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Sleek, Sweet and Sassy – Diane von Furstenberg, Betsey Johnson, Cynthia Steffe, Jill Stuart, Luca Luca, Reem Acra

All that was missing from Diane von Furstenberg's show was the Trevi Fountain.

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Clean lines, girly touches and sexy little details — that’s the recipe designers have followed for the new season. Blend well, and the finished product is pretty as can be.

Diane von Furstenberg: All that was missing from Diane von Furstenberg’s show was the Trevi Fountain. Inspired by Sixties-era Rome, von Furstenberg called her collection “La Dolce Diva.” And what dolce there was. She’s well acquainted with the glories of diva-dom, but more importantly, she also understands the realities of daily life. Yes, there was plenty of glamour here, but these clothes were the real stuff. Her signature wrap dresses — for which enthusiasm never wanes — had a throw-on-and-go quality, combining sex appeal and comfort. Von Furstenberg also added a slew of new, accessible lady-to-the-max looks: little flared jackets, the best in dark denim, tossed over every silhouette; an ivory crochet suit; Empire cotton baby dolls, and a knockout beige trench. But back to that glamour, which had an element of surprise to it. Alek Wek’s strapless leopard gown was pretty enough, but all the more so in sequined navy-and-red silk and worn casually with a cotton cardigan. The diva’s gone the distance.

Betsey Johnson: Ooh la la! That was the echo heard down the line of petite tables at Betsey Johnson’s latest fashion week frolic — this time inspired by Parisian cafes. And who’s more fun to have a spot of chocolat with than Johnson, or perhaps her guests, Kelly Osbourne and the Hilton sisters, who sat down front? There were ruffles galore; a girlish color palette of pink, blue and white, and the traditional bit of Betsey camp, such as pretty Swiss dot blouses and tulip skirts, fruit- or floral-print silk dresses that ranged from mini to maxi and some great denim shorts. It remains to be seen if ladies not of the model variety will actually wear the gingham mini bloomers and bubble suits, but they sure did look sweet.

Cynthia Steffe: Buh-bye, boho. For spring, Cynthia Steffe did minimal. But Cynthia being Cynthia, her presentation wasn’t exactly a study in spare. She chucked the bright colors and embellishments of past collections in favor of more architectural details in a clean palette of black, white, red, gray and one Mondrian-inspired print, which she used sparingly. She focused her energy on intricate pintucks and seams, such as the tight pleats of a white canvas skirt — paired with a fresh red seersucker jacket — or the corset effect on light cotton tanks and dresses. Steffe only broke her appealing new minimal stride with a few looks — a pair of party frocks in bright yellow flounces and jade eyelet, and some black lacquered coats that were a tad too retro.

This story first appeared in the September 13, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Jill Stuart: Jill Stuart definitely hypnotized her audience this season. But not for the reasons you might think. After almost an hour’s wait in the daze-inducing heat of the New York Public Library’s foyer, the designer treated editors and fans to a 40-exit lineup of lacy, frilly bits and pieces that, after a while, looked dangerously similar. Hipper-than-thou girls will surely love the cream-and-white slips with vintage-looking appliqués for layering or wearing alone on hot summer nights — but one will do just fine. Among all these virginal nighties were some much-welcomed colorful flashes: a blue-and-teal satin Fifties number and tiered, ruffled dresses in pink and orange florals. A tighter edit and a more expedient start next time would greatly improve attendees’ after-show mood.

Luca Luca: There was much paparazzi ado over Luca Orlandi’s front row. This time, Luca Luca staple Paris Hilton was joined by Damon Dash and Rachel Roy, the Williams sisters, Mary J. Blige and, curiously, Kelly Osborne in full punk getup. But a flashy new crowd isn’t everything in fashion. Since Orlandi left behind his days of designing for sexpots and sirens, he’s been toying with more ladylike themes with varying degrees of success. He hasn’t quite found his voice, though, this time singing an island song and a debutante tune, sometimes at the same time. But there were definitely pretty clothes here: a sweet mint-on-white floral done on a frothy strapless dress and cami; an airy white voile frock embroidered with strawberries. And the loose, cotton cardigans were great, too — a sporty idea to build on for next time when, perhaps, Orlandi will be more focused on pulling together his vision on the runway and less on who’s lining it.

Reem Acra: One can’t miss the beauty of a long, fluid Reem Acra dress. It’s the essence of her collections. For spring, she sent out a steady stream of beauties — from gold embroidered lace dresses to a knockout steel chiffon gown with elaborately embroidered front and back detail. And for a sportier, but nonetheless lavish, evening look, Acra offered white pleated tuxedo pants with a gold embroidered top. In fact, while those pants were some of the newer things in the lineup — plus the peasant tops worn over the long or short skirts in taffeta or georgette — it is sometimes difficult to discern what differs from season to season. Certainly, there were the usual subtle shifts in embroidery, prints, laces and tulle, and in the colors. But reinventing the proverbial wheel is not this designer’s main concern. Groundbreaking or not, there was not a loser in the lot.

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