Donna Karan: Everybody loves a happy ending — so thank you, Donna Karan, for putting a fabulous punctuation on the New York fall season!
The collection Karan showed Friday was exquisite, fusing many of the themes she loves and has worked with over the years. She called her show “The Nature of Seduction.” That means the raw, artisanal motif but kept sexy — get it? Doubtless, legions of women will, come spring. Because while at times Karan has let her artistic/spiritual musings get the better of her, here she controlled her every urge for an organic chemistry that reached perfection. It also provided a smart, urbane dimension to spring’s feminine mood.
You want an earthy palette, hand-stitched leathers, intricately woven tribal belts (these can double as skirts for those lucky in the leg department). They were all there, hand-stained, vegetable-dyed, pearlized and copperized. So were high-interest touch-me textures, from supple metal mesh to burlap-like linen weaves in suits that made hay with a Chanel inspiration. When Donna embellished, it was not with obvious flash, but in a coin-laden gypsy mini and block-printed silk dresses embroidered with oxidized paillettes.
In fact, Karan showed a host of spectacular dresses, for big evenings favoring lots of flou. But rather than ruffle up, she chose to weave glorious gowns from endless strips of silk crepe ribbon. When events call for something less grand, her beloved jersey came wrapped and slashed for skin-baring drama of the faux sauvage kind. But sometimes a girl feels no sauvage. Then, she can slip into Karan’s latest bodysuit variation: a swimsuit ruched and tied up with bows, to be worn as underpinning or all alone. Because there’s a little Vargas girl in everyone.
Ralph Lauren: Tennis, anyone? Divine! But Ralph, leave the Easter eggs for the bunny! The collection Ralph Lauren showed for spring started off like a dream — a languid, elegant affair with a Gatsby aura, one that beautifully expanded on the season’s mood of feminine optimism. Where most designers have engaged in exuberant froufrou, Lauren chose to celebrate the serene side of athleticism. If that sounds like an oxymoron, it was exactly the fusion of sports references with a carefree attitude that made the show’s opening so appealing. Who doesn’t appreciate the charms of a varsity sweater, especially when tinkered with masterfully: beaded to go over a flippy little dress, or stretched into a dress on its own, plunging in front and back into provocative Vs? Into this graceful lineup of Daisy-worthy chic, Lauren worked in sporting elements, from fencing (a gown with a sling of silver mesh in back) to baseball (a pinstriped leather suit). With everything in plays of white and black (the cool white dominated), one could not help but revel in the moment of glorious refinement.
Oh, but beware the false sense of serenity. Because after a few transitional vroom-vroom looks, along came the Easter parade. We’re talking Easter in Prepville, where Mom might tuck an Orange Julius pocket square into the breast pocket of her mint julep pantsuit, worn with a lavender turtleneck, orange croc purse and mint shoes, while darling Muffie would prefer a green halter polo dress, pink cardigan slung over the shoulders just so. (Only the problem stepchild who’s home from reform school would put on racy white driving gloves with her melon ensemble.) Such color works might have been fine as a drive-through, but it lasted the rest of the trip. Final destination: the big-time evening, which Lauren entered in a blaze of color. Although these gowns made more sense than the sportswear, except for a striking fuchsia slipdress, they came in high-shine fabrics that lacked the richness Lauren no doubt intended — the same kind he delivered with such élan to open the show.
Tommy Hilfiger: What do you get when you mix preppy posturing with the colors of psychedelia? A country clubber on a bad trip. “The vibrant color palette of this collection is about music’s emotional power,” Tommy Hilfiger wrote in the program notes. “This collection is meant to communicate my tremendous optimism the way a great song would.” Right on, bro. But when the stereo’s blasting, you can always lower the volume. Would that you could turn down those fuchsia organza flight pants.
The show started well enough, with fresh whites, first alone in a denim jacket and silk skirt, then accented with color in appealing deb dresses with bits of pink and orange. And all of a sudden Tommy was off on his musical mystery tour, accent on the mystery, translated through color. Let’s hear it for pep, verve, optimism and apple pie, but curb your enthusiasm, as they say. Because who are these clothes for? Were they designed to complement the terrific live concert by Pharrell Williams, or to complement real-life bodies and lifestyles? True, on their own, many of Hilfiger’s pieces — little skirts, sweats, pretty sweaters — looked strong , while others got out of control on the basis of shape alone, especially the extra-wide organza utility pants. Fold in the blinding hot pinks, apple greens and oranges, along with the exploded paisley and gerber daisy motifs, and well, all one can say is that the clothes looked less egregious on women than on men.
There seems to be something about a formal runway that makes Hilfiger want to exaggerate his strengths, and that can lead to self-caricature, as happened here. This week, he will present his H collection back in his showroom, where in the past, the strength of his work has shown beautifully. Now that’s cause for optimism.