Forget boho. Forget embellishments. Designers have cleaned up their acts, ushering in looks that are stark, airy and simple.
DKNY: Compared with last season's eclectic overload, there was far more physical and visual breathing room at Donna Karan's Monday presentation of her DKNY collection. "You know when you just want to feng shui and clean house?" asked Karan, moving nimbly between the mannequins set up in the airy, glassed-in lobby of the Lever House. Why yes, in fact, and judging from the crowd murmurings, others agreed with the designer.
Karan's house-cleaning appears, by early indications, to be the order of the day all around. Finally swinging away from embellishment to the nth degree, there was nary a jewel or bead to be seen. Still, as she was quick to point out, Karan hasn't scrubbed away the sensuality or detail, though the latter was restricted to flat pleats on chiffon dresses and belts tied into bows that were more stark than sweet. Instead, those elements showed up in a form so stripped down that even dresses in a silver-touched eyelet, and collarless coats and fullish skirts in a graphic floral print, shed their romantic connotations. Of course, few know better than Karan that sometimes a girl just needs a good basic, so those same floral coats are reversible to a solid hue. And another staple — dark blue and white denim — was barely recognizable in two sleekly tailored baby-doll dresses. Leave it to Karan to once again deliver clothes that don't make modernity and femininity mutually exclusive qualities.
Ellen Tracy: Designer George Collins Sharp decided to take Ellen Tracy in a new direction for spring, preferring a clean and simple aesthetic over the rich and baroque direction of last season. Sharp favored a nautical look, and he started the show with stark, navy-and-white pieces, including free-flowing pants, a sharp peacoat and cute, striped sailor knits shot with Lurex. Sharp's best moments were when he played graphic against print, as in the aforementioned sailor knit, this time in beige and white topping an ombréd full floral skirt. A flirty aqua paisley halter dress was a noteworthy choice for the girl who wants to surrender all that boating gear for a fun frock. Sharp should show some styling restraint, however, when combining colors such as aubergine and lavender into monochromatic looks that didn't ring modern or fresh.Behnaz Sarafpour: There are times when Behnaz Sarafpour seems to understand so clearly exactly what her customer wants to wear, especially for the evening hours when benefits and parties beckon. With a fabulous resort collection as the proverbial wind at her back, Sarafpour showed a spring lineup that continued, at least partly, in that vein. The best looks worked a lovely combination of creamy ivory and black that had a welcome formality the designer balanced with a chic, playful edge: shorts paired with an admiral's jacket; trompe l'oeil bow ties on a dress. One stunner frock with a ruffled U-neckline came in a pure white silk cloque. And Sarafpour's use of raw-edged raffia — for a skirt paired with a tortoise-patterned sequin tank and a dress with jet beads — felt fresh.
However, a few missteps were glaring: dresses in safety orange defied explanation, and lace collars, often over white cotton tanks, looked straight off the Mayflower. In terms of styling, the Van Cleef & Arpels chokers distracted rather than dazzled. As this collection shows, Sarafpour should let her designs be the center of attention.
BCBG Max Azria: Calling all aspiring Lindsays, Nicoles and Jessicas. Max Azria's spring muse was the California girl, but she's no "O.C." cutie or surfing Betty. This girl is all Robertson ranger, that is, the sort of girl who shops that glitzy Los Angeles boulevard in deceptively effortless yet studied slouchy layers — oversized sunglasses optional. To wit, the big news here: volume. Billowy cotton voile topped slouchy little shorts, while tops and dresses were given a fresh spin on boho when sporting nubby pastel-hued macramé detailing and insets. The volume bug has bitten many a designer, but Azria was able to make the look fresh most of the time, as in low-slung, striped pajama pants that played to the cozy side of cool. But those sack-like strapless dresses looked, well, kinda like sacks.
Charles Nolan: Charles Nolan's show was all about pretty clothes — to wear, not just applaud. This collection was mostly a study in style, one that evokes a range of romantic references, such as Merchant Ivory, for starters. Nolan noted that he likes the concepts of "dressing" and "ceremony." Accordingly, even a ribbed cotton tank got all dressed up. He showed it in white, under an ivory silk-taffeta ruffled duster, and with a black cotton taffeta suit. A glazed silver version was tucked under a terrific navy linen coat and white, gauze pleated skirt.Nolan's shirttails took the refined route, too, especially via the striped, jacquard belted dress, or the pintucked frock in handkerchief linen. And there were some gracefully controlled versions of that ubiquitous pouf look, making it incidental to — rather than the point of — soft skirts and dresses. His rich palette, as well as those huge-brimmed hats and oversized papier-mâché pearls, gave this collection an elegant Gatsby-meets-Babe Paley kind of spirit.
Alberta Ferretti's "Rainbow Week" sweaters are back. The designer closed her #MFW show with a few day-of-the-week sweaters, which first debuted on the catwalk last January as part of the pre-fall 2017 collection. #wwdfashion (📷: @delphineachard)