THE NEW YORK STATE

RICHARD TYLER COLLECTION: Given fall’s strong tailored focus, this was the perfect season for Richard Tyler to have taken on two new collections. But timing doesn’t mean much if the goods aren’t there, and through three strong collections, Tyler has carved out three distinct identities fueled from one very specific point of view.
As Tyler noted last week, the juxtaposition of masculine and feminine elements has long been a hallmark of his work. So, too, has an image of women as strong and in control, and that is exactly the image the designer worked in Richard Tyler Collection, which premiered on Thursday morning. This collection, produced by Gruppo Nadini, is priced 30 percent lower than Richard Tyler Couture, shown earlier this week.
In Collection, Tyler showed real clothes that range from refined to racy. Everyone knows he cuts a mean suit, and the dominant look paired a shapely jacket and new wide pants, cut from expensive-looking fabrics, mostly in dark men’s wear wools. He went two ways with leather: Tough Chic in suits with major attitude and more relaxed with pants and simple cashmere sweaters. He also showed some smart, sensible coats.
While the focus of this collection is on clothes for day, Tyler certainly didn’t ignore evening. His asymmetric dresses in chiffon and matte jersey looked a bit familiar, and a few were on the tricky side. But many were both alluring and sexy — which is just how most women want to look at night.
OSCAR DE LA RENTA: No one could ever accuse Oscar of being trendy, but his collection sure was timely — and, in fact, started almost right on time, because he had to catch a plane to Florida.
It was also right in step with the season’s easy elegance and masculine/feminine theme. De la Renta cut his wool and tweed suits just the way his Ladies like them — shapely jackets with power shoulders that are strong, but not too aggressive, paired with short skirts or easy pants. Naturally, there were also loads of pinstripes and gray flannel, as this season decrees, and for those who prefer a bit more pizazz, Oscar delivered lots of animal prints and fur trims. Refinement ruled much of the collection — a sleek wool coat was shown over a simple cashmere sweater and flannel pants, for example, or a slim leather jacket with a matching mini.
De la Renta, however, didn’t just play it safe. He knows his customer doesn’t mind being a little naughty for evening, and Oscar is always eager to please. His delicately embroidered sheer black gowns and romantic devore dresses were sexy and provocative, but not overtly so. And he manages to do sheer without making it look lewd. But why, Oscar, did you drag out your caftans once again? Maybe some of your fans can’t live without them, but it would have been better to leave them back in the showroom.
BILL BLASS: “The hell with it,” Bill Blass writes in the current issue of The New Yorker, in a piece titled “American Gals.” The it, of course, is fashion — a subject on which Blass has often waxed antagonistic. For some time he has espoused a trends-be-damned philosophy, instead championing a timeless style in which his gals can look “smart.”
Nevertheless, the collection Blass showed on Thursday was one of the most fashiony he has done in years, not in terms of trends perhaps, but in terms of bold clothes that demand attention. These clothes aren’t only smart and snappy, they’re also overt. Sometimes they even shout a little.
Blass billed this as his “Collector’s Collection.” As he explained last week, “Women buy what they don’t already own — they want special pieces, they want newness.” If that doesn’t sound like a craving for fashion, what does? And it’s one Blass knows just how to feed — and fuel. His luxe, distinctive fabrics — embossed velvets, ombre chiffons, beaded animal prints — are hardly anti-fashion. Nor, for that matter, are feathered skirts and shapely jackets hand-embroidered with seasonal motifs. Blass served up all of that and more, often in newly relaxed proportions. And he showed a great deal of eveningwear, from beaded slipdresses under sporty coats to the alluring velvet columns that closed the show.
Sure there were the quieter suits, the crepes, the checks, the tweeds, but Blass cut them all with subtle interest — for example, eased-up pinstripes, on the diagonal. And yes, there were a few bombs — the multicolored Art Deco geometric velvets, for example. But even these struck a blow for bold fashion. The hell with it? Hell no, Bill.
HALSTON SIGNATURE: Halston redux? Last year, the legendary designer’s influence was all over the fall runways. Now, just about everyone knows that Tropic Tex International, which acquired the Halston sportswear license in 1994, is making a major push to turn that influence into a long-term business. With Halston Lifestyle, a moderate-priced sportswear line already in stores, the company decided to move into the designer arena this season with Halston Signature.
The Wednesday night debut was all about glamour, and designer Randolph Duke managed to make this collection sleek and sexy. Sure, there were hints of nostalgia: the strapless, halter and cowlneck dresses in black, gray and red stretch cashmere; those matte jersey gowns that were Halston icons; the fur-trimmed satin quilt parkas. Even the UltraSuede flashback worked at times, in classic trenchcoats and lean pants. However, cutting Ultrasuede into little paillettes for jackets and sarongs didn’t.
Duke’s collection was a good first effort, but it did lack the Halston finesse. And when one remembers that legendary designer’s superb quality, it’s hard to be satisfied with anything less.
But, hey, the company must be doing something right. Bergdorf Goodman will be the first to launch the collection in New York around September, with windows, an in-store environment and possibly a party. Saks Fifth Avenue has the exclusive launch in Beverly Hills, and late Thursday afternoon the Neiman Marcus team was meeting with company executives to finalize their plans for the collection.
Jack and Mark Setton, the brothers who own the company, are also willing to spend big bucks to make the Halston name pay off for them. They snagged Claudia Schiffer for the show, and they’re planning a $2 million fall ad campaign, which will probably be shot by Steven Meisel.
JENNIFER GEORGE: Although “I Will Survive” wasn’t on the soundtrack, heartbreak and betrayal fueled George’s fall collection. The designer manifested these intense feelings, probably created by her recent divorce from songwriter Marc Cohn, in her program notes — and in a strong and fierce collection without a soft edge in sight. Strong-shouldered pantsuits, leather trenchcoats and a variety of slim skirts in dark menswear fabrics drove this point home. And since her angry woman “wears fur,” George threw in a fair share of mink coats, often in an unusual shade of blue, as well as mink sweaters with knit sleeves. But it was when George experimented with bulky mohair coats and ill-fitting red silk dresses that the love affair really ended.
AGNES B.: Agnes B. has become a big conglomerate. The company now has 80 stores worldwide, nine of them in the U.S., a new one scheduled to open in Italy early next year and a makeup line. So it’s no surprise that Agnes Trouble is also growing as a designer. Yes, there were the looks she’s known for, such as the easy mohair sweaters worn with narrow leather pants. But Trouble has also moved into tweed and tweed patterns, which she shows in classic pantsuits, great fitted cardigans, knit dresses and belted coats. There were also great-looking suede separates. But the brightly colored rayon jersey separates didn’t look quite as fresh.
JILL STUART: Let’s just say that Jill Stuart is trying hard to find her own identity as a designer, and in some cases she succeeds. She’s copying from all the right places — Prada, Galliano and Lang — and that’s exactly what her young customer wants her to do. This collection was less sweet than in the past. It was Stuart’s ode to the bad girl, with such looks as a leather blazer worn over a sequin corset dress and turnouts that mixed day and evening, such as sheer sequin tops, dresses and tunics with gray men’s wear trousers and minis.
But some of her attempts at being wicked were, well, less successful — the scary mohair polkadot, or “hairy dot,” pieces, for example.
GERONIMO: If Lisa Birnbach were updating “The Official Preppy Handbook” for the Nineties, Stephen DiGeronimo would be on the same page as Lilly Pulitzer and LL Bean. For his contemporary-priced Geronimo line, the designer sent out plenty of looks the modern Muffy would favor. On her must-have list: Pastel mohair coats that even Mummy will love; sassy alpaca cable-knit polos over belted suede skirts, and lavender herringbone shetland suits to wear during her days at Sotheby’s. For evening, Geronimo goes in for a little sparkle in the form of shetland slipdresses sprinkled with paillettes and Sonia Delaunay-inspired dresses with sequined linings.
ELIZABETH FILLMORE: Fillmore called her collection “Winter Forest” and indicated on her program cover that her inspiration came from the “drama and beauty of Marie Antoinette’s court.” But these clothes weren’t period pieces. Instead, Fillmore used poetic floral prints for short slips and flowing scarf gowns and did dramatic portrait-collared pantsuits in opulent jade and mauve batik velvets. Her overly decadent pieces, however — the costumey feather-trimmed flounce dresses and the jackets with pleated taffeta collars — should have been sent to the guillotine.
DONALD DEAL: Deal has come some distance from designing just jazzy evening dresses. Though that’s still his strength, for fall he also showed lots of tailored suits and day looks, the best of which were long-sleeved dresses and handsome pantsuits, all in gray flannel. But the real mark of his maturity was the restraint with which he shaped many of his gowns. The best: sleek red and black cashmeres and the strapless black velvet bustier dress with a floating skirt layered in shades of brown chiffon.
SUSAN LAZAR: Lazar, a great item designer, has always given classic silhouettes plenty of oomph, and this season is no exception. There were great camel hair, corduroy or velveteen reefer coats, for example, along with handsome herringbone wool cowlneck dresses. But she also made some missteps, as with the cheap-looking panne velvet columns and dated catsuits.
CHADO BY RALPH RUCCI: Ralph Rucci’s show for Chado on Thursday was a fashion pilgrimage. Rucci, in search of what he called “a more four-dimensional presentation,” displayed his collection between the 24th and 25th floor at 550 Seventh Avenue. Eve, sporting a Fargo flap hat, greeted — yes, greeted — editors and buyers on the stairwell leading to the tiny penthouse space, which was lined with 39 models. The fashion pack dutifully shuffled up single file from day into evening. Spotted on the stairs: Artfully cut double-faced cashmere coats and tunics, clean-lined barathea suits and draped silk jersey evening dresses.
MANOLO: This designer has a serious side, shown in his subtle and elegant fall shapes, impeccably rendered in beautiful fabrics. Consider the ladylike short coats and matching sheaths, the starkly shaped navy satin pantsuits or a beautiful long, floaty white dress in a mix of airy silks. Manolo has a zanier aspect, however, and it surfaced in his seven-bride finale. One bride wore just pasties and a long satin skirt, while another was a very pregnant mother-to-be in a long, delicate point d’esprit white dress.

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