Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta & Marc Jacobs look to an imperfect world forfashion week surprises
NEW YORK — Here's a shocker: Everything is not perfect in the perfect world of Ralph Lauren.
At first glance, the first look of his spring/summer 2012 collection was flawless: The model appeared on a sparkling all-white runway in a soft floral skirt, green tank top, pale blue cardigan, pink cloche hat and chunky raffia wedge heels, with a straw handbag as big as a picnic basket.
Upon a closer look, however, I noticed the cardigan was frayed with huge holes at the shoulder and arms. It seemed the perfect metaphor for the spring outlook at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week: With the economy in tatters, the world is not as perfect as it may seem, even for the customer who can afford just about anything.
Or perhaps I'm making a bigger deal of it all, for there wasn't a trace of imperfection in the rest of Lauren's sunny collection, although it did have a bit of Depression-era vibe, with 1920s hats, art deco crystal details and Jean Harlow satin gowns.
It seemed the perfect metaphor for the spring outlook at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week: With the economy in tatters, the world is not as perfect as it may seem, even for the customer who can afford just about anything.
When a designer shows more than 40 looks, the collection usually drags. But even though Lauren featured 58 looks, the show moved along swiftly, perhaps because he lays it out in crafted segments.
The first 10 looks were a terrific mix of pastel separates: Wide leg trousers, below-the-knee skirts and lightweight cardigans in shades of celery, robin's egg blue and soft pink, with strong accessories, like an fringe, over-the-shoulder scarf bag.
(A day earlier at a preview for a select group of reporters at the Ralph Lauren store on Manhattan's Upper East side, a full range of spring accessories was on display, including intricately crocheted high heels, wicker handbags, satin belts and vintage jewelry.)
Then Lauren switched to an all-white mode, with glossy silk dresses, cardigans with ostrich feathers and strong menswear-inspired three-piece suits. He alternated frilly feminine looks with ultra-masculines styles in a gender bender display before returning to a series of gorgeous silver-beaded gowns that would have been in place in a high-style Depression era movie starring Fred and Ginger.
The closing number was a master of illusion: A beaded gown with a plunging, to-the-navel neckline held together by nude netting that managed to look classy and sexy at the same time.
From Lauren, we wouldn't expect anything less.
Oscar de la Renta: Taking care of unfinished business
Everything in Oscar de la Renta's world is also usually orderly. Like Lauren, de la Renta is a master of detail who doesn't like surprises. At his show, he can often be seen standing just off the runway, inspecting each model to make sure she measures up to his high standard of perfection.
So it was a refreshing change to traipse to the 25th floor of a midtown Manhattan skyscraper and find de la Renta's world a little messed up.
The stark surroundings proved to be a nice backdrop for de la Renta's eclectic collection that ranged from lace peasant dresses to poofy ball gowns.
He has moved his showroom to the art deco era building, and I'm sure by next year, it will be a flawless showcase for buyers and the fashion press. But it's not finished out yet, so de la Renta showed his spring collection amid whitewashed walls with exposed pipes, large windows that allowed in natural light and faulty air-conditioning that couldn't keep pace with the sizable crowd, which included Justin Timberlake, Barbara Walters, Valentino, Nicki Minaj and one of the Olsen twins (even after all these years, I still can't tell them apart).
The stark surroundings proved to be a nice backdrop for de la Renta's eclectic collection that ranged from lace peasant dresses to poofy ball gowns. With models in crimped hair and Led Zeppelin music on the sound system, it was hard to determine what decade the show was in. But the results were a lot of up-to-date looks for his loyal clientele who expect to be dazzled, along with some surprises to broaden his customer base.
Unlike other designers, de la Renta doesn't have a specific theme — he is one of the few remaining designers who still believes in dressing a woman from morning to night. He opened with a bang, as models in flowing silk taffeta skirts in colors of marigold, emerald and tomato red walked the runway, before settling down with an eclectic mix of daytime wear — lace dresses, daffodil-patterned skirts, tweed blazers. Along the way, he also showed crochet suits, dresses dripping with ostrich feathers and even harem pants.
But ball gowns remain his speciality and the range was breathtaking, from metallic column gowns to tulle-and-taffeta confections.
After the show ended, Timberlake proved to be a real gentleman, posing for photos with anyone who asked. Seems like some stars know how to handle success.