Designers took more than just a backward glance this week. Nicole Miller and Jill Stuart worked the Sixties and Cynthia Steffe landed in the Eighties, while Luella Bartley embraced the teddy boy and Reem Acra had a sparkling Art Deco moment.
This story first appeared in the February 11, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Nicole Miller: Here come the Sixties, which are fast shaping up to be the decade of choice this season. But Nicole Miller didn’t go strictly Mod for fall; she added a dash of Twenties Art Deco to the equation. Many of her silhouettes were very body-conscious — as in tight, ruched jersey dresses or tops paired with minis — and they weren’t always flattering. The designer didn’t really tap into the charm and enthusiasm of her last collection until the second half of the lineup, when she sent out a series of cocktail dresses and evening looks. Winners included a sparkly bouclé coat and scarf, drop-waist dresses with ribbon details and a group of beaded Deco frocks. Actress Rosario Dawson — who was in the front row with Marla Sokoloff, Izabella Miko, Marcia Gay Harden and her daughter, Eulala Grace — gushed that she couldn’t wait to get her hands on all the lovely beaded looks.
Jill Stuart: Any girl looking to channel her inner Twiggy this fall will certainly find a multitude of options at Jill Stuart. The Sixties revival is sweeping the fall collections and Stuart’s allusions to that decade are right on the money. Swinging from spare, graphic, Space-Age looks to a host of A-line shapes and floppy bell-sleeved frocks, she incorporated both the futuristic and romantic sides of the period. The real knockout was Stuart’s beaded and fringed shimmy dress.
The coats constituted the strongest and most well-thought-out pieces. Likely to make her bestseller list are the short gray version that buttoned up sailor-style or a black knee-length look with a diagonal A-line cut. However, a few looks, such as a black jacquard baby-doll dress, suffered from skewed proportions. And for the grooviest bride-to-be, she ended with a white silk and lace minidress.
Cynthia Steffe: It’s easy to imagine that being in the last trimester of a pregnancy would slow you down a bit, but that clearly isn’t the case with Cynthia Steffe. For fall, the designer was inspired by the music of a variety of decades, creating a mix of Glam Rock, Mod and New Wave sensibilities that often worked like a charm. The combinations of leathers with tweeds, knits with fur capelets and corduroy with lace gave a quirky edge to this contemporary fashion label. The colorful tweed coat à la Marc Jacobs, shirred V-neck sweaters and the flocked dot pieces — all retro-inspired with a modern spin — worked well. And the daughter Steffe is expecting has influenced her, too, in the sweet floral prints and lace baby-doll dresses, which were young and playful. The vivid pink leathers and the enzyme wash looks, however, didn’t work, and the collection was overstyled — which has been the case in previous seasons, also — but there were plenty of pieces that will have Steffe’s customers begging for more.
Luella Bartley: Designing fun, streetwise clothes — always with an unmistakably British twist — is the way Luella Bartley made her name. She burst onto the scene with a rainbow-bright Eighties collection five seasons ago, then did the snappy punk look, the Seventies Oxbridge lineup and so on. This season, the designer evoked the English teddy boy — part dandy, part ruffian. Out came oversized blazers and faded, torn jeans, slouchy jackets and extra-baggy pants.
But while the tailored pieces, many of them in a smart pinstripe, came from those British blokes, Bartley gave a nod to the birds, too. Lingerie-inspired pieces, scalloped skirts and a boned strapless dress, were mixed in throughout. A kittenish black patent trench turned up the heat, while angora sweaters softened the look.
It was all more subdued than the trendy stuff Bartley is known for, and her photo-print dresses, splashed with the image of a screaming face, were less sophisticated than you’d expect. Overall, however, the collection was laid-back and lean.
Reem Acra: Bridal designer Reem Acra wowed her audience with a dramatic lineup of exquisite evening looks on Sunday. The presentation was held in her new boutique on 60th Street, and Acra transformed the dressing rooms and the back area of the store into small vignettes. Models lounged about reading vintage magazines or playing roulette in her beautiful and thoughtfully executed gowns, some of which were lavishly embroidered or beaded. The fabulous black midcalf embroidered party dress, the rose charmeuse slip gown with velvet embroidery and the stunning multicolored beaded skirt worn with an embroidered bustier brought the house down. The vignettes themselves were works of art, each featuring antique furniture, vintage wallcoverings and other period accessories that evoked the mood of Twenties’ glamour and decadence. Coinciding with the fashion presentation was a silent auction to benefit the Children’s Hope Foundation, a charity that helps children with HIV. Marc Anthony’s wife Dayanara Torres, spokeswoman for the charity, cohosted the auction.