Zack Carr--After the Zack Carr fashion show at Saks Fifth Avenue recently, the moderator said: "Zack, tell us about your woman." A woman in the audience answered for him: "She's thin."
The others snickered, but Carr consoled them. To defend his designs, cut narrow as gloves, he said, "You don't have to have a perfect figure. Just enjoy your body and get into the clothes."
For better or worse, his body-hugging silhouettes are part of the new look for fall. While some designers add fancy stitching or built-in curves, Carr takes a spare, architectural approach, and he says Constantin Brancusi, the late sculptor, is his streamlining muse.
This is the New York designer's first year in business alone, after nine years as vice president of Calvin Klein's company.
"The differences in our styles," he says, "are actually just differences in our ideas about women.
"Calvin's woman is fresh and casual. Mine is more structured in her life style, more grown up."
If he designed his fall collection with one woman in mind, it is the actress Kim Novak, as she appeared in "Vertigo," the Alfred Hitchcock movie. "There was this voluptuous woman held back in a conservative, gray suit, and the effect was completely volatile," Carr says.
The exception to his otherwise "more severe" collection is a fluid, floor-length, silk jersey skirt worn over pencil-slim pants and a fitted, short-sleeve sweater.
It's his answer to evening wear. He says it is meant for "those few private, expensive moments in life." (Carr's prices range from about $135 to about $700.)
"I think--I hope-- women will have more moments of formality," he says.
"I'd like to see a little role playing, a little acting."
Miriam Parkes--If ever there was an unlikely candidate for the role of fashion designer, it has to be Miriam Parkes. A grandmother who drives a Rolls-Royce and plucks most of her clients from the social circle in which she moves, Parkes went into business two years ago and started at the top.
She named her company Maruscha, the affectionate name her family gave her when she was a child in Vienna. And she has always sold her clothes only at Neiman-Marcus and two leading Beverly Hills boutiques.
After a recent show of her fourth collection at N-M, Parkes explained: "I was always motivated by a challenge. I like to see how far I can go and how much of myself I can put into a project and still have time for family life."
She started with a collection of Balenciaga-like columnar dresses and still says, "a good dress is a like a good calling card."
But this season she added silk print dresses with ruching around the hips, two-piece dresses in mixed prints and wool crepe tunics bordered with muted paisleys worn over matching crepe skirts.
Fall clothes should be cut narrow, she believes. In her world, "they're meant to be worn under a fur." She condenses the volume of the sleeves and bodice for that reason, she says.
As her new collection suggests, the elegant older women who were her first customers are now sending her their daughters. "I always encourage a younger woman to show off her good legs and her young, firm body," she says. "But I want her to do it with elegance, wearing nothing too tight, nothing too baggy."
From her design studio above the Bistro Garden, she is a shrewd cultivator of new clients.
"I do it through customer services," she says. "If a woman wants extra buttons or a scarf or a belt I didn't make for the original sample, I can make it special for her and provide quick delivery."
While others of her social position may daydream about their next dinner-dance or weekend in Palm Springs, Parkes says: "My biggest thrill is to finish another dress."