Reporting from New York
The women's fall/winter 2011 runway season started in New York a little more than a week ago with more than 100 shows. Several themes emerged, including a dressed-up mademoiselle chic and Western romance. Bright color clashing and monochromatic dressing were important, as were mixed plaids. And when it came to outerwear, it was all about the parka and the poncho. Here are the 10 takeaways from New York's Fashion Week.
MICHAEL KORS AT 30
On the show invitation, there was a funny photo of Michael Kors, back when his hair was long and lustrous. But that was the extent of the reminiscing. Kors is secure enough that he doesn't need a pose-step-and-repeat photo op or a sizzle reel. The collection he showed was a perfect example of the confidence that comes from working hard and staying true to yourself for three decades.
The clothes were all about sporty decadence, with the strictest of lines. "Polished, yet easy," read the show notes.
For Kors, there must be 100 shades of neutral, and a lot of them were in this show, which emphasized monochrome dressing. A blush-colored, knitted fox fur bathrobe coat, worn over a blush silk blouse and gabardine trousers, with a sleek silver choker, was textbook Kors elegance. A ginormous fur cross-body bag, worn over a suntan-colored turtleneck sweater and matching silk pajama pants, showed the designer's tongue-in-cheek approach to luxury.
Speaking of suntans, skirts were designed with slits high enough to show off a toned and tanned thigh. A black bodysuit (they're baaack!) worn with a wide belt overa long, black slit-front pleated georgette skirt was a hot look.
RODARTE'S WONDERFUL WIZARDRY
Pasadena sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy took us to the Great Plains with romantic prairie looks on fresh-faced models with windswept hair.
The throughline to the prairie girl story was a sensual draped, crinkled silk gown that came in five different versions, with amber waves of grain pictured at dawn, midday, dusk, under stormy skies and Technicolor skies.
Romantic blouses were key pieces as well, one style pieced together from several different varieties of cream floral lace, and paired with a lace circle skirt. Staying true to their craftsy aesthetic, the Mulleavys showed sweaters knit in Amish quilt motifs, and collage-like tulle and sequin skirts as light as corn silk.
MARC JACOBS GIVES NEW MEANING TO CHEAP CHIC
With the venue bathed in red light and the mirrored runway fitted with tufted vinyl columns, it was looking like Marc Jacobs' recent collaboration with Playboy might be an influence on his current collection. (Jacobs teamed up with Playboy to create three $35 T-shirts, with proceeds going to Designers Against AIDS.)
Alas, there were no Playboy bunnies on the runway, but the idea of porn and how it relates to what is real and what is fake, what is beautiful and what is vulgar, could have been in the back of Jacobs' mind when he dreamed up the dressed-up, 1940s-influenced looks made from fine (fox fur, guipure lace) and coarse (vinyl, polyester) materials.
What made the collection all the more interesting is that you couldn't really tell the difference between what was real and what wasn't —you couldn't tell that the glistening poker-chip-sized sequins on straight skirts and shift dresses were actually made of rubber, that the short-sleeve "fur" sweaters were actually densely embroidered sequins, and that the lace dresses were paired with cellophane jabots.
JOSEPH ALTUZARRA: NEW COOL KID IN TOWN
There's been a lot of buzz about Joseph Altuzarra, who burst onto the scene in 2008. And while a lot of his '90s grunge-meets-boudoir collection was retreading on old ground (an Army green parka and a parka-poncho, fishermen sweaters and skirts with utility straps), other pieces were more inspired. The twisted, patchwork argyle sweaters, and patchwork argyle silk blouse with raw edges had an undeniable cool.
The liquidy boudoir-meets-military dresses, too, were the rare combo of tough and romantic. Draped and fastened with D-rings, they hugged the models' curves in rich gold or rust silk.
And you can bet the plaid and tweed screen-printed denim, done in collaboration with the denim label Current/Elliott, will sell like crazy.
FALLING FOR PRABAL GURUNG
His fall collection was his best yet — daring, sensual and intoxicatingly beautiful.
Gurung said he was inspired by Dickens' spinster character Miss Havisham. But his models looked more like they had come to life from the pages of a bodice ripper.
A crimson washed-silk dress was artfully draped with an exposed tulle bustier revealing a heady amount of décolletage. The below-the-knee length was refreshing, especially with Wolford's bondage-themed, crisscross patterned stockings. Add black leather half gloves, and pink streaks in the models' hair, and it made for an edgy spin on old-world glamour.
An ivory wool sheath was adorned with black Chantilly lace panels, and a fox fur jacket came dyed ombre pink. Other highlights included a pink-and-red, cap-sleeved crinkle chiffon gown anchored with a black leather belt, and a tulle dress embroidered with hand-painted gold and silver sequins and feathers that seemed to peel away.
ALEXANDER WANG'S NIGHT CRAWLERS
Alexander Wang's love affair with the masculine/feminine theme played out in a more mature and dressed-up way than ever before, using the poncho (of all things) as a starting point.
Wang showed nearly a dozen different ponchos, from a tough-looking black leather and taffeta version, to a soft, touchable style in blush angora and satin.
The tux was re-imagined as a billowy, sheer black poncho shirt with pleated bib, worn with merino trousers, or a black angora sweater cape with blue glitter drainpipe jeans. To finish the look? Sky-high tassel pumps in mirrored metallic leather.
The sex kitten was also prowling at this show, in a pink crepe satin bias-cut streamer tank dress, worn over pants.
RAG & BONE: CHALET CHIC MEETS THE STREET
Designers Marcus Wainwright and David Neville's collection was a cheeky-fun mix of wild 'n' wooly 1970s ski prep. That translated into knit mini-dresses and motorcycle jackets with technical influences, such as color-blocking and zipper details.
There were cozy, knee-high leg warmers to ward off the chill from short skirts and leather winter shorts; tartan skirts edged in looped fringe, cropped varsity jackets and sweater knit neck warmers with shearling hoods.
JASON WU'S BAROQUE VIEW
Jason Wu gave American sportswear a French kiss with his sublime collection, inspired by Robert Polidori's photos of the restoration of Versailles.
Wu used several varieties of lace to trim pieces that included a slim gray flannel coat and a gray sweatshirt. And the combo of a fitted purple wool jacket with embroidered lace epaulettes, worn with black wool cigarette pants, was a clever update on the pantsuit.
Many of the looks were styled with black ribbons tied at the neck — a trick you can try at home if Wu's gold lace paillette gown and cerise pink silk chiffon gown with Baroque crystal-embroidered belt are not in your budget.
PROENZA SCHOULER'S TRIBAL PATTERN PLAY
Designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez took the Western trend to a new frontier. The inspiration was colorful geometric South and Latin American textile designs, which were abstracted into pixilated patterns at times. (Perhaps the designers were inspired by their own Mochila PS1 handbags, or the craze for all things Pendleton.)
But this wasn't indigenous by way of the craft fair. The opening look was a tailored tribal mix, with a terrific looking pair of wool jacquard pants in an orange, brown, black, white and gray pixilated pattern that spiraled around the legs, worn with a jagged-hem saddle-colored leather T-shirt and a beautifully cut black double-face wool blazer.
As the collection progressed, the patterns morphed into diamond jacquards and burnout velvets. The best piece? A macramé skirt, in a turquoise and black pattern with swinging fringe.
AT JUAN CARLOS OBANDO, GENE SIMMONS MEETS THE VICTORIANS
That translated into a white glam-rock jacket and straight skirt slit up the side, and a sleeveless white "cage" dress, both with ornate black leather appliqués that brought to mind Gene Simmons' face paint.
Obando's signature fluid, curve-skimming silk gowns came in delicate hues, with lingerie-like straps crisscrossing the back. The best one was mint green with a frilly halter neck and ruffled top. A cream goddess gown with a foiled leather appliqué at the waist was also lovely.
This was a well-rounded collection for one of L.A.'s emerging talents. And it was fun to see his imagination run a little wild.