NO, IT’S NOT ALL RETRO FOR SPRING. THERE’S ALSO COLOR, SHINE AND EVEN TRUE ROMANCE.
Michael Leva: It was tea and civility Fifties-style at the SoHo loft-cum-retro furniture shop where Michael Leva presented his collection. Models lounged on curvy couches wearing floating crinoline dresses, sherbet-colored seersucker suits and citrus-striped, silk and cotton shirtwaist dresses. Leva’s sequined net tutus lent just the right amount of whimsy to a concise and very wearable collection.
Robert Danes: Inspired by Franco Zeffirelli’s passionate “Romeo and Juliet,” Robert Danes sent out steamy, high-exposure dresses and gowns with gossamer cutouts and bare backs. Though beautiful, these numbers are only for the most heavenly bodies. Apart from the dresses, Danes seemed stalled by a shortage of ideas. He threw in some homegrown floral-print satins, which looked out of place. What happened to the stunning suits and evening separates of seasons past?
Byron Lars: After canceling his Bryant Park presentation because of late fabric deliveries, Lars gave a lackluster presentation in his 57th Street showroom. Although there were some winners — the sage sequined blouse and pencil pants and some sexy satin pieces — haven’t we seen those wrap dresses in previous seasons? We missed the spirit and humor that usually distinguishes Lars from the rest of the fashion crowd.
John Scher: Scher spanned the decades with enough disco to fill all of Studio 54, then sent out Sixties tie-dye looks and prim Jackie O jacket dresses, Fifties shirtdresses in chocolate charmeuse and Forties-style suits in sexy apricot silk satin. All in all, Scher seemed to go overboard on retro. And overboard is the last thing anyone needed in that hot, street-level store space, where everyone sat crushed together on the floor.
Lawrence Scott: This was Scott’s first show, but he had his support system firmly in place. Sitting in the front row were Christian Francis Roth, Byron Lars and Molly Ringwald, cheering his collection of all-American designs. Scott, a farm boy at heart, uses sackcloth, gingham and daisies to give slips, bra tops and HotPants some fresh country air. But his gangster suits, well-cut sequin pieces and dresses printed with images of Charlie Parker could teach a city boy a thing or two.
Russell Bennett: Bennett created an enchanted garden setting in an industrial space on Sixth Avenue using murals and flowers as the backdrop for a collection with plenty of spark — and more than a hint of Galliano. Bennett showed Fifties-style embroidered party dresses with crinolines; a corset with a lace-trimmed tulip skirt; pouf skirts; Laura Petrie-inspired poplin shirtdresses, and little boleros with polkadot ruffled skirts (similar to ones in his new secondary line, More Dash Than Cash).
Frank Fleming: In a SoHo restaurant, accompanied by Latin music and mambo dancers wearing spectator shoes, Frank Fleming’s models camped it up in a little of this and a little of that: short handpainted slipdresses, ankle-grazing sarongs and burnout-silk jackets. While it isn’t always clear where Fleming is going, a few of the 19 pieces indicate that, with a bit more focus, he could be headed for success. A case in point: long or short camp-shirt dresses handprinted to look like tie-dye.
Elizabeth Fillmore: These are clothes that are a pleasure to look at and, undoubtedly, to wear. Fillmore’s romantic, trick-free evening clothes come in luxurious fabrics such as hammered satins, batik chiffons, iridescent lamés and bold florals. There are slender pantsuits as well as bias-cut Empire dresses and shirtdresses that fall well below the knee. But too often, repetition eclipsed the impact.
Rodney Telford: Why? Why is a fine designer and tailor like Rodney Telford showing see-through dresses, worn only over bikinis or sheer shirts with no bras, shorts that look like underpants and cutout dresses? Telford’s talent in clearly visible in his beautifully sculpted and detailed safari bustier and hacking jackets, lean pantsuits and pretty long or short floral dresses. But with only 37 pieces, the show should have had more going for it than that.
The Next Generation: Of the three designers sponsored by DuPont Micromattique, Anni Kuan showed the most promise. Her tanks, baby Ts, twinsets and little polyester and rayon matte jersey dresses looked polished and chic. But her colleagues, Donna Haag and John Robert Miller, aren’t yet ready for the runway.