THE RAZOR’S EDGE
HARD WORK PAYS OFF. AND SEVERAL DESIGNERS — DAPHNE GUTIERREZ AND NICOLE NOSELLI OF BRUCE, WILLIAM REID AND CHRISTINE GANEAUX AMONG THEM — SHOWED THEY’VE HONED THEIR SKILLS TO A CLEAN, SHARP EDGE.
Luca Luca: Luca Orlandi has always been known for his bold approach to fashion — brightly colored patterns are his signature. This season, however, he turned over a new leaf and the result was decidedly tamer, more wearable and a bit grown-up. Orlandi abandoned the prints, chose a palette of black, caramel and cotton-candy pink and cleaned up the silhouettes. He showed bias-cut pleated leather jackets and dresses, sweet little strapless sequined dresses and beaded evening coats with fur collars. Orlandi spruced up his knits this season, too, showing lots of great cashmere sweaters, including a cocoa off-the-shoulder look. He even experimented with draping and ruching on tops and dresses. The sheer tops, however, were unrealistic, and by the fifth version of the look, we had already gotten the point. Overall, though, it was a strong effort for the Italian designer.
Bruce: New York is lucky to have such a talented design duo as Daphne Gutierrez and Nicole Noselli of Bruce. Season after season, they’ve sent out some of the most interesting clothes while keeping hype to a minimum. This season, the two distilled their talents into a collection that was both razor-sharp and romantic. A corduroy jacket looked soft as mink, while subtle pleats and pintucking criss-crossed fluid jersey dresses. But even when the two worked in lace — as in the gray lace bolero shown over a sleek corduroy bustier — they proved their romance a sober one, without the saccharine frills that could have detracted from its mystery.
Now that Shiseido has stepped in to play Daddy Warbucks for the pair — the cosmetic company backed the show — perhaps Bruce’s cult will spread beyond the confines of Manhattan’s fashion cognoscenti.
William Reid: Tony Smith and William Reid have plenty of good things on the horizon. With their wholesale business at $1 million and growing, the duo are planning to launch collections of shoes, handbags and denim. And Smith, who used to have his own line, The Smiths, is relaunching a high-end collection. Both designers complement each other. Smith’s attention to detail — trousers seamed at the leg, lace asymmetric skirts with side pleats and a red embroidered coat with leather trim — and Reid’s men’s wear training was evident all over the runway in such looks as a men’s-style ribbed tank, camel flannel trousers and a plaid shirt with ruffles. Although the boucle skirt with a leather hem was oddly shaped, this collection had a lot of separates to love.
Gen Art: It was a reunion of sorts for the four design firms showing with Gen Art this season. Each has shown with the group in the past — and my, have they grown. Take Paige Novick, for example. She began in 1994 by creating hair accessories, then moved on to handbags and, a year ago, she launched a full collection that combines vintage patterns with a rock ‘n’ roll twist. Key looks included pin-dot dresses, tweed suits, floral blouses and sexy leather pants. But the ruffled-bum HotPants and skirts were unflattering — even on the thinnest girls.
Then there was Trosman-Churba, designed by the Argentinian duo Jessica Trosman and Martin Churba. Their specialty: creating one-of-a-kind materials. One technique, for example, involves painting images onto accordion-pleated fabrics. This season, the pair managed to give the collection a more refined look, toning down the loud patterns and shapes of the past. Standout pieces included A-line skirts with a beaded pyramid pattern, a plaid beaded shell worn with a plaid skirt and the fitted denim jackets. The clown pants and pouf skirts, however, were just too theatrical.
Another designing duo, Stuart Trevor and Kait Bolongaro of All Saints, already has a celebrity following at home in Great Britain. The collection riffs on traditional men’s wear and takes off from there. The women’s line featured men’s suit and tie fabrics that were given a decidedly feminine edge. Slim pencil skirts in wool flannel, pinstripes and silk and wool lace were combined with Eighties-style bombers, fitted varsity jackets and tight Fifties-style sweaters.
Last but not least was the highly imaginative presentation from designer Jared Gold. Gold’s carnival theme had it all: drag queens, masks and colorful pom-poms thrown around by the models. The collection itself was just as offbeat and entertaining, from chandelier-print gowns to muslin body bags. There’s just one hitch: Most of these looks could only be worn on Halloween.
Moet & Chandon: Three emerging talents with distinctive styles took center stage at Moet & Chandon’s “Designer Debut.” Christine Ganeaux, whose military-inspired collection kicked off the show, was clearly the most salable of the trio. She gave standard-issue nylon flight jackets and jumpsuits her own sexy slant, and showed some extremely low-cut pants and sash-waist tuxedo pants. Also strong were her long, waxed cotton coats. Elisa Jimenez broke from the usual show format and instead staged a mythological play, complete with goddesses and mascots representing the elements. She handcrafts her dresses, T-shirts and skirts, and the effect is always homespun with a barbaric twist — a la “Xena Warrior Princess.” This approach, however, may be better-suited to the dramatic arts, since most of the collection wouldn’t be wearable offstage. Finally, Seth Shapiro, who’s known for his period-style dresses and unusual home furnishings fabrics, stayed true to his historical silhouettes that conjure up images of Pilgrims and early settlers, this time mixing them up in unexpected combinations of materials. The overall effect, however, was disappointing.
Ecko Red: Marc Ecko staged a Sixties-style happening for his Ecko Red collection as guests and models mingled casually in his three-story showroom on Friday. While this may sound like an interesting idea, in practice it made it difficult to locate the models in the crowd. Specific groupings were assigned to each floor, and the strongest was “Illogic,” Ecko’s version of a collegiate look. Varsity blankets were turned into skirts, striped silk linings became blouson tube tops and halters and bomber jackets were cropped and fitted. His “Sub-logic” group translated camouflage prints and safari elements into a “Mad Max” style. Standouts here were the fitted, painted wool blazer and a distressed leather jacket, complete with horse hair trim just for the show. His “Logic” group, however, in a predominately black-and-white palette, unsuccessfully married sports elements with tailored looks.
Matthew Nowomlynski: Nowomlynski is no shrinking violet. The designer is well-known for his runway theatrics, and he was up to his old tricks this season. He staged his show, entitled “Like a Virgin Suicide,” in a school, and passed out brown paper bags filled with school supplies. There was even an ersatz suicide note from a distressed beauty queen. But that’s where the hijinks ended, and the beautifully constructed sportswear he sent out spoke for itself: intriguing, yet wearable. A little good girl, a little bad girl. Nowomlynski favored the mini, in pleated leather or navy wool skirts, as well as a dolman-sleeve dress. Also great were the tailored pants, leather pencil skirt and wool wrap coat. While he should have shelved the “blood”-splattered rabbit fur and red lace ensemble, for the most part, Nowomlynski’s tenacity — and talent — are paying off.