Money's the name of the glamour game

Fashion: Flaunting wealth seems to be the theme of the season.

February 12, 2000|By Jackie White | Jackie White,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

NEW YORK -- The popularity of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" and its imitators may have sent a message to the fashion world. Designers' collective vision seems to be about the wealthy who have no qualms showing it off.

The American runway shows here this week have been dominated by the posh status symbols of furs (mostly real, some faux), gold and silver metallics, and glittering embroidery.

It was telling that Nicole Miller presented her audience with the game book for the millionaire show. Her program notes opened with a quote from Gertrude Stein: "Money is always there, but the pockets change." And even Miller, whose clothes are priced in a somewhat more affordable range, spiced her colorful, sexy collection with brightly dyed skins such as, say, a chartreuse-tipped fox vest.

The significant return of fur to the runways has already attracted the attention of the anti-fur activists. On Wednesday, during the Oscar de la Renta show, two young women in black suddenly appeared carrying protest signs. Within seconds they were tackled on the runway by security guards, pushed to an exit and arrested. The show proceeded without a blip.

The next day, Michael Kors' lavish use of skins for chinchilla jackets and sable collars apparently drew fire. As he made the runway march after the show, a woman in the audience stood and threw something white, which landed on the black suit he wore. Security guards were quick to go after her in the bleachers.

"We think it was pie crust," said Stan Herman, the president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America whose subsidiary 7th on Sixth produces Fashion Week. Meanwhile, Herman said security had been doubled at the tent.

Vivienne Tam said she was inspired by the opulent Chinese ornamentation and ornate Chinoiserie. Embroidered gold and sequins seemed to gild almost everything, including the whimsical symbols of winged dragons.

Her feather trims were metallic and brocade was trimmed with fake fur. It was a beautiful collection, although you'd be hard pressed to find something to wear to work.

Reptile skins, including snakeskin in a dress at de la Renta, were out in force. Ralph Lauren did a shapely brown crocodile jacket with gray flannel trousers.

Cashmere knitted or treated with metallics was another theme. And de la Renta, whose collection was one of his recent best, layered cashmere with beautiful colorful crewel embroidery.

Details were everywhere, a sharp contrast to the straightforward styles of a few seasons ago. Leather cuffs trimmed DKNY jackets. Lace cuffs and insets marked jackets and pants at Dana Buckman.

The sense of luxury fits in with an overall reinvention of classic -- in some cases preppie -- looks. Marc Jacobs seemed to have found his muse among the early '60s archives, when short boxy jackets, pleated skirts, skimmer jumpers and flowered jackets hung in many closets. This time they were in luxury fabrics.

Ralph Lauren's elegantly simple presentation brought back the white silk charmeuse blouse. De la Renta paired the silk shirt with a wide-striped ruffled rumba skirt.

Everyone used plaid, often in untraditional colors. The pleated kilt is hot again. The long straight skirt of seasons past is forgotten.

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