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Where the Action Is – DKNY, Behnaz Sarafpour, Zac Posen, Baby Phat and Cynthia Rowley,

At DKNY, Donna Karan took beautiful advantage of vintage...Behnaz Sarafpour owned Tiffany’s for a morning...Zac Posen tried for the big leagues...and, at Cynthia Rowley, whimsy was the word.

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At DKNY, Donna Karan took beautiful advantage of vintage… Behnaz Sarafpour owned Tiffany’s for a morning… Zac Posen tried for the big leagues… and, at Cynthia Rowley, whimsy was the word.

DKNY: “I saw a little scrambled egg thing go by. I mean, people are so happy.” So noted the sage Ingrid Sischy at Pastis on Sunday morning. And it wasn’t just the egg or mimosa things that caused the glee. Rather, the crowd that packed the downtown eatery was utterly charmed by Donna Karan’s terrific DKNY presentation, at which 24 divinely primped mannequins enjoyed brunch, lounged about on the bar and at tables, even preened in the ladies’ room — and looking divine at every turn.

“Let’s have fun,” says DKNY’s design overseer Jane Chung of the attitude. “DKNY should be optimistic.” And was it ever — a happy pastiche of color, texture and decoration, styled by Patricia Field with just enough discretion to keep the collection’s aura fresh at this moment of near-ubiquitous vintage-y eclecticism. The line offered a giddy trove of find-yourself goodies. Thus, even those inanimate, nearly identically coiffed babes projected distinct personalities: jaunty tomboy in a metallic-shot shorts suit; conservative careerist in a scallop-edged jacket and denim skirt, and any number of girly-girls in concoctions of flimsy dresses, peekaboo lingerie, shrugs, sleek coats and enough old cameos, pearls and pendants for 10 grandmas. “I’m so proud of them all,” Karan said of her DKNY team, promising that their work will have a dramatic counterpoint today, when she shows a Donna Karan collection she described as “industrial” in a minimalist palette of gray, white and silver.

Of course, fashion is about more than cyclical swings from fluff to stark and back. DKNY’s blonde-bobbed diners were accessorized to the nines. And, if much of their jewelry was of the true vintage sort, their new Forties-centric shoes — platformed, colorful and bejeweled — should keep fashion girls stepping lively through spring. Still, everyone knows that LVMH loves a handbag, and Donna clearly wants in on the magic. Thus, when it came to flaunting her fab offerings that mesh function with flair, her mannequins were no dummies.

This story first appeared in the September 13, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Behnaz Sarafpour: It’s hard to avoid the obvious references that come to mind at a 10 a.m. fashion show at Tiffany. Yet, while thrilled by the rich history — not to mention the largesse — of the famed jeweler, which offered up its lofty main floor as a venue, Behnaz Sarafpour was wise not to get lost in movie-land nostalgia.

Instead, she found inspiration in a summer trip to Japan, her first. The experience fueled an East-meets-West collection motif that proved as chic and polished as it was uncostume-y — save for ill-advised, if modified, Kabuki makeup. And it was all accented, of course, with Tiffany delights. Sarafpour took a simple approach to the cultural divide, as imported celebratory prints and artsy shibori dyes (an elaborately handcrafted cousin to tie-dye) countered the austerity of black and white. Throughout, she worked the motif deftly, never slamming her audience over the head with the mallet of cross-culturalism. “I just wanted to do the most beautiful collection possible,” she said before the show. “Where things come from doesn’t matter.” Thus, Sarafpour played with the kimono in waist-cinched dresses with full-ish skirts, and obi-wrapped a number of new-look minimal offerings, including a sleeveless tuxedo dress with lilac sash. The twain met even less obviously in a rustling geisha-print skirt and gold sequined tank. Such crossover even allowed for a subtle nod to Holly Golightly. Sarafpour offered homage in one of her own favorite items, the trenchcoat, here a ringer for that worn by Audrey Hepburn in the movie, its belt replaced with an obi sash.

And, speaking of cross-cultural, girls the world over would love Sarafpour’s runway-only shoes, but the best of them all were printed slides with vibrantly lacquered lasts. “They’re like Manolo Blahnik Candies,” Sarafpour said, “with geisha fronts.”

Zac Posen: Zac Posen called his collection Trinity, after the new jewelry collection of Cartier, one of his trio of sponsors. And it was a triptych in more ways than one, divided into three distinct sections with results ranging from terrific to quizzical, to say the least.

Posen has a theatrical streak, one reflected in his presentations and showing up this time in a runway covered inexplicably with sand. Then again, perhaps he got advance notice that his backer, Sean Combs, would arrive decked out with a very Paris accessory, a petite and pretty pooch, in which case a stretch of sand might double as a stylish litter box, just in case.

As it turned out, the pup was on its best behavior as Posen started with an airy group of whites, yet another indication that tchotchked-up, head-spinning frivolity may be, if not endangered, no longer fashion’s single dominant force after this season. He opened with a sexy slouch of a suit, moving on through a lineup that swung from relaxed to hourglass to suit girls of various persuasions — chic mariner, playful sport, all-out diva. The section enjoyed a beguiling calm, one only enhanced by the occasional poufed sleeve or strip of glittering “bullion” embellishment. After the calm, the show exploded with dizzying optic stimuli. So what’s wrong with a little chain-mail frock prepped up in argyle? Or riffs on the polo, like a zigzaggy affair stretched into a skin-tight dress? Conversely, more riotous fare played like bad-trip Missoni, while one editor noted a “crazy Versace” vibe. Finishing off, a trio of Elvira-goes-artsy gowns punctuated an oddly discordant black group.

A can-do spirit pulses from everything this most recent CFDA Perry Ellis Award winner does. He wants desperately to make it in fashion’s big leagues and gives every indication that his work ethic matches his ambition. So Posen must be forgiven if his zeal to sparkle can produce an overwrought doozy or 10, because it also produces some very appealing clothes, as it did for spring, beneath which lies a wellspring of ideas writhing toward maturation.

Baby Phat: “What is going on?” Winona Ryder, wearing a dark cotton bucket hat, asked her friend outside Skylight Studios on Saturday night. Then she simply walked on. But since the event in question was the Baby Phat show, plenty of other celebrities were inside, among them Queen Latifah, Venus Williams, Nicky Hilton, Mary J. Blige, Janet Jackson, Lil’ Kim, Vivica A. Fox, Ivana Trump, J.C. Chavez and Star Jones. David Copperfield and David Blaine were in the front row, too, sitting next to each other. As for the clothes, Kimora Lee Simmons definitely delivered. She brought us East, West, South and every which way in a collection that was inspired by traveling but was nevertheless cohesive. There were terrific, chinoiserie-patterned silk robes in contrasting prints, gladiator-esque gold paillette tanks, high-glam la isla bonita dresses and even swimsuits. Lee also showed seersucker blazers with black satin lapels, tops that juxtaposed pretty pleated prints with basket-weave knits and, of course, short shorts galore.

Lee’s accessories were deliciously dramatic, too. But none were more so than the gold wraparound strap stilettos, which actually made three models fall down on the catwalk. (Kudos to the fourth who stayed up despite her straps coming undone; it must have been the “Walk like your life is depending on it!” sign backstage.) Another poor girl’s top kept slipping off. You could just imagine Jackson shouting from the front row, “It was an accident!” But, hey, slips happen. Hits happen, too, and you can count this collection as Baby Phat’s best to date. It’s a shame that Ryder didn’t venture in. For her finale, instead of the more conventional parade, Simmons sent her models out in the brand’s signature sneakers, and cotton tanks printed with the designer’s own mug shot à la the “Free Winona” T. Lee’s, however, were digitally enhanced so that she’s wearing pink, naturellement.

Cynthia Rowley: Cynthia Rowley couldn’t bring the show to the beach, so she brought the beach to the show. The “Swell” hostess added a runway made of sand to the Elizabeth Street Sculpture Garden, then called in live drummers to set a festive mood, all of which made a perfect setting for her whimsical numbers. Rowley abandoned the tricky silhouettes of past collections, and went instead for simple, easy sundresses and fun floral shorts with airy tops. Continuing the mood of a sun-drenched, exotic getaway, she sent out gauzy scarves, dresses and shirts in earth tones such as brown, ecru and sunflower yellow — the color palette complementing the soft, organic quality of the collection.

Stripes in bright hues added a playful twist to some dresses and tops, and she sassed things up with some electric pink and green metallic numbers. Sweet heart or floral embroideries played up the girliness for which the designer is known. Still, Rowley couldn’t resist sending out some vampy black, shimmery tops and dresses that had no place on the sand — whether on the runway or the beach. That lapse aside, most of the collection consisted of appealing, wearable looks with just the right amount of Rowley quirkiness.

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