Designs for luscious living

Times Staff Writer

LEAVE it to Michael Kors, America’s favorite fashion pundit on “Project Runway,” to send out a collection so upbeat it had us dancing in our seats. There were no super-skinny models at this show, just Kors’ thoroughbreds, their legs buffed and bronzed under incredibly short skirts, their chauffeured tootsies in crocodile platform sandals no matter the windchill. He called the collection “Sportluxe,” and it was full of clothes not just to wear but to live in (if you can afford it), such as a Glen plaid anorak trimmed in sable, a snuggly ombre cashmere sweater dress and sweat pants done over in delectable cashmere.

Kors worked in a yummy-sounding palette of truffle, coffee, Champagne and olive, with punches of royal blue, taxicab yellow and traffic-cone orange. Like most designers this week, he turned down the volume from the past few seasons and kept the silhouette close to the body, pushing jackets with short sleeves to reveal a great sweater underneath, and cropped pants, in this case khakis, slightly dropped at the waist with cargo pockets. There was sparkle too: on a ridiculously luxurious brown fox-fur coat dusted in sequins, a crinkly gold miniskirt worn with an orange sweater and khaki anorak and a cheetah sequin overnight bag (why not?). Oh, and that black wool, strapless jumpsuit (Michael, you’re too much).

For the more conservative type, Kors had a navy melton coat with gold buttons that hinted at fall’s military trend, and a classic, draped, herringbone jersey dress. During the finale, he got his boogie on to Deee-lite’s “Groove Is in the Heart,” sending out a black, crystal-beaded jersey, one-shoulder gown and a gold fringe dress.


Everyone seems to have high hopes that Derek Lam will follow in Kors’ footsteps and become the next great American sportswear designer, especially since he was signed by Italian luxury powerhouse Tod’s as creative director. The trouble is, you never know what you’re going to get from his namesake collection from one season to the next.

His spring collection was a hit, referencing such American greats as Claire McCardell and Geoffrey Beene, but for fall, he seemed to be reaching for a whole new set of reference points — Balenciaga and Azzedine Alaia. There were some great pieces here, mostly alternatives to the jacket, such as shearling or houndstooth vests squared off at the shoulders, a short-sleeved leather and ribbed-knit cardigan, and an inside-out trench coat with the lining on the outside, all balanced atop super-skinny black-leather riding pants. But then there were those flippy skirts that were so Balenciaga a year ago, and the body-hugging graphic shift dresses that we saw on the runways last season. Lam needs to spend a little time soul-searching to figure out what he’s really about.

Precise, architectural, graphic, clean — these are all words that describe the collections of Narciso Rodriguez. To an extent you know what you are going to get, but the joy is in noticing the small differences. This season Rodriguez worked with a photographer’s eye toward detail, beginning with fall’s key piece, the short-sleeve jacket in black wool decorated only with tonal seams, and paired with slim, seam-front black pants.

He picked up a pixel-like print on a pencil skirt, cut in a new, midcalf length, and sprinkled silver and white paillettes like tiny flashbulbs on the sides of a black column dress. His clothes have the majesty of the city in them, all curves and lines, the rounded flaps pockets of a cream maxi-coat dialoguing with the points of the collar above. And then along comes a beautiful emerald-green, silk anorak, and a filmy gray, silk tank dress lined in fuchsia, like a sunset peeking through clouds. Finally, a white silk gown, the bodice embroidered with spaghetti-like strands, and the master of subtlety has surprised and delighted us once again.

Subtlety is something Proenza Schouler could have used more of. Perhaps it was that influx of cash from their Target deal that led Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez to design a collection so rich — perhaps too rich — in details. They created a new silhouette that occasionally felt top-heavy with jewel-tone taffeta blouses puffed out like parkas over miniskirts, and wool jackets, toggle coats and furs with popcorn-knit sleeves. The best in show was a group of stunning cocktail dresses in color-blocked silk chiffon or solid, taffeta-like radzimir, with pleating worked around the bodices.

L.A. invades the runway

THERE has been an L.A. invasion this fashion week, with several designers showing here, none more hotly anticipated than the super-hyped Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte. “It’s rare that you see clothes with so much emotion,” said Valerie Steele, director of the Fashion Institute of Technology museum, who has requested a few pieces from the Pasadena sisters for the permanent collection. That’s true: You could see the love and care in every pinked wave and rippling pleat in their fall collection, but you could also see the rushed panic.

There were some exquisitely beautiful pieces here — a black tulle dress with a trail of roses down the front, a moody gold pleated shift with a corsage at the waist, another in silver-and-gold antique lace, and finally, a stunning pearl-gray-chiffon, one-shouldered goddess gown with open space cut out across the breastbone. But the rest looked like overdone art projects. So far, the girls have been doing nearly all the work themselves. But to take it to the next level, it may be time to get a professional involved, or at least an extra pair of hands.

Jenni Kayne’s collection had a lot of polish but not much creativity. She hit on a few of the season’s trends with a short-sleeve, tweed toggle coat, and a black fringe skirt. And the shirttail hem on a black fox-trimmed coat was a nice Sportluxe touch, as Michael Kors would say. But a gray, button-front jumper dress and a black shift embellished with gold discs were nothing special.

Pegah Anvarian showed some cute washed leather and textured-wool bubble jackets and boleros, but she needs to work more on the bottoms. The spider-web wool catsuits just didn’t cut it, nor did the mini ruffle skirts, which didn’t quite fit.

There was also a handful of fine pieces in Stephanie Schur’s Michon Schur line, including a black coat with starbursts of crystals and a black moiré dress with chiffon pleats fanning out in an hourglass shape. But she needed more wow.

Cynthia Vincent’s Twelfth Street collection was the whole package. She’s all about easy pieces, from the belted caped black hoodie that opened the show to the gray-wool jersey tunic dress with a silver beaded bib later on. Fall’s chunky cardigan coat was here with a beaded collar, while a belted-blue cape sweater offered a dose of color. Vincent took the metallic trend forward with a copper stripe chiffon tie-front blouse, worn over high-waist pencil pants and her fantastic shoes — gleaming silver stamped croc flats and crinkled bronze pumps.

Milla Jovovich and Carmen Hawk showed their collection at the new Gramercy Park Hotel, with models hanging out in vintage furnished vignettes. There was a 1920s feel to a long-length gown in a black-and-white, crosshatch print with green embroidery at the waist, and a shorter navy-and-gold dress with flower cutouts at the collar that felt a bit flapper. But with only 17 looks, this collection was thin.

Katy Rodriguez, who came to designing after opening the Resurrection vintage boutiques in New York and L.A., hosted her presentation in the hotel’s penthouse. It was a wise move for a small collection of flattering party dresses in rich gold, wine and black taffeta — sheaths with ruffles around the armholes, crisscross front frocks with raised hems and baby dolls with black-lace yokes. Rodriguez’s secret? She says she’s good at designing dresses that can hide a hip. Amen.