NEW YORK — Retailers hailed the return of the dress, color and more structure.
As SA concluded its second round of tent shows at Bryant Park Wednesday with its fall lines, buyers said some of the best collections came from Richard Tyler, Isaac Mizrahi, Donna Karan, Bill Blass, Victor Alfaro, Calvin Klein and Anna Sui.
They were disappointed, they said, by “costumey” looks at Ralph Lauren and what they felt was a much-too-somber presentation at Calvin Klein.
Rose Marie Bravo, president of Saks Fifth Avenue, dubbed Calvin Klein, Anne Klein and Donna Karan as the “big three” for Saks.
“We loved Calvin’s simplicity of shapes and mix of fabrics — it was pure and focused,” she said. “We loved the men’s wear looks and wrap dresses from Donna.”
Bravo praised Richard Tyler’s signature collection and his line for Anne Klein, citing superb tailoring in both.
She named Mary McFadden, Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera for eveningwear, as well as Bill Blass for daywear, coats and suits, and use of pastels.
“Spirited collections” from Isaac Mizrahi and Byron Lars also drew Bravo’s praise, as did the bridge lines from DKNY and Ellen Tracy, which were “great, wearable clothes,” especially for working women.
She said the 7th on Sixth tent shows worked well once again, adding that having one’s seat number in advance made it much easier to avoid standing in line.
Kal Ruttenstein, Bloomingdale’s senior vice president of fashion direction, said, “Fall ’94 has glamour, based on texture, color and shape — and there’s no more of the unkempt waif look.
“The biggest growth potential is in dresses…but we now have more gutsy silhouettes, including Empire, fit and flair, tunics, coatdresses and jumpers.”
Ruttenstein cited a “big comeback for Marc Jacobs with strong bright shearlings, tuxedo shapes and zippered sweaters; Mizrahi’s renewed color leadership and rubber coats with knitwear underneath setting a new way of dressing; Victor Alfaro’s sexy, well-cut dresses; Anna Sui’s combination of avant-garde, humor, and great salability, including fun cheerleader skirts, and her first luxurious look — fake mink and camel hair; Donna Karan’s sexy, high tech, neon looks suitable for the boardroom — new to anyone’s wardrobe, and Ralph Lauren’s mohairs and velvets, the best in town.”
He called Richard Tyler for Anne Klein “a major talent in less than a year, with his signature hourglass shapes in wool felt, tweed and shearling” and singled out Calvin Klein’s “new direction with longer lengths, mid-knee and just below the knee, as well as subtle cuts and colors and great coats.”
Joseph Cicio, chairman and chief executive officer of I. Magnin, said, “It was a strong week, and definitely a continuation of the trends in Europe. There’s more color, dresses are still highlights, and lengths were everywhere, from very short down to the ankles. It’s important to give customers options.” Cicio cited Blass’s short, bright, wing coats over high-waist dresses; Victor Alfaro’s seductive black dresses; Mizrahi’s theatrical collection, including the jackets and fake furs; Vera Wang’s couture-quality evening dresses; Richard Tyler’s tailoring; Calvin Klein’s soft tailored wool coats and cashmere cardigans; Donna Karan’s little black dresses, and handkerchief hem dresses, and Ellen Tracy’s chic clothes for real people.
Bonnie Pressman, executive vice president of Barneys New York, liked Calvin Klein for “some of the best dresses of the season — that’s where the knee length worked best — and his colors and fabrics.”
Pressman also pointed to Richard Tyler’s collection for Anne Klein, calling it “young and contemporary with incredible jackets and fabric combinations, pleated skirts, great pants and knits,” as well as his signature Tyler line.
She added that Donna Karan’s stretch wool suits and pin dot herringbone group were good, and praised the collections of Vera Wang and Anna Sui.
Ellin Saltzman, senior vice president, fashion director, Bergdorf Goodman, said that all in all, it was an exciting season. Among her favorites were Bill Blass “for total elegance, luxury and glamour”; Isaac Mizrahi, “for great presentation, down coats, vests, jackets and for his sense of color”; Calvin Klein, “for his new elegant sophistication, and bold stance”; Richard Tyler, “for the beautiful suit tailoring and detailing,” and Donna Karan “for the bright color suits and ageless dressing.”
Barbara Weiser, vice president of Charivari, said, “What appeared most important to me is the interest in a more polished look. I do think people are looking for fun and the American market can do that. There was a lot more color than I saw in Europe and I got into it more than I expected. It has to do with the energy people are looking for.”
Like many other retailers who saw Marc Jacobs’s show, Weiser was won over. “I also thought Anna Sui looked great. I thought this was one of her best collections. The fake furs, textured knits and parkas — there was a lot that was unpretentious fun. I thought the color in both Anna and Marc’s shows looked great.”
Joan Weinstein, president of Ultimo, Chicago, described Richard Tyler’s use of colors as “brilliant,” and said his fabrics were beautiful.
Weinstein especially liked Isaac Mizrahi’s hot orange padded vest with the green tweed pantsuit, as well as the fake furs.
“There were a lot of terrific clothes,” said Joan Kaner, senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus, noting that this would require some heavy-duty editing.
She said the store “loved Anne Klein, Richard Tyler, Donna Karan, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta and Badgley Mishka.” She also cited Bradley Bayou, Isaac Mizrahi and Byron Lars as strong collections.
Kaner also noted that Escada “came off very well,” as did Ellen Tracy.
The NM executive said she felt most of the 7th on Sixth procedures worked well, but added, “I do resent the weekend shows. I understand the weekend shows in Europe because we only have a few days there, but we have our homes and offices to deal with here, and I found it to be too much.”
“The whole message of the season is stylized glamour,” said Benny Lin, fashion director of Macy’s East. Lin’s hits: Marc Jacobs for his “creative combination of materials, silhouettes and color”; Anna Sui for her “witty, offbeat, bright vision of design,” and Richard Tyler’s meticulous tailoring.
Items he particularly liked were Calvin Klein’s knee-length dress and coats, and Donna Karan’s string-tie wrap dress with asymmetric hemlines.
Val Cooke, vice president of Saks-Jandel, Chevy Chase, Md., gave high marks to Isaac Mizrahi’s bubble gum colors and the military-style clothing of Richard Tyler.
Shelley Sams, senior buyer for Dayton Hudson’s Oval Room and Marshall Field’s 28 Shops, said the best collections were by Isaac Mizrahi, Bill Blass, Yeohlee, Oscar de la Renta, Victor Alfaro and Prada.
She said Blass showed “an immensely elegant collection,” liked Yeohlee’s coats, and Victor Alfaro’s “charming little black dress.”
Sheila Kamensky, vice president and fashion director for Rich’s, had kudos for Donna Karan, cited Byron Lars for wearability, Anne Klein for superb suitings, Bill Blass for suits and understated evening looks, and Calvin Klein for jackets and knitwear.
Lavelle Olexa, senior vice president for fashion merchandising at Lord & Taylor, liked the new takes on coatdresses, and thought there were great suits at Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera.
She especially liked the Anne Klein pantsuits and Ralph Lauren’s “beautiful mohair sweaters.”
Not everyone scored.
Several retailers said Ralph Lauren was “costumey.” Said one executive, “Where are those simple, elegant clothes he’s known for?”
And a number of executives felt Calvin Klein’s show was “downbeat,” even though they liked the clothes.
There were some other downers. Some retailers said Oscar de la Renta’s combination of leopard prints and paisleys didn’t work and one felt the collection lacked energy.
Scaasi’s collection was marred by poor fabrics, according to one retailer.
One retailer, reflecting the opinion of a number of others, said Ghost was a disappointment: “There’s a trend toward sleaziness there that I don’t understand. It’s that vampy, Miami Beach look. The Ghost customer really likes simple, easy-to-wear clothes and this collection seemed to move away from that.”
The showiness of the collections bothered some retailers.
“Designers, with all the 7th on Sixth focus, have found that they not only have to design clothing, but they’re now in the theatrical business,” said one retailer. “It bothers me that all the attention is on the runway and journalistic reviews but there’s no focus on their performance in the stores.