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Miguel Adrover went to do “battle” with his spring looks, while Jeremy Scott flashed gang signs…Stephen Burrows charmed with jerseyed girls…As Four’s troupe trotted out tailored fare…and Luella Bartley took a bite out of the apple.

Miguel Adrover: Miguel Adrover referred to his spring show as his “last battle” for retail relevance and basic survival. To that end, he assembled a battalion-sized lineup of almost 100 looks for his presentation in Sarah D. Roosevelt Park on the Lower East Side. Some observers saw it merely as an intriguing, characteristically idiosyncratic, display of often-beautiful clothes. Others applauded, and still others were annoyed by what they saw as a deeper political message, something to do with the nasty roots of the American Empire. Such is Adrover’s polarizing effect.

But not even those who take issue with his deep thoughts would deny that the designer is talented. This year’s epic journey took flight through the Old West, with motifs of cowboys and North and South American Indians. Along the way, Adrover gave a nod to the origins of fashion — and more grandly, of man — with a primitive moment labeled “De-evolution.” And he still managed to show a smattering of the meticulously tailored suits his proponents often cite, as well as more fanciful, painstakingly crafted garments — the best part of his charged take on clothing. Note, for instance, the gingham prairie dress with an intricately smocked collar that echoed both Victorian and Masai necklines, or the ivory morning coat embroidered with images of cowboys taking aim at Indians on horseback. Salability aside, layered as they are with messages about the role of clothing in terms of class, culture and colonialism, such pieces are difficult to discount.

While the collection’s political agenda was nuanced, the designer’s other big message was anything but. Taking his bow hand-in-hand with studio manager Oscar Correcher and design director Peter Hidalgo, Adrover wore a T-shirt printed with the question, “Anyone seen a backer?” Unfortunately, the phone number printed on the back was obscured by his lengthy ponytail. But then, Adrover never does it the easy way, does he?

Stephen Burrows: Stephen Burrows had a great spring show. The energy he generated during his early years was back on the runway with sizzling, color-blocked jersey dresses and cotton numbers in bright prints. It was all quite sexy and charming. And even with the more fluid shapes, Burrows always stayed suggestively close to the body. If you’re not a print person, he offered up plenty of solid, bright little wrap dresses, some edged in contrasting colors. But his most irresistible looks were those long jerseys, such as the front-slit halter gown in white and a sleeveless number with a solid white T-shirt top and skirt in blocks of black, gray and blue.

This story first appeared in the September 13, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The collection wasn’t all about dresses, however. There were also bright bikini bottoms with contrasting slip tops and pretty, pocket-front satin aprons tied around the waist. The whole show was lots of fun.

Jeremy Scott: A knight’s tale or an urban tale? That was the question on Saturday night when Jeremy Scott got up to his old shenanigans, splitting his audience into two camps. One of them left the show thinking that it had seen a King Arthur-inspired affair replete with chainmail, crests and a warrior-like fierceness. The other shocked half believed that it had just witnessed Scott’s take on gang culture, since the designer painted teardrops, Aztec motifs and daggers on the models. All of these symbols, of course, currently have gang associations.

After the show, the designer laid the issue to rest. “Absolutely — gang culture,” he said. “It’s funny people are so easily shocked; it’s a fact of life. My thought was, ‘What if King Arthur’s court had basketball hoops?’”

It’s not as if Scott’s a stranger to controversy — remember last spring’s sexy nuns? This time, though, he said that he was going to send out fashion that was wearable, as well as introduce his men’s line. And, if you strip away the provocative schtick, that’s exactly what he did. There was some terrific outerwear, including an anorak and razor-sharp trench in a steel gray and blue chain print, and the cut-out T-shirt dresses were definitely sexy. He refashioned the idea of basic sweats into a long, slit-sleeved hoodie paired with a mesh mini, or cropped drawstring pants worn with an armor-print halter top. Scott even did pretty, albeit in his own way, with a strapless, tiered dress that had a floral-looking print which was actually little skulls. It may not have been what some expected from a showman like Scott, but it was street, it was wearable and a nice counterpoint to the prettiness seen elsewhere. What the heck, vive l’avant garde.

As Four: Moving forward from fall’s all-black showing that harkened back to their earlier days, As Four’s Avi, Ange, Kai and Gabi trotted out a light, clean collection. With much of the team’s signature color and embellishment stripped away, the collection was boiled down to its purest form. And, though there were floral prints, most of the collection was rendered in monotone pales. But, as the big, bad wolf once said, “It’s all the better to see you with, my pretty.”

The team continued to push the idea of sculptural shapes that shift with the body by creatively cutting fabrics such as sea island cotton and buttery silk charmeuse into dresses and tops that cling, flutter and flap. Tailored pieces in twill and leather were similarly light, even when trimmed with a shimmying fringe or strung with strands of silk-covered balls, which were a recurring motif on dresses and swimsuits. And, following the finale of silk charmeuse dresses that, in a perfect world, would hit the red carpet, the crowd treated the kooky quartet to a standing ovation.

Luella: A London It Girl herself, Luella Bartley makes clothes for the smartly cheeky sort of lass who likes an off-kilter brand of sexiness and is always up for a laugh. So, for spring, she mixed a mostly clean, preppy lineup of chinos and polos with clunky, yet seductive, spectator heels in various shades. To add her trademark sense of humor to the situation, Bartley chose the apple as the motif for her collection, which she showed in a multitude of forms, such as in the jacquard texture of a blazer, printed in green on crispy cotton button-downs and tote bags and used still more subtly in the black-and-white print of flippy silk dresses. This might have been a tribute to Gwyneth Paltrow’s new baby daughter or possibly a paean to Bartley’s adopted fashion capital. Whether it was or not, it’s the sort of interesting, wearable thing that her fans like. Although it’s Bartley’s bags that tend to receive the lion’s share of retail attention, she showed that her clothes are worthy of love, too.

Lilly Pulitzer: Wonders never cease — Lilly Pulitzer’s gone sexy. Her Sunday morning show gave her faithful followers — eagerly lining the front row in their watermelon pink and apple-green uniforms — a jolt of beach-babe sex appeal and even some saucy Seventies glam. Let’s have a little perspective, though. These are not glistening Miami hard-bodies in skimpy bikinis so much as perfectly tanned Cote d’Azur sophisticates.

Pulitzer’s version of a Seventies sun goddess sauntered out wearing liquid silks in vibrant colors or daring maillots that plunged and clung here and there. More than a few slinky floor-length dresses took on Farrah Fawcett-hugging proportions in jersey. The designer still worked in her signature colors, but in a new and fresh way. Thin pink and orange ribbons ran down an abbreviated caftan and across a flowing ball skirt, which, when paired with an orange bikini top, looked very chic. Next to this infusion of newness, her traditional floral and animal-print sun dresses and shorts seemed a little dated, if still cute — but will probably be what her loyal customers buy in quantity. Perhaps, though, she will also pick up a few new fans.

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