Thursday, February 14, 2013

Oscar de la Renta Fall2013: Beginning at the end.

Such a curious collection. Before I get into it, the invitation of John Galliano to "sit in" on the final stages of this collection at Anna Wintour's urging and Oscar's acquiescence, was in itself a very daring prospect. Both designers are in essence at the end of their careers, Oscar due to his age and John due to his disgrace. Age is something that can not be turned back, but disgrace is something that can be remedied, even forgiven. To my thinking this was a soft pedaled attempt to reinstate Galliano to the only world he knows. What mystifies me is how a cross pollination of two such completely different species could produce something cohesive. Watching this show repeatedly, I couldn't help but think I was looking at a horse with a zebra's butt or vice versa. What the show did have was a lot of buzz. It was clearly the moment of the season with a front row that was unusually packed with the high, the medium and the bottom feeders. From Valentino Garavani and his partner Giancarlo Giametti to Anna Wintour, all the other lower tier editors and Fashion directors of the major stores to the likes of Rachel Zoe and her ilk, they were all there.

The music started with a creaky cover of "As time goes by"sung by Bryan Ferry setting the tone for what was meant to be an earth shift. Out came girls with high rise felt cloche hats over stringy hair with wispy ponytails and a series of draped and wrapped fischu-collared jackets in leather and cashmere over longer slim skirts and chic school marm shoes; all very sober, very sensible. The waists were caught with belts tied instead of buckled. (apparently, Galliano held a seminar at the studio as to how to correctly tie a belt, but from the looks of it no one took notes) From there the looks flipped back and forth between obvious Oscar-isms and then Galliano-isms like dueling designers. Granted the overall effect was more interesting with greater design energy than Oscar's last several seasons, but it was disjointed and chaotic. One moment there was a dowdy tweed suit, gently frayed along the edges with another annoyingly tied belt holding the jacket closed. Then came a series of Toile de Jouy printed dresses on matelasse that looked more like the result of Annette de la Renta's gentle urging. There were also other prints that were drawn from Coromandel screens trimmed in sable that looked forced and matronly in the larger picture.

Then Galliano took the ball and ran with it. Skin tight stretch leather pants under embroidered leather cardigans or YSL-ish hooded capes in chiffon and another in cashmere set yet another tone. The Oscar lady was left at the starting line and the race was on a different course altogether. Suits and coat dresses were draped and tucked in a very abstract way that were more feats of technique than anything else, clearly not an Oscar trademark. Soon it was cocktail hour and a few dresses came out that were lovely, particularly a black crepe number with illusion draped above the bodice. A Dior inspired strapless that exploded behind like a lovely chartreuse apparition from the past. An exquisite gown of black cut velvet and beads on a ground of nude net and chiffon was probably the prettiest gown of all. But then we were back to boisterous Ikat-printed cocktail dresses and gowns that fought for attention on a ground of enormous cabbage roses. That had to have been Oscar rebounding. Suddenly the models appeared with completely different hair and make-up in a series of gowns that were unmistakably John's. We were back to his bruised-eyed, marceled and greasy-haired courtesans sleep walking their way to oblivion. 

This was an old trope that didn't sit well, especially when the dresses were mere shadows of what one would expect from Galliano by way of the Dior ateliers. If that's the result of sobriety then maybe this was the end. Oscar finished off the show with 2 enormous faille gowns with silver embroidery a la Versailles in brash colors. The crowd looked confused as they ran for the doors. Valentino never altered his pursed lip expression and Anna remained inscrutable behind her shades. Maybe this was a dry run for a future as creative director of Oscar de la Renta if/when he decides to retire and then again maybe not. Who knows? The End.

*images courtesy of    * video courtesy of OscardelaRenta TV

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Carolina Herrera Fall2013: Shanghaied

Something novel happened at Mrs. Herrera’s show Monday morning. With so many designers referencing each other and periods like the now hackneyed 60’s and 70’s, she and her excellent team embraced a fantasy of a long ago time, the 30’s, and specifically a notorious heroine of that period, Wallis Warfield Winfield Simpson Windsor. 

From the very moment Karlie Kloss took absolute control of the runway in her Cheongsam cum English tea gown with that signature hair-do and taught expression I thought, “ That’s Wallis!” The models who followed, all sporting the same hair, some in printed crepe de chine day dresses with innocent black bows at the neck, peaked shouldered radzimir trench coats with glass beaded patterns floating on the surface and blouses with the most artful sleeves that rose from the shoulder and wound seductively down the arm, reminded me immediately of expat Brits and Americans who flocked to Shanghai in the late 20's and 30's where the rules of society were non-existent and all was pure forbidden fun and games. Think Pink Gin mornings, Opium fueled nights and those Sing-Song houses where nice western girls learned the secret arts to amuse and ensnare men.

It was this time and place that I imagined Wallis, on the run from her first unhappy marriage, indulging herself and dreaming of the life she would one day lead. Everything in the show, from a marvelous Herringbone cashmere sweater coat with mink collar over a man-tailored tweed pants suit and fur collared, belted and cuffed skirt suits presaged the style that would become her own. Everything sleek, rail thin and severe but in the most alluring and eye-catching way. Brown abstract printed thistles floating on a stiff silver wrapped ball skirt with a black cashmere sweater sporting a panel of degrade' mink in honey darkening to chocolate at the waist was pure fantasy. Fur appeared again and again in Russian Broadtail the colors of ash and claret and Fox that took on a myriad of shades in boleros and fluffy sleeves on charmeuse blouses. Sable was in liberal use as trim on the hems of ball skirts and along necklines of fitted tops. Sable the color of jade mixed with grey flannel paired with a slim, gored grey skirt that flared discreetly at the knee. Lots of suits in mottled grey and black and others in rich earth colors were just the look Wallis would adopt years in her future.

The evening clothes that evoked her glamorously severe style presaging her love for Chanel and Mainbocher were one after the other perfectly elegant. The blue she would be known for appeared in a velvet gown with printed blossoms exploding down the front and back. Another of ivory chrysanthemums tumbling down a tea colored chiffon gown with a jeweled panel at the waist was languid and seductive. Those same chrysanthemums caught fire with touches of flaming red as silk pyjamas under a sable bolero the color of deep claret. All of these looks would be her wardrobe once she snared her King, toppling the monarchy and taking charge of the worlds of Paris, Antibes, New York and Palm Beach.

Mrs. Herrera's collection was as focused as it was rich in ideas. Whether or not it was a fever dream of a young Wallis the end result was the same. This collection had everything and chic in spades.

*images courtesy of     *video courtesy of

Monday, February 11, 2013

Chado Ralph Rucci Fall 2013: 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0

 It didn't take the judges long to tally their scores. For Artistic impression it was 6's across the board. The same sea of 6's appeared with the Technical difficulty scores. There was a fight in the judges box because the Russian judge, always a wrench in the works, wanted to score higher, but there is no higher score. Rucci opened his program to music that was a symphony of static just to understate the overall mood of the competition. The other programs that had been skated with some on blades that were hopelessly dull and yet others with laces that broke with every stroke and lackluster jump combinations of single, doubles and missed jumps altogether.

His opening bars of static were a subtle nod to those skaters. But then the static died away and an insistent rhythm of polyphonic sound rose from beneath and his first pass with serene models in black leather, then a black sable coat with vinyl glided past with footwork so deft that they appeared to float above the surface of ice the color of beige leaving no marks at all. His relaxed set up for the first series of jumping passes was a perfect Triple/Quad combination: mind blowing minks in violet, nude and citrus. Without so much as a breath, he leapt into his first Quad with mink coats of shocking pink,chrome yellow, white with feathers and black, also with feathers. That's seven pieces back to back that created an ovation in the first 30 seconds of the program.

From there it was just pure joy in his ability to create shapes, textures and a total control of his metier. There were a sea of wool jersey dresses and gowns, the humblest of fabrics he employed but all with the grandeur of his signature double-face cashmere suits, coats and dresses and the shock of the unexpected in violet-dyed Sable with the skins running on the bias. The colors were so vibrant and alive in stark contrast to the drab greens, greys and blacks of so many of the other competitors. His hand is as capable of the greatest subtlety as it is the most complex cuts.

Surface decoration was achieved dramatically with a twist, knot or braid to define unorthodox seaming details. Even his beading on chiffon was as unusual in design as it was weightless. A little cocktail dress in black micro-bugle beads ran horizontally across the body giving the effect of gleaming ice. Rucci's use of black was as effective as his play with color. It showed up in embroidered leather lace, in a suit of Astrakhan and in an almost wraith-like column of black velvet divided with insertions of leather. Put simply, there wasn't anything he couldn't do and do brilliantly.

The audience was giddy from the start. There was an anticipation in the air as though everyone knew this program was going to be the one to beat. I felt an energy there that was wholly absent from previous programs from earlier in the day and the days preceding. When it was all over and the audience was on it's feet, stamping on the floor and applauding loudly. Ralph came out, took a few steps forward and acknowledged the crowd's appreciation. He seemed to take in the whole room with a humility that was dignified and then with a bow of his head and a simple raising of his hand he turned and was gone.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Black Ice - Jason Wu Fall2013

Jason Wu's Fall presentation at a Park Avenue venue was an endless parade of tepid clothes that have the effect of Seventh Avenue Water Torture. They keep coming at you skittering on a sheet of Black Ice, one after the other, season after season, Inauguration after Inauguration until some people out there start to think there's something there. His business is apparently booming and for that I'm pleased for him. But these are not clothes for the runway. In an interview Jason Wu labels this collection as "Extreme Femininity" with a "top level" appeal for "girls who have it and have a lot of money" too. The collection is feminine in a banal way and as far as extreme, I'd have to say that applies more to the mix of looks, influences and homages to YSL, Herve (Leroux) Leger, Marc Jacobs and Madame Gres. 

Again, this is a collection with little or no sex appeal. I take that back...There were about 4 looks that were honest to God hot. One was a black python motorcycle jacket over a knife pleated white Georgette skirt. Sexy. The other 3 were a series of sweaters with alternating opaque wide horizontal stripes and narrow see through ones. In bright red and black over a skirt made of a patchwork of Russian Broad tail and a swinging pleated chiffon skirt, these were hot. Very sexy. Other than that it was a long line of YSL inspired looks that went from le Smoking in a satin sleeved wool coat dress, a red wool belted chemise with epaulets and a lot of lace with satin. A lace pattern was printed on clear plastic for trench coats as well. 

Many looks referenced Marc Jacobs collection last fall with monkey fur patch pockets on wool and satin jackets and coats and the same monkey fur grew out of collars and from waist to hem of jackets. Lanvin was tossed into the salad with a series of satin dresses with pleated and draped chiffon wrapped and tied and left to dangle in a haze of post-modernist caprice. He must have felt he'd struck gold with the Trench coat as it appeared again and again and again. Then it came out again just for good measure. All in all his best efforts were the simplest ones. I, for one, was just as non-plussed by the Inaugural gown this time as I was the first. Gowns do not appear to be his forte whether for a grown woman with a womanly figure or runway models with no figure at all. That's all I'm going to say on that subject.

 * images courtesy of  Video courtesy of

Drifting - Prabal Gurung Fall2013

Prabal Gurung sent out a collection that was strangely mixed. Nemo created some snow drifts that were all but impossible to get through, get over or around. This seemed like a metaphor for the collection.Right out of the gate there were dog collars complete with metal rings front and back for leads to attach and harnesses over a number of looks, lots and lots of looks. The harnessed coats with embroidery, fox circular collars and the dog collar on top, along with piping, hardware and hip interest were good looking if not a little bit busy. satin stretch suits with embroidered inserts were more brassy as if he was trying to take his elegant luxe evening roots and bury them deep in the ground. 

His collection looks styled for editors who only acknowledge sportswear driven collections as important. His draped evening dresses in solids and printed silks were some of the most successful looks in the collection along with a gown or two at the end. On the surface of things , one could argue that all is as it should be. But when you look back and follow the arc of Prabal's work it starts as something personal with an emphasis on craft, a beauty still in its innocence and moves quickly to a style that seems too knowing and aggressively pointed at the editors packing the front row. 

Design seems sacrificed for branding and in that sacrifice, so goes the soul of the artist. Looking back at perhaps his first collection that was a still-life at a gallery in Chelsea a few years back filled with beautiful clothes that seduced the viewer, there is almost a complete disconnect between the designer then and the personage now... but, hey. That's just my opinion.

* images courtesy of   Video courtesy of

Snow Blindness: Where am I?

Nemo hit New York and all of New England just when the lights were dimming and the front row sucked their last bits of juice from the thirsty photographers. The timing seemed almost deliberate as though Mother Nature was saying,"Enough with this madness". With flight cancellations in and out of all three airports, she all but stopped editors, buyers and the European contingent from even entering the city. I felt for the designers who were scheduled without contingency plans. but the shows did go on with or without the important invited guests. It was probably a boon for the hordes who are usually herded into the "Select Standing"areas. Many of them scored front row seats so the press/video images would show a crowded venue. Unfortunately, it looks as though there was precious little, so far, to get excited over. If confused ideas, endless parades of tepid looks and  mojo-less major players are your thing, then you scored. I've looked and looked and looked again and all I've seen is snow.

Alexander Wang just showed and the pressure of his appointment to Balenciaga shows. The cool is still sort of there , but the sex has left the building. It was like a lover that suddenly doesn't do it for you, no matter what drugs or drink you take. A sea of grey, dark grey and even darker grey was the palette and most of the jackets over skirts and knit Jammie pants fell below the hips in a twenties meets teens vibe. I liked that. What left me cold were the shapes which became arch, self-consciously studied and hard a la Cristobal but without any of the artistry or magic. It was a little like Marc Jacobs/Louis Vuitton. 

The Wang collection looks like the distilled vision (the cheap one, more specifically) and his Balenciaga will most likely be the jacked up version. Even the sweaters and T-shirts that are his stand-by, crowd-pleasers were hard and awkward just like his predecessor, Ghesquierre. An origami fold at the shoulder of several jackets, coats and tops looks to be the message, his couture shape as it were. I fear there will only be more of that in the future. Not one look was sexy in a sexy sort of sexiness. If you like your sexy served up on a cold plate, all stiff and hard  (and not in that good sort of way) then you can start the heavy breathing. I'm mystified because the Pre-Fall was pretty hot, kind of cool and not so leaden. I'm just sayin'..

* images courtesy of  Video courtesy of