At the close of the show, there are no gasps of surprise, no ripples of amazement, no wild applause. Adolfo has done it again.
"I like to make predictable clothes," the darling of the rich and famous says moments before his fall line is presented at Saks Fifth Avenue. "That sums up the spirit of the collection. I don't like to show something that when a client sees it, she says: 'Oh, my God, that scares me.' "
Perched on a chair backstage, the slight, strawberry-blond designer resembles an errant schoolboy. He studies his plaid cotton shirt and rather tired-looking blue tie for a moment, then explains he wears his shirts and ties, khaki pants and blue blazers "until they fall apart." And if he must go to a black-tie event, it is in a navy blue suit, never a tuxedo. "I don't like to fuss," he says softly.
A Man of Details
For his clients, it's a different story. During his only Southern California appearance this season, he quietly fussed over the smallest detail, down to the models' sheer black hose and low-heel pumps, which he said he prefers with his new hem length ("just above the knee; it's very civilized").
The daytime clothes, including $750 dresses and $1,200 knit suits, are accessorized with gold costume jewelry. "Keep the jewelry on, OK?" Adolfo asked each model after he adorned her with door-knocker earrings, a bold choker or a "little chain with crosses," which is based on a duchess of Windsor necklace.
As always, there are what he calls "the little purses" with fabrics and linings to match every suit. "They're nice and nicely made, don't you think?" he asked, peering inside one of the small, square envelope shapes. "You put your credit card in and that's all."
He likes to see his latest crop of evening dresses, which range from $1,500 to $2,500, accessorized with high-heel pumps "and maybe some glitter." Whenever he adds rhinestone jewelry, he said, "I am thinking this is where one of my clients will wear diamonds."
The diamond-and-credit-card audience at Saks, judged by a store executive to be 182 strong and 60% Adolfo-clad, followed everything on the runway with rapt attention. But applause was meted out carefully, going only to certain items: a typical Adolfo suit in fresh lavender plaid; two lean cocoa-and-black coat dresses; short and long evening dresses in all-black or black-and-white combinations; a black velvet suit trimmed with thick lace; two leather-and-fur coats; a simple but shapely dressy knit suit, and two short double-breasted pastel coats, trimmed with Persian lamb and worn over what the designer calls "paper doll" dresses.
After the show and for four additional days, Adolfo remained at Saks to work with customers. "It's his unique style to devote so much time to clients," said fashion director Patty Fox.
Perhaps if his pug dogs, Victoria and Alexander, weren't waiting for him in New York, he would stay longer: "I enjoy immensely what I do," explained the Cuban-born designer in soft, accented English. "That comes across quite well, I think."