NEW YORK — All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players, Shakespeare once wrote, and while he may have been describing the cycle of any person’s life, he could also have been referring to this season’s New York collections. Many shows took the runway-as-stage concept to heart, and put on what some might call the theater of the absurd.
First off, while many designers merely explore that fine line between performance art and fashion show, Elisa Jimenez prefers no line at all. She continued her experimental theatrics with a joker-like actress on stage and models whose makeup resembled tear stains. Jimenez, a faithful follower of the cut-and-slash school of design, showed pieces with unfinished hems and rough, hand-sewn stitching. Liz Collins, meanwhile, found her inspiration in the Seventies TV show, “Wonder Woman,” showing intricate, offbeat knits, which looked great. But the highlight of the show came when a spinning model stripped off her cape to reveal a red knit bikini top and HotPants with crystal beading.
While there are staged performances, the rose petals on the Binetti runway created spectacles of another, more impromptu sort, since a number of the models slipped on them. But that didn’t reflect on the collection itself. Designer Diego Binetti sent out a slew of feminine dresses and tops that were embroidered or inset with lace. Overall, it was very pretty.
Elsewhere, for his Polish by Matthew Nowomlynski collection, Nowomlynski chose a photo installation over a traditional show. There were playful carnival-print bustiers, colorful bias-cut striped dresses and frilly ribbon tops.
Jean Yu also went for a less formal presentation this season. In her narrow little SoHo boutique, she displayed her fragile and airy lingerie on forms instead of models, all to dramatic effect. Her silk chiffon or satin bras, panties and slips were perfectly cut and beautifully detailed. Some examples: bias-cut briefs with a pink grosgrain ribbon and yellow satin edging; triangle bras in floral-painted chiffon, and a long white chiffon robe, belted in black ribbon.
Allegra Hicks opted for a gallery in the Meatpacking District, as many did this season, to present her second ready-to-wear collection, which was a natural progression from the slim, gorgeous caftan she’s done before. “It’s still very easy to wear,” Hicks said. The spring collection, which included coats and pants, along with cashmere knits, benefited from her great color sense.
James Thomas showed a tightly edited line, featuring finely tailored sculpted jackets, a pleated organza dress and a few sporty frocks in silks and fine cotton jersey; Wenlan Chai, known for quirky knits, paired them with floaty chiffons for Twinkle by Wenlan this spring; Gustavo Arango’s draped green ombréd chiffon dress stood out against a repetitive lineup of asymmetric evening dresses, and designer Alireza Massoumnia’s second season didn’t pack the punch of the first, but his ruched-front dresses and clever bodysuits will certainly suit the sex-kitten in many girls. Helen Yarmak, meanwhile, showed sleek coats and jackets in broadtail, sable or mink at the Capitale Ballroom. In recognition of the anniversary of September 11, Yarmak announced she would donate the proceeds of an $18,000 full-length mink coat to the Uniformed Firefighters Association Widows and Children’s Fund when it’s sold.