Marc Jacobs and Marc by Marc Jacobs: Romper, bomper, stomper, boo, as Miss Diane used to say on Romper Room. I see Stephanie [Seymour], and Hilary [Swank] and over there changing her seat, I see Paris. But who the heck cares? Because isn’t that Lawrence Stroll and Silas Chou seated oh-so-prominently in the front row? Kind of makes you wonder, no?
Rumors have had Stroll in investment mode; he certainly is pulling out all the stops at Asprey, readying about 40,000 square feet of retail space between the New York and London flagships. Jacobs and Robert Duffy may just feel that it’s time to take the company to the next level as they say, especially the still-small Marc by Marc line. And M. Arnault did sell the Jacobs beauty company to the highest bidder, right?
Oh, but we digress — sort of. Because the collection Jacobs showed — or wait, finally showed — on Monday night after a hideous, sweat-drenched delay (thanks for the weight loss, guys, but we’ll take our steam bath at the gym) — was an investor’s delight. And for more reasons than one. First, it glowed with beautiful clothes, metallic and otherwise. Second, it highlighted Jacobs’ willingness to fix a mistake. Last season, he went crazy for Courrèges. It didn’t work on the runway, and it didn’t sell well in the stores — as indicated by his beloved It girls who skipped right over that collection and turned up for the show decked in spanking new resort clothes.
Those girls — and retailers — will love this collection, one that played to an ingenue with attitude, negotiating her way through an identity crisis of sorts: Am I a spunky tomboy or an all-out flirt? To find her way, she tinkered with elements of Theda Bara, the Eighties’ slouch, homebound granny (velvet tuxedo bed jackets) and oh, yes, Ralph Lauren prairie, for a chic collage in which nothing looked literal — but everything look great. Jacobs worked the soft side of sportswear with baggy washed linen jackets, pants and shorts, no less utilitarian for their gentle colors — aside from the short-shorts lined in tea-stained ruffles. He put these with striped silk blouses, some opened in back, and more sweaters than he has put on the runway in some time. But his biggest concentration was on dresses: shower curtain florals, flapper velvets or reams of ruffles, the latter sometimes cut off over pants or skirts.
No such fluffery at Marc by Marc Jacobs, though, where a tougher, more vibrant mood took hold. The models’ glittered eyelids referenced the Eighties, and they wore all kinds of colorful pieces piled on with club kid-meets-street urchin indiscretion. But then, this huge line can be remixed to suit almost any girl’s shopping urges — and who knows? Maybe even a suit or two.
Calvin Klein: How to succeed a living legend? No one thought it would be easy. Yet sitting at the Calvin Klein show at Milk Studios on Tuesday night, a surreal aura enveloped the room. Klein wasn’t supposed to be standing by the wall, about to take in the first post-Calvin collection of the company that bears his name. But there he was. And there we all were, waiting to experience that initial step in a new era for arguably the most famous — and indisputably the most controversial — house in the history of American fashion. At his best, Klein captivated us with his bravura — the shocking spareness of a slip collection; the advanced awkwardness of the New Length; the iconic advertising — while delivering beautiful, gloriously wearable clothes. More than any other American, he fused the roles of major designer and cultural provocateur. Would his hand-picked successor, Francisco Costa, assume the mantle with authority?
Sadly, not in his debut. It has become clichéd to note the difficulty in designing minimalist fashion. Similarly, recent hires here and in Europe have spotlighted the challenges of succession at major houses, and how few appointees seem up to the task. A new designer’s mandate is to capture the essence of the superstar predecessor, while staking his own claim on the house’s creative future. To that end, Costa has a tougher job than most, since who, from industry executives to rank-and-file consumers, does not have a clear image of the Calvin aesthetic, be it based on ready-to-wear, underwear or advertising imagery? Costa’s effort for spring suggested that he has no clue how to embrace that core and propel it forward. One observer called the collection “bad and boring at the same time.”
Costa opened with a mundane teak-colored jacket and shorts combo, and went on through a series of blandly eclectic moves unified by a mostly neutral palette. Yes, there were good sweaters, shirts and an appealing coat or two, but nothing to indicate genuine vision; naming colors after makeup shades — “foundation” or “eye shadow” — is no substitute for an idea. Nor is an out-there shock of a pink sack dress that splashed down into a puddle of Prada references. Odder still is that these doldrums followed Costa’s impressive resort collection.
But then, that’s also the good news. Because in that line, Costa displayed a greater sense of daring — and of self. Perhaps by fall, they will reemerge, and he will begin the daunting task of putting his own mark on the essence of Calvin Klein. First he must get comfortable with the new name on the design studio door.
Badgley Mischka: To prepare Exit 28 for the runway, Mark Badgley and James Mischka tossed a wonderful beaded, gray chiffon gown in the wash after they had beaded it. Ouch. The beads got scruffy, the dress smeared, smudged and stained. But that vintage feeling was exactly what they were looking for. Turns out, the duo had learned something about the process years ago when a magazine editor returned a dress that had been ruined by water. The boys were devastated then, but all that’s changed now.
Inspired by an “urban Southern belle — a deranged one, at that,” said Mischka, the collection they sent out on Tuesday was more playful and had a seemingly devil-may-care attitude toward the very things — elaborate beading and designs — upon which they have built their business. All the bows, streamers, ribbons and the most random-like placement of pearls and crystals (many taken from tiaras never used in their bridal collection) added magic to a little silk white lace and georgette babydoll frock, a white silk shirtdress or a series of crepe tops. Not to mention nearly everything else they sent out. White ribbons diagonally marked a crystal-beaded short sheath. And there was something at once regal and girlish about a white wool coat with a band of crystals weaving inside and out around the waist, worn over a short dress in tiered tulle. The design duo actually frayed chiffon and fashioned it into a simple jacket and slim skirt. Another knockout — an embellishment-free navy lace jacket over a flirty rose satin skirt. And while they had the requisite long beauties, it was the quirkiness of those short looks that made everyone so nuts — in a good way.
Badgley and Mischka were having fun, and it showed. And there was a stellar front-row lineup to rave about the team’s stunning collection, including Cornelia Guest, Blaine Trump, Beyoncé, Cynthia Nixon, Kelly Klein, Bebe Neuwirth and Toni Braxton. And if ever there was a collection that could satisfy the disparate tastes of these women, this was it.