AND THE HITS KEPT ON COMING: KNOCKOUT SEX APPEAL AT ESCADA, CATHERINE MALANDRINO’S LOVE LETTER TO AMERICA, WYNN SMITH’S REVAMPED RETRO AT WINK, AND OF COURSE, MORE TUXEDOS, THIS TIME FROM JILL STUART AND ANGEL SANCHEZ.
Escada: Escada’s design director, Brian Rennie, was very excited to be in New York to show his 90-piece made-to-order collection — otherwise known as the Escada Couture Oscar 2001 Collection. And he had good reason to be. Most of these gowns are terrific, and it’s the first time they’ve been shown here. But Rennie feels that it’s important for stylists and stars to view them up close. What they’ll see are elaborately beaded, glamorous and pricy gowns, some of them bold-colored and bare; others metallic and discreetly cut. “I like a sexy but covered shape,” Rennie said of his racy, Erte-inspired, beaded gowns and a silver sequined black column with beaded illusion sides. “Black has to be special,” he added. Black fox, in fact, accents his favorite number this season, a long red silk coatdress with a hand-beaded multicolor dragon motif. This front-slit beauty could, as the designer pointed out, be worn as a kimono over black pants. He also showed Forties-type shrugs in knitted fox that are the perfect touch for evenings with a bit of chill in the air.
Jill Stuart: After last season’s foray into the Eighties-prom-party circuit, Jill Stuart has grown up. Gone are the frou-frou dresses, and in their place are a cohesive group of separates that anyone can wear. They may be derivative of Balenciaga and Branquinho, but that’s okay. This time around, brights were off limits — just black, navy and cream in pretty lace tops with shirttail hems that peeked out beneath sweaters or jackets; dresses with multiple belts and calvary-style jackets. Stuart, who can never be accused of missing a trend, even did cool satin tuxedo pants. Of course, knickers and stirrup pants may not be for everyone, but all in all, it was a good showing for the designer.
Joop!: Even though Wolfgang Joop received threats from PETA and the police had to be called, his show went off without a hitch. Going for high-level luxe, the designer presented coats and tops in fur, as well as tweed jackets trimmed with it. But he tempered the look by pairing the fur pieces with slim skirts and classic trousers, which kept things from going over-the-top. He even did a stint in the military with officer’s coats, belted jackets and knee-length olive pants. Joop’s known for his out-there looks, but this season’s more quiet mood was refreshing.
Catherine Malandrino: Whoever said Parisians don’t like America doesn’t know Catherine Malandrino. Yes, she’s proud of her Gallic heritage, but her theme this season was an ode to the country she now lives and works in. Using many of the items America is known for, Malandrino did a fun collection chock full of baseball jackets, floral jeans in shades of red, white and blue and, of course, her American-flag sweaters. Knits are shaping up to be the designer’s specialty: navy striped tops with cutout sleeves as well as cream tiered numbers. While the flag print is certainly patriotic, however, Malandrino should retire it next season. She already did them for spring, and there were far too many in this collection.
Wink: It was a little bit Romeo-and-Juliet-meets-grunge, with a touch of the style-conscious daughter rebelling against her hippie parents. That sums up Wynn Smith’s fall collection for Wink, and all these elements actually worked. Always known for his humorous take on retro, the designer has grown up a bit this season and it showed in his installation. Particularly strong were the bias-cut tweed blazer with ruffled details, a double-breasted coat, beat-up rugby shirts, subtle tie-dyed T-shirts and what he does best: shrunken blazers. While some of the plastic lace numbers looked cheap, and a few of the layered looks were overdone, the real misstep was in his choice of venue. Unfortunately, the space was too small and overcrowded to get a good look at the clothes and really appreciate Smith’s talents.
Donald Deal: Deal has done a 180-degree turnaround. Like a number of other eveningwear designers, he has shown an unusually strong collection after a succession of lackluster seasons. This time around, his clothes, accessories and models were younger and sexier than ever. Even his gowns had a light touch, especially the long, swirling black cashmere and chiffon dress cinched with a suede belt and the brown chiffon or georgette versions. They all floated romantically down the runway. And as a diversion from the expected, Deal even showed a charming multicolored striped taffeta ballgown skirt with a black cashmere halter sweater.
Angel Sanchez: Dressy clothes, as we once knew them, are near extinction this season. And it’s a relief to see many designers stretch a bit to freshly interpret what evening’s all about. Elizabeth Hurley, Dennis Leary and Cynthia Nixon all witnessed Sanchez’s shift. For instance, he takes traditional formal tuxedo pants, gives them a dramatic, fluid shape and adds a white cotton shirt and black cashmere pullover for day. Conversely, he shapes sporty leather, as others have done this season, and glitzes it up for night in sizzling bare little black dresses or skirts edged in crystals. These, along with two evening shirtdresses in black and white silk charmeuse or fringed chiffon, were most welcome. All of it underscored Sanchez’s younger zest for nightlife.
Girls Rule!: An upbeat, party atmosphere and cute clothes for the teenybopper set — that’s what this group show for junior designers is all about. And each season, that’s exactly what it delivers. From Planet Yumthing’s do-it-yourself looks to accessories overkill by Hello Kitty, the lineup was seemingly endless. While Rusty and Chicks Rule seemed to confuse the season, showing items that were clearly spring-summer instead of fall, Stephen Hardy was more on track with innovative designs such as wide-leg black denim pants, culottes and fishtail skirts. Guest List Wear went in for an Eighties-inspired revival with peg-leg and stirrup jeans, while Dollhouse showed stylish leather looks.