Ralph Lauren’s ladies had a silver-screen glamour…Francisco Costa’s Calvin Klein girl possessed a minimalist beauty…and Narciso Rodriguez’s women combined provocation with a little relaxation.
Ralph Lauren: Come spring, a lot of girls will no doubt want to tweak the lyrics that played at Ralph Lauren’s show on Wednesday morning to: “Steppin’ out in my Ralphie. Can’t go wrong, ’cause I’m dressed right.”
To be honest, from the program notes on the designer’s inspiration — “the sophisticated glamour of the silver screen and the chic refinement of cafe society” — this one could have gone either way. But fears of too-costumey an homage were dispelled as soon as Lauren’s models appeared on his set, an Astaire-worthy ivory paneled room with a glossy floor so perfect you practically heard the tap shoes in motion.
Certainly the screen divas of yore claim no exclusive on high-glam/high-sheen whites, delivered by Lauren in wonderfully insouciant, faux-casual combinations: a big-collared silk cardigan fastened with a brooch and worn with satin shorts and a cashmere coat; a satin midriff over trousers. He went for only the palest of color in icy pale blues and pinks, evoking not the iconic brassy bombshell but her aloof, aristocratic counterpart. True, in her devotion to chic understatement she sometimes tread the too-quiet side of discretion. But then, just like Tracy Lord in “The Philadelphia Story,” she forced herself toward frivolity in, for example, ruffle-collared pink organza.
That said, few of Lauren’s references were literal, save for their doggedly consistent sense of refinement. To that end, he wavered not an inch through the collection’s various motifs — linen suits, dressed-up sweaters, tailored metallics, graceful dresses, their assorted frills invariably well controlled.
In fact, much of the collection’s allure lay in its control, Lauren proving well the notion that au courant feminine dressing need not display the sensory overload found in what is now granny’s proverbial attic. That said, he did accessorize with diamonds galore, beaded cloches and the occasional marabou tickler, none of which looked forced.
For evening, Lauren infused siren dressing with an appealing serenity in beautiful charmeuse and satin gowns. And he punctuated his case for refinement by taking his bow in a so-dapper suit and tie. Bravo.
Calvin Klein: A hint of Brancusi and a whole lot of Calvin. That was Francisco Costa’s attitude as he designed the Calvin Klein collection he presented on Tuesday. “There’s nothing to be reinvented here,” Costa said. “We just have to keep bringing the essence of Calvin Klein forward.” It’s a philosophy with loads of merit, and one that held considerable promise for spring, even if in the end it was realized only partially.
Certainly Costa should be applauded for the confusion-free way in which he has embraced Klein’s minimalist aesthetic at this highly ornamental moment in fashion. So much so that when Natalia opened the show in a long tank dress in khaki silk jersey twisted deftly for delicate movement, her presence made for the perfect fashion exhale: How refreshing to see a girl looking so beautiful yet so unfettered. More dresses in that vein were among the collection’s strengths; New York has seen its share of hemlines at midcalf and lower, and these were some of the best. But when Costa went long and full in skirts, the mood turned too Calvin 1978. As for the cropped pants, if there’s a chic side to sloppy, Costa missed it.
Oh, but the coats — terrific. Here, a pale lambskin, reversible to jersey, looked stellar, while he also made savvy use of transparent snake for a trenchcoat and stingray for a sleek jacket. In fact, much of the interest of these clothes came in the fabrics or discreet details better appreciated up close, so that from the audience, the mood turned dull at times. That said, flashes of color — teal, marine blue, coral — did manage to juice things up. These came in languid jersey dresses and gowns, some colorblocked with a bit of awkwardness, others the essence of elegance.
Costa had said he drew from the work of Constantin Brancusi as vague inspiration for linear yet circular shapes, the earthen end of his palette and his accessories. These belts and silver-lined cuffs crafted from sliver-thin strips of walnut offered eloquent testimony to the merits of minimalism.
Narciso Rodriguez: Narciso Rodriguez is a master of sexually charged subtlety. So it’s something of a surprise that for spring he relaxed a bit, invoking a vaguely interpreted surf inspiration gleaned from the sunny shores of the Brazilian beach. Which is not to say that he’s gone all-out sporty, nor abandoned the intricate, razor-sharp cuts that infuse his particular brand of simplicity with a distinctive provocation. And certainly, he’d never ditch his trademark killer shoes in favor of sand-worthy flip-flops. Rather, Rodriguez added a well-considered inch here, a flash of aquatic vibrance there, which resulted in a sexy, provocative collection.
While Rodriguez went into full-on beach mode for a black stretch scuba T-shirt and shorts, his real interest lay in delivering subtle variations on his signature sculpting. He loves a high waist, and achieved it variously by gathering a stretch of fluid pink silk with a fabric band or cutting jackets high over dresses and skirts. More often, he shaped his silhouettes with perfectly constructed, unfussy bras and corsets, many allowing for glimpses of skin in back, in shapes that swung both fluid and crisp. When it came to separates, Rodriguez went for a similar range in sleek, lady-fied looks and more casual fare. For the latter, he sometimes digressed from his beloved neutrals not only with flashes of color but with bold, graphic patterns in combinations that went from off-beat to just plain odd. Conversely, his forays into solid color worked beautifully, as in the amazing pink trenchcoat with abundant folds of fabric in back.
Evening was a languid lineup cleverly constructed to combine flou with an unabashed focus on the bust. Now that’s a winning combo.