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Fashion fumbles, stumbles

Baby doll dresses, tricky platform shoes and short hairdos make for a dizzying mix.

September 16, 2006|Booth Moore | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — During Fashion Week, the tents at Bryant Park are a dizzying display of personal style. There's Kanye West sporting a tuxedo shirt, cummerbund and fur stole during the daytime, Vogue's fashion news director Sally Singer teetering around in studded platform gladiator sandals, and a whole raft of editors, stylists, buyers and hangers-on dressed to the nines.

The voluminous baby doll, sack and swing dresses that designers are showing for spring are already in heavy rotation in the front row in vibrant silk jersey prints or sweater knits, worn with leggings, opaque tights or skinny jeans. But even on the skinniest girls, they could easily be mistaken for maternity wear. And what's the point of all those Pilates classes if your stomach looks eight months big? The kimono and empire styles looked best. Both are shaped to fit the bust line, so they're more figure flattering and not nearly as little girlish.

As for shoes, it's a wonder anyone makes it to the shows walking in the treacherous wood block platform sandals and sky-high Christian Louboutin pumps that are all the rage. With accessory sales forming the bulk of so many designer businesses, now more than ever the pressure is on to feed shoe fetishists the most elaborate, architectural and over-the-top designs.

The latest platform trend started in Paris at Yves Saint Laurent, Lanvin and Chloe, where model Jessica Stam fell flat on her face on the runway last season. And it's showing no sign of letting up. At Proenza Schouler's show here, the shoes were so fierce with their conical wood heels that a model stumbled, rolling her ankle. At Calvin Klein, models clip-clopped down the runway doing their best not to fall off their platform stretch leather booties.

On the other end of the shoe spectrum is Payless ShoeSource. The discount shoe retailer sponsored a show for Abaete's Laura Poretzky, the first guest designer to create a collection for the store. The fall styles are in stores now, including the "Oliver" two-toned D'Orsay pump ($25) and the sleek satin "Sky" boot ($45).

And spring looked even better on the runway, with the bronze snake "Birkin" flat with perfectly placed cutouts highlighting the foot, the "Ana" peep-toe flat with a mesh flower cutout and the "Brigitte" sandal with floral fabric that wraps around the leg.

The big beauty news is short hair. Model Jacquetta Wheeler caused a stir last season when she chopped hers off for a Vogue shoot. And now, after so many years of flowing, wavy locks a la Gisele Bundchen, the haircut is back. Model Alison Nix, a Las Vegas native, is all over the runways with her fabulous page boy cut; off the runway, women are following suit, having their hair snipped into all sorts of short styles, from Louise Brooks bobs to messy shags.

Browne joins Brooks Brothers

There seems to be no end to the designer collaboration trend. This week, venerable menswear brand Brooks Brothers announced a new guest designer program with Thom Browne as the first participant. The New York-based designer, who nabbed the menswear award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America this year, has made his name on odd-looking Christopher Robin suits with cropped pants, thin lapels and a 1950s flavor.

He cites Steve McQueen in "The Thomas Crown Affair," John F. Kennedy in his days as a junior senator and the Sears catalogs as his inspiration, which sounds reasonable enough for Brooks Brothers, where he will design accessories and men's and women's fashion beginning in Fall 2007.

Browne also has his own eponymous collection, which he showed this week in an unusual format -- a 30-minute film titled "The Septemberists," on which he collaborated with artist Anthony Goicolea.

The whole thing was rather pretentious, with a group of handsome boys sheering sheep, picking cotton and collecting ink sacs from an octopus farm in a ritualistic fashion. (You can't make this stuff up.) There was no dialogue, just pastoral scenery, a classical musical score and a whole lot of homoerotic undertones. Wonder what the suits from Brooks Brothers thought.

Exhibit highlights the 'Black Style'

Fashion Week is when many museums decide to open fashion-related exhibitions, the newest being "Black Style Now" at the Museum of the City of New York until Feb. 19, which focuses on how hip-hop transformed fashion and design.

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