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One part easy chic and another helping of floaty froth — with just a dash of Seventies sportif. That’s the concoction some designers recently dished out on their New York runways.
Jill Stuart: Shedding the heavy Mod inflections of her fall collection, Jill Stuart explored an overtly fluttery, frippery-filled motif. One after another, she sent out diaphanous organza and satin puffs — misty mint minidresses, pouffy pink shorts and a few purely editorial sheer pants in black and white. The idea of such fluffy prettiness was a good one, but some of the silhouettes featured bubbled proportions around the hips, which are a tough sell. And while many dresses, especially those toward the finale, were delicately ethereal, some just looked messy.
DKNY: Getting dressed shouldn’t be a struggle, and Donna Karan has always made it her mission to ease that process. At DKNY, she offered any number of fab solutions: long, lean-into-flared pants, crisp dress shirts and flowy dresses with tightly wrapped belts, all of it revolving around a relaxed Seventies sportif. This wasn’t a retro-fest though, not with the cool play of melon, gray and white, and the crafty ribbon and stone details, which she used sparingly. These were good, real clothes with that all-important easy, throw-on-and-go appeal.
Daryl K: When Daryl Kerrigan says her collection is about body-conscious silhouettes, she’s not referring to bustier tops and form-fitting frocks. “It’s about how everything feels on your body,” she explained. In other words, her clothes are easy with a capital E — T-shirt dresses, drawstring vests, relaxed shorts and trousers, all to typical louche effect. Despite the sporty undercurrent pulsing throughout, Kerrigan managed to work in plenty of that rocker reference, from studs embellishing necklines, hems and sleeves to belt-like straps that crisscrossed low on the hips.
VPL by Victoria Bartlett: Runway show or dance recital? That was the question about Victoria Bartlett’s terpsichorean collection, for which she channeled Vaslav Nijinsky, Anita Berber and, more obviously, Martha Graham, with bodysuits under dresses and sheer slips, wonderful “Nijinsky” jodhpurs and blousy painted tunics with coined cuffs. As Bartlett expands her quirky lingerie and bandage looks into ready-to-wear collections, however, a bit of the focus and fun are lost. But for this dance-driven conceit, the textured knits, stretch satins and georgette looked freshest when rolled, twisted and draped into shapes that referenced the movement of dance. The most outstanding looks, however, were more indie-undie: tap shorts edged in crystal; an alabaster hobble skirt with a bandage bra, and the hysterical huge white mini crinoline over undies with a tank top and blouse.
Reem Acra: Spring has definitely sprung for Reem Acra, who showed festive color combinations and wonderful floral prints, with lots of ruching, ruffled flourishes and bows everywhere. The collection’s lively spirit was decidedly Spanish, a flavor most distinct in a stretch corset dress with a lingerie bolero, as well as in flaring jewel-toned charmeuse dresses. Sizzling ruffled pieces in black lace radiated a flamenco vibe, yet it was the slightly more restrained column in twisted, pale green chiffon with jeweled cap sleeves that stole the show.
Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti: Alberta Ferretti’s intimate presentation for Philosophy served her collection well. From a distance, it could just look like a potpourri of pretty dresses, but up close, one really got a sense of the homespun. Nautical stripes running down an oversize T-shirt frock or tank dress looked brushed on, and the beautiful prints — inspired by sculptor Louise Bourgeois and 17th-century Italian frescoes — had a faded, handmade appeal. For all those colorful details, Ferretti kept the collection effortlessly cool, especially in the shift-like dresses with a low-slung waist and high hem.
Charles Nolan: Charles Nolan kept to his classic, multigenerational core, underscored by the friends, family and models who wore the spring collection in his charming literary salon tableau. Nolan gave his gals a mix of all-American sportswear sensibility, some chic Ladies Who Lunch suits and pure romance with the prettiest floaty dresses in town. Yet, what energized this collection were the shots of color in those great polkadot shifts, and the shorts suit in crisp white cotton.
Helmut Lang: Three seasons into their tenure at Helmut Lang, Michael and Nicole Colovos took to the runway for the first time. And it seems that, other than a lower contemporary price point, not much has changed chez Lang since the days of the minimal maestro himself. Sparingly used straps, harnesses, slits and slashes detailed slim jackets, skinny pants and body-conscious dresses. Staying true to the house’s origins is one thing, but the Colovoses need to infuse some of their own ideas into the label in order for it to remain current.