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The Fashion Factory

Yeohlee: No bells and whistles at Yeohlee. For that matter, no loudness of any kind as the designer flaunted the quiet attitude of her clothes. Presenting at her new showroom with little accessories, hairdos or makeup, Yeohlee showed clothes a...

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Yeohlee: No bells and whistles at Yeohlee. For that matter, no loudness of any kind as the designer flaunted the quiet attitude of her clothes. Presenting at her new showroom with little accessories, hairdos or makeup, Yeohlee showed clothes a confident woman would welcome. She turned out an impeccably-cut group of black gabardines — pants, skirts and a drawstring tunic — that were stark and elegant. Simple dresses in camel double-faced silk and mohair were chic. Yeohlee did have friskier moments here and there with some bright colors, textured fabrics and a charming short raincoat in pearl polkadotted polyurethane. Those looks were few and far between, however, and as noted in her program, she was inspired by elements of the American Arts and Crafts movement, going so far as to describe her shapes as “Amish” or “Shaker.” Accordingly, she threw in a black gabardine bonnet to match a simple Shaker coat.

Imitation of Christ: Sure fashion needs a good elbow in the ribs every now and then, and since their first show in May 2000, the folks — 21 contributors at last tally — of Imitation of Christ have fashioned themselves into that sharp-edged joint.

Their spring show, held at the soon-to-be opened Maurice Villency flagship, was in part a retrospective — classic IOC looks encased in glass, and footage from past shows playing downstairs. While it may seem premature to be nostalgic after only seven shows, it could be practical realism on the part of the designers. After all, gimmicky fashion, no matter how lauded, is doomed to a short life. And they were up to their usual tricks.

Models mugged in the windows of the 57th Street store as passersby gawked. Inside, photographers and editors took in more than 100 looks, including men’s wear, on models such as designer Benjamin Cho, actress Natasha Lyonne, electro chanteuse Peaches and Gagosian gallery director Stefania Bortolami. Behind a velvet rope, topless girls vacuumed while wearing cashmere HotPants, which will be the first IOC items to be mass-produced. “You can’t recycle underwear,” said head designer Tara Subkoff.

As usual, the clothes were dripping with hip. When the models mingled with the crowd, it was nearly impossible to differentiate them from the average downtown scenester. The reworked vintage clothes were perfectly styled into It-girl looks: a distressed leather jacket over a long Grecian dress, a Twenties beaded dress with a turtleneck sweater. And while there were some beautiful pieces, like a deconstructed dress pieced together with antique lace and piano shawls, one gets the sense that their current medium has run its course. While they do have the inside track on what is or will be cool, the industry may be better served if those great ideas were parlayed into something more accessible than their one-of-a-kind pieces that rarely dip below four figures.

Heatherette: This season, Heatherette’s clubland denizens were joined by some visitors from down South trailer parks and truck stops. Taking their inspiration from reclusive hustler-turned-novelist JT Leroy, designers Richie Rich and Traver Rains sent out boys and girls kitted out in bleach-blond hair and baby pink glossed lips.

A direct homage to Leroy came in the form of a boy in a white high-necked ruffled dress and purple metallic cat mask. They showed Eighties-inspired pieces like “Flashdance”-style sheared sweatshirts-cum-dresses and patchwork dresses and pants made with plaid, gingham and tie-dye pieces, bleached-out overalls and a gingham version of the Leroy dress as well as a group of innocent white eyelet frocks.

The designers also debuted their Hello Kitty Couture collection, which worked the Kitty logo into dresses with a few extra thrills and frills and even a pair of ribbon-trimmed white leather chaps. Sanrio, owners of the Kitty image, granted the designers rights to reproduce the cartoon kitty’s mug in exchange for a little high-end publicity.

Absurdly buxom transvestite and New York nightlife fixture Amanda Lepore replaced Liza Minnelli as their icon du jour and her visage graced tie-dye T-shirts, skirts and a canvas bag. Lepore channeled Marilyn Monroe as she took her turn down the runway in a white satin corset, chiffon skirt and blond wig.

James Coviello: Over the past few seasons, James Coviello has made a name for himself with his pretty, quirky collections, each more girlish than the last. For spring, his giddy look mixed pieces from Lucy and Desi’s wardrobe, with a posy print dress here and a retro striped sweater there. Sweet pieces included an off-the-shoulder Fair Isle sweater, adorable circle skirts made from ribbons and bands of chiffon, as well as smart pencil skirts and slim pants in dotted chenille and a coat cut in ticking. Even a hard-boiled hipster would want these for her own. At a certain point, however, Coviello’s innocence and lightheartedness were a little much. Chalk this up to the floral-embroidered gingham circle skirts and capris. Even Lucy wouldn’t have gone there.

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