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Designs for luscious living

Leaving affordability aside (it's not a perfect world), Michael Kors' `Sportluxe' line stands out with yummy looks and wearability.

February 09, 2007|Booth Moore | Times Staff Writer

New York — LEAVE it to Michael Kors, America's favorite fashion pundit on "Project Runway," to send out a collection so upbeat it had us dancing in our seats. There were no super-skinny models at this show, just Kors' thoroughbreds, their legs buffed and bronzed under incredibly short skirts, their chauffeured tootsies in crocodile platform sandals no matter the windchill. He called the collection "Sportluxe," and it was full of clothes not just to wear but to live in (if you can afford it), such as a Glen plaid anorak trimmed in sable, a snuggly ombre cashmere sweater dress and sweat pants done over in delectable cashmere.

Kors worked in a yummy-sounding palette of truffle, coffee, Champagne and olive, with punches of royal blue, taxicab yellow and traffic-cone orange. Like most designers this week, he turned down the volume from the past few seasons and kept the silhouette close to the body, pushing jackets with short sleeves to reveal a great sweater underneath, and cropped pants, in this case khakis, slightly dropped at the waist with cargo pockets. There was sparkle too: on a ridiculously luxurious brown fox-fur coat dusted in sequins, a crinkly gold miniskirt worn with an orange sweater and khaki anorak and a cheetah sequin overnight bag (why not?). Oh, and that black wool, strapless jumpsuit (Michael, you're too much).

For the more conservative type, Kors had a navy melton coat with gold buttons that hinted at fall's military trend, and a classic, draped, herringbone jersey dress. During the finale, he got his boogie on to Deee-lite's "Groove Is in the Heart," sending out a black, crystal-beaded jersey, one-shoulder gown and a gold fringe dress.

Everyone seems to have high hopes that Derek Lam will follow in Kors' footsteps and become the next great American sportswear designer, especially since he was signed by Italian luxury powerhouse Tod's as creative director. The trouble is, you never know what you're going to get from his namesake collection from one season to the next.

His spring collection was a hit, referencing such American greats as Claire McCardell and Geoffrey Beene, but for fall, he seemed to be reaching for a whole new set of reference points -- Balenciaga and Azzedine Alaia. There were some great pieces here, mostly alternatives to the jacket, such as shearling or houndstooth vests squared off at the shoulders, a short-sleeved leather and ribbed-knit cardigan, and an inside-out trench coat with the lining on the outside, all balanced atop super-skinny black-leather riding pants. But then there were those flippy skirts that were so Balenciaga a year ago, and the body-hugging graphic shift dresses that we saw on the runways last season. Lam needs to spend a little time soul-searching to figure out what he's really about.

Precise, architectural, graphic, clean -- these are all words that describe the collections of Narciso Rodriguez. To an extent you know what you are going to get, but the joy is in noticing the small differences. This season Rodriguez worked with a photographer's eye toward detail, beginning with fall's key piece, the short-sleeve jacket in black wool decorated only with tonal seams, and paired with slim, seam-front black pants.

He picked up a pixel-like print on a pencil skirt, cut in a new, midcalf length, and sprinkled silver and white paillettes like tiny flashbulbs on the sides of a black column dress. His clothes have the majesty of the city in them, all curves and lines, the rounded flaps pockets of a cream maxi-coat dialoguing with the points of the collar above. And then along comes a beautiful emerald-green, silk anorak, and a filmy gray, silk tank dress lined in fuchsia, like a sunset peeking through clouds. Finally, a white silk gown, the bodice embroidered with spaghetti-like strands, and the master of subtlety has surprised and delighted us once again.

Subtlety is something Proenza Schouler could have used more of. Perhaps it was that influx of cash from their Target deal that led Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez to design a collection so rich -- perhaps too rich -- in details. They created a new silhouette that occasionally felt top-heavy with jewel-tone taffeta blouses puffed out like parkas over miniskirts, and wool jackets, toggle coats and furs with popcorn-knit sleeves. The best in show was a group of stunning cocktail dresses in color-blocked silk chiffon or solid, taffeta-like radzimir, with pleating worked around the bodices.

L.A. invades the runway

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