NEW YORK — Each season designers find themselves facing fashion’s toughest question: Should one give the customer more of what they already want, or challenge them with new ideas? Usually a good collection tries to balance out the urge to move forward and the desire to sell.
Marcel Marongiu worked up a good ratio in his spring collection, which he usually shows in Paris, but chose to present in an old synagogue in the East Village this time instead. Clean, edgy separates and dresses in bold fuchsia, turquoise and lime demonstrated Marongiu’s bravado, while pretty, airy pieces in soft pinks and grays showed his restraint.
Jeffrey Lee has never been afraid to push it a bit in coming up with a concept. This is the guy who once used a flame instead of scissors to cut fabric, so the dangers of doing a collection based on nature didn’t scare him. What looked great were the scarf tops, corsets worn under strapless dresses, and his luxurious knits, like the chunky backless one. Lee’s spring collection, however, also proved that clothing can be inset with wood, leaving the audience to wonder — “But, why?”
Similarly, Douglas Hannant’s collection, which is often beautiful, sophisticated and made with luxurious fabrics and attention to detail, fell short of the mark. The show had a promising beginning in Hannant’s sporty HotPants, cropped tops and minidresses, but that playfulness all but disappeared once short skirts with long panels hanging from them took over.
Diva Pittala and Adrian Cowen, the design duo at People Used to Dream About the Future, know what their customers want — and they’re happy to provide it without getting carried away by fantasy. For spring the designers stuck to the slick modern sportswear that they do best, showing leather skirts, great knits and reversible denim pants.
Anand Jon is another designer with a firm grip on reality — not to mention those embroideries he’s known for. For spring, the collection evolved with new embroidered silhouettes — miniskirts; gold, orange and turquoise crop tops, and even cargo pants. Jon, who was showing for only the third time this season, has consistently managed to avoid the pitfalls that other young designers fall prey to. And he’s done it with panache. However, he should have edited out some of the looks that strayed from his norm, such as the silver satin group.
Zang Toi sent out his signature silhouettes in silk shantung and silk poplin for spring and threw in a silk georgette poet’s shirt for good measure. Chic looks always make their way into Toi’s mix, though this season they were less abundant.
Stephen DiGeronimo, who built his business with dresses, has been branching out into sportswear lately, and he’s taken its separates premise to heart. His collection was full of embroideries along with such items as a tie-dyed cotton T-shirt, a suede whipstitched skirt and floral bohemian top. Each of these pieces was fine on its own, but when shown together, they were a bit loud.
Kathi Castro, however, has always been one to play with new fabrics, and this season she played away, combining techno weaves and conventional materials with great results. The strongest looks included strapless tops worn with leather collars, printed paper skirts and a strapless leather and jacquard dress.
Margie Tsai also tried her hand at the fabric-combination game, but, unfortunately, the paper and plastic that trimmed her spring basics did not a collection make.
The young designers who showed their collections in the Shooting Stars showcase at the Limelight nightclub — Thomas Steinbruck, Kimberley Mac and Vilma Mare — hit some high notes. Two of Mac’s pared-down evening looks and some of Mare’s futuristic separates, for example, were strong. But it was Swiss-born Steinbruck’s collection that really stole the limelight. His great dresses, pants and beautiful evening gowns proved that fantastic fashion crops up in the most unexpected places.