THE IDEAS OF MARCH
Rifat Ozbek: Some may be going retro, others may be going Mod, but Rifat Ozbek has gone spinning off into cyberspace. There will be those who think he’s out of the loop, but the designer is just in his own special world — and what a special world it is. His singular vision means Day-Glo padded HotPants under flowing silk moire parkas; velvet cocktail dresses with sequinned stars, and jackets with chicken feathers at the shoulders. It was Tribal Techno, and it came with its share of hits and misses.
This was never an easy show to mount. First Thierry Mugler cornered all the supermodels for his unexpected extravaganza, then French fashion editors stormed out just as the Ozbek show was starting. But despite the glitches, Rifat plunged into the future with attitude.
Ann Demeulemeester: The country club isn’t for everyone. Those who prefer a more urbane take on hip will find it at Ann Demeulemeester. The collection she showed Thursday was as sophisticated as it was beautiful and could be the one that establishes her as a major designer whose appeal extends well beyond the small world of die-hard fashion cultists. In fact, Demeulemeester apparently has the support of at least one high-profile lady; Danielle Mitterrand, an infrequent show-goer, arrived late, but caught most of the collection.
What woman doesn’t want to look glamorous and refined? That’s what these clothes are all about — no jokes, no gimmicks, no retro. Demeulemeester did it by homing in on a few key themes. In the midst of a buzz about gender-bending, she borrowed from men’s wear in a way that was neither staunch nor camp: beautiful jackets, smoking robes and a novel new halter, one held in place by a big knot that looked like an exaggerated necktie.
This collection was as focused as it gets. Demeulemeester’s silhouette is slim and often layered, with a long waist accented by a belt at the hips. There are side-wrapped dresses and jackets, apparently worn backwards; hip-sitting skirts and luscious sweaters with big back cowls. Then there were the leathers — simply some of the best imaginable, in black or powder blue. Demeulemeester even made floor-length evening leathers look elegant, and that’s no small feat.
Yohji Yamamoto: Yohji was feeling darkly poetic — and his collection sent the fashion flock into ecstasy. Even by his austere standards, this was a particularly somber outing. But that only makes his fans love him more.
In a transparent tent set up in a grand 18th century courtyard, models moved down the runway as though they were in a procession — accompanied by melancholy music from a lone piano. Out floated the flowing capes, floor-sweeping wool coats and a well-tailored jacket worn with full satin pants — all, of course, in black. Jackets, coats and dresses were done with an origami-like precision.
But it was evening that really won ’em over. The standouts here were a black evening gown with a flowing bustle skirt and mohair top and the bright red bustle coatdress worn with an oversized saucer hat.
Chloe: Karl Lagerfeld is the Vesuvius of fashion — he spews out ideas like red-hot lava and lets them flow all over his various runways. In the collection he showed for Chloe on Thursday, he had about a billion ideas, sending out a blinding whirl of conflicting colors, shapes and textures that came and went before you knew what had hit.
There were high waists and dropped waists; long and short; tight and flowing, pastels and brights. If satin-trimmed mohair’s not your thing, can the house of Chloe interest you in a nice wide-wale cord? Sweet-tart? Disco Mum? How about the gypsy revisited? You could call it witty eclecticism, or you could say it was all over the place. But either way, there were plenty of terrific clothes.
One of Karl’s best ideas was the tight, colorful layered knits, shown over cheeky mohair briefs or fluid skirts. Then there was sexy romance in long silk evening dresses that became sheer from the thigh down, and next-generation satin slips under crocheted dresses.
But just when you thought Karl was on an ethereal stroll, along came lean suits with short jackets and a lineup of sturdy dresses belted at the hip. If there was one constant this season, it’s a collar fixation. Lagerfeld’s really into doing new things with collars, so he doubled, tripled or angled them in all sorts of interesting ways for many of his coats, suits and dresses.
Of course, over-activity can be exhausting, and this show was no exception, especially its finale — huge, bright mohair coats bordered in beads and flying little squiggles of yarn. But then, exhaustion beats boredom any day of the week, and Karl never leaves you longing for more.
Thierry Mugler: It was like Saturday night at the Roxy. Thierry Mugler’s much-talked-about 20th anniversary collection bore all the trappings of a major drag show — arch-glamour that was over-done, over-stuffed and over-kill. So much so that a posse of cross-dressers in the audience salivated throughout much of Mugler’s homage to the hard-core world of the dominatrix femme fatale.
Never known for his quiet runway shows, Mugler laid on an hour-long extravaganza Thursday night in the Cirque d’Hiver, Paris’s grand old circus, that went out live on local cable television. On a huge futuristic set based on the designer’s Angel perfume packaging, Thierry sent out a contemporary Pantheon of 55 supermodels mingled with a cocktail of female icons — from Jerry Hall and Veruschka to Julie Newmar. They all camped it up with a vengeance, as if their next S&M encounter depended on it. Pseudo-celebrity-model Patty Hearst even indulged in an eccentric, if embarrassing, striptease. It was probably the second biggest event of her life.
And Thierry’s sexual obsessions also proved too much for some of his other ladies. Tippi Hedren, looking more like June Allyson, fell off her spikes during the finale. Indeed, almost the only figure not on high heels was James Brown, who performed at the finish.
Mugler kicked off with a pack of cyber-catwomen in super-tight black PVC gesticulating angrily from a giant platform, and ended with four muscular young male dancers imported from Sound Factory bumping and grinding in sequinned G-strings. In between, Thierry stuck to his usual bag of tricks: tarty leather harness tops, fake fur suits and jackets and one outfit dubbed Robot Club Couture, a silvery metal jumpsuit that would be perfect for a remake of “Metropolis.” In short, it was fashion on steroids.
Nevertheless, it’s Mugler’s time once again. His razor-sharp sculpted silhouette — long curvy jacket, exaggerated shoulders and hobble skirt — is blowing out of the stores right now. And this collection is filled with enough reworked takes on those killer curves and angles to keep retailers coming back for more.