AND NOW, NEW YORK
DESIGNERS TOUT RELAXED CHIC, MAD MIXES AND A LITTLE STEAM AS THE SPRING COLLECTIONS OPEN THIS WEEKEND.

RALPH LAUREN: "Is this too normal for you? [asked about a simple black jersey jumpsuit.] I do normal clothes. I think a lot of women want normal clothes. But I feel that when I do a show, the significance of that can get lost on the press. Cary Grant never won an Academy Award. They used to say he looked like he wasn't acting. But that's the hardest thing--if it doesn't look like you're trying so hard.
"These are right-up-my-alley clothes, classy clothes to buy and wear. It really covers the spectrum, from man-tailored to feminine, and from strong color to all white.
"This collection hasn't had design problems. It's had delivery and organization problems. Now, it's mine again, and retailers have told me, 'Ralph, if you deliver, it will sell."'

ISAAC MIZRAHI: "It's very subtle, this collection, very non-thematic and sophisticated, all about sewing and cut. New York is not a theme park--I want to put that in tiny print on my program notes.
"The shapes are easy, relaxed, not so tailored. I don't want to say the clothes were inspired by insects, but the fabrics and colors are luminous and hard to define, like insect wings. It's not a theme--this isn't my bug collection--but I've been reading Thomas Mann's "Dr. Faustus" and I got obsessed with the section on insects. It influenced me in terms of color and fabric--there's nothing more beautiful than those ephemeral qualities you can't quite define. For evening--a simple siren dress with a lot of bra showing, if people can deal with a siren dress again. I know I can."

OSCAR DE LA RENTA: "People want to dress simply. When you use beautiful fabric, you don't have to torture it. I've been doing very fitted jackets for a long time and now, the shape is a little more relaxed. Jackets are softer. I like the idea of the dress, by itself or with a jacket. Pants are very narrow or fluid. I saw this upholstery print [a Chinoiserie floral] when I was in Paris for the couture. It tailors really well. I'm showing it all matched to make a point. It's young to do it all the way--dress, coat, bag, shoes--otherwise it doesn't work. This makes a statement."CALVIN KLEIN: "Last season we were in our couture mood in the sense of elegance and refinement. Now, it's back to being a bit younger and sexier. The clothes are slimmer--small jackets, skinny pants cut on the hip. Sure, there's a little Seventies thing to clothes cut small, but you never redo something the way you did it then. There's nothing really retro about these clothes. It's just that at that time, these silhouettes were in fashion. In my mind, the Seventies were so sexy. It was a good time for American fashion.
"I'm thinking of mixing the looks up more than matching them. There will be some long, some prints, beautiful color and I'm feeling for jersey a lot. It's slinky, sexy, body conscious--the opposite of last season, when evening was a double duchesse satin dress. Of course, it's always about minimalism."

VICTOR ALFARO: "There are not as many overtly tailored looks this season. I'm focusing more on separates--American sportswear is so hot right now. There are twists on men's wear but nothing literal. There are chinos--but I shouldn't call them chinos after Chanel--cut in beautiful suiting fabrics. It's the simplicity of pants and a shirt, but in rich fabrics, it's pulled together, so you feel dressed. There will also be shirtdresses. I'm redoing that brown satin shirtdress from fall--nobody picked up on it--in new fabrics. For evening, I'm doing gowns again, I can do them so easily. For a while I didn't want to because at first, people thought that was all I could do. I'm over that now. I think I've proven the point."

MICHAEL KORS: "I'm into contradiction. The mood of fashion couldn't be more American right now and I'm loving it; the customer is craving clothes that are relaxed but polished. I love this very sporty mood juxtaposed with couture-like fabrics. It's sportswear, but cut in small, neat proportions--it's not about getting into big clothes again. I have a white fixation, but there's also sharp color, everything from pastels to electric brights to the ish colors--greenish, beigish. I'm doing lots of short and some ankle-length, but only as a dinner look. It's all kind of country club patio. There's even white leather tennis clothes. But we're djellaba-free."BILL BLASS: "The clothes are unadorned and simple, but with a lot of cut. When there's a lack of adornment, the cut has to be effective and interesting. There is no one specific shape, although there is a return to unfitted clothes. Evening, for example, is all slim and all straight, romantic but sexy. Most colors are muted--coral, lavender. I've been such an advocate of color over the past couple of years because I'm so sick of black, but I just think something more subtle looks better now. I did a lot of strong color for resort and wanted to get away from it."

CAROLINA HERRERA: "I wanted everything cool, crisp and light. Icy colors, uncomplicated shapes. It's all about the fabrics which are beautiful, like ice. With modern technology there are computerized embroideries and glazes that give the most gentle look. Yet even with everything so light, you cannot say its's simple. It is extravagant in detail--women like to dress to show off a little bit. I like dresses with jackets or sweaters instead of suits. Suits are like a security, but dresses are very modern, crisp and snappy. A woman should be chic but relaxed, it's true--Relaxed Chic."

RICHARD TYLER: "Spring is clean and pared-down, with lots of pretty colors--greens, lilacs, blues. It's sexy and sensuous, and not as heavy on men's wear influences as in the past. It's much more feminine, with a lot more dresses than before. A new jacket is cut higher and leaner in the bust, for a tight, sexy fit with a shoulder that's strong but not overpowering. I'm using a lot of super fine wools, nylon mixed with viscose, and even a little glitter in there. I love doing evening. This season, it's simpler, there's much more flow, simpler, cleaner lines. It's just sexy. The emphasis is on that."

MARC JACOBS: "It's a little preppie, a little grungy, a little couture--a little bit of a lot of elements. I didn't want to label it with a look. Everything's based on classic shapes--jeans, skirts, T-shirts, military jackets--all screwed up and tampered with. People say they don't like retro--they're over the Sixties, over the Fifties, over the Seventies. If everybody would just stop getting over everything, maybe they'd realize that a little bit of all of that is today's look. Go out on the street--that's how a stylish girl dresses. Fashion has to have irony right now--winter for spring, ugly with pretty. I have these tulle and silk bodices that I'll probably show over pants. It looks like someone just cut off the bottom of a ballgown--she was a Scaasi girl, but now she's going for something a little more casual."DONNA KARAN: "I don't want to hear about the suit. Spring is about items, a multiplicity of items that work as a system. The same system works at DKNY and at collection, but on different levels. It starts with a tube [a skinny stretch of jersey or silk charmeuse with circular seaming and cut as a dress or skirt]. It can be long or scrunched short. I'm sorry, it's the most genius piece I have designed in my life--don't say that, Einstein was a genius. But imagine, Emma Balfour and me in the same skirt. It's all so so simple--pure simple shapes, with a linear quality to everything; jackets with 'kissing fronts'--the two sides touch but don't overlap. And it's all about color--navy, silvery shades, all the citrus colors." Acid green? "These colors have been in the showroom since September, way before Europe. And they've already been written."

PATRICK ROBINSON, ANNE KLEIN: "In the first collection, I had to bring the collection back to being Anne Klein. And it's been retailing better than it has in four years. Now, I want to build on that tradition, keep it clean, simple, pure, but move it forward. Right now, fashion is in a very American way, and what's more American than Anne Klein? Clean, sexy dresses, a polo shirt with trousers, mixing leather with lace in a way that's beautiful rather than trashy--this is where we should be. I even took a pair of pants from the archives. I was at a trunk show and a woman brought by a pair of Anne Klein pants from the Seventies. She sold them to me, and I used them. They're perfect for now."

ANNA SUI: "The whole thing is very California, but fantasy suburban California. It's based on that book 'California Cool' [featuring album cover art]--jazz stuff, surfing stuff and beatnik stuff--all thrown together the way a kid in the suburbs would interpret it. The whole thing is mixed up: football jerseys, plaids, Liberty florals, matte vinyl jackets, your sensible shoes--Hush Puppies. Then there are these little shift dresses, and there are dresses constructed like a bathing suit. I'm crazy about engineered prints, and there's lots of color--blue, mint, lilac. It's black withdrawal. The only black in the collection is this black and white stripe. I have to have something to wear. "This is a carryover of the happy thing I've been feeling. I think people don't want somber any longer. And we don't need all those tricks--the detailing drama. This is simplified design, and what's making it work are the fabrics and colors. No tricks. Or maybe a new set of tricks."

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