CHANGE IS GOOD. AND EVERYONE FROM BURBERRY AND BCBG TO KITTY BOOTS AND YEOHLEE TINKERED WITH THE TRIED-AND-TRUE AS THE NEW YORK COLLECTIONS KICKED INTO HIGH GEAR.
Cynthia Rowley: It was a veritable three-ring circus on Monday night at the Cynthia Rowley show, staged at the New Victory Theatre. There were jugglers, a mime, an acrobat and an accordion player, all of whom contributed to the magical vaudeville atmosphere. The audience watched the action from both the orchestra and balcony as Rowley’s playful looks came down the runway. There were terrific pinstriped pants and suits worn with tarnished silver corsets or silk T-shirts, a sexy black satin dress with pleated ruffles and great jackets and tops with small sequined lions or elephants at the shoulders. Her tropical wool pants with sparkle belts were also good. But some looks — the pink dresses at the end of the show, for example — were a bit too surreal and would be best left to true Big Top acts. Overall, though, the show and the theatrics were great fun.
Burberry: How far can you take a plaid? Well, the people at Burberry London are constantly trying to answer that question, and this season, they’ve revamped the pattern yet again, and in some cases, even updated their classic silhouettes. Chic black and white are the colors of choice, showing up in a cute plaid miniskirt, a luxurious shearling coat and a new version of the sleeveless trench dress. The company is also hot on the military trail with a great belted jacket and coat. And the jeans collection, introduced last season, has grown. Great fur-trimmed plaid jackets, patchwork skirts, shrunken duffel coats and, of course, denim with the signature pattern, looked cool.
BCBG Max Azria: In an attempt to refine his collection, Max Azria toned things down this season while emphasizing structured looks. Suits and coats were lean and sophisticated, and he used plenty of luxe leather and suede for everything from coats to trimmings on tops and accents on dresses. Azria tried to take the collection in an upscale direction in hopes of attracting a new, more affluent customer, and sometimes it worked. Panelled leather jackets and coats, the pintucked chiffon dress, slim wool suits and moleskin pants are sure to appeal to Gwyneth Paltrow wannabes. Too bad he didn’t put all his attention on these new polished looks, though. Azria lost his way with the sea of metallic and beaded evening looks.
Katayone Adeli: Adeli has always preferred informal shows, but this season, she decided to put her collection on the runway. She constructed one in her store, and that worked well for the kind of clothes she makes. The designer, known for her attention to detail, used a delicate hand on pretty lace tops with satin insets, army pants with an ever-so-small pocket or ruching and a beautiful strapless pleated dress with a sequined sash. Her themes included a hip version of the Twenties and a cool but subtle military look. But even her usually light touch couldn’t save her from a few dowdy silhouettes — the pleated coat, lace cocktail dress and the floral pieces.
Chaiken: Mix a bit of the roaring Twenties, a pinch of Victorian formality, add a dash of present-day edge, and you’ve got Chaiken’s fall collection. Known for clean cuts with extra oomph, the design duo of Julie Chaiken and Jeff Manshie updated the speakeasy era with cool draped tuxedo pantsuits, fur-trimmed sweaters and great inverted-pleat skirts. Even the turn-of-the-century-inspired, puff-sleeved leather tops and sweaters looked fresh. But maybe the pair had a little too much fun. There were a few silhouettes that defied modernization: leather knickers; rug-like, shaggy cardigans, and tuxedo pants with contoured stripes resembling sheer insets simply didn’t work.
Kitty Boots: With all the Eighties flashbacks on the runway lately, Kitty Boots, that quintessential decadent-decade girl, could be having quite a moment. Instead, she’s trying to head in a more sophisticated direction. Fifties-style cocktail dresses, tuxedo pleats and military details were everywhere. Among her best looks: chiffon dresses, sash-waist pants and silk charmeuse blouses. Of course, she couldn’t resist conjuring up a little of her past — leather bombers and fringe dresses — but, unfortunately, these detracted from the rest of the collection.
Halston: What does the Halston name actually stand for? The answer rests with Craig Natiello’s fall collection and it’s a confusing one, at best. Unfortunately, glitz, and in an effort to be casual, slouchy proportions, combined with a general vulgarity prevailed throughout most of the show. Not surprisingly, the only touch of elegance came in the form of vintage Halston looks: long flowing gowns or a navy turtleneck column in jersey. One fresh touch: the laser-cut red mink coat. But much more is needed to carry the Halston banner.
Yeohlee: Yeohlee has joined the season’s caravan of Bedouins. And while the drama of her collection was often compelling, she sometimes wandered with a surplus of harem pants or the sea of overly wrapped sarongs — short and tied over skirts or long and on their own. But reinventing oneself is rarely smooth sailing. The new spirit that Yeohlee was after, however, came through in many of her terrific Mideastern looks: mosaic jackets, subtle sarongs and dramatic cashmere capes, ponchos and kimonos. But Yeohlee is smart enough to hang onto a good thing — and some of her signature classics also showed up, such as her simple short coats in luxurious alpaca or a cashmere blend, and for evening, a knockout silk jacquard bias-cut sarong paired with a matte jersey T-shirt.