Akris: Pretty, well-crafted clothes flattering to a wide range of ages and sizes — now there’s a thought. And how does it fly at retail? “So well you wouldn’t believe it,” according to Bergdorf Goodman’s Robert Burke. Spring should keep right on ringing the registers, because the Akris collection Albert Kriemler showed Wednesday was simply terrific.

This is a company that eschews the typical bells and whistles of the runway, yet dares to show during collection week in the world’s most glorious mecca du mode. But then, how else to provide a handle on Akris, nestled as it is so far from the madding fashion crowd in cozy, picturesque and dirndled (well, at least the waitresses are) St. Gallen, Switzerland? It seems that Kriemler leaves home often enough to show off the family wares, but not so often that he falls prey to the frenzy.

Calm suits him perfectly, thank you — not to mention the legions who buy his clothes at Bergdorf’s, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue as well as at several Akris boutiques worldwide, including a brand new shop on Madison Avenue. For spring, these stores will be filled with clothes that reflect the subtly younger direction Kriemler has taken recently. He went expectedly chic with smart pants and narrow skirts, but turned a bit playful with some girlish tiers and fresh, lively colors. The primary focus, however, was on low-key evening dresses — lean, politely sexy bustiers and halters secured with the skinniest strings, and sometimes wrapped and rewrapped around the neck for a bit of provocation.



Junya Watanabe: Who knew that Junya Watanabe’s muse had been hiding her assets for all these years, pumping iron in her secret lair? Well, she’s out now, honey. His slinky, endorphin-fueled spring collection was sent down the runway to a breathless grunting soundtrack — uhn-heh-heh-heh — most often heard at Gold’s Gym or in private quarters, while his look was inspired by slinky, stretchy workout clothes. A black sheer jacket topped a pair of snug black bike shorts, and a cropped black sport bra was shown with a skirt made from a tangle of exercise gear. Dresses, too, looked like layers peeled down in the locker room, with straps and armholes criss-crossed into an intricate web, gaping to reveal a patch of skin every now and again. All that Lycra-loving body consciousness, Watanabe’s nudie invitation and, you know, the panting sound effects, made for his sexiest collection in years. And Watanabe gave the look itself a real workout, doing more reps than the Governor of California.Still, for the girl who is finally ready to show off her hard-won figure, Watanabe’s look could have been a little more celebratory. Instead of taking a super-sporty approach with team colors flying, he stuck to a dreary palette of black-and-white and black-and-black. Frankly, it was Dullsville. Polkadotted dresses, deflated in the poitrine like bullet bras without the bullets, spiced things up a bit. Dotty jackets and flippy skirts made a case for fun. But for most Junya lovers, this collection lacked his singular sense of romance, melancholy though it may be. Recipe for next season: Fire up the confectionary. After sweating it for so long, Watanabe’s girl will have earned her cake and candy.



Vivienne Westwood: Fashion’s original punk princess may have a retrospective slated to open this April at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, but don’t think that Vivienne Westwood is ready to rest on her laurels. Her rollicking effort for spring proved that her creative spirit is as strong as ever. With animals squawking on the soundtrack, she went savage with disheveled, puffy-sleeved dresses and barely there swimsuits, while trousers came with swashbuckling pirate pockets. Knits in bright orange and blue had a devoré style, while a red polkadot and abstract flower print proved Westwood has nothing against making a girl feel pretty, too. For evening, the designer was at her best. A jersey Grecian-style dress wrapped seductively around the body, while a taffeta gown in yellow, blue and green was a nod to Westwood’s eccentric sense of color.



Marithé and François Girbaud: The Girbauds have always been fascinated with the technical side of fashion, developing innovative fabrics and ergonomic or multifunctional silhouettes. This season, they continued that work, with jeans that followed the movement of the body or skirts that cinched at the hem. But this time, the design team added an easy hippie feel to the mix with ruffles on jeans and skirts and flowing chiffon dresses printed with a cool flower motif. Most of the fabrics had a worn-in vintage look, while jackets came with hook-and-eye closures or were deconstructed and turned inside out.

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