Variety is the Spice

In this city, there’s always something for everyone. Behnaz Sarafpour turned on the charm, Jess Holzworth updated the Ziegfield girl and Alireza snapped a picture of Dorian Gray. And for good measure, Gaelyn and Cianfarani remembered to...

In this city, there’s always something for everyone. Behnaz Sarafpour turned on the charm, Jess Holzworth updated the Ziegfield girl and Alireza snapped a picture of Dorian Gray. And for good measure, Gaelyn and Cianfarani remembered to recycle.

This story first appeared in the February 12, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Behnaz Sarafpour: By now, we’re familiar with Behnaz Sarafpour’s young artistic spirit and her insatiable desire to create artful collections. Sometimes she has triumphed and sometimes missed the mark, but she continues to arouse curiosity each season. For fall, Sarafpour wowed with her little suits with cropped pants; charming black coats and jackets sprinkled with gold sequins, and her craftsy ivory wool cardigan, glistening with golden sparkles. Even her details were flawless: dresses or skirts had contrast-colored waistbands, there was reversed seaming, swirling organza ruffles and tulle peeking out from under hems of skirts or coats. Unfortunately, the designer’s ballet moment didn’t quite work. The tulle skirts and gowns were a bit over-the-top, best-suited to the venue that inspired them: dance class.

Douglas Hannant: It’s not really clear for what age group Hannant designs. Older? Younger? Youngish? The clothes this season sometimes looked chic and young, and, at other times, seemed dated even in an obvious attempt to be fresh. But the focus was clear and bright with his crisp, beautifully designed luncheon suits, simple, long charmeuse gowns and outstanding suedes, especially a topstitched terra-cotta trenchcoat worn over a short chiffon Art Deco-print dress. Hannant seemed most inspired, however, working with fluid fabrics in such looks as a black jersey dress with long sleeves and subtle beaded edges or a green bias-cut panne velvet version. His weak spots were the too-constricted shapes and overembellished fabrics.

Rena Lange: This season marks the 50th anniversary of the German-based firm Rena Lange. And for fall, designer James Waldron, in his third season at the company, showed a strong collection featuring schoolgirl pleated skirts in buttery suede or corduroy, and charming black cocktail dresses in lace or satin trimmed with satin ribbon. The house’s signature bouclé jackets and suits got a facelift this time around, looking young and fresh in ivory with tulle edging. But the denim group was the real news here, with pants, skirts and jackets that had heart pockets or asymmetric seaming, all shown with chunky, cozy cashmere sweaters. For evening, there were svelte velvet suits with superslim pants and little jackets with portrait necklines. Waldron even indulged in a brief Mod moment with a charming black suit with big white buttons.

Jess Holzworth: A new sophistication marked Jess Holzworth’s fall collection, which she presented on mannequins in a West Chelsea gallery on Monday.

The small collection packed a big wallop. Draped satin looks boasted a simple elegance, including a sleek black capelet worn with a black satin shift, perfect for a more minimalist modern-day Ziegfeld girl. Meanwhile, a minidress that looked like an elongated satin baseball jacket gave Holzworth’s look a playful touch. Holzworth, who lives in Los Angeles, said she was inspired by Rudi Gernreich, Kenneth Anger films and hip-hop. “It’s magic hip-hop,” she said.

Liz Goldwyn helped Holzworth with her presentation, and the designer wore her friend’s vintage Chanel pearls to the event, while Goldwyn wore a fluid white satin gown designed by Holzworth.

Goldwyn, who is currently working on a documentary about the burlesque, had another dance discipline in mind. “It’s all about ballet,” she said, lifting up her featherweight dress to show off a leotard and pair of tights underneath.

Alireza: Things seem to be coming together nicely for Alireza Massoumnia’s three-year-old eponymous collection. For fall, he looked to Oscar Wilde’s dashing but vain Dorian Gray, as well an English gentleman’s old attic for inspiration. But there was nothing stuffy or musty about what he uncovered. His strength is tailoring, best seen in a sharp rust corduroy blazer, an artfully pleated skirt and smart tuxedo looks, including a sexy waistcoat and short-sleeved jacket. And while he blew the dust off old-fashioned tailoring, he also showed some standout eveningwear — a dress made from 200 yards of ruffled lace painted in smokey hues and a wool gown with a metal chain front panel fashioned by jeweler Desi Santiago. With all the references to English heirlooms and tailoring, the collection did at times ring a wee bit McQueen, but it was unique enough to keep from calling out the guards.

Palmer Jones: Blonde identical twins Kathryn and Lindy Jones, who won the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation Award this year, rounded up some unusual suspects for their show at Christie’s on Sunday night. Their distinctive presentation, which used five models in a fashion riff on a criminal lineup, was intended to showcase their elegant jewel-thief theme. Looks ranged from a dressy utility skirt and jacket to a velvet evening dress laced with fake gems. There were lots of vintage-style details — like the pretty bird embroidery scattered on coats — which are a trademark of the Joneses, who have been in business for three-and-a-half years. Some things didn’t work, such as the layered beaded scarf over pants, which was too heavy, and the unattractive brocades. But for a first show, it was a good effort, and this duo is worth watching.

Gaelyn and Cianfarani: With the sponsorship of PETA, East Village designers Genevieve Gaelyn and Atom Cianfarani showed their fall collection, “Couture with a Cause,” on Tuesday. Their approach was innovative, splicing gauzy cotton with strips of black rubber that came via New York’s Recycle-a-Bicycle, a nonprofit organization that teaches teens how to repair bicycles. Strips of tire rubber made up spliced pants or detailed a romantic ruffled dress, which also featured a simple rubber rosette. Of course, this soon became a little — you guessed it — tired.

But then Gaelyn and Cianfarani showed off their latex gear, made from the naughty stuff that’s their preferred medium. One after another, out came dresses variously ruffled and draped, or simply stretched taut and vampy like Barbie clothes cut from a Fruit Roll-up. While the show’s excruciatingly slow pace left some grumbling about cruelty to editors, every look, down to the belled latex wedding dress, was well-made and intriguing.