Tyler Choice: Strong Women

Models in 86 stylistically distinct outfits wowed guests at the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point Friday. Even the simplest gown drew ahs for its cut and fit.

But what thrilled most of the 200 people in attendance was being able to approach designer Richard Tyler.

And approachable he was.

Australian-born Tyler received compliments with a humility that belies his international status, not to mention the "New Fashion Talent" award the Council of Fashion Designers of America recently bestowed him.

And he graciously rejected the suggestion that he move his Los Angeles-based operations to Milan or Paris.

Tyler and his partner/wife, Lisa Trafficante, have, after all, been busily building an empire on both U.S. coasts. In New York, where he and his wife fly every other week, he promotes his signature collection and designs for Anne Klein.

As expected, Tyler's fall '94 signature designs feature his relentless attention to perfectly constructed clothing. There were plenty of jackets, cigarette-slim pants (with zippers hidden on the inside seam) and skirts that showed off plenty of leg from the knee up; knee-high riding boots were the footwear of choice. Among the more notable details were sleeves buttoned at the shoulder, but leaving one halfway undone to expose a rich contrast lining, and charmeuse slip dresses shaped with geometric bias cut pieces.

Besides the Edwardian dandy, Tyler played with many other influences, including Confederate hats and other Civil War inspired themes, Jean Harlow and Marlene Dietrich, the divas of Helmut Newton's '70s photographs, and the Orient Express meets British regality. All were set, of course, to a charged rock 'n' roll soundtrack.

Tyler hesitated to name a particular theme for his fall collection, which was colored in rich olive, chocolate, plum, mocha, cranberry and charcoal. "It's about mixing favorite pieces and feeling good."

The event was hosted by Nordstrom.

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