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At the End of the Week: The Memorable--and Easily Forgotten


NEW YORK — If the spring collections that wrapped up Fashion Week could be given a movie title, we'd settle for "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." Mostly, recycled ideas seemed to dominate as designer after designer sent out cloned versions of the shirtdress, blouson, halter gown and hot pants--gimmicky garments that screamed "been there, done that."

Still, there were some breakthroughs from a few designers unafraid to pull away from the play-it-safe pack. Nicolas Ghesquiere, the young French designer for Callaghan, offered an awesome aesthetic in a collection that included sleeveless suede sheathes, fringed at the shoulder and hem and adorned with sequins for a glamorous Native American look. It was the first time Ghesquiere, who also designs for the prestigious Balenciaga, showed here.

Brazilian designer Fause Haten innovatively used black metallic painted cotton that looks, feels and moves like distressed leather. Ralph Rucci's collection for Chado included a chic alternative to a wedding dress--a stunning floor-length, full white silk skirt worn with a white sleeveless perforated leather shell and three-quarter-length leather evening gloves.

Richard Tyler clothes and presentation were distinctive. Using models and mannequins posed in vignettes throughout his spacious Gramercy Park townhouse, where he usually holds his shows here, he displayed classic leathers, immaculately tailored pantsuits, and a captivating backless mini dress in embossed ivory cotton sateen. His glamour gowns included a gorgeous strapless, sequined scallop-pattern tulle gown in black. "People are tired of fashion shows," Tyler said as guests, including "Sex in the City" actress Kristin Davis, mingled and were encouraged to touch and inspect the clothes.

Randolph Duke showed a glittering line of evening wear in metallic colors and innovative fabrics that included bronzed suedes, brushed silver tulle, nude-colored patent leather and spectacular flesh-hued chiffon and silk gauze gowns embroidered with shiny microchip-sized paillettes. His meticulous use of beading was evident on form-fitting nude organza gowns, embellished with vibrant amethyst, blue and clear crystals that were breathtakingly beautiful.

"There were a lot of bloody fingers" as a result of hands working with the beads, Duke, backstage, said of the crystal-beaded tops shown with chiffon separates or gold tulle shirts and pants. Many of the gowns draped beautifully with deep folds like those of ancient goddesses. Cowl necks softened the sheen of high-tech fabrics in his evening wear.

Austrian designer Helmut Lang presented a strong collection of separates with almost couture-like tailoring. For women, severe-looking black jersey bandage tops crisscrossed the chest, referencing French fashion designer Azzedine Alaia, who was in town last week for the opening of an exhibit of his work at the Guggenheim Museum in SoHo.

Provocative and sexy, yet comfortably casual coats and slim trousers in neutral-colored linens could be staples in any woman's wardrobe.

Men might be hesitant about wearing Lang's featherweight black chiffon shirts with exposed seams and baby pink mohair suits, but the effect was more sexy than silly.

John Bartlett's sci-fi samurai show was one of the week's most bizarre. When the lights went down, a curtain opened to reveal 60 buffed guys clad in white briefs. Models walked through the hunky fortress, down a spaceship-like ramp onto the runway.

If you could get past the spectacle (which also included a pulsating orange globe sitting mid-runway), the clothes were impressive. Expertly draped black jersey halter dresses were standouts, along with a white jersey T-shirt with the sleeves twisted into knots, and kimono-shaped jackets inspired, Bartlett said, by a recent trip to Japan.

A cotton canvas coat with a rope print looked smart, but the showstopper was a corset made from pieces of stiff, thick rope lined up side-to-side around the torso.

Donna Karan presented a repetitive collection of sheer skirts, dresses, halter gowns and short jackets in stripes of silver and black, cut on the bias of chiffon, jersey and gauze.

All her garments were worn with nude or champagne-colored slips and camisoles. She also offered an explosion of color in cocktail dresses in bright yellows, oranges and flaming crimsons. Strapless tulle sheaths that looked like rippling waves cascading around the body and to the knees were showstoppers.

As always, Vera Wang presented a collection with plenty to offer the social set: Elegant ivory double-face wool coats and long, narrow skirts for evening, matte jersey halter dresses with Jackson Pollack-esque "scribble" beading, and beautiful gold-sequined slip dresses.

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