NEW YORK
A ROUGH START FOR ROBINSON AT ANNE KLEIN...KORS SCORES...AND TODD DOES CONSERVATIVE HIP.

Anne Klein: Everybody understands why Anne Klein had to part ways with Richard Tyler. But that doesn't explain why the company's executives felt the need to put this very, very, very, very commercial fall collection on a runway. Patrick Robinson's premiere effort simply didn't belong there.
Retailers noted the collection's salability, and many voiced relief that Robinson seems to have a firm handle on what the Anne Klein customer wants. But some called the show dull, and one even said that it is no longer a designer sportswear collection.
What it was, however, was a lineup of perfectly acceptable basics. There were pinstriped pantsuits, blazers over tight shirts and the most innocuous little dresses imaginable. A play of matte against touches of shine ran throughout; pinstripes were often metallic, and many of the shirts were satin under wool jackets. There were also some appealing leathers and good belted coats.
Everyone has acknowledged fashion's newfound reality factor, and clearly Robinson's ascent and first collection are part of that picture. Reality does indeed bite--but fashion requires some bark, as well.

Michael Kors: If there's a case to be made for showing in an overcrowded Seventh Avenue showroom instead of the cavernous Bryant Park tents, Michael Kors made it Wednesday afternoon. He understands that subtlety is lost on a big runway, and his happily in-your-face collection was close enough to see every stitch. In this largely soporific season, Kors's clothes were a refreshing wake-up call.
Michael has built his reputation as an American master of minimalism--in the Jackie O and Audrey Hepburn style. And this collection was an homage to both, full of clean, elegant shapes, luscious fabrics and the most discreet details.
He celebrated Hepburn in "Charade" with stretch crepe jackets over sleek strapless catsuits, and also did a good-looking group of butter-soft leathers and suede--the best a soft dirndl skirt and a sexy seamed sheath.
Kors barraged the audience with one strong suit after another in everything from pale gray flannel to rich oatmeal or gray tweeds. His jacket shapes ranged from cropped looks with sleek funnel necks to fitted classics paired with pencil-slim pants or the leanest skirts. And when the temperature dips, Michael fortifies his women with multi-ply cashmeres, fur-trimmed meltons and luxe reversible shearlings that had Bergdorf Goodman's Dawn Mello reaching out to touch.Todd Oldham: It was a study in contrasts. In the audience, RuPaul towered above a frenzied crowd of cameramen and reporters, while Susan Sarandon, Stephen Baldwin, Ivana and Ivanka, Ricki Lake, Cari Modine and Ann Magnuson vogued for their fans. Then Todd's models tiptoed down the runway, showing Conservative Hip clothes that were probably considerably tamer than anything their mothers ever wore. Clearly a case of wolves in sheep's clothing.
Serving it all up with a healthy dose of attitude, he sent out some very slick fitted vinyl pantsuits; skin-tight, floor-length gray flannel dresses, and a handful of glamorous beaded and draped evening gowns that must have had his front-row Oscar regulars salivating. He also rolled out pieces from his new jeans collection, produced under license with Sun Apparel. There were high-waisted palazzo pants, a long, Empire-waist jacket and five-pocket jeans with printed fleur-de-lis linings--all in unwashed denim. But the demure hipsters' uglier, brasher cousins were just too over-the-top. The loud upholstery prints suggested the Von Trapp family's play clothes, while some truly unflattering gowns with black leather corset strings made poor Tatjana Patitz look like an expectant motorcycle mama.

Han Feng: Han Feng has broken new ground. Her intricate, tailored pieces were simply beautiful--literally. Cashmere swing coats and Empire dresses in icy shades of sherbet sailed down the runway. And as her palette deepened, her clothes became more architectural, as in her carved suits with sculpted velvet waistcoats. Over the suits, there were terrific ankle-length cashmere coats and luxe mink wraps from the Tepper Collection. Evening, however, was a little reminiscent of last season, and the bustled and bowed opera skirts were a bit kooky.

Joan Vass: Simplicity reigned at Joan Vass, which gave everyone a chance to appreciate her expert knits. There was lots of texture, from mohair bouclA cardigans to mohair and alpaca coats and colorful mAlange knit dresses. Low-slung, slightly flared pants in satin and wool and cashmere looked great mixed with cabled sweaters. But Vass was in the dark for evening with some unfortunate dresses that mixed a knit bodice with a chiffon skirt.

Cynthia Steffe: Cynthia Steffe eased herself into the schedule with a low-key breakfast in her showroom. Clusters of mannequins with whimsically painted faces lined the walls in Steffe's understated rendition of Mod. There was lots of stretch satin from sleek, boot-cut black jeans to a lemon ice Western shirt and a tube skirt with a dyed-to-match fur-collared melton topper. But will her customers really wear a white vinyl miniskirt?Kalinka: Concise, fun and very stylish--that's the kind of collection Kalinka served up this season. In contrast to the large splashy presentations of the past, she showed in a much more intimate, raw space in the same building as her 39th Street showroom. Among the 27 looks were a smartly cut, metallic pinstripe suit with long trumpet skirt, a dainty, sponge-printed georgette V-neck dress and a tea-length striped sequin lace dress backed in iridescent taffeta that would have been right at home in any flapper's drawing room.

Jennifer George: She's never been one for excess, and maybe that was the problem for Jennifer George. Though she stuck to her usual clean, spare shapes, the fabrics this season just didn't cut it. From suits in olive glitter to dresses of nickel-size black and white sequins, George's attempt to dabble in the world of Mod simply fizzled. The cloudlike duvet jacket done up in gray flannel over a cashmere poor-boy and miniskirt were more in keeping with the good sportswear that made her name.

Magaschoni: In an attempt to appeal to a broader audience, the company turned the reins over to Susan Standen, who also does its diffusion line, Mag. The result: a fun, wearable group of clothes at a lower price. Standen showed narrow nylon pants, trenches and some good fake fur-trimmed jackets inspired by Emma Peel in "The Avengers." But the collection ran into problems when the designer sent out ill-fitting red dresses and a group in Pepto-Bismol pink.

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