Gotham had it all this week, as designers walked to the beat of their own drums. They sent out everything from the minimal — sleek, prim suits — to over-the-top — cheeky plaids combined with jailhouse stripes.
Chaiken: There are two reasons to celebrate chez Chaiken right now. One, founder and president Julie Chaiken just welcomed her second son, Zachary, to the family, and two, creative director Jeff Mahshie sent out another round of his imminently wearable togs. For fall, he took his clean, unfettered aesthetic to an even more minimal place, stripping it of almost every detail except for a few passementerie closures and some subtle flounces. All the better to show off his precision cut and fit — wool capes and coats belled out and tight pants hung instead of clung. Even a fully sequined dress, in its platinum sheen, looked discreet. And that, after all, is exactly what the cool, confident Chaiken girl is about.
Heatherette: The Heatherette show notes read, “A pretty girl is like a melody,” and to that end, designers Richie Rich and Traver Rains sent out a show that sang New York with sparkle and showgirl shine, Big Apple prints, jailhouse stripes and everything in between. Their swingy black-and-white sequined T-shirt dress was made for a night on the town, as was the cheeky plaid trenchcoat with tweed trim and candy-colored buttons. Day looks were equally fun, especially the skinny denim jeans, cozy cabled cardigans and shimmery cotton hoodie. These are not the wares for wallflowers, but as their muse, Amanda LePore, strutted the finale holding a “Dreams Do Come True” sign, the crowd — including Marc Jacobs, Debbie Harry and Scissor Sisters front-man Jake Shears — couldn’t help but catch the Heatherette enthusiasm.
Thakoon: When Thakoon Panichgul was talking backstage about his fall inspiration — a Tim Hawkinson painting called “Divan” — he might have been describing his own work. “I love it when you see one thing, but then you look again and it’s something else,” he said. While playing with the notion of making sexy clothes elegant and refined, Panichgul conjured up the chic gamine from the streets of Saint Germain. But with jackets, dresses and even a kicky striped frock made with trompe l’oeil corset details, he gave his raffish girl a deeper sensuality. Elsewhere, he delighted with painted stitches on a grosgrain number or by exposing seams on the straps of a dress, crafting the fabric into a raw-edged flower. Though several looks with enormous cape collars felt out of step with his usual sense of lightness, Panichgul is becoming one of New York’s most promising attractions.
Barbara Tfank: It wasn’t until the next-to-last look at Barbara Tfank’s small, genteel show in the Hotel Carlyle bar that you realized your mind-set had temporarily shifted. The above-the-knee chiffon baby doll certainly seemed like an interloping younger sister to the looks that preceded it, all of which lulled you gently and completely into their world of soigné Fifties propriety. There is nothing remotely hip or trendy about Tfank’s nipped-waist dresses, matching coat-and-skirt ensembles and prim suits, and that’s just fine — but there’s also nothing cloying or costume-y. It’s easy to see why this designer’s old-school wares are a staple of socialites. After all, they know that beautifully made clothes, like diamonds, are forever.
Costello Tagliapietra: Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra’s fall collection had the crucial three S’s that have become their mainstay — slim, sexy and sophisticated — and that, in itself, was a testament to their confidence. With zero adornment but for a few luxurious CT for Saga Furs, they let the clothes and their impeccable tailoring do the talking. The designers stuck to their choice fabric for fall, wool jersey, in a palette of browns, cool blues and greens that complemented the mostly mock or cowl necklines, bare backs and knee-skimming skirts. What was new this time around were the cool velvet shawl-collar coats and the pleated straight-leg trousers. Add a gown or two and the hard-to-please modern woman’s got herself a wardrobe.
Charles Nolan: Charles Nolan has a strong track record for designing beautifully made clothes with an elegant sensibility that’s as youthful as it is sophisticated. While he’s always shown his well-edited collections informally in his boutique, this season Nolan decided on the tents. Not a wise move, for he tried too hard to do too much and it resulted in an all-over-the-place lineup that lacked his usual refinement, quality and clean styling. Some of that old Nolan chic was there, though, evident in a little Shetland suit, the silver-buttoned navy reefer or the white double-faced cashmere biker over a black jersey funnel neck and wool organdy skirt. And when Nolan added his kitten-heeled riding-style boots or slingbacks with leggings, even his most ladylike suits looked adorable. But he needs to regroup, recapture that Nolan charm and remember that bigger is not necessarily better.
Gustavo Arango: With this collection, Gustavo Arango’s girls will be sure to get their glamour fix, thanks to his sensual, red-carpet contenders. They came in the form of silk gowns — slate blue satin, copper velvet, sienna organza — that gracefully trace the body and bare the back with dramatic origami folds. For his more tailored looks, he showed trousers in wool or silk, boldly wrapped at the waist with silk shirts. Arango knows how to cut a coat with the same swagger, and he did just that in a black textured wool version and another in sienna silk organza. This collection is one that should go beyond the needs of the Oscars crowd.
Keanan Duffty: Already known as a go-to guy for all things punk, Keanan Duffty translated that streetwear savvy into a collection of premium denim — the only segment he has not addressed, until now. But that’s just what the designer did, along with his new partner, Paul Guez, chief executive of the privately held Blue Concept. Out came well-fitted skinny jeans with silver studs at the waists or skull and crossbones embroidered on back pockets. There were also elongated T-shirt dresses worn alone or over a painted Union Jack mini, black denim military and tuxedo jackets and hoodies with foil graphics. Cheers to Duffty, who gave us a hard-edged collection with attitude to spare.