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Playing a Medley – Roland Mouret, Chaiken, Nanette Lepore, VPL, Jennifer Nicholson, John Varvatos and Alvin Valley

With splashes of gold, sharp tailoring and inspirations that range from luxurious gypsies to 'Charlie's Angels,' designers are orchestrating fall's rich mix.

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With splashes of gold, sharp tailoring and inspirations that range from luxurious gypsies to ‘Charlie’s Angels,’ designers are orchestrating fall’s rich mix.

Roland Mouret: Within the last year and a half, London-based Roland Mouret has proven himself to be a viable force at New York Fashion Week. With three stellar collections behind him and a burgeoning clientele at Bergdorf Goodman, he’s surely on the rise.

Mouret is both a master draper and a sharp tailor, and, contrary to most of his contemporaries this week, Mouret chose to focus mostly on the latter, foregoing any soft swag in favor of a superslim, sometimes-corseted silhouette. Wool crepe in black or sumptuous peacock blue made for ultrasexy dresses with sculpted puff sleeves. He folded and shaped everything from Prince of Wales check jackets to washed leather trenches. Mouret’s softer side came in the form of yummy cashmeres, as in a houndstooth twinset in turquoise and black. Some in the audience were thrown off by the mile-high stilettos and buttons up the back of skirts, but hey, if you’ve got it, flaunt it.

Chaiken: Ever since all the DIY shows made painting — and then repainting — just the thing to add a little spice to a dull room, people, including designers, have been rethinking color. Sponsored by Benjamin Moore, Jeff Mahshie asked his Chaiken audience: Let’s rethink the color scheme of your wardrobe, shall we? He took the classic khaki trench and reworked it, first in a divine pine green and then in the deepest aubergine, replacing the traditional belt with a wide, ribboned band — a seemingly small change that reaped a big, sophisticated result. Such beautiful hues and subtle details marked the rest of the lineup, including skirts in Mediterranean blue or olive that swirled around the body and wool knits in earth tones that wrapped and fell gently. Except for two incongruous sailor tops, these were the sort of clothes that a girl might not buy just one of — she’d get one in every color.

Nanette Lepore: In Nanette Lepore’s world, everything that glitters is gold…and blue and green and purple and pink. Lepore is of the credo, “If you’re going to do something, go full throttle.” Thus, she added go-go glitz, unapologetically, to almost every texture, color and accessory. The designer’s fall muse was certainly a gypsy, but gosh darn if she wasn’t the luxest-looking lady in the velvet-lined caravan and clearly descended from royalty. Her uniform was the flirty, flowy tops, dresses and skirts that a Lepore label guarantees, piled on with rich prints and more than a smattering of sequins. A fleet of poet blouses breezed by in whisper-thin printed chiffon shot through with metallic gold threads. But a girl can’t go about like a walking Fort Knox, after all, and Lepore did attempt — though she could have done much more — to anchor the klieg-like shine with great dark blue skinny jeans or tweed jackets and cropped pants.

This story first appeared in the February 10, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

VPL: This time around, VPL designer Victoria Bartlett chose to have the models showing her collection “static,” rather than produce her usual hyperactive show. The designer said she was thinking about the State of the Union address, and came up with this season’s show title, A State of Un…dress. “I did lots of buttons and snaps to illustrate the pleasure of putting clothes on and peeling them off,” Bartlett said. To further emphasize her point, Bartlett had jewelry designer Josh Hickey create wooden necklaces featuring miniature naked bodies. This might be a bit loopy, but VPL’s increasing number of fans should find the collection itself focused and fabulous. Bartlett did new renditions of her cotton jerseys and terry cloth pieces that included jodhpur-like leggings, long cardigans and a great outsize green terry cardigan worn with culottes. She also expanded her repertoire with beige wool circle skirts and body bloomers in beige wool and pale gray Modal. Shown on 18 models wearing boots, a few printed snoods and socks, these looks did create quite a captivating still life.

Jennifer Nicholson: Which witch is which? It’s a question that fashion lovers might be asking themselves come fall, with a dusky streak of Goth already working its way through the collections. To be fair, Jennifer Nicholson’s tastes have long included the dark side by way of Victoriana. This season, she saturated her collection with the theme from beginning to end. Mostly, she worked it to chic effect — with high-neck lace blouses and dresses and tailored frock jackets and short pants. Printed dresses, dancing with Ouija board symbols, cameos and black cats, could even be considered witty kitsch. But Nicholson needs to learn that being a designer doesn’t mean that you have to make your hand so obvious. There’s no need for tricky details, such as the asymmetrical black velvet ribbon strap on a black beaded lace dress or on another’s exaggerated balloon hem.

John Varvatos: John Varvatos, best known for the easy chic of his men’s wear, put his women’s collection back on the runway after last season’s absence. And just what sort of woman is Varvatos after? Well, it certainly isn’t the theoretical wife of his men’s clientele. Maybe the mistress? For fall, Varvatos’ woman took after an angel — “Charlie’s Angels,” that is. The collection read like a page right out of that disco era detective jiggle fest. A midnight silk halter jumpsuit, slit down to there, opened the show, setting the tone for the rest of the lineup. Flowing silk trousers, off-the-shoulder tops and shirtdresses rounded out the mix. When Varvatos went tailored, it was oh-so Farrah, as in a shrunken three-piece suit with a sheer silk shirt. And the big hair and scarves galore did little to help Varvatos’ cause for carefree dressing. Just ask the wives.

Alvin Valley: Around the world Valley goes, where he stops, nobody knows. After past jaunts to Spain, an African safari and Asia, this time, Valley stopped in the American West with a collection steeped in Native American references. “My inspiration was Dee Brown’s book ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,’” the show notes read, and to that end, Valley showed a series of looks faintly reminiscent of Miguel Adrover’s last New York hurrah, but with the sexy-cool formula that is signature Valley. He showed Navajo prints on ponchos, gold sequins and paillettes on halters and skirts and tribal beaded neckwear. But Valley couldn’t help his wanderlust, or era-lust when he made references to the Union soldiers of America’s Civil War with brass-buttoned military vests and jackets, as well as to the Continent’s Spanish influence in his silk charmeuse bow blouses, velvet gowns, flamenco dresses and, of course, Valley’s famous tailored trousers.

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