SHORT, SAVAGE OR SERENE
CALVIN KLEIN WAS THINKING BRIEF AND BRIEFER, WHILE DONNA KARAN DID ECCENTRIC WRAPPED LOOKS AND GEOFFREY BEENE HAD SOME FRESH ANGLES.
Calvin Klein: Call him Cool Hand Calvin. In the collection he presented on Friday, Calvin Klein showed once again why he is fashion’s master of approachable hip. He not only knows just how and when to tweak, but when to leap. Remember, for example, back when Klein shook up New York by touting the “New Length?” At the time, the knee-covering proportion seemed awkward, and many wondered if it would catch on; few predicted that it would dominate fashion for the better part of a decade.
Now, Klein’s pushing another new length — short — and it looks great. True, others have dabbled with it for fall, but he showed short looks neither as an occasional novelty nor as an ode to a retro club scene. And while these days everyone loves to say that length doesn’t matter, that we’ve moved beyond such dictates, his definitive endorsement felt very fresh.
Ditto the vague Eighties references in strong-shouldered jackets and generally loosened shapes that made for a sporty attitude. But then, one of Klein’s great strengths is his ability to make simplicity both interesting and sexy, with a trash factor of nil. And if the well-honed message became repetitive, it still looked plenty appealing; what girl wouldn’t love his short, loose peacoats and jackets over boxy dresses?
Throughout, Klein flirted with the rugged life, without ever crossing over — this is slick city stuff at heart. He played with all sorts of leather and suede finishes, sometimes in multiple layers — polished calf with nappa — or with other materials, as in glove shearling against refined cotton radzimir. He often emphasized a longish waist with low-slung belts, while a few well-placed details packed a wallop: racy buckles on a funnel-neck suede dress, a vertical slash down one sleeve of a jersey mini. And he finished off everything with high-heeled motorcycle boots.
While Klein didn’t hedge on his short bet — he never does — he did offer a few alternatives, most notably a long waxed python skirt, shown with a silk jersey henley. And while he shuns grand evening gestures, his subtlety sparkled after dark with jersey tops over pants and floaty dresses that were just this side of artsy and very beautiful.
Donna Karan: Donna Karan loves to talk about her “journey,” a trip filled with the contrasts of yin and yang, urbane and tribal, the familiar and the world beyond. For her show on Friday, her program notes proclaimed that, now, “The journey turns homeward, in anticipation of our New York store.”
We’re in for one eccentric outpost. After two seasons of chic, relatively calm clothes, for fall, Donna gave into her wanderlust once again, with an au sauvage reverie that one can’t imagine flying out of any store in great numbers, except, perhaps, for the Mad Max Mall. But in a dull week, her fearless indulgence of eccentricity provided a welcome dose of daring.
And indulgent it was, a she-warrior extravaganza of luxe dishevelment. Donna’s word for the sheared, shorn and otherwise undone pieces: ravaged. Virtually everything was dramatically distressed and then wrapped and fastened around the body, sometimes so casually that one editor suggested that some of the skirts “looked as though they were made this morning.”
Yet many of the clothes were beautiful — complicated constructions of jerseys, suede and leathers. Sometimes the fabrics fell in and out of each other seamlessly; almost always, the pieces flowed into big skirts, layered and draped in an apparently haphazard fashion.
In a season of ample sleeve action, Donna was there first — remember her famous cold-shoulder look? She reprised it here, baring one side only, in sexy jersey dresses. For all the volume, she nevertheless emphasized a lean line, punctuating long-torso shapes with big oxidized metal belts, the product of a renewed collaboration with Robert Lee Morris. And she showed some alluring witchy numbers in crocheted cashmere. Donna’s savage took Manhattan in smart khaki trenches and great black jackets and sweaters that offered relief from the wilder looks, although those back-wrap fanny skirts are tough to negotiate.
For evening, Karan vacillated between goddess mode (she added bustiers to those draped devore velvets) and breathtaking party dresses — one in gold lace, distressed and beaded, the other, in beaded black tulle over gold — perfect for the deb with an alt streak and an ample trust fund.
Geoffrey Beene: While the serenity and sanity of a Geoffrey Beene installation soothe the frenzied nerves of fashion week, it also excites the senses. At least those of sight and touch. Beene showed his fall collection in his studio, which this time around was refreshingly crowded with mannequins. Looking at these pieces close-up, you’re a bit awe-struck by the intelligence and intricacies of his work, whether it’s the herringbone cashmere jacket; a long silk pleated skirt worn with a blush crepe shirt, delicately accented by black chiffon; the charming black faille, satin-backed pinafore, or an exquisitely cut short dress in angled blocks of color. In fact, “angled” is an apt description for many of Beene’s cuts and details; the term asymmetric seems too ordinary. And since “the description,” as an Indian philosopher put it, “is not the described,” these clothes must be seen for their paradox: They are both museum-quality and consummately wearable.