Tommy Hilfiger: You know what they say about parties — it’s all in the mix. So try to fathom a fete for which Charlie’s Angels show up, along with a glitzed-up Uncle Sam, Gene Autry on acid and viva Las Elvis. And they’re all strutting their stuff to the beat of Bush.
Hardly a low-key moment. Or for that matter, one that had much to do with all of Tommy Hilfiger’s friendly, versatile sportswear that gets ample real-life play from the subways of New York to the carpools of Connecticut. But never mind. In his far-flung net of marketing brilliance, Hilfiger views showtime as the ultimate bonanza.
The collection he showed on Tuesday night in Madison Square Garden’s Paramount Theater was designed as an event. First, he made his play for the Biggest Celebrity Turnout Award, roping in, among others, Samuel L. Jackson, Wyclef Jean, Deborah Harry, Deborah Cox, Mya and Little Cease of Jr. Mafia. They all settled in as Tommy put a hip fashion spin on that old Donny and Marie notion, a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll. Well, actually, a lot of both, from the gussied-up jeans, appliqued or star-spangled, to the vast array of elaborate, multicolored cowboy boots that would sure make for one dizzying line dance. Throw in embroideries, including quite a few featuring the Tommy eagle crest, shimmy fringe, perforated HotPants, cross-gender ruffles and a Farrah Fawcett jumpsuit, and there was certainly a lot to take in.
Fun? Tons, especially Bush’s fabulous background concert. There’s something utterly gleeful about so much kitschy bad taste run so confidently amok in one place. And throughout, Tommy even offered a sprinkling of the kinds of clothes he really sells: cute miniskirts, jeans and tops, all with a wholesome-sexy spunk. But there’s a point at which such relentless overstatement crosses over into parody, either intentionally or otherwise. And on Tuesday night, Tommy was on the brink.
Daryl K: Everyone who knows Daryl personally has seen her sweet side, but this season it finally came through in her collection. Over the years, the label has been fortified by hard-edged sophistication and street smarts, but just when her rocker chic became predictable, she’s off waxing romantic.
Of course she will never be one to go all sugary. In her hands, romance is something urbane — and sexy. She sent out satin kimono tops cinched in at the waist, white cotton dresses with smocking and delicate crochets. There was even a pair of offbeat wedding dresses.
It all goes to show that Daryl is an agile innovator who knows when to expand her horizons. Her famous high-grade streetwear is all there, but in a season when every other designer has decided to give denim a try, she’s given hers a fantastic latex treatment, and she’s cut new low-low riding jeans in glistening pearlized leather. Sure, the collection suffered a clunker or two, a skirt that just wouldn’t sit right, but Daryl’s still full of surprises and she’s still a step ahead.
John Bartlett: John Bartlett said he was inspired by Old World Spain, but he didn’t stop there. Also thrown into the mix were such references as the work of Tina Modotti and Federico Garcia Lorca, a travel theme, a bit of Twenties charm — not to mention lots of sex. Necklines plunged, pants were skin tight and there was plenty of peek-a-boo action in sheer beaded looks. As for the travel motif, Bartlett made jackets from sailcloth rucksacks and detailed tight pants with vintage leather lacing, while Art Deco patterns added interest in filmy chiffons.
But even sexiness has its limits. What this collection lacked was the lure of the unexpected. Bartlett is just too young to stay in such familiar territory. Why not get as adventurous with his women’s as he does with men’s?
BCBG Max Azria: This collection had shrunken proportions with a child-like charm — a look reminiscent of a girl who’s outgrown her clothes. Pants were cropped just above the ankle, skirts hit right below the knee, and sweaters were tiny, with sleeves ending right below the elbow. Some of the best looks combined simple cuts in neutral shades offset by a splash of colorful embroidery. The baby chunky knits with ribbon embroidery, the beaded bandeau top, the ribbon embroidered strapless dress and the cowhide applique pants and skirts looked fresh. But the multilayered beaded tulle evening dresses and the heavily reembroidered looks were over-the-top and out of step with the rest of the collection. Perhaps Azria should stick to what he does best — sportswear.
Nicole Miller: In a season that embraces bold prints and bright colors, Miller is definitely in her element. The playful, whimsical mood that’s in the air this spring comes naturally to her, and it showed in the soft, fluid looks she sent down the runway. Miller embraced bohemia this season with sweet ruffled skirts, embroidered tops, delicately beaded knits and laser-cut skirts. The momentum slowed, however, when a group of turquoise plaid and black fringed shawl-inspired looks were followed by a selection of silver ripstop and embroidered satin pieces.
Chado Ralph Rucci: Some designers play it safe, never straying from their home turf. In the case of Ralph Rucci, however, this season it was when he diverged from what he’s always done well that his looks were best. An aqua cashmere and silk hooded sweater over a suede top and cotton and silk trousers and a group of blonde saddle-stitched shirts looked great. And there were certainly a number of double-faced wool dresses and suits that were perfectly elegant. But his signature seaming looked awkward and the sheer number of insets, keyholes, obi sashes and asymmetric lines eclipsed the effect of beautiful fabrics and fine workmanship.
Girls Rule: Backed by heavy-hitting sponsors, the Girls Rule show marked its 11th season with Seventh on Sixth this week. The show, featuring six collections and an accessories line, functioned like a well-oiled machine, with sleeker, more polished looks than in the past. Dawls provided urban streetwear with just the right girly touches and, in a nod to Daryl K, did a T-shirt printed with street graffiti. Malibu’s eclectic mix was a refreshing combination of peasant skirts, crocheted pants and tiger print T-shirts in a palette of magenta, brown, yellow and green that was both New Wave and hippie bohemian. Coolwear also went for the bohemian look and gave it a rocker twist with denim patchwork skirts, studded T-shirts and shiny leatherette pants. Meanwhile, Bongo showed tons of prints, in bandana-print pants and tanks, Gucci-esque floral dresses and plaid jeans jackets. Backseat by Undergirl displayed a sense of humor again with its witty and slightly naughty logos on camisoles and briefs and introduced Jammies, a sleepwear line. Hybrid closed the show with high tech looks in nylon parachute fabrics — often cluttered, unfortunately, by plastic tubing and buckle details.