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The fall collections were an eclectic group, and their inspirations were equally disparate, from Austrian painter Gustav Klimt to Danish writer Isak Dinesen to Grecian goddesses and globe-trotting photographer Helmut Newton.
Bill Blass: All eyes are now on Peter Som. The designer is in the challenging position of having to revamp a house that has had a revolving door of designers since the death of Bill Blass in 2002. Will Som be the one to stick? The jury is still out. In his first collection, however, he managed to push things in a more stylish direction than his predecessors, delivering trim suits lacquered in metallics, furs in bright jewel tones and frocks pumped up with oh-so-outré sequins or plumage. And he did so with the expected sampling of Blassisms — tweeds and big bows, anyone? Aside from the double-B monogram mounted at the runway entrance, there was a generic aura to the lineup. But then, at this point, who has a clue as to what a Blass collection should be — let alone what its intended market is? It wasn’t that the offerings weren’t chic or pretty (the black-and-ivory floral jacquard dress was quite lovely), but Som has a formidable identity crisis to resolve — even he knows it. Preshow, the designer pointed out the screw-like hardware peppered throughout the collection, noting, “It’s putting things back together again.” It’s going to take a lot more than nuts and bolts for that to happen.
Derek Lam: In his show notes, Derek Lam referenced Danish writer Isak Dinesen’s struggle to reconcile a bourgeois background with her adventurous spirit. She’s an apt muse, since Lam himself seems to be straddling two identities: His strengths lie in polished sportswear, but his fall collection, cast in moody hues such as slate and black, invoked a Goth theme, which quickly felt overwrought. For instance, printed and lace dresses got bulky with ruffled tiers, and skirts — notably a tweed tulip — were complicated by netting. Even a navy wool wrap dress, with swaths of fabric around the waist, looked heavy. While Lam injected just the right amount of edge into his coats and accessories for the hip ingenue — as with a trim black riding jacket and those chic booties, with gold hardware lining the stacked heel — it’s unclear who Lam has in mind when it comes to the rest of the line.
Rebecca Taylor: It’s hard to keep pretty, girly frocks looking fresh and unfussy, but this season Rebecca Taylor proved she knows how to work the perfect tomboy details on her otherwise ultrafeminine pieces. She mixed a boyfriend cardi with a lovely floral-patched skirt, put pockets on the front of a long, tiered silk dress, and dressed down a leopard-print ruffled camisole with elegant flannel trousers. Typical Taylor flourishes — a delicate dandelion-print satin hem on a skirt, a patched lace yoke at a silk dress’ neckline — lent the collection a boho-Victorian vibe, sans frills.
3.1 Phillip Lim: Since his debut in 2005, Phillip Lim has staked his claim on pretty contemporary wear, just the kinds of clothes those young, about-town girls want to snap up. His fall collection — English aristocrat meets David Bowie and Fleetwood Mac, with an undercurrent of Gustav Klimt — had that same commercial currency, with plenty of terrific pieces. For instance: the boyfriend blazers, military coats and cable-knit sweaters. “It’s a mixed bag of tricks,” he said. “It’s not about a look.” But here’s the catch: That attitude ultimately made for a rather muddled runway. Lim may know what will sell, but there’s something to be said for delivering a clear message.
Naeem Khan: A Naeem Khan collection is always unapologetically over-the-top. And this season he indulged his extravagances beautifully, giving his ladies enough glamour to keep them happy while holding back some of the glitz. The black-and-white, peony-embroidered, silk flared dress and three-quarter-length coat made a strong statement with bold fox cuffs, a detail that often can overpower. It’s this balancing act that made most of Khan’s evening looks so impressive: a sexy, single-shoulder chiffon column in a subtle taupe-and-black ikat print or the utterly simple column embroidered with gold and bronze bullion. But balance flew away with the unfortunate ostrich-trimmed, iridescent coq-feathered numbers.
Reem Acra: Each season, Reem Acra makes it abundantly clear that she’s right at home with those Grecian-inspired sequined gowns, like the ribbon-belted antique gold beauty she showed for fall. But what really stood out among her more predictable, dressed-to-the-hilt numbers were the casual pieces in fancy fabrics. Case in point: a terrific swing coat in dark green silk taffeta with bold geometric accents and a fur-collared, satin safari coat. In between the revved up and the toned down, the designer offered some charming flirty short dresses in ombréd chiffon, but the lineup still left one wanting more of those sportier glam looks.
Phi: Andreas Melbostad certainly doesn’t lack focus. His Helmut Newton-inspired collection was unwavering in its hard-feminine conceit. He translated the aggressive energy of spring’s tough tailored look into precision-cut, lace-paneled bike shorts, leggings and lingerie — highly constructed bustiers, body suits and bra tops — that were definitely more naughty than nice. Then he worked the dichotomy, adding in shots of magenta and purple and layering the hard stuff with tutus, georgette blouses and sweet polkadot shirtdresses. Those, along with some sharp blazers, added a little commerce to an otherwise highly editorial collection that bucked the season’s trends.
MORE FROM THE SHOWS…
Temperley London: In a rocked-out, pretty collection inspired by the early 20th-century spy Mata Hari, Alice Temperley’s black magic women were dressed in lace, satin and slick leather looks with a few playful “Sgt. Pepper’s” moments.
Alice + Olivia: Stacey Bendet’s tableau vivant presentation was divvied up into four themes — Seventies Diva, Uptown, Downtown and Modern (think go-go Sixties-meets-Eighties for the latter) — and all offered plenty of street chic merch, but it’s the wallet-friendly footwear from Bendet’s Payless line that grabbed headlines here.
Kai Kühne: In Kai Kühne’s sophisticated take on the season, jackets with mohair sleeves and sheaths sculpted from wool panels were perfect fare for downtown professionals, though some of the shinier fabrics looked a bit cheap.
Christian Cota: In his well-executed sophomore collection, Christian Cota’s best pieces romanticized the passage of time, as in a chiffon mock turtleneck with appliqués inspired by blisters on an old photo, or a frayed silk organza mini that looked chicly worn.
Carlos Miele: A is for architecture, Miele’s inspiration this season, and also for asymmetry, as seen in the straps of his pretty, if not inspired, chiffon gowns, the drape of cutesy hand-knit sweaters or the pleated panels on the front of skirts.
Tony Cohen/NoDressCode: Former baseball player Tony Cohen stepped up to the fashion plate with a streamlined collection of breezy silk and jersey cocktail frocks with thoughtful embellishments, including origami pleating and, on one little black dress, ostrich plumes.
Arthur Mendonça: The Canadian designer went a little too mannish with his slouchy daytime suits and separates, but fared better with softly draped, jewel-toned silks for evening.
PHOTOS BY PASHA ANTONOV, JOHN AQUINO, TALAYA CENTENO, GEORGE CHINSEE AND GIOVANNI GIANNONI