Tyler: Richard Tyler’s secondary collection, Tyler, is as young, flirty and sweet as it could be without becoming a junior line. But, done well, that’s always a breath of fresh air. And it was. Shown informally around the indoor pool of his Washington Street home, these clothes were easy on the eye. The separate pieces were playful enough, but Tyler took it all a bit further, playing with a long floral-print cotton shirt, peeking out from under a beige A-line mini; throwing a tiny but rugged olive cotton jacket over a long, striped cotton button-down shirt, or teaming D-ringed cargo pants with a red cotton knit tank top with a pocket on the back. The cotton voiles were great — in the form of a lavender high-waisted ice-skating skirt or simple, melon-toned asymmetric dresses. There were capris, little tennis skirts and a cute denim group in the same mood. It was only some lackluster beige rayon knit jersey dresses that looked a bit dowdy, almost like an afterthought, compared with the free spirit of everything else.
Cynthia Steffe: Want to look like a modern pinup girl, sexy but sweet, too? Well, Cynthia Steffe is the designer for you. She said that her collection was inspired by the Fifties Vargas girl, and her opener was a slew of flirtatious white numbers — lace-up dresses, a baby-doll dress with a net inset, a shrunken lizard jacket and little capri pants — which were all both playful and tantalizing. Even the vibrant color palette said girly, with such looks as a pretty pink layered-hem skirt, a charming watercolor baby-doll dress and a frothy emerald chiffon cascade dress for evening. And who would have thought that bondage elements could look as innocent as they did in a strapped-bodice tunic over classic white bermudas or a pleated mesh tennis dress? It all made for a timely collection, and one of Steffe’s strongest to date.
VPL: Everything about this event was sensational, not the least of which were the clothes. As a perfect complement to the cool and active nature of Jeffrey Costello and Victoria Bartlett’s line VPL, skateboarders coasted up and down the ramps of a makeshift skatepark set up in the huge, bright loft while the models paraded around. What is VPL? Great question. Underwear, lingerie or athletic gear? Oh, never mind. You just need to know that it’s all good.
The team’s signature influences — healing, hospitals and even a hint of Helmut — were there in fabulous mixes of layered T-shirts and tanks, suspendered briefs and bandage tops or bras. A tourniquet belt was wrapped around a loose blue backless tank with white elastic straps. And a strapless nude bodysuit was shown with an unglamorous, but somehow still cool, chafe shield strapped around the model’s thighs. These were rounded by out by excellent details, from a subtle twisting of the neckline of a T-shirt and barely visible side pockets on briefs to little silver ID chains hanging off nearly everything.
Taken individually, these are pieces that can certainly stand on their own. However, the artful layering, mix of fresh colors and even the casting really put this show over the top.
Peter Som: Peter Som first showed for fall 2000, but the designer has really hit his stride in the past three seasons. Most importantly, he seems to have an increasingly clear idea of who his customer is and what she really wants.
For spring, he kept it light and clean, and the first few looks practically floated out onto the runway. But “light and clean” in no way connotes boring. On paper, a floral print blouse paired with a textured silver lamé mini might sound heavy, but in Som’s hands it felt positively carefree. A long ivory jacket cut in an oxford-weave cotton over a pink hammered-satin top and matching stovepipe pants continued in the same vein. For evening, Som’s best looks were those that incorporated a crystalline white spiral embroidery that showed up on a miniskirt and a bolero layered over a white pleated top and peach satin pants.
And while certain pieces — a couple of ruched, poufy minis and a blue jersey rugby shirt — felt contrived, they weren’t enough to drag the rest down.
Heatherette: As preshow mob scenes go, this was a good one, but Baby Phat it was not. Still, Liza Minnelli was there and her front-row companions were ladies of a different sort, but entertainers nonetheless, with names like Brandywine and Cody Ravioli. As house music pumped in the background, genuine cheers went up as the plastic was pulled from the runway. Everyone had come here for a good time.
This season, designers Richie Rich and Traver Rains received sponsorship from Kyoto Style, a company that promotes Japanese textiles, both old and new. It couldn’t have been a better fit. Heatherette worked the fabrics into looks ranging from a great little printed cotton tank-dress to their finale — a dress created entirely from multicolored loops of Japanese silks. Of course, there was the club-going gear for which they are known: a sexy, spray-painted T-shirt and miniskirt, bathing suits made from a pastiche of electric spandex, and dresses seemingly crafted solely from fluttering scraps of chiffon and loads of trimmings. And in one of their wittiest gestures yet, Rains and Rich created a cotton print with their visages that appeared in a hot pink halter dress, tank top, and bomber jacket.
Catherine Malandrino: Malandrino’s fall collection was dark and oddly proportioned, but the designer created a more straightforward and cleaner lineup for spring. Malandrino was inspired by — of all things — Gitane cigarettes, and she followed the fluid curves of the carton’s design in seaming details on little satin dresses, cropped satin pants and satin smoking jackets. Her long flowing dresses in chiffon and tulle, especially the one in black with lace, looked graceful and added a moody element to the collection. The colorful chiffon blouses and skirts in green or violet all had pretty, delicate tucking details and lace inserts that followed the lines of the body. But while there were improvements over past seasons, there were also some wrong turns, such as the striped chiffon bustier tops and dresses, which were unflattering.
Vivienne Tam: Some designers find their niche and stick to it. Vivienne Tam and her references to her native China are a case in point. Tam, however, made a departure this season, focusing on light and flirty pieces in pastel-toned chiffon and satin — tiered frocks, layered spaghetti-strap dresses, floaty tops and double-layered skirts — all of which could have worked if she had focused on the fit of the garments. But the girl who loves the designer’s prints shouldn’t fret: She also offered some of her signature Asian-inspired looks, such as the short jacket with kimono sleeves and the lotus-print canvas jacket.
Tam is trying to expand her horizons, and that’s laudable, but this attempt, with poor tailoring and cheap-looking fabrics, didn’t hit the mark. Let’s hope that she continues to explore new inspirations, but improves her execution.