MILAN LIGHTENS UP
JIL SANDER WAS RELAXED, LIGHT AND REFINED; FENDI FEATURED LITTLE WRAP DRESSES, AND RICHARD TYLER’S BYBLOS SHADES WERE DUSTY GRAY, BLUE AND PURPLE, AS THE MILAN SPRING SHOWS CONTINUED.

JIL SANDER: In a word, it was fabulous. In the collection she showed on Tuesday, Jil Sander resolved themes that have been percolating in her collections for some time. She had been moving in a gentler, more relaxed direction for several seasons, while embracing certain nuances clearly sprung from Japanese influences. Although this path has resulted in strong past collections, they have had their awkward moments.
But here it all came together in a brilliant display of grace, refinement — and some of the chicest clothes imaginable. Yet for all its newfound ease, this collection lost not a bit of the typical Sander authority. These are sophisticated clothes for sophisticated women; they ooze confidence and, now, nonchalance.
They also project a fresh aura of lightness — a determined decision on the part of the designer. To those who still associate her with fashion sobriety, Sander now campaigns for reevaluation.
As the press notes for her show said, “Who is afraid of yellow, blue and red?” Certainly not Jil. Her utterly inviting colors — the yellow of fresh butter, the dusty blue of hospital scrubs — were both real and unobtrusive. These helped foster a deceiving mood of simplicity, because Sander’s cuts are intricate and even intellectual, without crossing over into pretension. Folds and gathers happen naturally, as if made by the body. Dresses twist, turn or bunch slightly through the hips; skirts and pants are low-slung.
Sander did her part for the loosening up of fashion not only with her draping, but with a bounty of roomy shirts and jackets, including some with a Patagonia influence — a major direction — and a terrific new army jacket. Everything was shown with witty plastic sandals that looked like upscale Tevas — in this shoe-loving city, some of the best shoes yet. Sander chose not to disturb the relaxed mood with eveningwear, and it didn’t matter. Jil gave us more than enough for the bright light of day.
FENDI: There’s no stopping those Fendi sisters, who have been opening stores left and right. There’s a new 2,000-square-foot boutique at The Forum in Las Vegas, a shop in the Short Hills, N.J., shopping center, and, just a few weeks ago, Carla Fendi inaugurated her new accessories corner at Bloomingdale’s. By the end of the year, there will be Fendi boutiques in Moscow and Aspen, and more are planned for Jakarta, Seoul, Pusan and Cape Town. All this should add a nice boost to the Fendi bottom line. In 1996, the company claims total retail sales, including licensees, hit $696 million, while direct company revenues totaled $139 million.
Perhaps it was this expansion to all corners of the world that prompted Karl Lagerfeld to send out a spring collection Tuesday that was — well, all over the map. Everyone knows Karl is a prolific designer who spews out ideas faster than the speed of light, but this time he left his audience a little bewildered. But one can always pick out some great looks in every Lagerfeld collection, and what stood out here were the brown leather bikinis with bandeau tops, looser-shaped jackets over minidresses or pants, and little wrap dresses in the nubby cotton used for baby clothes.
BYBLOS: It’s not easy to turn out three major collections a season — as Richard Tyler is finding out. In his second collection for Byblos, he was unable to establish a new identity for the house. On the up side, there were plenty of commercially viable clothes, certainly more than last season. Tyler showed attractive gray suits with short, pleated skirts as well as pretty crocheted dresses over slips. He worked in a lovely palette filled with dusty blues, grays and purples, and many of the short lace evening dresses were alluring, even if the look belongs to Tyler’s signature label.
And, in the end, the collection lacked the spark and vitality that are absolutely essential if Byblos is to regain any of the stature and excitement of its glory days.

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