NEW YORK
FASHION PROSPECTORS ARE DIGGING HARD--BUT THEY STILL HAVEN'T STRUCK GOLD UNDER THE SIXTH AVENUE TENTS.

Marc Jacobs: Marc seems to be in a gloomy mood. The collection he showed Monday night held the promise of a mini-happening: a 9:30 starting time at the Plaza Hotel; a rare appearance by the newly bobbed and brunette Linda Evangelista; Leonardo DiCaprio lurking in the back and Marianne Faithfull sitting in the front row, smoking cigarettes and spilling out of her navy lace lingerie.
That the collection fell short of hopes may have more to do with unrealistic expectations than with the clothes themselves. No one's had tougher sledding than Marc over the last year, yet he still carries the burden of the former whiz kid everyone expects to ignite the season. In a quiet week--and so far, this one's barely audible--maybe that's just not fair.
In fact, for fall, Jacobs is in step with the mainstream with his mingling of Mum and Mod, and much of it looked very good. Still, there was a dearth of news and a heaviness to the fabrics that became depressing. On the early Sixties front, he showed polite dresses and sturdy suits including a beautiful, lean pantsuit in brown wool and silk satin. Marc's Modsters wore sexy hip-huggers, and he also sent out a lineup of strong coats, from classic meltons and leather to a knee-length fluff of real white mink. It's a direction Jacobs called "cool and edgy but luxurious. The girls look expensive." And well they should have, in their pricy Abraham silks, Agnona cashmeres and Holland & Sherry tweeds. But in the transition from supermodel to designer customer, some of those luxe cloques and matelasses are going to turn very dowdy very fast. And in a season when so many others are staking claims to Dowdy Chic, there was the hope--fair or not--that Marc would dare to do more.

Richard Tyler: And Tyler, too. Prada and Helmut Lang have been putting in cameo appearances all over the New York runways, but nowhere has their presence been more obvious than at Richard Tyler. Ironically enough, Tyler is a designer who doesn't really need to borrow from others. He forged his reputation in Hollywood with a distinctive tailored glamour that has absolutely nothing to do with cyberchic or hip Greenwich time.
For fall, however, Richard seemed determined to spread his wings, and they flapped right over into Miuccia's and Helmut's airspace. He reworked everything from A-line coats and dresses with wide hip belts to duchesse satin deb skirts and rubber dresses.
That's not to say that there weren't some good-looking clothes. Tyler knows how to work a suit, and this time he did it with a men's wear slant--smart pinstripe jackets and pants paired with beautiful striped cotton shirts. There were some strong coats, and a group of lean, pale cashmere knit jackets over sexy slit skirts. For those grand evenings, Tyler's spring sirens evolved into fall debs, in rustling satin gowns with matching stoles. But in the end, most of the collection was month-old news--and somebody else's, to boot.Ellen Tracy: A voice on the sound track announced "Welcome to the Real World" at the opening of Ellen Tracy's show, and it couldn't have been more appropriate. Reality--real clothes for real women--is what designer Linda Allard is all about. And it's what keeps retailers and her legion of loyal fans coming back for more. This season Allard served up some tasty pastels in long, sweeping coats and belted cable sweaters paired with short gray flannel skirts. But pretty occasionally turned into dowdy with jackets that flared a little too wide and pants in a dull black watch plaid. If it's color you want, Allard has that, too--blaring reds and peony shades that are definitely not for low-profile types. For evening, there was plenty of drama--sexy beaded tops over slim to-the-floor slit skirts or grand tulle-over-lamA Cinderella skirts.

Nicole Miller: East met West on the runways of Nicole Miller--sometimes with a jarring clash of cultures. Western-style pinstripe suits were worn with Chinese print shirts, while boot-leg pants had frog closures. The collection was stronger when Miller stuck to her guns and showed strictly Western wear, especially the plaid rockabilly pantsuits and long, suede A-line skirts worn with satin shirts. But the stretch faux crocodile shirtdesses and her over-embroidered little crepe dresses should have stayed back at the ranch.

Basco: Designer Lance Karesh has always had a penchant for retro, and this time around he gave a hip edge to some Seven Sisters princess looks, circa 1960. There were ladylike, high-belted plush melton coats, simple shift dresses, Shetland sweaters and knee-length skirts. Unfortunately, the clunky loafers and bright tights worn with practically everything diminished these otherwise poised and polished looks. Betsey Johnson: Betsey Johnson pulled out all the stops in her salute to the modern cowgirl. She even had Isabella Rossellini in a red floor-length fishtail dress and corset, and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler in a black velvet cowboy number. But once the barrage of slinky, over-adrenalized barmaids galloped down the runway in loads of electric fringe and panne velvet with slits up to their waists, there was one question that hung in the air. Will any of her 14-year-old customers really bite the bullet and slip into a sheer corset dress or a black shower curtain ballgown when prom time rolls around?Vivienne Tam: Retailers have reason to love her. Between the sleek, tailored black leather pantsuits, the trim, doubleknit piped twinsets and the flirty fitted cashmere sweaters and pencil skirts, Vivienne Tam scored plenty of points for style and wearability. She lost her fresh momentum toward the end, however, with a lengthy string of faille and gray shimmery suits and dresses that was too repetitive.

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