And so the fashion machine rolled to a close…Chado’s Ralph Rucci and Nanette Lepore did their respective things…Carmen Marc Valvo surprised everyone with fabulous swimsuits…Peter Som journeyed to northern California…and, after three years away, Wolfgang Joop returned to the runways with Wunderkind.

Chado Ralph Rucci: No surprises here. And no trends du jour. They simply don’t exist in Ralph Rucci’s rarefied world. But as it is, the standard accolades will have to do. You have to admire a guy like Rucci, who doggedly sticks to his lofty ideals and delivers exquisitely crafted clothes, some of which could hang in a museum. He never runs out of interesting ways to detail, cut out and seam his beautiful fabrics and leathers. This season’s feat was working strips of leather, alligator and patent leather every which way on tulle, and shaping it into little cocktail dresses, or the bodice of an elaborate duchesse satin gown. A simple sleeveless sheath in ecru alligator was the best of these.

But at times, things can get a bit overwrought chez Rucci. Many of the pieces, as the cliche goes, “wear the woman.” But, hey, his diehard fans like it that way, and they underscored their devotion at his show by giving him a standing ovation.

Rucci also played with some down-to-earth sporty looks. After all, the Rucci woman does indulge in some casual downtime. What looked best were the simple sweaters, one in apple green cashmere over white lambskin jeans or the wonderful ivory twinset with a pleated back cardigan over pale aqua lambsuede jeans. For evening, the short winners were the black double-faced wool sheath with finely braided leather trim and another sheath with allover beading inspired by a Japanese basket detail. The most restrained of the longer looks were beauties: a black hammered bias satin gown detailed in braided brown satin and a strip of black wood embroidery, and a jersey gown in black and white, accented brilliantly in chartreuse. All delivered to the beat of a different drummer.

Carmen Marc Valvo: Thank god for swimsuits. In a season in which even some of the best collections showed all manner of romantic, Stevie Nicks-inspired fare that seemed to blur together, swimwear was a refreshing sight. And while bathing beauties were not the point of Carmen Marc Valvo’s collection, they exemplified the best elements of his show — licensees should take note. They were casually glamorous, as in his parrot-and-tulip-printed bikini and tunic, and the long beaded printed chiffon kimono worn over the sleek white bikini was a knockout.

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