Whether in light or dark colors, designers sent out all kinds of chic looks for the season, from cool-gang sporty to sweet and frothy.

Anna Sui: Nobody loves pilings of girly stuff more than Anna Sui, yet for fall, she wanted to rein it all in. The challenge, she said, "was to get away from the things I'm known for, the ruffles and femininity, and go for more haberdashery." Yet this was hardly a butch fest, as Sui's masculine ideal, the dandy Beau Brummel, had his own way with frills. From him she took witty cues and endless liberties, tempering her typical abundance without sacrificing its appeal. She offered the playful swagger of a metallic plaid shirt over shorts or a windowpane jumper over matching knickers, and worked up dresses and skirts in an endless array of mannish patterns — plaids, stripes, paisleys, geometrics — some with matching tights.

In addition to toning down, Sui had another goal: To source as much as possible locally, in homage to the Seventh Avenue of old and in support of the companies that still turn out laudable products. "I wanted to look at the heyday of Seventh Avenue, Donald Brooks and Chester Weinberg, and what they did with what they had available," she said. "You wanted soutache, you could get soutache without waiting a month." Some of that is still available, she noted, "even if the machines are 40 or 50 years old." Thus she commissioned smocking from R & C, located "on the next block," and Venice lace, redone for her in heavy, unfussy weights, from Larry Mari at Arco in New Jersey. One group of textiles, however, she took as is: ivory lace tablecloths, their geometric motifs worked into dresses that were at once restrained and decorated, perfect for Beau's feminine counterpart.

Carmen Marc Valvo: Carmen Marc Valvo turned inside out for fall. By focusing on outerwear, tossed over his sexy evening looks, Valvo gave his brand of glamour a refreshingly relaxed attitude. And it was the furs that did it best, such as the ivory, shutter-pleat mink coat or the silver and black jacket version. Valvo gracefully balanced his shapes, textures and rich dark tones by putting lean little dresses or sleek pantsuits under slightly fuller fur, double-faced wool or cashmere coats. Short fur jackets topped fluid silk gowns, and a terrific brown-and-black swakara stroller was paired with a nude-and-black pintucked tulle sheath. Solo pieces worked with equal ease, such as the slipgown in an iceberg-printed satin face chiffon.Derek Lam: The feeling was tough and tender at Derek Lam, as the designer added darker, harder-edged elements to his characteristically sweet vision. He has a knack for sensing how far to go, and he struck a mostly perfect balance with the collection that he called his take on contemporary city life, one more grounded in reality. Dresses, a Lam staple, were plentiful, both in his typically full and feminine style and a sexier, more body-conscious form. Ruffles and princess sleeves on dresses and blouses were kept discreet, so that the latter paired well with stiff, wide trousers. But it's the outerwear in this collection that is sure to be most coveted, even if some did see shades of recent Balenciaga in one coat's long silver cuffs. Along with the designer's perennial trenches was a selection of long dark wool capes and full-sleeved coats cut to flair away from the body. Snuck into the mix was a handful of slouchy handbags that arrived the night before — a sure sign of a business bent on growth.

Y-3: "The most chilling show ever," promised the invitation to Yohji Yamamoto's Y-3 presentation, printed with menacing silhouettes of birds over a blood red logo. Scary? Yes. Apparently, one bird-phobic editor had to be coaxed into staying. But even for those who don't live in fear of the feathered, Yamamoto's vision was fairly dark. Posed together on stage — complete with crystal gun and knife motifs on some of the mostly black looks — the models resembled an impossibly cool gang. Imagine Violet Incredible running with the wrong crowd. But into this shadowy world, Yamamoto packed in real clothes that ranged from the sporty staples to more polished urban fare. But it's the former — denim, tracksuits in both bright nylon and drab wool and, of course, those striped accessories — that are likely the bread and butter of this line. And if one wondered who might buy a pencil skirt or a peacoat from a sports-inspired collection, the perfectly cut black blazer would provide the answer.

Marchesa: Few designers make a splash on the red carpet before doing so on the runway. Marchesa's Keren Craig and Georgina Chapman have done just that within a tight, two-year trajectory, raising some persnickety East Coast fashion eyebrows while triggering inevitable talk of friends in high places. (Chapman is dating Harvey Weinstein.) But guess what? It seems these two ladies know how to make a dress. Their first runway lineup offered big-event clothes that looked lovely and distinctive, with nary a generic siren in sight. Rather, the designers opted for high-waisted laces and Grecian glam, rendering both with considerable sophistication. If they had a problem, it was with their short, complicated bustier dresses. Though well executed, rather than continue the approachable glamour of the gowns, these displayed a youthful couture fixation run amok.As for the presentation at the always-appealing Rainbow Room, it felt a bit out of sync with the typical east-of-Hollywood fashion affair. Craig and Chapman set up a cushiony, cheesy white Ginger Rogers tableau that made ample use of the ballroom's staircase. And in an overt example of not knowing how to dress for the occasion, they took their bow in full-on evening regalia. Then again, when so many designers pop out in wrecked jeans and T-shirts, maybe we should give them points for effort.

Yeohlee: Yeohlee returned to what she's always done best: a collection, presented in her showroom, focused on superb coats. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough space to handle the cranky crowd trying to get in, but for those who got to see her fall lineup, it was a treat. Beautiful camel-hair coats are hard to find, but Yeohlee had them. They were lean and unfettered, cut to perfection, as were all her cashmere coats, back-pleated capes and origami wraps in black-and-white wool and angora. Almost everything was shown over high-waisted wide trousers and Chantilly lace or cotton shirts. And when she tossed an occasional skirt into the mix — like the high-waisted, six-gore version in black silk satin, or the bias sheath in white silk and wool — Yeohlee reminded us of just how many things she can execute with skill and grace.

load comments
blog comments powered by Disqus