published Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Designers feeling texture at New York Fashion Week

By SAMANTHA CRITCHELL

AP Fashion Writer

NEW YORK — Quilting, lace, fur, leather. Designers are feeling texture for next fall.

Oscar de la Renta’s patchwork coat in full floral, embroidered, striped, Jacquard glory told the story well Wednesday as New York Fashion Week headed into a final, furious stretch of runway shows.

Even for de la Renta’s well-heeled woman, “It’s all about little thrills,” said Ken Dowling, fashion director at Neiman Marcus. “Designers are inventing all these ideas of interesting fabrics.”

It’s not your usual mixed media as we saw last autumn. Now, Dowling said, “It’s hitting a fever pitch.”

The heart of the J. Mendel house remains with fur, but the runway of Gilles Mendel was also dripping in luxe beading and appliques. No time for basics in the shoe collection he debuted. Too busy with black broadtail to the ankle, black suede to the knee and mocha-colored silk satin up the thigh.

A black, one-shoulder sheer by Michael Kors had ONLY the print as cover up top. His belted animal print coat in caramel is ready to be stroked.

Technique pleases Dowling. It creates allure in the details. A sequined sheer scarf is a whisper in smokey gray as it teeters on an updo on Donna Karan’s runway.

For Milly, Michelle Smith merged cashmere and corduroy to create one fabric, and reveled in mohair.

“I really love textures this season,” she said Wednesday. “Mohair, which has a long sort of cotton candy look to it paired with silk charmeuse, which is very drapey and flowy, I love the combination.”

Previews run through Thursday night before moving on to London, Paris and Milan, Italy.

OSCAR DE LA RENTA

It was all there: glamour, luxury, color.

De la Renta isn’t trendy, even if many of the trends that have made the rounds of the runways — texture, metallics, long layers and man-tailoring, among them — were offered here.

These clothes are for women looking for the special investment pieces that can be worn a lifetime.

He’s particularly known for embellishment, embroidery and show-stopping eveningwear. Come fall, coats surely will be on that short list. Many were fur-cashgora combos and cashmere crocheted cardigans with fur hoods gave new life to a standby silhouette.

Daytime dresses were slim, some with a simple belt at the waist or a ruffle around the neck. He did not shy away from color: There were bright blues, greens and reds.

Options for black-tie include a sparkly midnight blue V-neck, long-sleeve gown with embroidered bursts that looked like nighttime stars. The belle of the ball didn’t get a full length gown. She wore a gold floral-threadwork embroidered organza dress that hit below the knee.

MARCHESA

The best revenge of a jilted lover is looking good, and the designers of Marchesa have given an exquisite makeover to Miss Havisham. Bring on the suitors!

The inspiration for fall was David Lean’s 1946 version of the Charles Dickens’ classic “Great Expectations.”

The results were ethereal, almost ghostly at times, especially one with exaggerated Victorian shapes, or the white-on-black beaded gown worn with a black lace jacket.

Most looks were rooted in light-as-a-feather tulle, but so much of it was used, it took on the personality of something very strong. Add heavy embellishment and long pooling silhouettes, and you’ve got yourself some glamour.

A light-gray strapless gown with a sweetheart neckline and chunky beaded bodice seemed destined for the Oscar red carpet later this month. Surely Marchesa could make the silver portrait-collar dress with super-delicate lace floor length if the right starlet asked.

How soon could the gowns be on a plane to Los Angeles? “We’d send them tonight!” Georgina Chapman said.

MICHAEL KORS

The presentation of Kors’ 30th anniversary collection was a hit parade, revisiting his favorite fun, glamorous themes with an audience eager to cheer him on.

There were references to disco and dancers, the boardroom, the beach and the ski slopes.

Kors filled the front row at New York Fashion Week with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michael Douglas, Anjelica Huston, Debra Messing, Emma Roberts and Bette Midler.

His muse is interested in easy luxury. She can pull off a wrap coat in soft gray cashgora with a silky white charmeuse shirt and man-tailored trousers one day, and a beaded black jumpsuit with a sheer caftan over it the next.

For fall, his customer is getting jersey dresses with halter tops held up by silver necklaces, pajama-style evening pants, a big black puffer coat, a tan-colored, one-shouldered beaded gown, and fur — in smoke gray, rose pink or chocolate brown.

J. MENDEL

Oh those peep-toe boots.

Gilles Mendel debuted his new shoe collection. All the boots teetered on thin, sexy heels.

There were luxe looks, especially gowns, to go with them. Hollywood stylists in the front row were whispering throughout the show, “And who’s going to wear that one?”

The dresses aimed to be a little slouchy and very sensual, appearing as if they were just pinned here and there. Made mostly of tulle, silk or mousseline — a favorite of Mendel’s — the designer said in his notes he was aiming for “throw-on-and-go appeal.”

Except that the looks were dripping in luxury with satin, beading and appliques.

Fur remains front and center. The modern interpretations included a snow mink mounted jacket, a pink quilted broadtail — with fur epaulettes! — and a mink-and-wool wrap coat.

NANETTE LEPORE

The Ohio native put out prints with names like astral, cloud and star in a collection inspired by the sky.

She paired clothes with zebra-print bags and boots, and shearling coats.

Lepore had had shimmery white fabrics in swaying dresses that were ruffled, tiered and embellished with rhinestones.

The astral print was a mix of large stars and flowers. Lace created sheer backs on jackets.

Lepore’s finale was a long sheer dress in black with a deep V-neck and silver beading.

“I think it’s what women really want to wear,” actress Patricia Clarkson said. “Not a fantastical idea of what a woman wants to wear.”

SOPHIE THEALLET

Sophie Theallet’s fall collection sizzled with sexiness even with the high necklines, long lengths and layering. It’s because she knows how to cut clothes so they hit the wearer in all the right places, said stylist June Ambrose from her front-row seat at the MAC & Milk studio.

“See everything here? It’s simple, sexy and drapes the body — and she knows how to cut something on the bias,” Ambrose explained.

It was the bias-cut silhouettes and the multiple uses of satin that gave the clothes a lingerie feel, but not in a structured, corseted way. Theallet favored the wrap robe that almost becomes undone, or the slip that no one else was supposed to see.

There was a Bonnie and Clyde theme to the raw-edge pantsuits and scarf-neck shirtdresses, emphasized by the berets worn on the models’ heads.

RACHEL ROY

She concentrated on layered silhouettes because key pieces in a modern, working woman’s wardrobe are what she’s always reaching for.

“The collection started — inspiration-wise — from an eclectic mix of layering — layering of textures, prints and saturation of color,” she explained. “I’m trying to show a woman for fall-winter to work with different pieces that I’m suggesting or what’s already in her closet.”

Mixing textures and new colors, including rust and turmeric with the navy and black standbys, can bring new life to familiar silhouettes.

Michelle Obama has been wearing Roy’s clothes quite a bit lately, including the State of the Union address last month. The first lady might consider further evolving her belted cardigan look with the short midnight-blue kimono jacket.

NARCISO RODRIGUEZ

Layering and luxury are a strong presence, but one look at the pieced-together coats and dresses with exposed seams and structured silhouettes, and it couldn’t belong to anyone else.

The other giveaway were Rodriguez’s longtime friends and fans Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld in the front row.

“Narciso kept to his chic minimal aesthetic,” said Nicole Fritton, Harper’s Bazaar market director. “The silhouette was streamlined and the palette graphic — he always evokes sleek modernism.”

The outerwear was among the strongest looks, especially the reversible wool ones with long, lean lines. Fur was used sparingly, but more so than usual, ramping up the glamour.

RODARTE

Sisters Laura and Kate Mulleavy hit on more straightforward styles that can translate to the street. They found them in the Heartland.

Several gowns had a windblown wheat print at the hem, with the rest of the dresses catching different moments of the sunset.

Seem crazy? It’ll all make sense when front-row guest Kirsten Dunst or one of the Mulleavys’ other celebrity fans turns up wearing one at an event.

The opening outfit was a high-neck, cream-and-black dotted chiffon dress — with black horsehair trim — that was covered with a yellow boucle coat that had strategic cutouts to show off the garment underneath.

The Mulleavys mixed horsehair with sequins, leather and chiffon.

REEM ACRA

She interpreted her classic evening gowns through her girlhood lens of forests and nature in her native Lebanon, based on memories of searching for amber-entrapped insects in the mountains with her father.

Acra infused the collection with jewel and crystal necklaces and pins shaped like beetles, dragon flies and spiders. They were worn at the waist and neck of her gowns.

“When you look at this collection then you realize, ’Wow it does come from there,”’ Acra said. “This looks like amber. This looks like my father’s photography of all these insects. So we put it together.”

High-necked gowns had sheer sleeves that drape over the shoulders to form flowing capes. Colored insects pop up over a flowing black-and-white floral print dress with a black bow at the back of the neck.

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