Friday, February 26, 2010

Desiree Rogers says So Long!

Well this is definitely turning into Black History month. Gov. Patterson of New York is hanging up his plans to run for another term. Charles Rangel looks to be in a mounting pile of trouble and now Desiree Rogers is riding off into the sunset. She formally announced today that at the beginning of March she will resign as White House Social Secretary. It appears she feels the time is right to return to the private Corporate sector.

In her announcement, which has shown up in the Washington Post, The Huffington Post, WWD and a number of other news publications, Desiree stated that the job she set out to do, to make the White House the People's House, had been successfully achieved and it was time to move on to new challenges. I love how the news and reality is spun. Reality is a key word in all of this. It's the Salahis and their reality show aspirations that was her undoing. Making the White House the People's House was perhaps a little too much of a success. It looked as though anyone could go there whether for a State Dinner or to just hang out in the Lincoln bedroom. No invitation seemed to be necessary to gain entrance. Desiree was too busy being a personage to be bothered with details like national security or checking guest lists.

I took some heat for being critical of a girl with a dream but her dreams at times took on nightmarish proportions. Many believe that the reflecting pool was just not big enough or deep enough for her aspirations. Why stand behind the President and First Lady when you can stand next to them, or even better, in front? Besides stellar collections missing from New York Fashion Week, the most noticeable absence was Ms. D. I asked myself where she'd gone. Overexposure, like all the celebs who were conspicuously missing from the front rows, was my thought. Desiree is a celebrity like Lindsay, Paris and the Kardashian Collective, so I just assumed she was laying low in a very public way. Not for a moment did I think she'd cut up her titanium metro card that comes complete with full access to any front row at any show and preferred seating at the Maybelline counter in the Tent's holding pen.

Well, Desiree will be missed. The irony of this being Black History month and her resignation was not lost on me or probably many others. It's unfortunate that she took on a job that was so historic for a Black woman and then treated it like a launching pad. Patience and pacing one's ambition is a virtue. Her legacy would have been fantastic. Some people just have to have it all now, or preferably, last week. My hope is that the person who takes her place will also take on the responsibility of such an important position with grace, selflessness and maturity. Humility goes a long way, too.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Isaac Mizrahi Fall 2010: CAMP

Sometimes cleverness can get you into trouble. Isaac is the king of the clever turn of phrase. He's the Roi of References. This fall collection was designed around camping and a trek into the dense forest of "Parka Avenue". His wit and charm turned out a few amusing pieces but for the most part he lost sight of the pathway out and got caught in a total white out. Too much snow and too little survival skills beyond a joke here and a ghost story there.

The opening to the show had some nice bits that were very stylish and nicely assembled. A quilted barn jacket with coordinating pieces that added up to a very handsome ensemble. I would give a girl a double take if I saw her striding down the street of dreams in said look and a few others as well. The little bustier that takes it's cue from a duffel coat with horn toggle closures running down one side would have packed a punch had he not used the very same idea so many times before starting with a bustier in tartan plaid with buckle closures. Remember that? I do. I remember other riffs on that idea. Clever design twists like a good joke are best told once. This little dress was like plowing arid earth.

Lots of Parkas with fur trim came down the wooded path many times in many ways. Some 3/4 sleeved and some sleeveless. I think when it's cold out you might as well keep warm, style be damned. I remember the early days when Isaac was the boy wonder on the Avenue. He was fabulously creative, a very SMART designer who turned sportswear on its head. Since then, he's gone through many transformations and moved in a million different directions. The spark that was so evident then has changed and doesn't have the same power or focus. There is a feeling of forcing the issue and returning to old recipes. The public expects development , a pushing of the sled forward. This collection looks more like a case of slipping backwards down an icy slope. The wind is howling outside and if you're not careful you'll freeze.

Isaac's sportswear has always resonated the most with me. Evening has been hit or miss more and more over the years. This collection had a couple of nice evening dresses and gowns like the mini shift embroidered to look like shagreen and a strapless gown with layers and layers of printed chiffon streaming off the body. For the most part the work looked matronly, wannabe Red Carpet but best suited for a Mother of the Bride .....very "Look at ME", and not in good way.

So we'll see what the future brings. He has a great new boutique in town which will afford him a perfect laboratory to experiment with survival techniques. Maybe that's just what he needs to come out of his design malaise and find his way out of the woods. In this cruel world , the forest is so dense that almost no one hears a single tree falling.

Marc Jacobs Fall 2010

I'm about to choke on a slice of humble pie. This Collection was a good one. There, I said it. It's the first time in I don't know how long that I really rather liked it, or more to the point, there was a lot
that was great and the rest was easily excused. My question is more, What Happened?

The collection was so nicely balanced between smart separates, well cut jackets , coats, shearlings and transparent raincoats with big , generous fur collars. The dresses, though nostalgic and little retro were lovely. It's like he went back to collections he's done before, plucked out looks that had great sentimental value and refined them. He said before the show that newness just isn't new anymore. That's news that should be added to his many tattoos that cover his newly minted bod. He's absolutely sort of right. So this collection came off as an effortless delivery, only the total picture for the most part just looked like good clothes and some of them really great.

I've been disappointed with his collections for a very long time. I've found little to excite me and have felt that he's a media/editorial/insider's construct. There's been precious little There there. His bouts with oversexposure, on again off again marriage announcements to his inamorato; all that smoke has made my eyes tear and my ears ring. I've been put off by too much press and not good enough product to take him seriously. One day not too many weeks ago I was meeting my friend for a yoga class at his gym and walked up to the front desk behind someone being helped. At first I thought it was a chic girl from behind with a boy's haircut, her Grandmother's vintage Persian Lamb coat and a gigantic Hermes Birkin as her gym bag. I thought, How impossibly chic is this? Then I heard a voice coming from this girl that was decidedly low, affected and male. I looked all the way down past the bare calves to laced up army boots and realized my mistake. It was HE. A sighting of the great, tattooed, man-tanned one, only dressed like an old lady. I turned to my friend and with my eyes asked him, WHAT? and he answered, mouthing the words, FASHION. The coat, the skirt, the PURSE, the fact. This kitten did his downward dog in a total daze. I won't even go into the locker room sighting, I'll leave that to your imaginations. I left that day with little faith that I would see much more than the usual stew that simmers in his pot.

Well, this collection is a gourmet meal. I've seen other reviews that have panned it, remarked on its pretensions and made a big deal of his decision to not invite celebs to man his front row. It all sounded like more BS, but there was a method to this madness at work and it paid off. I'll just share pictures of it with you and let you see for yourselves. You can draw your own conclusions. He even took his bow in a suit and tie. Who knew?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Carolina Herrera Fall 2010

Finally, someone has done a Blass collection, or at least the closest thing to one in the 7 years or so we've been waiting. It figures it would take one of his Gals to do it. Actually, it would more accurately be attributed to Herve Pierre, Mrs. Herrera's Creative Director. If we turn back the hands of time, we remember that Herve was Robin to Lars Nillson's Batman at Blass before they were traded for Peter Som's Joker. Unconsciously, Carolina and Herve gave birth to a baby Blass collection without knowing what they were doing. The little tot was born with the requisite 10 fingers and 10 toes but it also seemed to have 2 heads, or at least 2 personalities.

This collection was rife with all the ingredients that Bill often used: Sable, satin, sumptuous silks,some rich color, hats, swagger, gator, suits, sable,lace, shocking mixes of fabrics and textures,cashmere, gazar, oh, and sable. It was pure Uptown, 10021 Park Avenue preciousness. The Le Grenouille, La Goulue menu of self entitled, back to the rule book , in your face, get out of my way, don't you know who I am , I'm Mrs. ....oh who has time for this, just get me a table in the front now, before I miss my appointment at Kenneth, DAMNIT!!!!
I'm getting ahead of myself.

The collection opened with Sable. Sable trimming coats and a sable jacket cut masterfully if you ignore the whole front that was replaced with a panel of brush stroke printed satin. That was the first jarring element of mad mixing that had me wondering what surprises lay in wait. Why would you take a perfectly luscious sable jacket and stick a satin panel smack in the middle of the front? This and many other questions come to mind when I look at her choices. There are many that just confound. When they stuck to the Blass track there were interesting , nostalgic looks that charmed. One suit in particular in grey houndstooth , under a very wide brimmed hat and all swaddled in, you guessed it, cashmere and SABLE, it had all the panache of Blass' good old ouevre. The silly brown beaded belt added nothing to the look, but that detail pops up constantly in her collections...sometimes to its detriment. The wide brimmed hat occurred again and again over a multitude of looks. Another beautiful jacket was crocodile but the sleeves were cut in wool.
Why give us a jacket of supreme rarity and beauty and then cut the reverie short by sticking on wool sleeves?

The model Agyness Deyn was turned out in a black jacket , a beautiful organza blouse of layered strips running around her body in bias panels and anchored with full, pleated Hepburn trousers. It was a great look , but it made her appear to be a middle aged matron. That takes some effort. These Gals want to look snappy. They may be wife number 2 or 3 but they want zip and youth. The last thing they want is to look their age or older.

From the beginning to the end there were many ups and downs. Cocktail dresses and evening gowns were generally labored and quirky. Tucking, twisting draping and all manner of techniques were employed to attempt to inject a feeling of couture. One method repeated several times was a tuck it/drape it effect on the skirt just below the thigh. It was a funny spot to choose for creating volume. The end result were a number of dresses and gowns that gave the impression of a second set of meaty thighs below the broadest part of the low hip. I've shown two images; one a water silk printed taffeta with a regrettable puffy bolero and a short black number where the trick works.

Gowns which are an area where Carolina excels were spotty. The simplest ones were always the best. There were several that were very beautiful and luxurious. A red gazar gown stood out from the group due to its exploded godets. This dress was clearly the last gasp of a reference to the old days of Blass, kind of the kitchen sink effect. Carolina Herrera seemed to pull all of her memories of the great man into her collection. This was one dress that should have stayed home.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Reed Krakoff Fall 2010: A Debut

Reed Krakoff, the creative director of Coach and the man responsible for turning it into a mega brand, has chosen to take the leap and create his own Collection. A year in the making, it debuted the other day to positive reviews and a few cheers. Reed's aesthetic is decidedly intellectual with a bent towards the art gallery crowd. These clothes show the results of a mind searching far and wide for a new and clever way to express modernity in fashion. I had the feeling that this was the work of a designer who sees himself as a rare creature not satisfied to start in the shallow end but to test his skills in the deep waters of the seasoned.

There were some interesting pieces like a shearling or 2 and a couple of leather skirts and one fantastic pair of wide legged leather pants. One of the most compelling and successful items was a white dress with a strap and belt detail. It was clever, austere in its reference to Francisco Costa and just the sort of thing a confused older woman would wear to an important gallery opening. That's the overall vibe that came through looking at this collection: the gallery crowd. Reed Krakoff is known for his collection of important contemporary art and that passion and the mind set of the art enthusiast permeates his imagination. Whenever I go to galleries I notice the women and their choices of dress. Consistently, I find myself asking ,"Why?" and ;"What is she thinking?". Well Reed has given them even more clothes that will add to the confusion.

The styling was a bit redundant and annoying. It's as though everyone is using the same stylist. If another collection uses lace up hiking boots with heels and climbs to the knee, I'll start coughing hair balls. But I don't have hair to cough up, that shows you the degree of madness this stock styling has caused: sleeves of sweaters hanging over finger tips, fingerless knit gloves, arm leggings , leg leggings and droopy over sized blah sweaters, etc. etc. It all starts to look like a big queeny,Flash Dancing mess. Personally, I can't see the point of yet another sportswear collection unless it's really going to chart new territory. Re-runs of Commes des Garcons and Calvin with a touch of Rick Owens isn't going to cut it. Another impression of this collection was that of accessories becoming clothing, and the accessories paired with the collection getting canceled out. There were interesting ideas at play, but Reed could have taken a bit longer with them , refining and editing them, then filling in the gaps . We'll see what comes.

Oscar de la Renta: Falling 2010

This collection got lots of rave reviews. Cathy Horyn of the New York Times cozied up to it and its Boho Chicness. Press and buyers liked that aspect as though that signaled its youthfulness, its Now-ness. The mad mix of luxe details like abstract tile embroideries throughout and many running along the bottoms of pencil skirts with Nutria borders framing the hems. This was paired with sweaters or double-faced cashmere cardigans under Alpaca coats in colors like cerise, grape, or burnt orange with 2 different furs running along the collar's edge and hem. Silk dresses were cleverly printed with an Astrakhan design. Fur look under fur. That's a bit of gilding the lily in my humble opinion (IMHO). Glamor coupled with luxe paired with the precious all floating on a sea of audacious colors. This all sounds perfectly brilliant, a new dawn for the tender loins of Park Avenue, perhaps even a reason for the Jaimee Gregory's of that rarefied world to cease their insipid grimace of a smile and go YUM, but to my jaded and jaundiced eye it looks like Tuleh (now shuttered) on steroids; the sort you get slipped in the back of the locker room buy a sinister that should be smacked with a restraining order.

Some of you may think that I am using this confused collection as a scratching post, but I'm not. I had a manicure that day, seeing as though I made a promise to myself I'd go with an open mind to everything this Fashion Week. Out of sympathy for the fact that the era of the Tents is finished at the Park known as Bryant, I want to show my solidarity with the Tweeting hordes who make up this pilgrimage that's more popular than the one to Lourdes according to the WWD. So I'm just doing what I do, I'm calling it as I see it. What I saw and heard (I tried that new ear candling treatment so I could better hear the hyperbole flying to and fro) was baffling. Dresses that once were the smartest examples of shape, detail in seaming and attitude were flat, less shaped, or just a robe of wool cashmere flannel wrapped and belted like some throw away bathrobe, I mean, Kimono. This willy nilly tossing of a sharug tunics over fab pants with an indigenous necklace from some lost culture was Oscar's attempt to give Rachel Zoe one of her trade mark seizures. The type where her eyes run and her nose bleeds and she becomes covered in a glaze of greasy sweat. So many looks early on were mired in too many combinations of disparate items adding up to a "Vintage" look that was bought at the costliest Salvation Army on the planet.

I honestly have loved Oscar's collection over many many years but the last few seasons have shown a detour from elegant, young and super exquisite clothes. I actually did the unspeakable one year and silently wept at the end of the show. That's how deeply I was moved. This was a spring collection that Carmen Kass opened in the briefest pleated tennis skirt and cashmere cardigan over her shoulder followed by a parade of super beauties all in similar looks running the gamut of the color wheel. The sound track was The Thomas Crown Affair. There were perhaps 4 or 5 Ho-Hums in that collection and the rest was pure magic. Well, those days are past. Or, as long as the stylist he now has remains on the payroll, we're not going to see any of that artfulness or sophistication. The look now is heavy, retread and flat. It's a study of the obvious, perfect for Nouveau Riche trophy wives and the Russian Mafia. All fabrics are super precious , encrusted with embroidery and suffocating in fur on top of fur for good measure. Lengths are below the knee and all in all the overall picture is over crowded and decidedly matronly.

The gowns at the end are where the beauty lies. Still very rich with detail and surface decoration , but languid , glamorous and perfect. One gown the stylist defaced with two too many diamond clips. It was as though she was unaware that elegance is refusal....WHAT? I have a strong feeling that a lot of the forced and obvious looks that start the show are the work of his team, but the evening looked more like his hand and eye. There are only a few designers left in this country who have the experience and taste to truly create beautiful and wearable clothes that remain within the realm of the valid and actually justify their steep prices by their quality. He has always been at the head of that ever shrinking pack. I feel now that he's fallen victim to the whims and confusion that is his upper management and the assistants who
contribute ideas and their translations of the zeitgeist of the street.

My view is perhaps an unpopular one, but I take no pleasure in seeing my heroes fall victim to age, time and faltering judgment. The same truths apply to them as they do to the young and inexperienced:

" Just because you made it, doesn't make it great".

Potographs courtesy of Marcio Madeira/First