WHAT’S NOUVEAU

Byline:

Dries Van Noten: Conservative Chic is changing fashion — and not just by tempering the T&A on usually steamy runways. The collection Dries Van Noten showed Wednesday was the least romantic — and most commercial — he has ever done. In fact, Van Noten seems to be moving toward fashion’s tailored norm. Wispy layers and retro are a thing of the past on his runway, and in their place are plenty of straightforward tailored looks — well-cut suits with slim jackets and beautiful, sweeping coats. There’s even a newly sporty side: wide wool T-shirts over pants and an alpaca peacoat.
It’s not that Dries has abandoned romance completely. He delivers it in flower-painted satins, delicate sweaters and a neutral palette laced with gentle pinks and lilacs. But with this collection, Van Noten definitely seems to have taken a turn toward the mainstream, and along the way, he’s shed a little of what usually makes his collections so special.

Dior: For some women, chic is a religion. They keep the faith no matter what trendy fashion heresies may surface, and they stick like glue to the commandments of a smart cut and a perfect fit. Such is the flock shepherded by Gianfranco FerrA, and this season he won’t lead them astray.
The collection Ferre showed Wednesday for Christian Dior absolutely oozed chic, from its little haute chapeaux right down to those spiky, leopard-print boots. And if the mood often veered toward the nouveau side of chic — well, some people refuse to apologize for being — or looking — rich.
Nouveau Chic starts with impeccable tailoring cut with a clean line, the better to show off those high-maintenance bodies. Ferre obliges with countless beautiful, distinctive suits — the newest cut with a dropped lapel that emphasizes the bust. He also showed great coats, often cut in dramatic proportions over tight sweaters and sleek skirts. Sometimes the designer started from a base of subtlety — bird’s-eye checks, pinstripes, gray flannel.
But Nouveau Chic isn’t about keeping quiet, and there were also loud plaids, huge Mongolian lamb collars and lots of serious accessories that were glammed up and piled on. When a lady’s feeling especially brazen, she can even step out in a ferocious white tiger-print parka.
Such bravado should be exercised with caution, however. Ferre’s eveningwear — killer curves, all bejeweled and gilded — was just too dangerous even for those die-hard Nouveau ladies.

Comme des Garcons: It was prom time at the Apocalypse.
And only Rei Kawakubo could make it work. The collection she showed Wednesday for Comme des Garcons was called “Sweeter Than Sweet,” and it cast such froth as tulle frills and the color pink in a whole new light. Kawakubo twisted those lighthearted elements until they seemed right at home in her distressed world, newly painted in a pastel palette. When was the last time you saw a hoop skirt with edge? Rei sent out a whole lineup of them and endless poufs of layered tulle under jackets in everything from nylon to metallic wool.
Then there were jackets and skirts in breathtaking pastel wool lace or heavy pressed felt splashed with color; ruffled pinafores or sheer embroidered chemises over layers of nylon and gingham, and slithering dresses with rows of ruffles down the back.
It was all presented in Kawakubo’s idiosyncratic way. The clothes were cut with typical offbeat twists and sometimes bizarre turns. There were plenty of multiple layers, raw edges and arms bound to the body. But nevertheless, the clothes had a left-wing prettiness that was as charming as it was unexpected.
Lest anyone think Kawakubo had turned soft, however, her finale was all gray and black and sober as could be.

Martin Margiela: Was it fin de siecle, or the end of the world? White-coated workers herded guests into shuttle buses bound for a circus tent in the middle of nowhere. Models, their faces wrapped in black muslin, marched around the muddy sawdust-covered floor, then headed up and through the bleachers. Classical music started, built to a crescendo, came scratching to a stop and started over again.
But all the tricks aside, Martin Margiela showed one of his most commercial collections ever — with a palette that ranged from black to plum and even pink. There was a perfect black bell-shaped skirt worn with a brown and black cardigan; a sexy crimson velvet evening gown, and knee-length, belted black cotton suits. Those who love Margiela are going to eat it up. Those who don’t will think of it as Apocalyptic Chic.

Costume National: Ennio Capasa’s collection for Costume National was filled with great clean, black and white clothes for the girl who wants to look hip but still understated. The best pieces were the crisp knee-length coats with big bold buttons in wool, satin or PVC; the beautifully cut velvet pantsuits, and the lush white mohair sweaters worn with A-line PVC skirts.

Junya Watanabe: This season, Watanabe moved away from his unconventional and often tricky shapes. He mixed the classic and the high-tech in handsome structured tweed jackets and pants with intricate seaming and a reflective silver coat with a fake fur collar. The newest detail: Many of the pieces looked as if they’d been slashed by knives.

Dice Kayak: This house of three Turkish sisters has developed a solid reputation with their wearable clothes. The leather bomber jackets with snazzy satin skirts and the satin pantsuits were standouts. But their obsession with leaves and feathers — which appeared on 20 outfits — is a pity.

Capucine Puerari: Capucine knows her target — les gamines chic. She kicked off her show with a flurry of great little tight suits in padded satin and followed those with cute twinsets, natty vinyl cigarette pants and racy lingerie — always one of her strengths. But evening looked awkward, and a finale of evening columns in garish Austrian blue spoiled an otherwise jaunty collection.

Andrew GN: Young Singapore-born designer Andrew Gn showed the kind of clothes Mum would have worn if she had been just a little racy. His well-tailored suits with knee-length skirts were worn with shiny red patent stilettos, while a black satin jacket came with a sexy stretch satin skirt. And one polite little pantsuit hid a come-hither backless sweater under its jacket.

Isabel Marant: It’s fleamarket chic at Isabel Marant, where the jeweler-turned-fashion-designer sent out clothes with a recycled feeling. Those included sexy shetland knits — such as halters — and pinstriped pantsuits with just the right thrift-store flare.