BCBG Max Azria: Max Azria’s spring collection for BCBG was a stellar combination of girlish charm with easy glamour. The designer played with fabrics — mixing soft chiffons, cotton canvas, seersucker, jersey and twill — to provide the perfect balance for his beach-loving girl, and his dresses reflected a youthful elegance. As for color, there were vibrant shades such as chartreuse, indigo and a peony pink, but for those who aren’t so bold, rose, cream and soft blue tones turned up. Although the line had a hint of Marni, that, too, should appeal to contemporary girls. For day, the top looks included playful Hawaiian print pants paired with a ruffled bikini top, cute shrunken jackets, retro clam-diggers, plenty of sexy swimwear and eye-catching color-blocked dresses. For evening, Azria showed plenty of ruffles, from full skirts to swirl-detailed dresses, which looked great, but some of the handkerchief gowns and the sequin numbers seemed a bit out of place.
Linda Allard Ellen Tracy: After 40 years spent defining the look of Ellen Tracy, Linda Allard retired in August, and this spring’s collection was her last design effort. It was shown, once again, in the intimate setting of the Bryant Park Hotel restaurant, ILO. There were crisp, white shirts; leather skirts in milk-chocolate brown with pockets in the front, and eveningwear in oversized palm tree or poppy prints — the designer’s interpretation of dressed-up safari looks. She also sent out a capsule collection of the sporty line, Company by Ellen Tracy, which featured white denim corset dresses, simple pants and clean-cut jackets. Die-hard Allard fans also should know she already has chosen the fall colors, and new blood will continue her aesthetic next season. Two longtime members of the firm’s design teams were promoted to oversee the collections — Joni Storgion-Knight for Linda Allard Ellen Tracy and Donna McKenzie at Company Ellen Tracy.
Dana Buchman: Sometimes fashion follows art, and this time around, Dana Buchman looked to artists Alexander Calder and Willem DeKooning for inspiration. Their influences surfaced in the black-and-white swirl patterns of the eveningwear, and in the colors of the pantsuits and dresses in bold floral prints. Buchman, in fact, went in for strong colors — such as fuchsia, searing yellow and bright orange — throughout, while maintaining a sense of sophistication perfect for her customer. And, if that wasn’t enough, she debuted her new casual line, db, which is designed to appeal to a wider age range. This collection featured good-looking, lean jeans, denim minis, slim skirts, simple cargo pants and easy, zippered jackets. Buchman has always been interested in creating looks for a range of lifestyles, and now her woman can go from the weekday workplace to a weekend outdoors.
Generra: In the Eighties, Generra was a hot junior sportswear label that knew exactly what young women wanted to wear. Now, after the label spent 11 years on the shelf, Public Clothing Co. brought it back this season. Public recruited the talented designer, Tony Melillo, who understands the concept behind Generra and captured it with great success. But these aren’t clothes for a runway. Instead, the company opted to show at the Spike Gallery in Chelsea, where models, both boys and girls, played board games, steered remote-control cars or just hung out in the set of a house. It was all very charming. Melillo worked with superfine cottons and silks and simply piled on layer upon layer of pieces: cute Ts in an assortment of colors, athletic zip-front sweaters, little shorts, a hooded windbreaker, Hawaiian print T-shirts and a cropped hooded sweater. These were all very easy and wearable items, and the designer’s notion is that the clothes can be mixed and matched in any way the customer likes.
Monique Lhuillier: Young glamour — just the words sound celebratory. But then, Monique Lhuillier has plenty to celebrate. The designer, who expanded from bridal into ready-to-wear last season, seems set to establish herself as a force worth reckoning — albeit a gentle force. The collection Lhuillier showed for spring exhibited grace and subtlety, especially in delicately executed tweed jackets embellished with frayed tulle and jewels at the wrists and hem. She also showed charming ingenue dresses, and though some of her grand ballgowns played like brides gone floral, they were still lovely. As for inspiration, though her program notes cited “the grace of the ballerina,” in the suits one could sense Karl Lagerfeld pirouetting by. But no matter. Lhuillier is still young and developing her own aesthetic. A girl could do worse than to take her early cues from Karl, and with Saks Fifth Avenue opening eight in-store boutiques for her this November, she will no doubt get a better handle on what her customers want.