Playing to their strengths, designers stayed on track for fall with signature style, whether it was American chic, subliminal sass or cool-kid looks.

Michael Kors: Thesis: Fashion is a peculiar business. Exhibit A: Michael Kors. How often are designers accused of being too young, too editorial, too out there, too ready to subjugate the needs of their clothes-buying clientele to those of their sittings editors? Yet Kors, guilty of none of the above, just can’t seem to make his business explode. Though still in its early stages, the Kors-Stroll-Chou liaison has a way to go to produce the numbers the three men covet, and that the designer has worked so tirelessly to achieve.
The collection Kors showed on Wednesday was another terrific effort that should have strong customer appeal, rooted firmly as it was in the belief that, quite simply, women want to be pulled-together and glamorous — and for fall, it seems, more than a little racy. His program notes rang true to his career-defining philosophy — “American thoroughbreds…from Cooper to Clooney, Hepburn to Paltrow…” — while the clothes infused classics with ample currency along with the designer’s specific take on chic. (Read: Jet-set flair.) By day, Kors’ girl is basically of two minds, working high-confidence tailoring or playing the snow bunny en route to the slopes. Either way, she flaunted big, demonstrative fur. But underneath were a wealth of everyday options: pants looks with movie-star dash; blazers; peajackets; terrific sweaters, both cozy and sleek; even a pair of white silk ski pants, all finished off with lots of extras — goggles, mufflers, those Ali-esque knitted caps. And because some women like to register trends without risking the chubbette look, Kors paired fullish skirts with oh-so-skinny turtlenecks.
After dark, the bell tolled for glamour, once, in fact, too loudly: A notice-me white fox over a dress of little-nothing twinkles had that kept-woman vibe. Not so, however, the gowns, in fluid jersey and the amethyst silk taffeta strapless number that were long-stemmed American beauties.

Narciso Rodriguez: There’s always the sense at a Narciso Rodriguez show that things are not quite what they seem, that the visage of controlled sensuality masks wilder tendencies beneath. Rodriguez has perfected the art of the subliminal fashion message, delivered each season with varying degrees of subterfuge through quietly elaborate cuts that make ample use of corsetry. In the collection he showed on Tuesday night, he gave particular play to his woman’s ladylike side, while yet exposing a serious breast fixation. He seemed to delight in peekaboo glimpses of skin, the horizontal strip left uncovered between a corset dress and microbolero ending above the breasts, or by extracting a slice from a dress itself. While this approach worked most of the time, it had its limits; for example, what looked like two mailbox slits
of exposed flesh rendered an otherwise lovely herringbone coat runway-only.
That digression aside, however, most of his clothes are real-world ready, terrific suits, small jackets, and dresses, most cut in provocatively svelte proportions. For those who want to work a little volume for fall, he loosened up a bit in a number of looks, including an airy shirtdress in white wool faille worn under a black corset. And what woman wouldn’t love his ultrachic coats, whether cut for some fullness — the side-tied raincoat; the embroidered wool
and faille dazzler; or superlean
— the black wool number with exposed seams.
Yet for all of the appealing clothes, the show felt a bit like an exercise in perfecting the expected. Rodriguez has a very specific point of view and seemed to have little interest in pushing it. When he did roam ever so slightly, digressing from his mostly black-and-white palette with shots of color, especially deliciously girly pinks, the results were glorious.Bill Blass: For the past few seasons, designer Michael Vollbracht has had a difficult time balancing his personal aesthetic with the Blass legacy. For fall, he went back to the drawing board refreshed, crediting his extensive travels for rejuvenating his creative eye. And while it appears that Vollbracht is trying to come into his own — he even cut out the camp — he still has work to do.
Some of the evening numbers were way too sheer, showing some front-row editors more than they bargained for, and one iridescent silk suit with a feather underskirt peeking out from underneath would certainly not have passed muster with Blass. The Blass lady is always polished, hitting the streets by day in her urban armor — a well-cut suit — and to that end, Vollbracht succeeded with a double-breasted pinstriped pantsuit. And a paisley-printed cashmere coat and a blush-toned python jacket were equally chic for the lunch set. Aside from the aforementioned sheer numbers, the designer improved with some of his evening looks, such as the glamorous strapless gown in chocolate silk.

Marc by Marc Jacobs: Marc Jacobs’ little sister line has had its own independent life and look since birth. It’s a rotating romp that every season draws upon various elements of cool-kid wardrobes, mining more decades than VH1. Fall was no different, with shades of Vivienne Westwood tartans and pirate stripes, the bright punky chic of Bow Wow Wow and even a touch of big sister in the more sober Goth-girl looks. The theme of volume also seemed to have spent the night in the Lexington Avenue Armory, showing up in the coat with a sculpted tulip hem, all manner of full skirts and an enormous hooded parka. (Take note, Mary-Kate and Ashley!) But in the end, it’s Marc’s always undeniable special blend that makes the line the everyday closet of today’s cool girl. She won’t be disappointed.

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