For designers, it's a wrap

FashionWeek

February 11, 2005|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - In the crazy mixed-up world of fashion, it's not even spring yet, and today, top designers here will finish up a week of unveiling what they will be selling - and what you will be wearing - in the fall.

While many of the looks that were fashionable last year will return this fall - tweeds, brocades, plaids, fitted blazers and lots of layers - there are some trends to watch this year. Fuller skirts, embellishments and sweaters of all kinds, some even paired with ball gowns, have been seen on the runways.

Here are some of Fashion Week's highlights for fall:

Tracy Reese

You know you're doing something right when Vogue's Andre Leon Talley can't stop gushing about your fabulousness.

That's what happened after Tracy Reese showed her richly hued collection of post-impressionistic-art-inspired clothes, highlighted by metallic-shot fabrics, soft chiffons, rich velvets, embroidery, beading and elegant patterns.

"I'm so glad I was here for this one," says Talley, a veteran of the high fashion world. "Everything was so beautiful. This is her best collection yet."

Reese's blend of vintage and feminine - such as her collection's bold use of detail in the ruched velvet and chenille coats, tiered skirts, Victorian-style jackets and lingerie-like dresses and tanks - has caught the attention of people across cultural and generational lines.

Case in point: Seated in Reese's front row, 7th Heaven's Beverley Mitchell said she loved the designers "daring" use of color for fall. Shohreh Aghdashloo, of House of Sand and Fog, lauded Reese's devotion to "femininity."

The buzz: Reese's tapestry of lush fabrics in pumpkin, gold, caramel, cherry and mahogany is a real treat - like summer in November.

Carolina Herrera

In her 2005 fall collection, Carolina Herrera is bringing back the 1940s woman of elegance and modesty who dressed for daytime.

While Herrera's '40s-inspired skirts, dresses, suits, coats and slacks are not racy, the line is all sexy.

The designer has concentrated on the waist and sometimes the shoulders. But she has softened and modernized the reserved look of the '40s, using lightweight tweeds and geometric chiffon prints. Her clothes have movement.

Herrera livened up her collection by adding embroidery, crystal beading, semi-precious stones and furs. She also accented the mainly neutral designs with pops of pretty modern colors such as mimosa, raspberry and blush to make her collection wearable, beautiful and one of the best of the week.

The buzz: Herrera's clothes are the kind that won't look dated several seasons from now.

Cynthia Steffe

For fall, the carefree bohemian girl, whom Cynthia Steffe introduced us to in her spring line of shorts and jeweled tanks, has become a stern czarina, snatched away to the cold of imperial Russia. The look is Byzantine.

Steffe showed lots of overdone velvets and embroidery, confusing patterns and heavy fur accents. One item is an exception: a fun, colorful swinging coat she called "tapestry Cossack."

At best, the decadent styles were imaginative. At worst, the jacquard coats, knit vests, baroness jackets and other piled-on Princess of Russia looks, came off as costume-y.

Steffe's best work for fall came when she opted for simple or girlie. One blue tweed shift, a few of her feminine streamlined dresses and skirts and any number of her menswear-style, full-legged pants were tasteful and pretty. Another coat, which she called "archangel sparkle coat," was so sparkly and beautiful that it made a cold winter in Russia look like a wonderland.

The buzz: Although the Cold War is over, we have to dress like our ex-enemies.

Diane von Furstenberg

Were the designers on New York's A-list sitting around together at the Russian Tea Room these last few months?

Diane von Furstenberg - known for her easy, body-conscious wrap dresses - showed very few of that signature item for fall. Instead, she went for structure and tailoring.

"The great heroines of Russian literature inspired this collection," her fashion show's liner notes say, "women known for both their fragility and strength."

Apparently, those contrasting traits spawned her collection's mix of masculine and feminine - tiered peasant skirts with military-style jackets and frilly lace blouses with stiff trousers.

One thing: Von Furstenberg's take on Russian culture was not too literal; she made it her own.

The buzz: The mix of romance and military, peasant and palace-dweller was clever and artsy, just not wearable.

Oscar de la Renta

When Oscar de la Renta dressed first lady Laura Bush this year, he made her look like how we want our first ladies to look.

In his fall collection, de la Renta is on target again - except this time his audience is the gorgeous and wealthy, of all ages.

"I think rich people should dress like rich people, and I love it when designers purvey that mentality," says Robert Verdi, host of the Style Network's Fashion Police.

De la Renta's fall showing was big. Big on furs, big on embroidery and especially big on volume.

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