Bill Blass: Fashion can be many things. But it is seldom reverential, and cannot be static or reactionary. (Intentional retro is a different matter.) Thus, Michael Vollbracht’s first runway collection for Bill Blass was doomed to fail. Vollbracht, who worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Blass on his retrospective at Indiana University last year, spent two years immersed in the designer’s archives. Before that, Vollbracht had taken a 15-year hiatus from the fashion world.

Just like Rip Van Winkle, he reentered a very different world than the one he left. Back then, models modeled. Lunching ladies were probably fashion’s most important constituency, and Bill Blass, the man and house, sat at the top of their games. Clearly Vollbracht, along with those calling the business shots chez Blass, refused to accept that times have changed. If all of the recent resuscitations of storied houses have indicated anything, it’s that sadly, or not, you can’t go home again. Or at least you can’t go home, conjure up the same muse, pull out the same patterns, settle into the same chair and get back to business as usual.

But that’s what Vollbracht did. He then lined up Karen Bjornson to open his show, and also cast Pat Cleveland and Dianne deWitt, who worked the line along with current models. (Ironically, none of the three had any significant history with Blass.) And when a blonde teenager follows the gyrating Cleveland, the former done up in a jacquard dinner suit and supersized French twist, she looks like she’s playing dress-up in mom’s clothing. Except that mom probably has no swelling desire to stock up on wide, pleated pants and faux-haute clutch coats. In fact, there was nothing about this show that rang the faintest bell of modernity. Which is too bad, because some of Vollbracht’s work, especially the graceful gowns, looked lovely and timeless if not au courant. Styled differently, they might have made some impact.

But the bigger problems are the albatross of Vollbracht’s overt reverence and the house’s apparent refusal to seek out a new, broader customer base. These must be addressed if Bill Blass can hope to compete long-term in a market crowded with designer names.

Miguel Adrover: Miguel Adrover wants to do something unusual in fashion: He wants to design and produce clothes on his own terms and his own schedule. His stance has a decidedly antifashion ring, one that chimes back and forth between views specific to the industry — “A lot of people are more into clothing than fashion; when things change too quickly, they lose interest” — and those more global in scope — “It’s about the social classes all coming together; a woman working in the fields can have the same style as a woman in fashion.”

At least on Adrover’s runway — a place that is nothing if not intriguing. The collection he showed on Monday night was not an easy collection to love, nor one for which fashion girls will rush to queue up for the wait-list ledgers. But it was most definitely provocative, meticulously conceived and brilliantly executed. (Martin Greenfield, who produces Adrover’s tailoring, certainly knows how to cut a jacket.)

The collection picked up on the global village philosophy of which the designer is unabashedly proud. “Street culture. New York. The homeless. Revolution — it’s everything,” he said of the collection. “Like a movie about the real world where we live.” To wit, nomads, hobos and meticulously groomed Connecticut Yankees toured his runway, some wearing piles of clothes in genuine or mock layers and others as haughtily spiffy as Kate Hepburn. But despite moments of lightness — a fabulous, sailing ship dress and trim bird-motif shirtdress, both hand-painted by Adrover’s friend, Pere Bennassar, come to mind — the clothes were heavy, sometimes mercilessly so, in weight and spirit, and not merely because he emphasized fall-winter over spring.

But then, he has no desire to traffic in throwaway chic. If something looks out of sync with the whim of the moment, so be it. “My navy jacket is beautiful,” he said. “I don’t want it to be gone next season. I want someone to wear it and keep it in the closet until it falls apart.” What kind of audience he finds remains to be seen. But certainly there is a customer for such beautiful work — if Adrover can secure the financing necessary to reach her. As for the prices of these power-to-the-people clothes, that, too, has yet to be defined exactly, but will, Adrover says, “be related to the work and the quality.”

DKNY Young (and other) New Yorkers seeking the thrill of the open road certainly wouldn’t have found it on the traffic-filled ones leading the way to the Chelsea photo studio for DKNY’s spring show. But Donna Karan was kind enough to provide a trippy visual backdrop of said road to get show-goers in the mood.

She started off promisingly with a light-as-air trench layered over a shirtdress, both in a khaki washed silk that oozed ease. And she followed it up with more looks in a desert-like palette of neutrals punctuated by a sporty dash of heather gray or bright yellow that captured the utilitarian romance of the open road: a perfectly worn shrunken leather jacket over a washed silk dress, a sheer shirt floating open to reveal a gray racer tank worn with a pair of cuffed silk shorts.

But as the collection continued, this wide-open, dreamy quality lurched into one major reality of even the best road trip — monotony. There were many variations on the theme as Karan sent out an array of studded chiffon dresses, slouchy suits, skinny knits, motorcycle pants and bomber jackets rounded out by python accessories. But even when the splashes of electric color flooded the runway by the end of the show with a group of swimsuits and chiffon cover-ups, the once fresh and vivid dream had dissipated.



Betsey Johnson: Heavens to Betsey! Fashion’s party girl threw one helluva fete Monday afternoon. The show was Bacchanalian Betsey at her best, inspired by the over-the-top glitz and glam, feathers and spangles of a hip-hop video. And not so concerned with who’s where in the front row, Betsey dispensed with it all together, opting instead for the more social, chatty set-up of Cabaret-style tables — champagne included to really get everybody in a good mood.

As for the clothes, only she could get away with a sheer negligee that read “Fluffer.” And, raunching up that infamous shot of Barbra Streisand from “The Owl and the Pussycat,” she sent out a pink nightie printed with “Job” and two hands over the bust. But beyond the kitsch, there were enough fun, wearable looks to fill a party-hopper’s closet for months — a feathered, cropped top paired with skinny jeans; a stream of baby-doll dresses in lemon-yellow lace, pink gingham, reworked men’s shirts or ruffled chiffons; a less-revealing, but still sexy French maid’s apron, and striped numbers that riffed on Eighties punk. She sent out skintight “Iggy Pop” jeans with bondage straps from calf to ankle and sprinkled in her signature slipdresses, shrunken Ts and miniskirts.As always, she had one hand in fashion, the other in mischief with a devil-faced knit top. And while she called the collection “Guys love B.J.,” it’s a sure thing that the girls, who’ll be zipping about town in her cheeky frocks, will love her even more.



Anne Klein: Charles Nolan may have departed Anne Klein for the greener pastures of politics, but his replacement, Michael Smaldone, is still toughing it out in the fashion world. And that was pretty obvious in his debut runway collection for Anne Klein Tuesday morning. No doubt about Smaldone’s message — women should be sexy. Maybe sexy edging on trashy. Out came his power-playing dames with teased hair, seamed stockings and stilettos, of course, but they had to take a wobbly trip down a runway, which for some bizarre reason was covered with wood chips.

Smaldone, who had previously designed the AK Anne Klein collection, put his sexpots in slim, low-cut dresses with corset belts, sharp-fitting suits, crisp white shirts with pencil skirts and even the odd, slouchy bathrobe coat. And for the truly daring — and these girls dare — he offered the Anne Klein bra (oh, what a thought!) to stick under everything, but always on view. Pants, on the other hand, were cut loose and wide, some with attached Barbarella corset belts of leather, while others were chopped off to walking shorts and paired with a Twenties-inspired beaded tank. A lot of the collection was more than a nod to Gucci-meets-Stevie Nicks, but Smaldone lacks the finesse and authority to pull it off.



Yeohlee: As one observer noted, “A rhinestone from Yeohlee? Now, that’s news.” Actually, there was a lot of news in this solid collection. For starters, Yeohlee does some of the best asymmetrics, a theme she handles beautifully, and she sent out a blitz of them. Instead of simply cutting fabrics on the bias, she cut, angled and pieced together squares, rectangles or triangles into fluid asymmetric dresses and skirts. And they looked sensational.

Yeohlee also delivered a series of beautiful brown and black stretch gabardine looks: caftans, shifts and tunics with geometric scarves. These segued into a graceful black-and-white high-slung skirt with a simple cropped turtleneck. Evening was stronger — much stronger — than it has been in her past collections. Gone were the weighty fabrics this designer often favors. In their place, she used pale gray chiffons — in a variety of lean, crystal-edged dresses; a tank dress layered over two squares of black silk satin organdy, or a shift worn under double layers of chiffon. As for those rhinestones, they were actually crystals inset as crosses on short lime green or beige dresses. The one misstep — the unflattering, rigid “bell” dresses, which are better suited for one of her international sculpted clothing exhibitions than the runway.As always, she had one hand in fashion, the other in mischief with a devil-faced knit top. And while she called the collection “Guys love B.J.,” it’s a sure thing that the girls, who’ll be zipping about town in her cheeky frocks, will love her even more.



Anne Klein: Charles Nolan may have departed Anne Klein for the greener pastures of politics, but his replacement, Michael Smaldone, is still toughing it out in the fashion world. And that was pretty obvious in his debut runway collection for Anne Klein Tuesday morning. No doubt about Smaldone’s message — women should be sexy. Maybe sexy edging on trashy. Out came his power-playing dames with teased hair, seamed stockings and stilettos, of course, but they had to take a wobbly trip down a runway, which for some bizarre reason was covered with wood chips.

Smaldone, who had previously designed the AK Anne Klein collection, put his sexpots in slim, low-cut dresses with corset belts, sharp-fitting suits, crisp white shirts with pencil skirts and even the odd, slouchy bathrobe coat. And for the truly daring — and these girls dare — he offered the Anne Klein bra (oh, what a thought!) to stick under everything, but always on view. Pants, on the other hand, were cut loose and wide, some with attached Barbarella corset belts of leather, while others were chopped off to walking shorts and paired with a Twenties-inspired beaded tank. A lot of the collection was more than a nod to Gucci-meets-Stevie Nicks, but Smaldone lacks the finesse and authority to pull it off.



Yeohlee: As one observer noted, “A rhinestone from Yeohlee? Now, that’s news.” Actually, there was a lot of news in this solid collection. For starters, Yeohlee does some of the best asymmetrics, a theme she handles beautifully, and she sent out a blitz of them. Instead of simply cutting fabrics on the bias, she cut, angled and pieced together squares, rectangles or triangles into fluid asymmetric dresses and skirts. And they looked sensational.

Yeohlee also delivered a series of beautiful brown and black stretch gabardine looks: caftans, shifts and tunics with geometric scarves. These segued into a graceful black-and-white high-slung skirt with a simple cropped turtleneck. Evening was stronger — much stronger — than it has been in her past collections. Gone were the weighty fabrics this designer often favors. In their place, she used pale gray chiffons — in a variety of lean, crystal-edged dresses; a tank dress layered over two squares of black silk satin organdy, or a shift worn under double layers of chiffon. As for those rhinestones, they were actually crystals inset as crosses on short lime green or beige dresses. The one misstep — the unflattering, rigid “bell” dresses, which are better suited for one of her international sculpted clothing exhibitions than the runway.

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