Matthew Earnest burned his copy of “The Preppy Handbook” (for now)…Alvin Valley filled out his collection with safari style….and Tracy Reese had a vintage air.
Tracy Reese: Tracy Reese is known for the pretty, colorful tops, coats and dresses that she turns out with panache season after season. But, alas, much of what Reese showed for spring wasn’t up to her usual standards. She replaced the young, sexy ladies of past collections with women wearing metallic snakeskin-patterned and floral-print pieces that played up a campy retro vibe. Bright, lightweight coats had a vintage quality that veered toward the frumpy, while several cocktail dresses featured extraneous flaps of fabric.
There were, however, a number of noteworthy pieces, such as the full-skirted frocks, the numerous V-neck tops with Empire waists and great dresses that had a gypsy air. But altogether, it wasn’t enough to satisfy.
Alvin Valley: Everyone knows that Alvin “The King of Pants” Valley cuts a mean pair of trousers. But a girl can’t step out in those alone, so the designer is now applying that pantalon precision to the rest of his collection. Continuing the safari motif from fall, Valley showed crisp metallic-shot linen trenches and military-inspired jackets paired with high-waisted trousers, either skintight for the sassy starlet or wide-legged for the laid-back lass. And a creamy plaid pencil skirt looked hip when paired with a floaty cinnamon silk jacket.
Rumor has it that Valley has been in talks with Ferragamo, and it’s no secret that he’s eager to handle design duties at a European house. Perhaps with that in mind, he’s been auditioning on the runway recently with collections that include evening dresses — this time, the best of them was a column in Gaudi-inspired, printed chiffon. To round out a girl’s summer wardrobe, there were swimsuits — some that were fun, such as a bright blue cutaway maillot, and others that were creepily S&M-ish, such as those in shiny black. Although Valley should lose the matchy-matchy styling, overall, the collection is definitely coming together.
Matthew Earnest: Matthew Earnest looked beyond the whitewashed gates and crystal blue pool of his country club and saw there’s more to life — and fashion — than the “The Preppy Handbook.” Good thing, since the Texan designer was in danger of becoming a one-trick prepster pony, albeit one who can cut cloth with the best of them.
In his fourth presentation, Earnest sent out a soft, loping ode to the Seventies done the Native American way. Happily, there was nothing too literal or clichéd about his references, as he worked subtle white-on-white Cherokee beadwork into blouse plackets and muted Navajo prints on skirts. Girls swished by in breezy cream prairie skirts with matelasse details and flat, brown leather sandals, their hair tied up in loosened buns. This earthy serenity was broken only by metallic looks and bulky double-breasted jackets, which might have been an effort to add some preppy styles. But Earnest’s obvious skills should ensure that he’ll be around next season to sort through these contradictions.
Gottex: Crystals and beads and cutouts, oh my! Let’s face it — mainstream swimwear can be a snooze, since basic black is the retail draw du jour. But creative director Gideon Oberson, who made his debut for Gottex on Wednesday, pulled out all the stops, mostly with good results. There were suits in kelly green-and-white, G-logo prints, exotic metallic floral caftans, and a tropical group featuring nude-mesh-filled slashes, scalloped edges and twists of Ultrasuede that looked as fresh as the flowers the girls dropped along the runway. For the finale, the swim giant tapped the diamond house Vivid Collection to fashion what is the most expensive suit ever, according to the Guinness Book of World Records — a white torpedo bra that would have done Madonna’s “Blond Ambition” tour proud, worn with palazzo pants. The top featured the 103-carat pear-shaped Golconda diamond surrounded by $18 million-worth of smaller diamonds. Gaudy? You bet, but then again, they don’t call it bling for nothing.
Sass & Bide: Dogs barking and girls singing “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” laced within a techno-infused hip-hop and rock compilation — that was the show soundtrack for Australian-based designers Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton. It’s too bad that the collection, which was shown along with their luxe limited-edition line, Wolfnation, was as scattered as the music.
It all started on a high note, however, with some knockout cotton jersey minidresses with spangled harnesses, great stovepipe jeans and patch-pocketed minis in gunmetal gray, not to mention charming suits with cropped jackets and tailored shorts or low-riding pants. The designers’ signature flashy sequined and studded trim, which seemed to delight front-row guest Boy George, adorned just about everything else, including draped animal-print chiffon dresses, tank tops with satin strips and fringed minis. Much of it, though, was too familiar. There were too many layers, which obscured the better pieces, and an excess of virtually unwearable handkerchief-hemmed microskirts.
Sebastian Pons: Sebastian Pons, it seems, went on a world tour in preparation for his spring show. His flamenco dresses and gypsy blouses were clearly influenced by Spain; there were all-American, Western-style shirts, and Indian-style embroidered kurtas, too. Even Ralph Lauren got a nod from Pons with the latter’s spiffy plaid linen blazers and light blue pants. But, while the clothes looked fun and festive, the overall effect was more disorienting than worldly. If Pons had stayed focused, for example, on his Spanish-inspired looks — such as the ruffle-edged, embroidered gauze dresses, gypsy blouses and flippy miniskirts — the collection would have had more impact. Or, in the spirit of American chic, he could have continued in the vein of his simple, beautifully executed short silk dresses and the terrific tailored tuxedo suit for day.