Can fashion save the world? Lots of people seem to think so in this generous industry populated with purveyors of Feed bags, shoe drops, nondisposable shopping bags and on and on. In addition, countless antipoverty initiatives are crafts-related. Donna Karan loves Haiti. She spends a great deal of time there, channels many of her ample philanthropic efforts there. She loves the people, the vistas, the culture, everything. And, as she wrote in her program notes, “I’m constantly inspired by my passions.” Shut the front door. No, leave it wide open, so as to make way for Karan’s giant circle skirts that looked like a collaboration between her Haitian artisans and Dale Evans.
This is a case of Karan’s passions trumping her professional judgment. Though everything was beautifully made and she included dresses on the sexy (read: commercial) end of her range, Karan delivered her Haiti-inspired tribal motif sans subtlety, the prints dizzying in their enormity, the colors, drab. (Thank God for the purple dress.) Not beautiful, chic Donna Karan black, but black in dull combinations with white and muddy browns, which, when not shown as prints, were wrought in graphic configurations, sometimes outlined in demonstrative studs. Save for a couple of solid-toned jersey gowns in citrus green and tangerine, evening was similarly tricked out.
Look by look, most pieces were fine. But as a collection, it felt relentless. It’s wonderful that Karan cares so deeply about the world and matters of greater import than fashion. But not every global concern should be expressed in a dress.
As for the Casual Luxe collection Karan also showed (sort of), it appears to be a more fully realized iteration of the then-unnamed lifestyle group she introduced for pre-fall. Now she’s stressing its travel-friendly quality, “just pack it up, throw it on and get going.” Arriving guests noticed 12 models in presentation mode at the far side of the space. At a glance, the clothes looked interesting — natural-toned, comfortable, low-key. But no one paid much attention, expecting the girls to walk the full expanse of the multiaisle runway. Instead, they descended the platform, strutted down the center aisle and out the door, and only those in close proximity got a proper look.