Imitation of Christ and Imitation: From the mob scene out front to the long routine of a grade-B tap-dancer, everything about the Imitation of Christ show seemed designed to create anxiety. Although I.O.C.’s staff has changed since their first outing three years ago, they still like to rile an audience. Nevertheless, this collection was Tara Subkoff and co.’s most straightforward to date. It presented two lines: Imitation, made from new fabric, and Imitation of Christ, which features reworked vintage pieces. It was easy to tell the two apart. Imitation, which made up the majority of the show, offered simpler, unadorned fare, while Imitation of Christ looked as if it was straight off the rack at Decades. There was little to indicate the reworking that has been obvious in the past.

Against a backdrop of clips from Marlene Dietrich films and with two piles of gray-clad ragamuffins lying on either side of the screen, the designers sent out an Imitation collection dominated by dresses. Models with Veronica Lake hairdos vamped and posed in silky baby dolls, ballet-inspired frocks, chic little black numbers and tennis-inspired looks, which were simple, but still had a glamorous effect. The all-evening offerings from I.O.C. continued the Old Hollywood theme with more elaborate styles, detailed with intricate beading and other vintage trimmings. Presentation gimmicks aside, with the new line, it seems that Subkoff has decided to get serious about fashion.



Chaiken: After last season’s rock ’n’ roll flop, Jeff Mahshie went back to Chaiken’s roots for spring, turning out a collection filled with plenty of uptown attitude. He also paid tribute to his former boss and mentor, Giorgio Sant’Angelo, with his colorful layers, cutout maillots and even an offbeat trench-and-cape combo. Many of the looks were wearable and sexy. His debut swim line, which was also shown, had many hot pieces, such as the white bikini with a band top and the corset bathing suit. Unfortunately, there were design elements from the Seventies and Eighties in his main collection that should never be brought back — high-waisted pants, which were completely unflattering, and prominent silver zippers that cheapened some of the outfits. Mahshie is a talent, and he would do better to broaden his horizons with more feminine collections.

Pierrot: Pierre Carrilero manages to deftly combine saucy wit with a dash of kitsch, all the while creating consistently original and wearable knits. His Saturday afternoon show featured the designer himself directing models and actors, including Mimi Rogers, Tom Cruise’s first ex-wife, on what could be called a stereotypical Seventies porn movie set, complete with wall-to-wall wood-paneling. While the ode-to-porn theme made for some interesting pieces — intarsia sweaters with the images of couples in various sexual acts or a pair of black crocheted chaps — the designer still sent out plenty of sweetly chic numbers. These included flirty dresses, sailor-collared tops and flippy skirts, some in candy colors and some in black, that recall the classic French chic of Saint Tropez. The designer also delivered for after-hours, including a beautiful green spaghetti-strap gown or, for much later, delicate tap pants and camisoles.



Gary Graham: Gary Graham is moving on— and that’s good news. For spring, he ditched the morbid Goth schtick of his past work, opting instead for glamour of the Victorian sort. And he pulled it off beautifully. There were ruffled, bustled satin skirts; a sequined camisole dress, and charming seersucker numbers reminiscent of floral wallpaper. Graham also added flair with corset-like treatments on skirts and jackets, as well as with garterspeeking out from the bottoms of blouses or trimming the tops of skirts and ruffled bloomers. These gave the line a sexy, yet playful, lingerie twist — and made for a blooming good time.



Rachel Comey: There’s something to be said for subtlety. So, in a little promenade off 52nd Street, 30-year-old Rachel Comey sent out a collection that was downtown in sensibility, uptown in detailing and, overall, void of bells and whistles. Simply put, the entire lineup had an easy grace, from the draped tops, sexy dresses and harem-like shorts, all done in jersey, to the tiered black dress with dainty silver-tipped straps that crisscrossed and tied in the back. There also were printed chiffon tops paired with crisp, slim shorts and jackets with clever multizippered closures, all of which suggested that this is a young talent worth watching.

Alice Roi: This season, Roi was inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe, a woman whom she says challenges her to “revisit notions of beauty.” The results were significantly pared down from past collections. The pouffy shapes were gone, and in their place were some pretty dresses, tops and skirts with Southwestern motifs or callalily details. Roi’s prairie skirts and floor-dusting dresses looked great in shades of pale blue, navy or what she called a “nude Georgia print,” created from paintings O’Keeffe did of naked women. The sun-yellow group of a minidress, tank and skirt added a refreshing dose of bright color. But Roi’s detailing could still use a tune-up: some shirts and skirts were bogged down with awkward tucks and appliqués.



Nicholson by Jennifer Nicholson: Papa Jack was nowhere to be seen, but Jennifer Nicholson, nonetheless, played to a packed house at the Tents. In her New York debut, Nicholson mixed it up with tough and tender. While there were sweet, floral babydoll dresses that were roughed up with leather trim, most of the girly looks derived their hard edge from styling elements: a wrist full of silver chains or a pair of motorcycle boots.

Nicholson’s hard-and-sweet vision sometimes veered off track towards messy, but she hit her mark with more than a few pieces that are sure to be big hits at her Santa Monica boutique Mlle. Pearl. These included a tiered black organza party frock with perforated leather trim, a matador-esque embroidered jacket and a beautiful black sequined chiffon dress.

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