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News & Reviews | SPRING 2004 COLLECTIONS

Designs that move and sway

Rodriguez's clothes virtually dance; Costa's debut for Klein disappoints; and Jacobs' Marc line delights while recalling seasons past.

September 18, 2003|Booth Moore | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Forget go-go boots and mod mini-dresses. For spring, designers are experimenting with more subtle shifts in volume, line and movement. Nobody demonstrates this distinction better than Narciso Rodriguez, the designer who created the late Carolyn Bessette Kennedy's wedding gown and has since become a master in his own right.

Although he was inspired by Brazil, which he has visited three times in the last year, that by no means translated into feathers and ruffles. The intellectually minded Rodriguez stuck to his winning formula of architectural suits and dresses in mostly neutral shades of natural linen, stretch pique cotton and silk. But by using vertical zippers and color blocks on the backs of skirts and dresses (and having models walk to a spirited Brazilian beat), he brilliantly highlighted the contours of the body, and one thing women have that men don't: sway. Parachute-silk evening gowns were cut straight and slim in the front, with trains radiating from the tailbone that filled with air, swaying from side to side as models walked. The overall effect? Rodriguez's clothes do the samba for you.

With Calvin Klein stepping back from day-to-day design duties, all eyes were on the house's new design director, Francisco Costa, when he presented his debut collection Tuesday. He didn't do much to advance the label, referencing the Klein aesthetic with uninspiring soft-shouldered linen jackets, silk knit tops, cashmere cardigans and pleated silk chiffon skirts in Klein colors such as alabaster, teak and almond. Many pieces seemed overly delicate; one skirt looked as if it were made of paper, and actually ripped up the back as the model took her lap around the runway. Then a strap broke on a green chiffon dress so flimsy, one editor quipped, "it looked like it was going to disintegrate on the runway." Costa is going to have to do better or the label's relevance may soon become a faded memory.

Marc Jacobs' lower-priced Marc line, on the other hand, was a crowd-pleaser. Sure, it was filled with some of the same shrunken-fit jackets with oversize buttons, rain slickers and sweat-shirt tops that have come down the runway in seasons past. But they continue to be delightful, especially if you are young enough to wear a sleeveless blue chiffon dress, sprinkled with silver sequins, over a long-sleeve T-shirt, with sparkly silver combat boots. Ah, those were the days.

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