FashionAll The Rage

Fashion Week's fab few

Fashion ShowsEntertainmentBookPatents, Copyrights and TrademarksKirsten DunstLord Byron

The 1980s.

The Peruvian countryside.

Architect Antoni Gaudi.

Angst-ridden schoolgirls.

Inspiration for the runway shows that began here over the weekend seemed to come from just about anything, perhaps indicating the confused state of fashion right now. And really, the talk was more about the models anyway and whether they looked "healthier" than usual. Not from where I sat.

Of course, the first few days of Fashion Week can be muddled, because they typically belong to smaller designers and to brand powerhouses looking to get maximum buzz for their bucks. L.A.-based jeans maker Rock & Republic took over the grand space at Cipriani on 42nd Street for a Champagne-soaked Saturday night show. The brand picked up on the kinkiness we saw last season from Dolce & Gabbana and others, which meant skinny jeans, some painted with liquidy metallics or snakeskin prints, slinky jersey dresses held together with chains and tuxedo jackets dotted with studs.

It all looked a little cheap but not too raunchy for general consumption. A pleated black trench coat worn over purple velvet leggings and another floor-dusting great coat with silver buttons hinted at a military trend that may be emerging.

It certainly felt that way at Morphine Generation, where Erik Hart emphasized uniform-like tailoring over the foil-print graphics on which he has built his business. In the nearly all-black collection, trousers were lean, high-waisted and either pinstriped or with jodhpur detailing. In one of the stronger looks, a twill bolero was layered over a bow-front tunic dress and cigarette pants — cute but not new. Wide trousers with suspenders were worn with a men's button-down shirt. (Did you catch the photos of Kirsten Dunst around town in her suspenders?) But it was all a bit joyless, save for a charming cream wool turtleneck sweater dress with a hand-painted cameo of Lord Byron.

Talk about joyless, Alice Roi always seems to be chasing the moody schoolgirl, as suggested by the chalk drawings on her runway and her show notes, full of descriptions like "infirmary blanket skirt" and "night sweats tee." Models shuffled along in platform patent-leather mules and black knee socks, or nurse white lace-up shoes, so sad to look at. The clothes were basics such as windowpane trousers, high-waist black jeans, a lace-and-wool toggle coat, plaid riding skirt and black panel dress with Peter Pan collar, or more subversive bat-print silk tees and "broken thoughts" calico sweaters. She didn't break any new ground, and the fringed jackets and dress seemed to come out of nowhere.

The skinny, high-waist pant also showed up at Grant Krajecki's Grey Ant collection, a spoof of a Valentino show circa 1980, complete with streaky blush, high, teased ponytails and nerd glasses. Too bad the joke wore thin after about two minutes, especially after one noticed the same four pieces kept coming out — the nubby V-front sack dress, the V-back high-waist jean, the ruffle-front blouse. Lots of styling, not much design. Still, you have to admire Krajecki's pluck to spoof another designer.

At BCBG, designer Max Azria didn't offer much newness, either, just lots of the same romantic tunic and babydoll dresses we've been seeing for several seasons now, many weighed down with slouchy pockets covered in embroidery, ribbons and chains, like detritus left behind in a dryer catch. The best pieces were the sportiest: an olive nylon diamond-quilted coat, a khaki quilted vest and a cropped puffer jacket with fur-trimmed half sleeves. I can see the girls wearing those come fall.

There was something particularly appealing about Yeohlee Teng's monastic simplicity this season — the crisp Mao shirts, the empire-waist trousers, the DIY foldable wrap coats and "ovoid" boleros in felted gray or wool angora. Teng's work is forever architectural, as evidenced by a black double-face wool pencil skirt with white insets on the sides mimicking a woman's curves and riffing on the organic style of Gaudi. The only time this got her into trouble was when she used bustles to create volume at the hems of a few dresses and skirts. It might be an interesting structural exercise, but it made the models look deformed.

Nicole Miller worked in the color palette that Pantone tells us will be big for fall — rich reds, greens and spicy yellows. Celebrating her 25th year in business, she traveled to Peru, putting an ethnic twist on her signature prints with folksy jacquards that turned up on coats, gowns, knit ponchos, sweaters and a cool multicolored scarf vest.

Save for a few flat top hats, she didn't get bogged down in the theme, and there were quite a few everyday basics here too, including cropped pinstriped pants, a black jumper dress layered over a men's shirt, and a long, white embroidered tunic shirt belted over an ankle-length striped skirt, making for the freshest silhouette this season.

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