“For me,” Donna Karan wrote in her program notes, dealing with fashion’s new reality “begins with reflecting on our core essence.” Well, mirror, mirror on the archives. That reflection reached back to the mid-Eighties with crystal transparency for a collection that was both pretty and ponderous.


The big question facing designers this season was whether to do mega fashion or go the investment-dressing route. Karan fell firmly in the latter camp, even if the “investment” at retail will be considerable — these are pricy clothes. She worked the sensual side of cozy with day looks that revive the notion of power dressing as something positive and chic. It’s hard to argue with a beautiful vicuña coat or a grandly collared crushed velveteen jacket belted over one of Karan’s sexy jersey gems. As for that beautiful signature draping, it came in skirts and dresses that poured, twisted around and caressed the body, sometimes baring the back to reveal an alluring little underpinning. Such supple fare found contrast in slick, mannish suits. Evening offered similar duality, ultralanguid or hyper-constructed, and both were pure glam. 


In fact, Karan’s entire lexicon was well represented, the Eighties shape, shoulders and attitude tempered by the artier elements of cut and embellishment that she introduced later on. Here, her favorite details were studding and ribbon work, and her extras, bold Robert Lee Morris baubles, some in leather and wood, and big fur gauntlets that gussied up simple coats.


Yet attractive though Karan’s lineup was — and it was plenty — it had problems, and not only its sense of familiarity. More importantly, in her determination to provide what she called strength and security, Karan didn’t quite deliver the happy fashion diversion for which these times cry out.

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