MARC JACOBS: “Just simple, nice clothes that I think a lot of people will want to wear.” That’s how Marc Jacobs described his fall collection, and if it doesn’t sound like a loaded statement, read again. A lot of people. The collection Jacobs showed on Monday night could be interpreted as a Louis Vuitton preview: less idiosyncratic than usual, while still incorporating many of Jacobs’ favorite themes. And Bernard Arnault must be doing cartwheels, because the clothes looked both hip and savvy — and rich, in a typically undone manner. They were also very beautiful.
Jacobs’s favorite themes have always been rooted in the classics. “I love the idea of taking very ordinary, everyday things and making them more deluxe,” he said after his Vuitton appointment was announced. At one time, that attitude veered toward an amusingly trashy take on chic — those sequined laminated jeans, for example. But recently, Jacobs has crossed a more traditional view of luxury with a street-smart sense of imperfection — often playing into thrift-shop chic.
For fall, the attitude of casual luxury dominates — minus the thrift factor. While this collection is still about dressing in pieces, the last vestiges of a seemingly haphazard approach are gone. What remains is totally chic and unfettered — just great, refined sportswear.
Jacobs took pea jackets, sweatshirts, men’s-style tank undershirts and relaxed pants and souped them up in cashmere and fine wools, mixing in discreet beading here, fishnet there. There were micro-minis and side-slit knee-length skirts, both of which looked right. And there were fabulous coats, in cadet blue cashmere twill — a fresh military reference — and a classic gray tweed spiked with glitter. Also worth noting: An amazing reversed shearling so light and finely sheared, at first glance it looks like those old poodle knits.
What was missing was that intangible sense of peculiarity, the oddball romance, that has wafted through Jacobs’s last collections. Some attributed the subtle shift to the fact that Marc worked with a new stylist on this collection — Joe McKenna. But this collection was both beautifully styled and unmistakably Marc Jacobs — with or without the whimsy. What seemed to be at play here was an intentional de-emphasis of the special item — the beaded paisley top, the gold leather skirt, the breathlessly fragile hand-knit sweater — in favor of luxe everyday clothes. Just the kind of clothes a lot of people will want to wear — as long as they have a lot of money.
ELLEN TRACY: More power to Linda Allard. This designer knows how to dress her working girls — and that doesn’t mean in exaggerated Eighties power suits. This isn’t to say, however, that there weren’t plenty of strong shoulders on this runway. Allard likes man-tailoring this season, and she expresses her affection with carved jackets and front-slit skirts in charcoal pinstripes, tweed or plaid, worn with dramatic taffeta blouses, lace Ts or sexy tight knits. And her ode to the ladies and nod to the Eighties didn’t stop there. Allard sent out plenty of sophisticated leathers — the best a claret suit and a black maxicoat with wide lapels. For evening, she took an understated approach that quite literally shone, tossing out the ballskirts of seasons past in favor of short suits in such fabrics as metallic houndstooth.
RICHARD TYLER COUTURE: In fashion circles, glamour is considered a trend — it comes in, it goes out. But there will always be a woman who wants to look glamorous and drop-dead chic, no matter which way those trend winds may be wafting at a given moment. Richard Tyler understands this woman perfectly. He knows that she wants to project an image of refinement — while still showing off a bit. And he knows that for her, looking refined and sexy are not mutually exclusive.
Given fashion’s current bold attitude, it’s this woman’s moment to shine, and Tyler was not about to let her down with the Couture collection he showed on Tuesday. (This is Tyler’s original collection. He added the “Couture” label to distinguish it from the new, lower-priced Richard Tyler Collection produced by Genny, which will premier on Thursday.) Tyler sent out legions of rich, beautiful clothes — the kind of clothes that cry out for attention, even when the trappings of discretion, elements such as pinstripes and relaxed proportions, are properly in place.
Of course, it all starts with the suit. It came in low-key tweeds as well as bold leather and snakeskin. It was eased-up and graceful, or short, tight and tough. Power suits? Absolutely — including the power of seduction. Tyler also showed smart knee-length coats and sweeping maxi versions in proportions that only a grand dame — a statuesque one at that — could pull off.
At night, Tyler’s sexy cutout cocktail dresses were merely a warmup for what followed. He made a lavish evening statement with elaborate gowns in unusual, opulent fabrics — floating feathers or laces caught between layers of chiffon. The cuts were intricate, with asymmetric draping and long trains, and not all of them worked. But those that did created a stunning aura of sensual romance.
NICOLE MILLER: Miller has been hip-deep in home renovations for the past year, so it isn’t surprising that she found inspiration among her wood samples and sofa swatches. But we’re not talking Mark Hampton here. Miller mixed her favorites from the Fifties to the Eighties and gave them a pre-millennium twist. There were tight and sexy lightweight vinyl dresses, eye-popping Jackson Pollock splatter print skirts paired with Tough-Chic leather coats and straight-from-the-armchair snappy charcoal tweed pantsuits worn with metallic camisoles. But in the house that Miller built, not all was pleasing to the eye. Those drab Seventies tweeds and leathers should have been left back in the paneled rec room along with the cowlneck looks, best seen on Farrah and the other Angels on “Nick at Nite.”
CARMEN MARC VALVO: This was a show with some real beauties. But much of the collection was blurred by repetition: the same shape in every color and the same fabrics in every shape. What came through, though, were the fluid bias gowns in liquid metallics or beaded crochets and the snug, cropped brocade T-shirts worn over long velvet sarongs. Valvo has long been inspired by India, and that influence shows up in beaded paisley Raj jackets with harem pants and slender lace gowns over charmeuse slips. BETSEY JOHNSON: A Betsey Johnson show is like an archaeological expedition: Dig long enough and you’re bound to find something good. And that was the case with her fall show Monday night. At first glance, setups such as Viking girls in head-to-toe silver and “Damsels in Distress” in medieval makeup and headgear left little hope for wearable — to say nothing of salable — pieces. But, under the theatrics, there was actually plenty to satisfy those loyal Johnson fans, from sequined tube dresses to triple-layer chiffon slips and long, skinny coats in brocade or fake fur. In what’s become a tradition, the designer used the finale to showcase Ultra, her pricier collection of lingerie-inspired embroidered corset gowns and shimmery cashmere dresses.
MARK EISEN: One doesn’t expect much in the reinventing-the-wheel department from Mark Eisen — a slightly wider lapel here, perhaps, or a narrower leg there. But for fall he had a few new tricks up his minimal sleeve. The suits with knee-length jackets and wide-leg pants in midnight stretch tweed looked good. And while Eisen’s fixation on shine endures, some of this season’s more subtle incarnations work — the frosty chocolate Gazar, for example, in pantsuits or sexy slit skirts worn with metallic knits. And Eisen loves the sporting life. Last season it was surfer looks; this season, biker chicks strutted down the runway in fringed leather falcon skirts, shells and jackets .
YEOHLEE: Nomads were Yeohlee’s inspiration. Accordingly, her collection wandered — from some terrific looks to others that left one wondering, “From where?” The counterpoint of glitter and sporty was one of her strongest moves, delivered in tweed suits with gold metallic T-shirts and a cashmere sweatshirt over a plunge-neck dance dress. But when Yeohlee cut her simple shapes in unflattering quilted nylon or embroidered rectangular sequins, she killed them.

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