Ralph’s Reality ‘Check’
(Photos: Fernanda Calfat)
And I mean that literally. One ongoing theme at Ralph Lauren’s fall collection, shown downtown yesterday morning at two back to back presentations (9 a.m was for the retailers and 10 a.m was for members of the press), was the use of bold, graphic buffalo checks and oversized hunting plaids (red/black, green/black, ivory/black) which were sometimes mixed together in different sizes and scales. Other signature and familiar Ralph- isms include handsome border stripe blanket coats; sculpted day dresses, molded jackets, skirts, and pants in very dark charcoal cashmere herringbone; leopard prints (used for clothing, accessories, or as small accents); black velvet tuxedos; graphic patterned fair isle sweaters; the use of bold color; and the idea of day for night and night for day (a constant theme touched upon by RL that was exemplified by his offhanded combination of a red and black cashmere plaid shirt and black tulle embroidered and feathered knee length skirt or the red and black wool blanket coat paired with metallic beaded dress).
Although, there was positively no mistaking the all out evening glamour of Ralph’s body hugging languid velvet gowns (some in high intensity colors); and a finale of requisite entrance making red carpet worthy heavily embroidered dresses and gowns (the most beautiful of all was the purple velvet gown leg o mutton sleeves, high bateau neckline, cut out back, which was embroidered all over the front with bronze beads, a smattering of iridescent purple beads and black feathers).
Almost nobody does ‘commercial’ quite like Ralph, and his daywear and sportswear, is always beautifully fabricated and impeccably cut (whether lean suiting jackets with peplums or more architectural outerwear versions), but somehow, the collection just seemed a bit too obvious and predictable, and lacked the surprise of experimentation or risk taking. And while the lean pants and sculptural jackets looked great, as did the dramatic coats, a number of suits, which featured longer length circle skirts, seemed strangely old fashioned and not especially modern, made all the more so since they were accessorized with the overly stylized hats decorated with elongated pheasant feathers (similar to those shown on the runway of Carolina Herrera just 5 days before). I guess one could consider feathers (which can double as a weapon and could easily poke an innocent bystander’s eyes out) as one of the season’s big trends.
(Photo: Nicholas Roberts)
Coincidentally, an All American country lodge theme (as exemplified by graphic plaids, checks, patterned knits) was touched upon by Zang Toi later in the day. But of course, Zang’s Adirondack Mountain romp (for both men and women) was a bit more…shall I say, over the top, glamorous, and not exactly for shrinking violets. These are clothes for women who demand to be noticed. Let’s face it, there is nothing too subtle about a floor length quilted snow white a line toggle coat featuring an oversized white Mongolian lamb hood, a floor length black cashmere peak lapel a-line coat graphically outlined in natural mink, a forest green wool tweed plaid trench with a forest mink collar and lapel worn with matching pants, a black, red, and white beaded American Indian turtleneck blouse worn with a red silk satin organza ball skirt, or a white empire waist full skirted evening gown with a turtleneck bib entirely encrusted with silver beads (the Portrait of an Adirondack Star finale). Oh, and by the way, the word must have been out that Zang’s collection was lavished with real fur, since PETA protesters were camped outside the Bryant Park Tents making their disapproval known.
(Photos: Scott Gries)
Francisco Costa is the man to watch. He is succeeding in bringing back the glamour, charm and widespread appeal that made Calvin Klein a household name in the fashion business for over three decades. After Mr. Klein's retirement Mr. Costa, his chosen successor, offered several respectable collections. But none seem as pertinent as his most recent. Following an established designer can be a tricky thing, but Mr. Costa seems ready for the challenge. Karl Lagerfeld did it with Chanel, but other successes have been difficult. Halston and Bill Blass are two collections geared for revival this season. Both have received mixed reviews, but Mr. Costa received almost unequivical praise.
He did it by emphasizing fine tailoring, once a forte of Mr. Klein, who frequently had the most most popular style of the season in his collection. And before he went on to specialize in sportswear, Klein was known for his coats and suits. That is Mr. Costa's specialty. Even his dresses are neatly tailored.
It is rarity this seson when most designers feel that splashy prints, often florals, large doses of glitter and complicated drapery are what women want. Mr. Costa has favored simplicity. It may be the answer.
The one exception is his evening dresses, which do not stray too far from his norm. They are were pleated from bodice to long hem. The pleats are narrow at the top, wider through the skirt. They move easily and gracefully and are a change from snug wrapped dresses. which are seen everywhere.
(Photos: Fernanda Calfat)
Donna Karan has produced two collections, both different. DKNY is young and bouncy. The one called 'Collection' is more sophisticated. Both have a fresh look. Her sophisticated collection focuses on what she calls the "bathrobe" dress. It is not made for going to the shower. The skirt is elaborately gathered and draped. The fabrics are luxurious. It is more appropriate for cocktail pazrties where everyone dresses up or even red carpet events. There are many bare backs, strong colors and feathered details. It is not a bashful collection.
Even the short dresses have an elaborate festive feeling; many are accompanied by related jackets or coats. High waisted effects and tiered coats are part of the intricate dressmaking techniques.
Chiffon and jersey are some of the sexy fabrics that reveal the body. The designer speaks of "the moody seduction of urban opulence" in cities like Venice, Paris, Budapest and New York. She clearly has a world view.
- Bernadine Morris