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Style & Culture | SPRING 2005 COLLECTIONS

All the frills, no thrills

New York's Fashion Week keeps up appearances, with plenty of spice and some refined looks. But ...

September 17, 2004|Booth Moore | Times Staff Writer

New York — Even after more than 170 runway shows, when Fashion Week ended here Wednesday one couldn't help being hungry for more. Because, as Henri Bendel fashion director Scott Tepper put it, "there wasn't a wow moment."

The week was full of sugar and spice and everything nice -- Stepford-like eyelet blouses, jeweled cardigans, bolero jackets, and bubble and circle skirts. Perhaps designers were afraid to crack the veneer. (If we maintain a rosy exterior and pretend the economy is on sure footing, we're not at war and the electorate is not bitterly divided, then everything will be OK.)

The closest to "wow" were the collections by Calvin Klein's Francisco Costa and by Ralph Rucci, who were among the few designers who did not aim to dress women like the frosted, sprinkle-dusted cupcakes New Yorkers stand in line on the sidewalk to buy from the Magnolia Bakery. Theirs were thinking-women's clothes.

Costa, who had yet to produce a hit since starting at Calvin Klein two seasons ago, triumphed with a simple yet luxurious spring collection. He moved the label forward by staying true to its minimalist foundations, with a woven suede tank top that had the texture of bark, easy washed-silk ankle pants, an inventive trench coat in a transparent snakeskin and a stingray jacket that looked glossy and wet. Silk jersey wrap-back tank dresses, some with color blocking, had the ease of a beach coverup combined with the sophistication of an evening gown.

Rucci, whose Chado line is named after the ritualistic Japanese tea ceremony, sent out plenty of his chic mainstays. Double-faced wool sundresses and jackets in swingy bell shapes were embellished with tiny knots or patent leather strips arranged as artfully as the beams on a Craftsman-style house. For evening, Rucci showed his softer side, trimming a nude chiffon dress with rosebuds, and dotting a coral ombre gown with tiny white feathers.

Ghost's Tanya Sarne celebrated 20 years in the business by doing what she does best: feminine gauze tank dresses with twisted straps (some worn over crocheted bikinis), belted shirt jackets, drawstring skirts and rolled-up Bermuda shorts in Popsicle shades. It was pure relaxed romance -- a feast for the Malibu set.

The last time Marc Jacobs held his show at Pier 54 was on Sept. 10, 2001, with a party following for his first fragrance. On Monday, revelers were invited to celebrate the designer's new Blush perfume in the same spot among the same bacchanalian tables stocked with bottles of wine and bowls overflowing with fruit, olives and nuts. But looking over the inky Hudson River to the southern end of Manhattan, one saw a very different view.

On the runway, Jacobs took a girlish turn with a polka-dot cashmere cardigan and spring's new baggy pant rolled up over spectator Mary Jane shoes. A purple gingham shirt with a Peter Pan collar and navy circle skirt brought to mind a school uniform. It was difficult to imagine women with the money to buy designer clothes wanting to wear such a look. The most interesting pieces were boxy jackets and coats in paint box tweeds, and taffeta skirts and dresses flecked with bright color, like a hand-woven rag potholder. Childlike sleeveless taffeta dresses with bows plopped on the front conjured images of Mia Farrow in "Rosemary's Baby."

BCBG's Max Azria stumbled with embroidered peasant dresses, vests and folksy coats that seemed better suited to the Broadway production of "Fiddler on the Roof" playing down the street.

There wasn't much to find fault with in Ralph Lauren's "De-lovely" collection, though. Bringing the refined style of 1930s Hollywood (and Cole Porter's wife, Linda) into the present day with an exquisitely tailored silvered linen jacket and a pair of beaded, baggy white jeans, he kept things from becoming costume-y. Liquid silk skirts were trimmed in marabou feathers, and a pearl pink shawl-collared silk cardigan was fastened with a diamond brooch over a georgette tea dress. Pink and white saddle shoes with high heels and beaded cloches completed the modern Gatsby picture.

A hint of Aristotle and Jacqueline Onassis was evident in Michael Kors' cropped white jeans, jeweled sandals, cat glasses, rope belts and nautical striped cashmere sweaters. And yet the Grecian-themed collection lacked the glamour quotient one has come to expect from the designer. Among the white lace Santorini dresses, black-and-white floral pique shifts and chiffon goddess gowns, a lone turquoise ombre mink jacket was as over-the-top as it got.

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