Perry Ellis: Patrick Robinson got it exactly right at Perry Ellis. In his second collection for the rejuvenated label, he again eschewed the traditional runway, instead lining up 25 of the freshest-faced girls imaginable, their cheeks aglow with youth and the delightful work of Dick Page. The presentation provided the perfect vehicle to flaunt Robinson’s two-pronged message: Here is a wealth of appealing, seemingly eclectic pieces, all wrapped up in a highly focused aura of charm. Clearly, Robinson has sought to distinguish the Ellis presence within the better department by making it girlier and more prone to eccentricity than virtually any of its competitors. For fall, that means a retro, Fifties-centric attitude. “There’s a playfulness, but there’s also a refinement and a new elegance to it,” he said while taking visitors through the presentation. “I want to deliver a lot of fashion to the area— more than that customer is used to.”

To wit, these gems stand out from their typically sportier competition: egg-shaped coats that could go Lucy-Ethel or full-on Marilyn depending upon a girl’s mood, sweaters set with jeweled buttons, skirts cut with debutant froth or Gal Friday discretion, impressive fake furs — coats, stoles, and even a cozy muff or two. The girly factor radiated from virtually every look, as Robinson accessorized with skinny rhinestone belts and lots of vintage sparkle — a flower brooch, anyone? — culled from countless eBay meanderings. As for another online find, a Perry Ellis printed scarf, Robinson had it recolored and reproduced to use discreetly, in a breezy skirt and as linings for coats and jackets — the perfect way to express the Ellis legacy on his own terms.



Kenneth Cole:</B “Are you putting us on?” Kenneth Cole certainly hopes so. And if that cheeky tag line seems a bit corny, the fall collection Cole showed on Friday morning was anything but. In it, he favored a kind of sophistication that put smart, practical clothes on the road to sobriety. In recent seasons, Cole has embraced a core classicism. While, for spring, that was rendered with preppie propriety, here the jaunty motif gave way to a more reserved, more serious attitude. The first look out spoke volumes: a navy trenchcoat dressed down with flat brown boots. This led a lineup that often displayed a hint of editorial toughness — bomber and motocross jackets, tight pants tucked into boots, a mostly dark palette. Yet plenty of pieces — hooded coats, thick sweaters, paneled skirts — could easily be worked for greater versatility. This was a decidedly pulled-together collection for Cole, one in which he paid considerable attention to evening. Here, his looks were pretty if not exciting, mostly dark, fluid dresses, sometimes worn under cozy, casual sweaters.Cole is determined to build a serious apparel business, and with its focus on juiced-up classics, he seems on the right track. Yet it is still a work in progress, and for the label to have a serious impact on the runway, he needs to fine-tune his message.



Valentino R.E.D.: The name Valentino conjures up images of well-heeled Ladies who Lunch and sexy starlets poured into the most gorgeous of gowns. Well, hold on to your hats, folks, because the designer has served up something new, R.E.D. The collection, in its second season, was presented over dinner at Lot 61, to one of those ultra-cool, mixed crowds. Helen Schifter, Rena Sindi and Anh Duong sipped red cocktails alongside Hope Atherton, Nicky Hilton, the As Four crew and the graffiti collective IRAK, who “tagged” all of the invitations and gift bags.

And the clothes? Well they had as much cool and swagger as the real people who modeled them. Oversized studs toughened up bombers in tweed or metallic leather. There were loads of terrific skinny jeans with metal “V” hardware on the back pockets, paired with lacey tops or shimmery second-skin Lurex looks. And for the girl who covets that famous Valentino red, a series of sexy little jersey dresses came in the house’s fabled hue.



Habitual: To say that denim is a tough and crowded market is an understatement. But with their show on Wednesday night at the SoHo Grand, Habitual designers Michael Colovos and Nicole Garrett proved that they’ve staked their rightful claim to a part of it and are also moving forward. “A lot of people know us as just jeans,” said Garrett. “They don’t realize there’s another side to Habitual.”

To be fair, there were more than a few pairs of jeans in the show — some as skinny as leggings and others forgivingly, but stylishly, wide-legged. But since Colovos and Garrett folded their fashion label Welkin two seasons ago, many of the ideas and fabrications that started there have found a way into Habitual’s strong looks. Among these were fresh-looking, scoop-necked jersey dresses and tops layered over turtlenecks in a palette of dusty blues and purples, one tucked into a high-waisted black corduroy pencil skirt. Habitual’s usual approach to denim — shrunken jackets, bombers and minis that steer clear of being overly trendy — is expected. The back pockets, too, were refreshingly free of elaborate branding, marked only with a tiny “H” on the top right.

GenArt: By now, the entire country is aware that overeating has dire consequences. So the folks at GenArt decided to serve a light course of three shows instead of the elaborate feast they usually offer. Of the three, easily the strongest was ChenPascual, designed by Maria Chen Pascual. The designer had shown for several seasons in London under her maiden name, Marie Chen, but, after marrying recently, changed her label and moved to New York. The punk aesthetic of her show was obvious from the start, as the first model stomped down the runway in a pair of half-laced Doc Martens worn with a black leather look, raw-edged layers and shredded straps aflying. But Chen, who makes clothes for boys, too, still pulls punk off quite artfully, as was shown in her combinations of leather, denim, sequins, lace appliqués, printed silks and T-shirts and even a pretty, burnt-out fabric.

Oliver Christian Herold showed 17 evening looks with a few (emphasis on few) winners, such as a fluttery, white chiffon gown with a light splatter of watercolors on the hem. And the two designers at Ingwa; melero were so busy deciding how to punctuate their label, they forgot to look at a calendar before creating their overly-groovy collection that clocked in circa 1972.

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