NEW YORK — It’s always a good idea to catch the attention of retailers and fashion editors before the New York collections move into high gear. And many designers did just that. Among those who presented their collections this week were several Italian-based companies, an out-of-towner, a futurist and several of the city’s younger talents.
Chantal Gaudreau, Belvest and Vestimenta are all Italian companies eager to gain recognition here. Chantal Gaudreau, a collaboration between designer Giorgio Infantidis and co-creator Chantal Gaudreau, held its first formal presentation at Brasserie 8 1/2 last Friday. The company, which is only 18 months old, opted to show its sportswear line in New York instead of in Milan. “For now, the main thrust of the business is in the United States,” explained Gloria Gelfand, merchandising consultant for the company. The line featured many great knits, a double-faced shearling vest, cashmere coats, pants and skirts as well as a range of pieces with embroidered details.
Belvest, best known for its well-established men’s wear line, showed its women’s collection, now in its third season. There were beautiful camel hair and cashmere coats and suits, a luxurious white cashmere and rabbit hair trenchcoat and reversible shearling coats and vests. The subtle details included epaulettes on shirtdresses and jackets and button trims running along skirt slits. It all added up to a tailored, classic and luxurious collection.
Vestimenta, another Italian-based label, showed, in their Madison Avenue showroom, what they do best — timeless, sophisticated suits and other day looks. What stood out were simple yet elegant camel-colored cashmere coats and suits, warm, luxurious sleeveless cashmere sweaters, and delicate shirts. In sum, it was an exercise in classic wearable clothing.
German designer Gabriele Sanders is another advocate of luxury fabrics. The New York-based Sanders began designing pashmina shawls, plush throws and pillows five years ago. Then she added pashmina loungewear. Now, Briele, Sander’s first ready-to-wear collection, includes everything from knitted coats, cardigans and skirts to full-legged pants, jumpsuits and even halter dresses. While not every one of her 40 pieces is a winner, many looks show both accomplishment and promise. It’s primarily the rich pastel palette, her 22-ply merino wool with alpaca, worsted cashmere or baby alpaca that make the elaborate hand-knit wrapped sweaters or reverse intarsia vests and minidresses so special. The collection’s charm was lost, however, on anything that was too fussy or too sexy — yes, there is such a thing.
Tawfik Mounayer, another relative newcomer to the world of ready-to-wear, presented his sophomore runway effort Tuesday evening at the Angel Orensanz Foundation on the Lower East Side. Mounayer’s debut collection last season was a huge hit with the press, so his follow-up was highly anticipated. What looked good were the chic wool circle skirt, the suede camisole with a peasant skirt, the antique lace and velvet smoking jacket and a beautiful rose-colored lace dress. He veered off course, however, with his mohair pieces and the costumey Dracula capes.
Los Angeles-based designer Cornell Collins held an open-house viewing of his collection at the Royalton Hotel. For fall 2001, his third season, Collins drew inspiration from the Bauhaus school. Highlights included a beautiful black tiered organza suit and evening gown, and a skillfully constructed black corset with a black taffeta skirt. “Corsets are really my specialty,” said Cornell. “What’s really hard for me to make is a simple skirt!” And finally, on a technological/futuristic note, Jacqui Millar’s year-old collection, Idealogue, was a bit on the kitschy side. “I’m inspired by Buckminster Fuller, Emma Peel, and Emilio Pucci,” Millar explains. Hence the seriously Sixties leathery catsuits and sleek coats, the white cotton terry romper with a cape or the kit of playfully sinister accessories dubbed the “Idealogue Operating System — a construction kit for the modern muse.” Millar insists that her 10 fall looks constitute a metaphor for technology. Indeed. She notes that her online/offline, strict hooded fleece romper is useful for working on a home computer. There was also a terrific hat collection here, inspired by airline and other uniforms.
Her future projects include uniforms for a hotel that is to be constructed in outer space. How’s that for aiming high?

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