Jill Stuart: There was only one music track played at Jill Stuart’s show — Led Zeppelin’s nostalgic “Stairway to Heaven.” “The song holds a special place for everyone,” said the designer, who wanted to set the mood with a feel-good tune. Feel good, indeed.
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What emerged from the runway was a fresh take on Stuart’s classic girly looks as she took cues from glamorous film stars of the Forties and colored them in dreamy Mediterranean hues, such as lilac, pink, aqua, royal blue and periwinkle. Sassy shorts paired with tube tops or little dotted blouses belted at the waist were ringers for those sexy pinup girls, and a fun short red polkadot dress sported a daring keyhole opening down the front.
Victorian looks are one of Stuart’s passions, and there were plenty of those in the form of long, loose-fitting chiffon dresses. She also showed lots of adorable denim jackets and shorts, some with embroidery, all paired with sweet retro-looking dresses or blouses and belted at the waist with elastic bands featuring playful clasps. While such elements underscored Stuart’s own brand of appeal, you couldn’t ignore the obvious nod to a certain New York designer here. Overall, however, it was a solid effort for Stuart, whose vintage-loving gals are sure to be pleased.
Dana Buchman: Dana Buchman is the latest convert to all things, as she put it, “unapologetically vivacious and flirty.” Inspired by a young Doris Day and Tina Louise for spring, Buchman sent out floral chiffon tops worn over rainbow tweed clam-diggers. Then she reversed the cotton candy combo, going tweed on top with floaty floral skirts tiered from top to bottom. A pistachio sheared mink jacket, belted in black grosgrain, topped a Sixties-style psychedelic swirl print bikini — both were delicious, though oddly paired. For the grande dame who shies away from all that pastel, Buchman offered a tweedy chiffon-egded jacket and floaty skirt done up in glittery bronze. The looks are perfect for mom, but with all that frou and flounce, the little miss might want to sneak some pieces for herself.
Derek Lam: What initially catapulted Derek Lam to stardom a year ago was a deft hand with color and prints, as well as a penchant for pretty clothes that struck the right balance of old and new, originality and adaptation. But the spring collection he showed Sunday afternoon was missing some of the designer’s initial freshness, and he seemed to get a touch too involved in the world of his late-Thirties muse.
That said, there were plenty of beautiful clothes — printed silk skirts, beaded tops, slim chiffon dresses and great coats and trousers. There were more than enough to go around, since Lam showed his largest-ever collection. And in the midst of it all were some wonderful standouts — a black floral-print coat worn over a red floral-patterned Fifties-style bathing suit, for example, and pieces such as a short-sleeved tweed cardigan embellished with antique gold embroidery and a simple khaki trench with a vintage feeling that would be welcome in any closet.
Jennifer Nicholson: Bravado definitely runs in the family. So why bother denying who your daddy is when you can pack the house with the progeny of other famous people? That’s exactly what Jennifer Nicholson did on Sunday night, inviting Lizzy Jagger, Lydia Hearst-Shaw, Alexandra and Theodora Richards to walk and Tatum O’Neal and Victoria Gotti to sit in the front row along with Jennifer’s own proud papa, Jack.
But Nicholson needn’t have bothered with all the front-row star quality, because it was all on the runway. This season, she was inspired by old-school pinups and took great care in exploring their charming, provocative-meets-innocent mix. A quirky crown-print chiffon dress, for example, played sweetly while a leopard sheath with fringe insets was pure bombshell. Simpler pieces like the black sailor skirt were straight out of Campville when paired with a tied-up cowgirl blouse. Cocktail hour was especially va-va-voom with layered tulle and lace confections. From start to finish, the collection was all woman, but it was a beaming Papa Jack who summed it up best from the front row, applauding, and saying, “That’s my girl!”
Milly: Michelle Smith whisked her frou-loving Milly girl to an exotic destination. But for days spent under a tropical sun, Smith toned down the frill in favor of island chill — tailored jackets and shorts in banana yellow or crisp white eyelet. Still, there were enough gauzy linen tops with beaded belts and gypsy skirts to indulge those flirty, girly tendencies. Bright Indian or azalea prints added a whimsical and dressed-down feel to her long dresses in cotton or layered chiffon. And a sexy group of swimwear pieces looked great when paired with twinkling sequined skirts. Anyone planning her vacation now will have plenty to fill her suitcases with.
Norman Norell: The most interesting aspect of the Norman Norell show was the fact that it was held at Bergdorf Goodman without the permission of that company. As it turns out, designer Patrick Michael Hughes made arrangements with John Barrett to use his hair salon on the fourth floor, and Bergdorf’s bigwigs learned about this too late to nix the plan. The retailer made it clear that it doesn’t endorse the show and it doesn’t buy the collection. Perhaps this is because the clothes, though beautifully made, seem dated and irrelevant. Retro camp or vintage quirkiness is one thing, but this collection was stuck in another era. The unmoving duchesse silk dress and the long and short A-line dresses, for example, looked stiff in a way that the original Sixties and even Barbie-doll versions never did. There were a few numbers that the Ladies Who Lunch might actually warm to, such as the dark matte jersey tea-length dresses and a terrific navy silk and rayon twill pantsuit worn with a boldly ruffled shirt. But the truth is that no other designer can really do Norell, and it’s time for Hughes to stop trying.