Richard Tyler: Oh, those fashion ironies. One presented itself on Saturday, the rain date, as the gathering fashion flock wondered, how is it possible for a show that was supposed to happen two days ago to be an hour late?
As the models appeared, however, it all made sense. They wandered through Tyler’s Gramercy Park townhouse done up in labor-intensive coifs: colorful floor-length extensions, as if Venus on the Half Shell had added volume with Hallmark curling ribbons. Romantic to the point of kitsch, yes, but it set the mood for Tyler’s beautiful, evocative collection.
He opened with sliver-thin, sultry leathers cut and embroidered with intricate floral motifs. Hardly your typical daywear, but they sure looked great. He then went softer with white painted organzas. And Tyler steadfastly believes in doing it up for big evenings. With so many designers milking the glitter separates motif, he infused the season with a welcome dose of graceful intrigue. Once or twice he got carried away, as with the Goth-meets-Scarlett concoction in black leather and distressed red gauze. But those sea goddess gowns in tulle and metallic chiffon would make any woman feel like Venus.
Vera Wang: Risk and restraint — Vera Wang went both ways for spring and produced some beautiful results.
Throughout the collection, she toyed with transparency, layering gauzy sheers, shining sequins and woven metallics both in dresses and in her sportswear. Her controlled artsiness shone in a colorful parade of aqua, yellow, pink, orange and light lime — including a sheer orange bustle-backed skirt paired with a glittering sweater — that was so effortless it upstaged the wedding-dress finale.
Insistent modernity prevailed in the collection, and Wang usually kept overt romance in check. The technique fell flat, however, with a group of dresses and tops each sporting a huge featherweight camellia bound and wound with black cord, and with shorts offered as a viable option for evening. They’re not.
But what this collection made clear, even in its low points, is that Vera’s got a lot on her mind and she isn’t one to sit back and send out evening-as-usual. If it sounds like a long lineup, it was, and the collection could have been edited down for the sake of those whose attention spans can only take so much. But, hey — Wang’s excited about eveningwear, and it shows.
Tse New York: In his two years with the firm, Hussein Chalayan has created an identity for Tse New York, one rooted in artful discretion.
And each season, he has taken it somewhere new — last season, for example, playing to the notion of personal comfort with a collection based on blankets. For spring, his idea of coverage is more ephemeral. He called his collection “Shadows,” taking a lighter hand to the intellectual approach that is his forte.
Chalayan showed some beautiful clothes: trim suits, skirts and tops in lean, sensual proportions and gentle dresses. And, as usual, they were packed with interest, from subtle details of cut to all sorts of embellishments.
He ruched and gathered with abandon, adorned some looks with riotous swirled appliques and played geometric games with circle prints and geometric splices. Yet, while all of this infused the clothes with a fresh spirit, and one less ponderous than usual, it lacked the genuine innovation so essential to Chalayan’s best work.
Randolph Duke: What do Deauville, France, and Hollywood have in common? Both places influenced Randolph Duke this season — for better and for worse.
He went a bit overboard with his French sailors, sending out cropped satin bell-bottoms with rhinestone buttons, nautical ballgown skirts and strapless gowns. But hooded silk sharkskin jackets paired with cashmere shorts or capris, and navy satin belled pants worn with white Celtic knit tubes had a certain charm.
This designer’s heart, however, belongs to Tinsel Town — not the south of France. And come Academy Awards time, the Duke reigns. This season, he may make some starlets rethink what sexy means.
Consider sarong scarf skirts and cashmere tubes, or a white knit tank over skin-tight, hip-hugging jeans in sheer blue ombre net with paillette stripes. And for those who won’t give up their gowns, there was a long blue wool shirtdress and sleek cashmere columns.
Nova USA: Even the horrible weather couldn’t dampen Tony Melillo’s show for Nova. The designer had originally planned to put editors in the bleachers outdoors at William F. Passante Ballfield to watch models running around the bases, but Floyd put a stop to that. Melillo, however, was quick on his feet and moved the show to the weight room at Crunch gym.
A CFDA award nominee this year, he has been designing hip, casual men’s wear with an athletic edge for the past two years, and his first women’s collection had the same spirit. He resurrected some of the most appealing looks of the Eighties — wrap tops, fitted velour sweatpants, bandeau-tie dresses, hooded nylon jackets with matching minis and puckered tubes — and they all looked cool.
A collection this strong should help realize Melillo’s ambitious growth plans. Now that his first store, at 100 Stanton Street on the Lower East Side, has been established as a magnet for the young and hip, he’s searching for a second location in Chelsea or NoLIta. Not surprisingly, his wholesale customers have been eager to get their hands on his women’s wear. Nova USA is already sold in some of the best-known stores in the world, including Bloomingdale’s in New York, Harvey Nichols in London and Joyce in Hong Kong.