Loewe: Think “Sketches of Spain” and what do you come up with? Castanets, embroidered fans and fringed shawls? Well, that’s not what Narciso Rodriguez had in mind for his next-to-last collection at Loewe (See related story, page 13.) Rodriguez’s flamenco fantasy is more abstract than that, fresher and more chic. In fact, Rodriguez’s references to the costumes of Loewe’s homeland — and Yves Saint Laurent’s famous Spanish collection — breezed right into the fall collection all but unannounced. A sleek white leather dress was molded tight to the body up top and fell fluted and full around the calves in homage to those silhouettes of old that were built for dancing; while another made from smooth metal coins on tulle jingled and jangled softly down the runway.
Of course, the collection’s much more obvious influences came from Rodriguez’s own stark sensibilities. Tailored leathers in a cap-sleeved shirtdress, belted trenchcoat and a fantastic boxy cropped jacket and A-line skirt delicately studded with tiny metal beads, all bore the mark of his brainy austerity. Oh yeah, it was plenty sexy, too.
And while some designers might experiment with an all black, all white or — you guessed it — a black-and-white theme, it belonged here, as in the white leather camisole and flippy white chiffon skirt, for example. A few wondered if Rodriguez’s deceptively simple cropped jackets, pencil skirts and his stiff abbreviated peacoat looked a little too much like the signature line he showed in New York. Then again, as everybody knows, where fashion is concerned, you can rarely have too much of a good thing.

Veronique Branquinho: What do you do when you’re only a few years into your career, and people have already started calling you Veronique the Chic? That’s not so bad, is it? But if your last name is Branquinho, and you hail from artier-than-thou Antwerp, after a while you might get a little nostalgic for those student days gone by. Oh, to roll out of bed at noon, pull on a pair of pinstriped trousers and a wide-striped velour sweatshirt for a trip to the campus cafe.
Branquinho’s new attitude is of the studied, carefree sort that cool kids affect, whether they’re hanging out in Northern Belgium or New York’s Lower East Side. To that end, she sent out enough patched leather jackets and skirts, mumsy sweaters, complete with shabby little holes, and drab striped turtlenecks and leggings to clothe her whole graduating class at the Royal Academy.
Was any of it chic? In a grungy sort of way, sure. And her draped matte jersey gowns, shown over another slew of turtlenecks, were clearly so. In the past, however, Branquinho’s strength has been her way with elegant femininity and her talent for making even the most classic haberdashery young again. This time her collection was young, all right, but it didn’t match some of her thrilling previous efforts. If that’s a hard reputation to live up to, then so be it. It’s one that Branquinho has earned.

Martin Margiela: Every designer exaggerates, but Martin Margiela really knows how to make a mountain out of a molehill. Since his last fall collection, his experiment with largesse has taken the simple and the familiar from size M to a whopping XL and beyond. While those new proportions were startling at first, Margiela does seem to have expanded fashion’s parameters. Oversized gear is a huge (pun intended) trend on both sides of the Atlantic, from Calvin Klein’s slouchy peacoats to Bottega Veneta’s enormous jeans to Dior’s gigundo raver gear. The eye adjusts, as they say. And this season Margiela’s own maximalist stuff looks great.
He threw a proper waiter’s jacket — we’re guessing a size XXL? — over a simple black satin sheath dress, while whimsical saggy baggy Western fringe jackets and others had bas-relief buttons in a witty bit of trompe l’oeil.
But Margiela didn’t limit himself to tipping the scales. Some of his best pieces were melancholy rocker T-shirts that were smushed, wrinkled and fixed to stay that way so that “ro…” slipped into a crease and “…n’ roll” came out the other side. Big may be beautiful, albeit not always wearable, but these are the cult items those fans, desperately pushing and shoving to get into Margiela’s show, will just love.