Tuesday, October 09, 2007

All The News That's Fit to 'Print'

New York designer Ralph Rucci showing his Spring 2008 rtw & couture collections in Paris
photo: Randy Brooke


The month long, bi-annual round of shows, which have officially ended, are akin to a gigantic jigsaw puzzle, with each city (New York, London, Milan, and Paris) filling in a section of the puzzle as the collections there unfold. Undisputedly, Paris, which is the last stop (save the "best for last"?), is also the city where everything comes together; the place where trends that first begin to crystallize in New York, are truly validated.

It became immediately apparent during the first few days of New York Fashion Week that THE BIG STORY for spring summer 2008 would be prints and patterns of all kinds. This subsequently played out internationally. There were geometrics, scribbles, graffiti, dots, circles and stripes. Perhaps newest of all, were the hand painted abstracts inspired by famous artists (the sort that Ralph Rucci has long been known for), and of course, florals. In fact, there were seemingly so many floral prints (often worked together in mismatched combinations as seen at Dries Van Noten) and floral accessories presented this time around, the world will likely resemble one big botanical garden if the designers have their way. If nothing else, I can promise you that if you are headed to a large gala or a cocktail party at some glorious garden, you will easily find something to wear.

By the way, speaking of Ralph Rucci, while I was sorry to have missed Ralph Rucci’s stunning show (he showed both ready to wear and haute couture in Paris this time, foregoing New York), I cannot think of a New York designer whose aesthetic, workmanship, and artistry are more befitting the prestigious Paris ‘stage’, than he.

When it comes to prints, I have always gravitated to bold graphic patterns, finding florals to be a bit, well, prissy, saccharine, and old fashioned. Michael Kors, for one, channeled the masters of French Impressionism through his small scaled soft, pale, poetic florals which were usually translated onto chiffon. Though they were pretty, they did not personally excite me. And more importantly, they can be ‘aging’.

There are notable exceptions of course. One runway where florals took on a life of their own and were given a whole other dimension was unsurprisingly in Paris, at Balenciaga, where Nicolas Guesquiere continued to cement his place as one of the most highly revered and influential designers on the planet. No soft, prissy, florals for him. His are neither pale, sheer, floaty, wispy, or for the faint of heart. They are strong, big, bold, and translated onto gustsy stiff fabrics and rendered as short, taut, body hugging, architectural, molded shapes.

Although admittedly prints may not be for everyone, there is no denying that they can go a long way in revving up your wardrobe and even a small dose packs a wallop. There is something to be said about a flash of uplifting joyful color and/or pattern.

In the meantime, no discussion of color, prints, or patterns, would be complete without mentioning Pucci. The runways have been ablaze with geometrics, abstracts, and florals that bear more than a passing resemblance to the distinctive and signature prints that put Emilio on the map more than 50 years ago. In fact, one might have assumed from the look of things that this season would have been a perfect time for yet another Pucci ‘revival’. But unfortunately, in a veritable city to city sea of prints and patterns, the ones that were suggested in Milan by Matthew Williamson, the current head of design for Pucci, were rather lackluster and uninspiring to say the least. Even with the giant conglomerate LVMH spearheading the iconic label, they just cannot seem to find a designer who successfully moves the collection forward while honoring the amazingly rich archives. Although, when I saw pictures of Christian Lacroix’s latest efforts for his eponymous French label (he had been head of design for Pucci several years back), many had a decidedly Pucci ‘vibe’ and I couldn’t help but think this exuberant print and color loving designer was truly the most perfect ‘fit’.

Somehow, I always feel that the new stuff cannot hold a candle to the vintage, archival pieces (stains and all). Needless to say, I’m happy I’ve been prudent and smart enough to hold onto most of my distinctive vintage pieces. Right about now, I’m sure, scores of women are scratching their heads and thinking how crazy they were to have given away all their vintage Pucci dresses, blouses, skirts, and pants; mistakenly thinking they’d never wear them again. As they say in fashion, "Never say never".

And for heaven’s sake, please don’t listen to those so called ‘fashion experts’ who wish to remind their audience that there are certain fashion ‘rules’ to obey: like not wearing white after Labor Day; or the one that says if you wore a trend the first time…don’t wear it again.. What a laugh and what a stupid rule. Any way, rules are meant to be broken, n’est past?

What with Global Warming and other practical issues, there ARE no rules any more. Actually, there are almost no seasons anymore (look how positively summer like it is in October). White after Labor Day? You bet! Black in the summer? Perfect! Bare legs in the winter? Why not? Boots in the summer? You see it all the time. Cotton in the winter? Certainly! Fur in the summer…touché! And mark my words…the flowers that budded for spring will continue into the next fall season as well. As will other prints and patterns. Why? Because, while women always need simple, chic, and straightforward clothing, they also crave ‘special’ pieces, pieces with some excitement and pizzazz. What better way to add interest than through printed matter?

Oh, and before I forget, as if to perfectly illustrate the beauty inherent in breaking rules, Fashion Group International’s Annual Night of Stars, (www.fgi.org), to be held October 25th at Cipriani 42nd street, is called, ‘The Rule Breakers’. On that evening the organization will honor ‘Superstar’ rule breaker Jean-Paul Gaultier with a supporting cast of celebrated rule breaking ‘Star Honorees’: Hussein Chalayan, Alber Elbaz, Tomas Maier, and Rick Owens. My suggestion for perfect attire for a night of cocktails and dinner? Well, let’s put it this way, I would probably opt for something other than that trusty yet plain little black dress.
On second thought, go for it!

-Marilyn Kirschner

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