NEW YORK — Young designer collections, bright colors, clean Seventies-inspired sportswear, flirty dresses, details and femininity carried the spring 2004 designer collections, shown last week, according to retail buyers.
Retailers said that overall, the shows ranged from strong to good, and that only a few seemed less inspired. Among the collections receiving the most raves were Derek Lam, Zac Posen, Behnaz Sarafpour and Tracy Reese, as well as the more established Michael Kors and Marc Jacobs. Among the less memorable were Bill Blass, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren.
Here’s a sampling of how the retailers reacted to the collections:
- Robert Burke, vice president and senior fashion director, Bergdorf Goodman: “It was a strong season, particularly for young or new designers. It was exactly as I hoped as far as color. There was newness, with the tans, the creams, mints, light blues, lavenders. Marc Jacobs and Calvin Klein showed outstanding color palettes. In general, the season is very fluid, with more sheer fabrics, chiffons and draping. There was a clean, crisp, scrubbed look of the Seventies, with khaki shorts, chiffon dresses, florid prints from Marc Jacobs and Calvin Klein. There was the Twenties and Thirties flapper deco thing that happened in Marc that carried over in a number of collections.
“Fuller skirts and volume is a key component for the season, Oscar de la Renta, almost Balenciaga-inspired, was strong and refined. Calvin Klein was innovative, modern, something completely new and creative.
“Zac Posen’s color palette was on target. He also had a lightness in chiffon and draping, twisted the fabrics and reminded me of early Galliano. The whole design was shockingly sophisticated for his age and his attention to details. Peter Som had great colors, great short jackets and he is very much the new American dressmaker. Narciso Rodriguez had a brilliant, soft and more fluid collection but still retained architectural character.”
- Jacqui Lividini, senior vice president of fashion merchandising, Saks Fifth Avenue: “It was a good season. There were a lot of very good, wearable clothes to excite our customer, and a lot of femininity, not too sweet and girly girl. It’s more sophisticated. Daytime looks were stronger than the evening looks. We’re happy about that. Ribbons, ruffles, laces and polkadots — all those details suggest femininity. Skirts are pleated, ruffled or flounced, and add a lot of movement to the lower body. The colors have been fantastic. They’re so appealing. Among the strongest looks were Oscar de la Renta’s Balenciaga-inspired dresses; Marc Jacobs’ low-slung pleated pants, Michael Kors’ brights and the ribbon trim at Carolina Herrera.”
- Ed Burstell, vice president and general manager, Henri Bendel: “The best collections were Peter Som and Michael Kors. We’ll carry them both. I like the femininity. It’s a girl’s season. No question about it. The best comeback was Daryl K. We’ll have Daryl K in the store. The best karma was Stephen Burrows. The best clothes you’ll probably never see will be Miguel Adrover. Best new collections were Jeffrey Chow and Matthew Ernest. Most improved was Alice Roi. Most salable was Diane von Furstenberg. In general, now that we’ve seen the collections, which in my opinion, have been very strong and salable, there’s every indication that spring, at least for the Americans, is going to be strong. A lot of money is going to be spent before we go to Europe.”
- Joan Kaner, senior vice president, fashion director, Neiman Marcus: “I think it was a week of ups and downs, literally and figuratively. It’s about dresses and femininity. It’s almost like we skipped over spring, and moved right into summer. There were flirty little dresses and dresses with volume. There was volume and straight as evidenced by Narciso Rodriguez and Donna Karan. Color is all over the place, with neutrals, brights and pastels. Shorts are also wonderful, especially the knee-length ones you can wear with a jacket and almost wear to work.”
Among her favorites: Chado Ralph Rucci’s use of patterns, as well as black and his new shapes and younger styles; Carolina Herrera’s chiffon and vertical ruffles; Behnaz Sarafpour’s pretty dresses; Tuleh’s pants, and Michael Kors’ jackets. “When he does slick and modern, it looks great. It was beautiful, especially the handpicked jackets.” Kaner also liked Carmen Marc Valvo, Monique Lhuillier and Derek Lam.
- Sue Patneaude, executive vice president of designer apparel, Nordstrom: “Our overriding thought is, This is a great time to be a woman. The collections are feminine and wearable, with a little Hollywood bombshell thrown in. Narciso Rodriguez reinvented linen with his spectacular dresses. We loved Michael Kors with all the color, which is exactly what our customer wants from him. We liked the get-up-and-go optimism of Marc Jacobs, and Badgley Mischka and Carmen Marc Valvo showed perfect runway collections. I loved Ralph Lauren. The intense color was exciting, a real surprise, a collection like that keeps sportswear alive.
“We really liked the soft, warm colors that Francisco Costa did for Calvin Klein, and overall, we liked the Mediterranean blues and greens on the runway and the mix of warm and cold colors.
“The definition of sportswear has changed. There’s virtually no structure anymore, and I was thinking that sportswear is an outdated word. There’s very little difference between day and evening, except for gowns. There’s no formula dressing, no jacket-pant-skirt rules. It’s all about individualism now. You have to be more sophisticated approaching the market.”
- Evelyn Gorman, owner of Mix in Houston: “I saw a wonderful show by Maria Cornejo of Zero. I will be buying it for the store. It’s very wearable, but different. I loved Michael Kors’ bright, sunny, wonderful, colors. They were gorgeous. Narciso Rodriguez had a beautiful show, probably the best collection of his that I’ve seen. I also liked Proenza Schouler. Fresh ideas from fresh brains. They continue to do the unexpected, to weave styles together in compositions that are just unexpected. I found the shows were upbeat and fun, and were saying, let’s be energetic, let’s take chances and let’s have fun. I didn’t see a lot of serious notes, and I thought the designers did a very good job [overcoming] the conundrum of combining what’s wearable and what’s special.”