivana Trump, Veronica Webb, Rachel Zoe, Carol King, Venus Williams, and financial backer P. Diddy, with his small entourage.

- Kerri Mullon

"Flirtation Walk"


photo: Isabelle Erb

The invitation for Betsey Johnson’s Spring 2008 collection showed a picture of a teen aged Betsey with her date on the night of her Junior Prom in 1958. Other photos showed the young designer during her coronation as the “Princess” of the lavish affair which was entitled “Flirtation Walk.”

Thus was introduced the theme of Betsey’s show which took place in the tent in Bryant Park on Tuesday afternoon. The venue was a sea of hot pink shopping bags as the designer presented her “Prom Queen” extravaganza. VIP guests sat at small, round tables lining the runway in the traditional set-up for Ms. Johnson’s shows in recent years.

The show itself was a chronological history of sorts of the last six decades of prom wear, a la Betsey Johnson, with a few playful outfits thrown in for good measure. Each decade was presented against an appropriate musical soundtrack for the period. It would appear that there is no era that cannot be depicted by one or more of the following: a voluminous skirted gown, ruffles, sherbet colors, satin and bows.
Standout looks included the shimmery blue “twinkle twilight dress” from the 50’s, the white “twiggy tulle mini,” and the “coronation queen” dress in white satin with a dramatic red sash. The final dress was a red, white, and blue gown of tiered ruffles and bows called “Miss America.”

No Betsey Johnson show would be complete without the parade of models carrying balloons heralding the arrival of Betsey herself. Ms. Johnson appeared carrying her granddaughter, Layla, to the delight of the audience. The crowd rose to its feet in expectation of the moment that everyone was waiting for. Betsey was happy to oblige with not one but several cartwheels down the runway.

-Rhonda Erb

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