Anna Sui: “Party dresses and swimsuits: What more does a girl need?” Anna Sui mused before her show. Oh, but she fibbed, because she knows that a girl also needs surf gear, embroidered knee socks, sandals done up with sequined blossoms, piles of jingling seashell jewelry and maybe even a canvas jacket or trench for when the air turns chill. And it all made her spring collection a delightful romp.
Over the summer, Sui visited Positano and Capri for the first time and came away with beachwear on the brain. Her favorite genre: the innocents-afloat type worn by fresh-faced models on the pages of Seventeen magazine in the Sixties, the kind a girl who doesn’t have to hide from mom. Sui appropriated the look as her own and contorted the heck out of it, mixing, matching, playing peekaboo under see-through dresses and yin to the yang of Sui’s fabulous surfer shirts, shorts and jams.
But it takes a certain cheek to turn a swimsuit into a party frock, which Sui did beautifully, translating bra tops and maillot concepts into baby dolls, shifts and full-skirted fluff. These came in lace, stripes, swirling paisleys and a bower of demonstrative flowers: hydrangeas, sunflowers and daisies. The look was sweet but not saccharin, and best of all, it added a fresh, playful dimension to an ultrafeminine New York season.
Zac Posen:Calling all starlets! Has Zac Posen got something for you. His spring collection was rife with flirty, fabulous dresses built to please the paparazzi, casting directors and his discerning pack of young party hoppers alike. And, luckily for the Posen posse, there’s enough to go around. No need to worry about looking like a clone — each dress, while Posen to the core, boasts a pretty personality of its own. There’s the demure who-me? stunner in petal pink satin with its twisted straps; the grown-up fairy dress in soft jade with its sheer chevrons providing a little zigzag peekaboo. And, for the luckiest lady of all, there’s the dream-come-true party dress spangled with tiny iridescent shell discs.
Working in soft pinks and peaches, dusty plum and pearly gray, Posen took inspiration from the fanciful creatures living in the depths of the Sargasso Sea. More than ever, however, Posen’s clothes looked ready for the real world, charting a course between girly and pull-out-the-stops va-va-voom. His approach to sexy was fresh, never brazen and it never looked better.
Posen’s technique and his precocious tastes have finally come together in a collection that’s easy to love, by day or by night. Beyond those dresses were plenty of drop-dead separates, including blouson jackets darted to create a corseting effect and slinky ruched skirts.
It’s the dresses, though, which will cause a fuss. From the Hollywood contingent, Claire Danes, sitting in the front row, has first dibs on her pick of the lot. The rest of those girls had better get on the horn.
Chado Ralph Rucci: So Ralph Rucci really does have a soft side — though he gave his audience only a teaser’s dose of it. For the most part, however, Rucci continued his relentless outpouring of esoteric, intellectual clothes — the beautifully crafted, sculpted looks on which he’s built his reputation. This season, he eased up occasionally, using fewer details and by injecting a sportswear feeling in mixes of fabrics: a navy silk rain jacket and shell worn with paillette shorts, for example, and a terrific suede safari jacket over a chiffon blouse and ivory paper taffeta pants. But it’s hard to imagine what woman would go out in public in a Rorschach-print shirtdress (that really would be a test) or a silk chiffon caftan in an enormous Ming chair print (sit this one out).
But about halfway through the collection, Rucci sent out a black chiffon slip followed by a navy peau de soie and tattered silk chiffon suspender-strap number — terrific dresses that were pretty, feminine and like a breath of fresh air. Ralph, there are a lot of nonintellectual fashionistas out there who’d like to see more of your softer side.
Daryl K: Welcome back, Daryl! After the debacle she experienced via her involvement with what was then known as Pegasus Group, Daryl Kerrigan was back on the runway on Wednesday, and the collection she showed made for interesting viewing. Kerrigan stayed true to her downtown, rock ’n’ roll roots with a collection that focused on T-shirting, mostly in loosened tanks that were layered, scrunched, torn and shredded, twisted and stretched into tunics and minis or worn with leggings or below-the-knee sweatpants. And sometimes, she added on proletariat embellishments in bursts of decorative buttons.
The clothes looked strong, and offered a necessary antidote to the lighthearted flou that has dominated the season here. Few women want to look powder-puff pretty all the time, and there will always be a market for clothes with street-smart attitude.
Yet this collection raised an interesting question. Kerrigan made her name as the downtown girl’s favorite, delivering that rock ’n’ roll swagger along with great clothes that became iconic in their milieu — pants, hoodies, Ts. These proved to have broad appeal even as Kerrigan’s m.o. remained an undone one and apart from the main.
But part of the appeal of her clothes on the runway was the shock of the new, and charm of her downtown-girl-breaks-through tale. Now, that story is no longer new, and Kerrigan finds herself in a very different position. Hers are terrific clothes — smart, strong, wearable — but whether Kerrigan can regain and maintain her stature as a designer of major import without broadening her focus remains to be seen.