Friday, June 25, 2010

Marchesa Resort2011: Thanksgiving in June?

Well, Resort2011 for Marchesa might as well be the trotting of the turkeys. Spain has the running of the bulls, New York has wild turkeys; marauding, unabashed and untamed turkeys. I've always thought Marchesa had the glamor game down. That was probably because I tended to see that collection from the corner of my eye. When I turned to focus, looking straight at it, I was as disturbed by it as I am by the rampaging foul that has come close to out numbering the pilgrims who come to East Hampton and neighboring hamlets to worship. Sounds harsh, I know, but this collection was one gigantic , queeny mess. Nothing about it said Resort other than the program.

From the top, I was reminded that Georgina Chapman is the child bride of Harvey Weinstein, of movie mogul fame, not to mention the savior of Halston and it's Bad Seed little sister, Halston Legacy. The first looks were straight off the back lot. Cleopatra and Mata Hari along with a chorus line of showgirls in costumes parading as chic dresses and gowns. Had those creations been viewed from a safe distance , they'd have exuded the hauteur and command of an Adrian, Edith Head, perhaps a Poiret if the lighting was just so and in concert with a very effective fog machine. Marchesa has been so successful on the red carpet with so many important actresses of late, I was frankly disappointed to see such pedestrian clothes.

The first exit is a turquoise gown suitable for Cleopatra entertaining on the Nile. It approaches suitability for entering the gates of Rome but is a little short on gold. The collar piece is all chunky turquoise stones and other bits of this and that with a draped column that reads more as an afterthought. I almost thought they'd rather have shown Miss Cleo in only a jeweled collar, cuffs, a bad wig and naked. It was the damn censors who insisted they switch the asp for a gown. Another variation on that overwrought theme appears later in white, which was more effective, as the jeweled collar is obscured by a swath of silk chiffon looping through it and concealing the better or worse part of it, depending on your taste. A lovely confection comes after in russet orange layers of satin faced organza. It's one dress along with a few more that look somewhat current. Another was a beautifully draped short printed strapless with only a scattering of jet crystals. It was pure dressmaking beauty with subtlety as its primary detail. A claret silk chiffon gown was also effective with masterful workmanship and a modicum of sparkle; a very chic Mother of the Bride. With headpieces like snoods, it often looked like Harvey gave the team the keys to the Costume archives of RKO and let them loose. There was nothing original and nothing that expressed the idea of subtraction. It was more, more and then just a lot more. Big faux-jeweled cuffs were attached to dresses and gowns on a single sleeve or both. They even managed to get lost in Paris, lassoing in a couple of wildly colored versions of YSL fringe skirted dresses from his Africa collection. Nice homage, but not in Kraft "Vermont"cheddar yellow.

The mood shifted from the antique to the semi modern with crystal pleated lurex chiffon cocktail and evening gowns. They looked like middling quality, poly chiffon, the sort Mary McFadden used with brilliantly tight Marii pleats.(God, I miss Mary. She was the life and death of a party.) This pleating was too large and showed the fabric for what it was; inexpensive, with a lot of beads and twists to camouflage its lack of quality.They've worked this crystal pleating over and over the last few seasons and it's bled into Halston Heritage on SJParker at the Costume Institute Ball and in the sequel of Sex..... It's prom wear at demi-couture prices. Other offerings were restrained and even lovely, like a little one shouldered black jersey dress with one jeweled cuff. The technical know how is in place at the Marchesa studio. It's only channeled towards high voltage looks that have little bearing to real life glamor; only the strain that's epidemic in Hollywood and Cannes.

I remember one night at a screening of a Weinstein film, "The Reader" where he and Georgina were there working the room. I saw her at a distance and could not stop watching her. She wore a metal thread embroidered shrunken matador's cape over a very short beautiful dress. Her legs and body were as sleek as a jaguar. She worked the room(theater) from front to back, side to side like an industry pro. Harvey just stood back like a large toad and let her work. What struck me was not so much their utter lack of chemistry, but her incredible beauty. She was by far the most beautiful woman there, towering over her court and oozing charm. I thought at that moment, "here's a great designer", but too often there are those who are brilliant at making and others at wearing.

That company is a hodgepodge of items, like a Kleinfeld's for "occasion clothes". The Bar Mitzvah mother's go-to outlet or a prom girl or over indulged "sweet 16's" Mecca. The most blatant shortcut was the "Lanvin Pouf", the ubiquitous one-shouldered popover dress that has turned up on way too many runways. When you start to mistake one for the other, it's time to take it from the top.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Brian Reyes Resort2011

There's always a trap for designers that cleave too closely to a given theme or period. They either launch into a world of Waterloos or become trapped in the literal which ends in a Waterloo moment. It's frustrating to watch when they have obvious talent and skill and even more maddening because to do less can say infinitely more. That's what I came away with after looking at this collection. More often than not, program notes can be a case of TMI.

Brian's inspiration for this collection was a young immigrant gamine taking in the New World of Ellis Island. She's still enamored with the way she used to dress but conflicted with the way she must assimilate in her new home. This is a serenade to nostalgia with an upbeat twist. Sort of a folk dance from the old country overlaid on a jazzy new sound. The styling along with several looks seemed to illustrate perfectly this dichotomy. Opaque black hose and laced up, high heeled Granny brogues, always age most any look I can think of. This combination with looks that were great feats of tailoring or paired with fussy sheaths made for a dreary collection.Long, sad colored skirts with fur jackets don't evoke Resort, no matter the climate or locale.

When he loosened up with a very smart black pant suit with cleverly cut sleeves on the jacket or a dress cut in silk with an oil spill print, things looked up. The most appealing exits in the collection was a great little black dress with horizontal, textured stripes and knife pleated skirt looked young, modern and just right. The same could be said for a black strapless gown that was broken in two with a clean, fitted corset and long tailored skirt. That one piece was the most successful marriage of the old world and the new.

He's clearly a talented young designer and one that is fast developing his skills. I look forward to the day that he takes his own lead and not and old one to tell us his own story.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Barbara Tfank Resort2011

This modest offering, only 15 exits, comes from a designer working in Los Angeles. For all intents and purposes it is a very ladylike aesthetic in the vein of Balenciaga by way of Catherine Charles. There will be no earth shifting moments , but I did sense a quiet, astute understanding of what women with a certain appreciation for clothes based on the high art of dressmaking will find compelling. The shapes are strictly of the flattering sort but the volumes of some of the short jackets, evening coats and dresses looked very interesting in the way they evoked images of Balenciaga. Her fabrics which for the most part were stiff and architectural were handled to their greatest advantage. A retro 50's and 60's Givenchy/Audrey mood drifted in and out of the presentation but not in a literal sense. It was more a romantic nod with a contemporary touch. The prints used in some of the dresses and gown reminded me of elegant patterns for wall papers and fabrics for the home from a time that was more discreet and refined. I can't help but think that these clothes are for women are more sophisticated and not just fashionable. These clothes have an aspect that says collectible. They don't look like dresses that date because they skirt the limits of trend. They are iconic. Whether this is your cup of tea or not, it's very refreshing to see a designer that listens to a voice that has been all but hushed by the noise that is so much of fashion today. This type of fashion is so easy for people to dismiss saying that it is more a view to the past and not relevant to today. With this current obsession with "vintage" it makes perfect sense because vintage is another word for skillful design: proportion, cut, exquisite fabrics, and refinement. So many of those elements are why countless designers from Marc Jacobs to John Galliano scour Vintage purveyors in order to recreate those looks and stick their labels in them. More and more people want to make wise investments in clothing that won't outlive their shelf lives in 6 months or less. This is one of those collections and worth a look.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

*Chris Benz Resort 2011*

Well, all I can say after looking at Chris Benz's collection is that I couldn't help thinking that Oscar and Carolina could do with a little sojourn at Clinique La Prairie in Clarens-Montreux, Switzerland for their world renowned Embryonic Cell Therapy. In short , the therapy gives one a renewed youth or something that resembles a renewal. Benz also looks like the rightful recipient of the Swarovski Womenswear Award that went to Jason Wu. To take it a step further, Chris Benz is the designer that people are mistaking Jason for. He's wonderful, sophisticated, and very talented with a rich imagination. Does he blaze new trails? Not exactly, but what he weeds, reseeds and fertilizes them so that they appear familiar, only immensely improved. What's even more impressive is that he's a young designer doing the work himself, not relying on over paid stylists or an army of assistants and creative director to do all of the lifting, let alone the heavy.

According to his inspiration the collection was an homage to Carmen Miranda and the ceramic artist Sascha Brastoff. One of the very graphic prints in the collection was attributed to Sascha. That's all fine and good but they were more points of departure for an imagination with little need for direction. His fabrics were very artisanal, looking like one thing but actually an amalgam of fibers to create a whole. Tweeds were really woven strands of silk organza and ribbon. Grass cloth which is a familiar fiber for home furnishing was also printed and cut. Duchesse satin was used for a few cocktail and ball skirt confections. What was so appealing was the balance he found with combining the rich with the humble, particularly a satin ball skirt paired with a fisherman knit cardigan. This sort of aesthetic is not new, but rarely is it pulled off with such unself-conscious panache. I'm curious to watch the arc of his career. He's got the knowledge and taste to really grow and develop his own special voice. Of so many young talents on the scene, his view is very assured and quiet. If Michelle Obama and Ikram were not driving while dozing, Chris would make them both look lots better than they do. Only time will tell. The Obama Bump is neither here nor there . He's perfectly capable of rising to the top on his own merits.

Adam Resort 2011

ADAM by Adam Lippes' Resort 2011 collection is a group of interesting pieces. They're at best luxurious sportswear to be mixed into your wardrobe . They undoubtedly will beef up what one already has, if not get ones wardrobe started on the right note. He has a great eye and obviously discerning taste. Clearly, he knows the difference between good and great. I liked his Fall collection very much. There was so much that was unique and directional, even if there were hints of Phoebe Philo and Jil Sander, the references were excellent . The quality of his work was totally apparent and made me think that this collection was headed for the attention of important press and buyers. It helps that he has a beautiful shop downtown that presents his view in a complete way. It's always a pity when retailers cherry pick from collections giving the consumer a skewed vision of what it's about.
Where I saw so much that was great in Fall, this Resort was surprisingly tame. Perhaps he just felt that it wasn't a season to put a big effort into, but it seemed surprisingly devoid of must have looks. I like the leather shorts along with a great inky blue sweater with bold horizontal lines. The trench is smart as is a languid long dress in cream; very urban/beachy and something perfect to throw on with little fanfare or prep. My favorite piece is a strapless column in red silk crepe with a single deep pleat running down one side of the front. It reminds me so much of another column that I saw a couple of years ago, but for the life of me I can't remember who made it. That's not important as so much in fashion is drawn from the same well. It's the way a designer chooses to express the idea that matters and I like this interpretation. I look forward to spring to see what he has planned. I do hope that he pushes the envelope a bit more than this collection, or pushes the creative force behind the label.

The Report Card: Bill Blass

I know I have become predictable when certain names come up but I honestly look at collections before I pass judgment. It's not that I see myself as judge and jury and every collection lives or dies at the whim of my hands. I'll admit a degree of sadistic pleasure I take in watching the parade pass when a clown or trapeze artist is near the back on a stretcher or in some cases in a body cast, but I watch nevertheless, wishing them all well. I even look forward to when they roll back into town. I admit that I count the trailers and tents to see if everyone survived the run of the show. So before I start in on my opinions of Jeffrey Monteiro's first BlassResort collection and grade the cleverness or stupidity of the principals behind the brand, Scott Patti and a cadre of nameless others, I prayed that my premonition would be proven baseless. I'm willing to eat humble pie, no matter how much it makes me choke. I was reminded by way of a request that I should suss out the great talent that exists within the industry and not focus so much on the big names who are so well known to everyone. So with that in mind, I'm taking it alphabetically from the top, Adam should be first and will be included, but this collection stood out from the crowd and gets my attention first. You all can decide for yourselves as I will link you to the complete collection for your own edification.

This collection could not have been an easy one for Monteiro and the people at Blass. The owner, Scott Patti probably had more to lose or gain than his new designer. So many designers have slid between the jaws of this hungry beast only to be ejected from one end or another. Patti had to have approached the market place and press with a certain degree of trepidation. If he didn't, he should have. From the first exit to the last with maybe one or two dresses and a pair of shoes, this Resort 2011 collection of 23 looks was about 2o too many. I looked on in amazement that so little could come from someone posing as a designer and an owner pretending to be in charge.

The dresses were as tentative as a freshman's first muslin in design school. All the usual attempts at artfulness and invention went into this rancid stew with a couple of exceptions. The palette, fabrics and silhouettes were so pedestrian and below the level of what a house like Blass demands, I thought of a teacher I had in elementary school who gave me a P- in math: passing but below grade level. She put a note next to the grade stating that she didn't flunk me solely because she knew I could do better if I chose to. Maybe he could apply himself but if the ruler were in my hands I'd hold him back a year and make him go to summer school.

There was a lovely halter dress, all shirred at the neck in an abstract print (I love bold abstract prints) that had something. There was also a tweedy colored t-shirt of sequins that was also cute and throw away that looked great except for the flesh colored briefs he put with it, which made the model look as though she was wearing panties. That didn't make sense in the house that Blass built. The feeling at this point of the presentation was, the game is reaching the mid point and not one serve has gone in. Still, I sat there wondering if it was a gentle warm up to some heavy artillery to follow.

The first dress like the bodies of most of the shifts were long, lean, devoid of detail beyond elementary princess darts or an asymmetric zipper running up the front, all sleeveless and each forgettable, except for a brush stroke print here or a sandy color cotton something there. It was just like the sophomore class of Virginia Commonwealth University jury show: immature, valiant efforts to find a design voice but with a lot of too much and even more not enough.From a sophomore, that's a good sign, it means they're thinking, but from a professional it means they're thoughtless. That's what I thought looking at wooden jackets that should have been tailored to perfection, no matter the shape or detail. The bodies were generic as were the fabric choices. A Blass customer does not want a cheesy silk/cotton irridescent shantung that looks decidedly ethnic and about 6-10 bucks a yard from a storefront on 37th st between 7th and 8th Ave. , closer to 8th. The fabrics were lifeless, including the pleated and draped lame' chiffon which had been hard pressed and steamed sucking the life out of them. At this point I started to wonder who actually made the samples. The patterns were clearly Butterick or Vogue patterns , but the sewing was even worse except for the 2 or 3 knitted tube tops, bandeaus and panties. All else had been made by sewers in some kind of remedial training program. The lame' numbers at the end of this thankfully brief parade were as metaphorically mixed as all that came before. I didn't expect a gown and am grateful that he didn't attempt one, but the pieces that passed as cocktail were vague and unresolved. The styling of the show was as bereft of attention and funds as the collection itself. I had the impression that they couldn't afford interns (they are normally unpaid) or the services of even the most inexpensive,rookie stylist. The choice of shoes, a lack of any accessories that could have gone a long way to liven up this still born cluster of outfits was all sadly missing. Maybe I over exaggerate but I don't think so.It was as though he skipped the homework and walked into the final exam deciding to wing it. We did that in college sometimes after a night of pitchers of beer and too many bong hits. The last time I tried that stunt was the final for Classical Mythology which I basically skipped the whole term. Writing my name on the cover of the blue book was a challenge, but the real wake up call when I read the first question and then the rest of them and knew I couldn't possibly answer any of them. This time no P- for me, but a nice big F.

I think that showing a Spring collection at Lincoln Center in September is unwise. There is no focus or message here. It may be well intentioned, but so is hell. Scott Patti should take a long hard look at the picture, no matter how sketchy and dim it is. This made Halston look like Haute Couture. He should stick to private label men's shirts or whatever they do over there. He should have given someone like Charles Chang Lima the job. Hell, I'd do it for free for a season or two, just to show him that it can be done. This road he's on will only take him to a very dark and unwelcoming place. Look for yourselves and tell me I'm wrong. With this one out of the way, now onto some collections with life and excitement, at least some hope.