UPTOWN LADIES, PARTY GIRLS AND MILITARY GALS
THERE’S SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE IN NEW YORK, FROM CYNTHIA STEFFE’S TONY LUXE AND BETSEY JOHNSON’S ROLLICKING FREE-FOR-ALL TO VIVIENNE TAM’S TECHNO DREAMS AND CARMEN MARC VALVO’S MILITARY MARCH.
Cynthia Steffe: This was Steffe’s first formal presentation since 1997, and her timing couldn’t be better. The designer hooked up with the Leslie Fay Company recently, and that move means deeper pockets. So the introduction of her luxed-up Black Label collection makes sense. On the runway, Steffe showed both the new line and her established contemporary label, Cynthia by Cynthia Steffe, and the result was both up-to-the-minute and luxurious. Out came a number of tony looks in leather, suede, fur and cashmere. What worked best were the shearling coats and vests, a basket-weave cadet sweater, sleek leather coats, beaded dresses and tons of slim pants. At times, however, the designer went a little overboard with her fabric mixes, as in the anorak with a sheared goat front, leather-back pants and her suede and leather shirt.
Nicole Miller: First there wasn’t meant to be a formal show, then Nicole Miller surprised everyone by staging an impromptu presentation at her showroom. But with all the on-and-off vacillation, there wasn’t a big turnout. It’s a pity because, between the clothes and the setting, it was all great fun. She whisked the audience back to the Big-Band era, when, as she wrote in the program notes, “Rita Hayworth reigns as the love goddess” and “everybody wants Lana Turner’s body.” The room was turned into a Forties jazz club, complete with a cigarette girl passing out chocolate smokes. Miller showed a fantastic Art Deco-rose-patterned tie-neck silk dress, a houndstooth pantsuit, worn with a necktie and fedora for effect, and a playful military jacket and pantsuit. Even the evening looks were spirited: long, slimming metallic gowns and a cutout velvet number topped off with a mink stole.
Betsey Johnson: If anyone knows how to have a good time, it’s Betsey Johnson. For fall, she recreated her own closet — complete with orange doors, an old silk curtain and rugs — on the runway, and showed only clothes that she herself would wear. Out through the doors came lace teddies paired with tulle skirts, slip dresses with lace insets and plenty of HotPants and minis, all reminiscent of her earlier days and all pure Betsey. But aside from all the frills, there were a lot of wearable pieces, too, including striped denim capris, an embroidered tunic and the lineup of striped sweaters.
Carmen Marc Valvo: Carmen Marc Valvo’s collection is best defined by his olive drabs. Here were looks that captured three of fall’s essentials: the military theme; a new, gutsier glamour, and plenty of the sportswear-for-night trend that has been the pulse of many of fall’s shows. All these elements came together beautifully in this martial segment: an olive green suede safari jacket over a matching miniskirt in green sequined camouflage lace; the long wool officer’s coat over a beaded gown in loden, and the floor-length, camouflage jacquard silk skirt, worn with a tarnished metallic top. Some glorious dark green silk chiffons also conveyed the message. And there were also plenty of other winning shapes and colors on the runway.
Vivienne Tam: This season, Vivienne Tam brought her beloved China into the techno-fantasy realm. But her offbeat treatments — ombre leather, graffiti prints, asymmetrical hemlines, metal bars and fringe beading — added up to a collection that didn’t hang together. A few looks worked: the army green ombre leather dress, the jade-toned, cracked leather biker coat, the sexy leather pants and all the olive T-shirts with gold metal bar details. But her outerwear, including the plush tiger jacket, quilted coats and ponchos, weren’t up to the designer’s usual standards.
Rebecca Taylor: No matter what the current trend, Taylor always takes the collection somewhere feminine, but this season, she showed that there are more ways than one to get there. While the focus was still on the flirty looks she does so well, Taylor showed her range in the genre — from playful sex kitten to young working girl. What stood out were the crystal-beaded chiffon tops with tie straps, the slew of wide-legged pants, lace-sleeved blouses, tweed suits, the corsets and, of course, plenty of little dresses. But her zipper vests, feather skirt and high-waisted pants veered off course.
Douglas Hannant: Sometimes Hannant was harmless, as with the black suede pants and a long navy suede trench. At other times, he was charming: a cashmere duster, strapless pinstriped dress and the gray-and-white striped silk gown worn with a chinchilla jacket. (He just signed a fur lincense with Natural Furs International Inc. of Canada.) But too much of the collection was marred by gimmicks, as Hannant used every design trick in the book. With all the cascading details, endless asymmetrics and one-sleeved or one-shouldered looks, the clothes were off-kilter, although they might have appeared less overwhelming if you tilted your head sideways. Hannant is capable of designing clothes that look good and make sense, so how about more of those?