MARC JACOBS SHOWED PLENTY OF CHARM WITH HIS SIGNATURE COLLECTION AND WITH HIS FAB DENIMS FOR MARC, WHILE OSCAR DE LA RENTA GAVE HIS LADIES SLEEK, SNAPPY FARE AND BADGLEY MISCHKA GOT A BIT SPORTIER.
Marc Jacobs: Security doesn’t come easily in fashion, a fact to which many designers can attest, few more definitively than Marc Jacobs. So one can easily find symbolism in the fact that, on Tuesday afternoon, little more than an hour before his Marc by Marc Jacobs show, the designer was sitting in the lobby of the Mercer Hotel, chatting with friends.
That cameo of calm captures the way things have come together for him recently. While Jacobs was always an editorial darling, his various business incarnations existed on the brink until just a few years ago. A handful of people did everything, from producing the samples to doing the seating chart, models got paid in clothes and paying the rent was an issue. Now, Jacobs can enjoy the luxury of relaxing right before a show — as it would turn out, his second fabulous collection in less than 24 hours.
The operative word, of course, is luxury — life chez Jacobs would be very different were it not for Marc’s deal with LVMH. But the real security comes not with the contract, but on the runway, where Jacobs seems to be doing everything right: racy chic at Louis Vuitton; street smarts with a smile at Marc, now in its second season; offbeat ingenue sophistication for his signature line.
In recent seasons, he has honed that attitude with just enough fashion innuendo to keep the charm from turning saccharine, and on Monday night, it worked brilliantly. Once upon a time, little girls were raised on the axiom that “pretty is as pretty does.” But then, pretty has to let loose sometimes. After his sexy-comic digression through Eighties club culture last season, Jacobs returned to the more delicate posture, casting it, he said before the show, as “propriety with a fetishistic slant.”
He had a point, since his muse for the season seems to be equal parts schoolgirl, French maid and Olive Oyl. She pounded the runway in round-toed Minnie-Mouse heels, her bold-girl demeanor contrasting with the clothes that had an oddly alluring cartoon dreaminess. There was something off about the coats and jackets — – smallish proportions done up with huge buttons and puffy pocket flaps; rich fabrics boiled for rumpled imperfection.
Once again, Jacobs showed a bounty of sweaters, but instead of the usual meaty versions, he went for featherlight cashmeres inset with contrasting strips of color at the neck and cuffs. He continued to trick the eye with beautiful blouses and dresses, flat collars inset in a manner that at some times referenced that sex-kitten maid, and at others, Orphan Annie’s couturier. Either way, the result was delightfully saucy.
Neither girl, however, put in an appearance when Jacobs showed his Marc line. This is the collection that could ultimately be the cash cow for the Jacobs house — there just aren’t enough Daddy Warbuckses to go around for all the girls who might consider marrying a geriatric to get their hands on some of those four-figure lovelies. Marc is for a girl with more practical aims, one who wants to look cool while schlepping her model’s portfolio about town — or wants to give the impression she has one to schlep, even if she doesn’t.
With last season’s strategically creased jeans flying out of stores, Jacobs here worked denim like a charm for military cutaway coats, a girly Edwardian jacket and, of course, jeans. His favorite look is ultra-faded, with jeans turned up or cropped short over sturdy ankle boots and worn as you please — with a parka, a sweater, an Eton blazer. He also showed undone-fluffy skirts for punk Laura Ingalls types, and countless great dressed-down items — everyday clothes at approachable prices — and that has been the missing link in the Jacobs business. As the ads say: “Girls love Marc Jacobs.” Now more and more can and will wear his clothes.
Oscar de la Renta: There’s a reason the Ladies are wild for Oscar de la Renta. No matter what, he won’t let them down. Not even when chronic back woes have him holding court backstage in a wheelchair, just days before his scheduled surgery.
De la Renta knows that those women need him. In this crazy trend-a-minute world, they want the common-sense chic he delivers, season after season. Yet even he must wrestle with his fashion demons. “I have a certain customer who dresses in a certain manner,” he said before his show. “At the same time, a beautiful suit can look dowdy on the runway.”
His solution: smart, snappy clothes with enough sparkle to lure young socials, while making their more reserved elders feel just a bit daring. A fabulous plan, at least by day, when de la Renta focused on alternatives to suits. Who needs to be all matchy when she can cozy up in a luxe white cabled cardigan coat with a knitted fox collar? And that’s just one option, as de la Renta showed a broad range of sweaters, some sleek and trim, some the essence of casual indulgence.
For more tailored types, he offered snappy black-and-white tweeds, often accessorized with a bright red or green handbag from his new collection, and a lineup of beautiful coats. Here, Oscar indulged his penchant for embroideries, but kept them fresh and light. A case in point: Tossed over a silk blouse and tweed pants, his black wool coat with popcorn detailing projected a perfect dose of not-too-casual elan — just the kind to make a woman feel appropriately modern. And that was the message de la Renta delivered exquisitely over and over, with smart diversity.
At night, however, Oscar roamed a bit too much. To Paris, for example, where his ombred sequins and frilled white blouses over black skirts looked a tad too Chanel couture-ish. On the other hand, frothy black frocks done up in feathers and beads were Oscar at his playful best.
Badgley Mischka: One always wants more of those sure-handed sporty looks Mark Badgley and James Mischka tease us with each season. And for fall, they were there in spades — confirming the pair’s ease with day clothes of the dressed-up kind. The younger social set who love their signature gowns will happily shed one for the gold-beaded peasant shirt with leather sleeve lacing over a brown leather skirt. Hollywood starlets might even rethink Oscar night for a sleek leather off-the-shoulder top and skinny skirt. Even more of a surprise — corduroy — in a terrific tailored coat and suit, sure to appeal to a sportier crowd.
For evening, the designers had fun mixing things up: a short, striped dress in strips of studded leather and chiffon; the little black lace flared dress with delicate ruffle trim. But of course, the ever-perverse fashion crowd sat there hoping for more of those beaded beauties. Even the precious few shown had a new spirit. Consider the long tiered or pleated chiffon dresses with delicate beaded fringe or the lapis-beaded and leather-belted dance dress. The fall mood here was perfectly captured by the cassis silk satin sheath, beautifully tucked at the hem and sleeves. It will be interesting to see what happens come spring.