Think fashion movie. Designers’ imaginations ran wild this season, from James Coviello’s 19th-century-style country looks to a Luca Luca collection that recalled “The Night Porter” and over-the-top rockers at Carla Dawn Behrle and even Chaiken.
This story first appeared in the February 11, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
James Coviello: It looks as though James Coviello’s love of the country life — circa 1850 — got the best of him. While he did do some of the quirky, sweetly romantic clothes that have built him a fan base of Victorian chic-loving girls, most of his fall showing laid on the country accent a little too thick.
The designer displayed his talents with the pretty, piped floral dress, which made the best of his attention to detail and his uniquely retro vision. But the same cannot be said for Tyrolean-inspired embroidered vests and jackets, or the skirts and tops based on crocheted tea cozies. And is there a market for designer clothes that are only appropriate for collecting the morning firewood, as in his reindeer motif cardigan and plaid cargos? Not likely.
Chaiken: Dreaming of being a rock ’n’ roll star? Well, designer Jeff Mahshie is certainly interested in dressing them. And this time, the clean look he usually delivers at Chaiken took a backseat to his wilder side. Mahshie reminisced about Seventies and Eighties glam, when pop icons dressed in drippy, beaded camisoles; leather lace jeans; cool floor-length shearlings, and razor-sharp pinstripe jackets. But some of the combinations suggested a bad acid trip. Floral jackets, bleached tops and pinstripe pants sound frightening, and they were. And anything like tie-dyed pants should never be brought back.
Luca Luca: Luca Orlandi took inspiration from the dark 1973 film, “The Night Porter,” playing a masculine-feminine tug-of-war with elements of S&M. He shifted from literal black military uniforms and suspendered numbers — á la Charlotte Rampling’s character — to liquid satin dresses in black or blood red. And where he tended to mix in too many tricks and details in the past, he kept things clean and simple this time with chiffon blouses over sexy pencil skirts or sharply tailored suits. He also sent out a group of black leather pieces — embroidered pants, strapless minidress and an above-the-knee skirt — all fitted like second skins. With that said, the most exciting moment came when his former girlfriend Naomi Campbell, in one of his best looks, a black beaded and crocheted dress, took a turn on the runway.
Carla Dawn Behrle: This designer may be new to the runway, but she’s no rookie. Behrle is already known for dressing Lauryn Hill, Madonna, Angelina Jolie and the Spice Girls, as well as those dropping by her “appointment-only” Chelsea studio. Judging by her first formal show last week, Behrle’s racy over-the-top leathers might be seen to better advantage in that private venue.
With nearly nude models strutting Behrle’s dominatrix-style leather stuff on a street-level runway and dozens of ogling men outside, pushed up against the glass of the Times Square Studios, it was all a bit unnerving. But it was an iffy collection anyway, one that might have been more successful if the long starburst suede coat were over anything other than gold leather panties; if the very-revealing lacy leather dresses, skirts or tops had some sort of lining; if the black leather mini didn’t have a floor-length fringed tail, and if anyone more than a size two could handle Behrle’s ruched leather leggings. But then…if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a streetcar.
Alvin Valley: It’s never a good sign when a show feels heavy-handed before the first model even sets foot on the runway. But such was the case with Alvin Valley, where not only much of his collection, but also the loud, inexplicable performance by a Chinese percussion group, begged the question: Was this really necessary?
While Valley’s pants — his forte — didn’t disappoint, he overloaded on Far East references and gratuitous details that pushed the collection into a land of confusion. Sure, a little bit of fur trim works well on a sweater dress, but when you overdo it, as Valley did, the result is less chic and more bride of Conan the Barbarian. And why give the collar of a cropped alligator jacket a huge ruffle or cover up perfectly cut jeans with half a leather chap? When Valley did rein himself in, he did so to good effect — a black velvet suit with cutaway jacket or the tweed coat with quilted leather accents. He closed with a series of evening looks, ranging from chic to boring, set in an expensively appointed party scene, presided over by his apparent B.F.F.s, the ubiquitous Hilton sisters.