SEXY, STEAMY LOOKS MAY BE SOME DESIGNERS’ SOLUTION FOR SPRING, BUT OTHERS — SUCH AS ANNA SUI, VICTOR ALFARO AND JILL STUART — ARE TAKING A SWEETER APPROACH.
Anna Sui: Anna Sui is a practiced hand at mixing antiquated romance and modern love. For spring, she deflated the French 18th-century silhouette, making it light and airy with tiny ruffled boleros, white cotton bedjackets with embroidered-on rosettes, tiered ruffled skirts and Empire-waisted dresses that would look at home on canvas painted by Watteau or Fragonard.
Her meld of “rococo and gypsy” was so fresh it evoked a “girl who’s just fallen in the river and gotten back out,” just as Sui intended. Of course for Sui, American classic usually means classic rock, and said river ran right through Max Yasgur’s farm. Who else but Sui could cross Marie Antoinette with Janis Joplin and come up with a collection that’s both enchanting and sane?
The mood extended to Sui’s fantastic new denim line, manufactured by Western GloveWorks. It’s packed with perfectly proportioned jeans jackets — some embroidered with folksy little birds — long bejeweled jeans skirts and nifty faded jeans worn with tie-on bustles. For a big-time designer who’s always dedicated herself to the casual cause, Sui sure has taken her sweet time in launching a denim collection. Now it’s clear that the wait was well worthwhile.
Jill Stuart: Now that her business is humming in Japan, Jill Stuart is cranking up the volume at home. And for spring, that means a collection chock-full of saucy and sweet pieces. Stuart, who labels her look the “Upper East Side hippy,” mixed romantic lace skirts with tough-girl tanks and slashed, sequined T-shirts with tulle rhinestone skirts — all in pretty shades of pink and mint green. Not one to miss out on the latest trend, she caught denim fever, doing a Seventies take on jackets, pants and skirts with heart-shaped pockets. But she still has a major problem with evening: The hologram, satin and oversized floral prints just looked cheap.
Victor Alfaro: Victor Alfaro’s a global kind of guy. After showing in Italy for several seasons, he’s returned to New York, where everyone was rooting for a blockbuster. And to be sure, he brought a certain Italian sophistication back home, even if the show didn’t quite stand up to expectations.
Part of the reason is that, too often, Victor fights his own natural instincts, trying hard to be edgy when his strength lies in putting a young slant on grace and discretion, with a sexy undercurrent. For spring, that struggle was evident. Alfaro was at his best with crisply cut shirtdresses, a chic trenchcoat and some jaunty striped cashmere sweaters, as well as with beautifully fresh pairings of separates in aqua and brown. And at times, he let sizzle take center stage, delivering plenty of fuel for heavy breathing with, for example, an opening of racy little swimsuits and lots of second-skin leathers.
Alfaro also showed a group of pretty, if familiar, diaphanous dresses and put his stamp on some of the season’s key themes, namely perforated leathers and denim. These looked strong, at least until he went into trend tremors with overly embellished Vegas-worthy jeans. And in the end, the collection simply lacked the sparkle of surprise.