Thursday, February 26, 2009

2009 collections show they're fashion forward

NEW YORK — Gloom is not in the fashion DNA.
It’s a world where every aspiring designer dreams of greatness and great designers know that if a collection is panned, redemption is only a season away.
Cautious optimism abounded at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, where designers seemed genuinely interested in creating imaginative fall collections at lower prices and retailers seemed excited to find desirable items that will draw customers into stores.

With few A-list celebrities on hand last week , the focus was on the clothes. Isn’t that the way it should be?

“What I love about fashion is it completely and utterly reflects what’s going on in our culture,” said Glenda Bailey, editor of Harper’s Bazaar magazine.

If that’s the case, here’s what I learned during fashion week.
Everyone is downsizing

While the schedule remained daunting — more than 200 fashion shows — some top-name designers saved money by presenting their clothes outside the Bryant Park tents. Vera Wang set up her show at her SoHo store; Carmen Marc Valvo chose a Chelsea bar for his venue; and Naeem Khan used his showroom, with models posed like mannequins. Zac Posen enticed Steinway to lend him five baby grand pianos and a group of virtuoso pianists, so he didn’t need an expensive backdrop.
Exception: the super-rich

A lot of designers, including Khan and Valvo, are cutting prices at the low end of their range but offering lavish items for the recession proof super-rich. Khan showcased an opulent $30,000 gown embedded with thousands of Swarovski crystals — the most expensive piece he’s ever created.

“You’ve got to give the rich something very special because they really don’t want to look like anybody else,” said Khan, who will show his collection in Houston at Saks Fifth Avenue next month.
We’re going back to basics

Top designers Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors featured basic items that won’t go out of style. Lauren’s collection included embroidered gowns in neutral colors, satin pants, tweed jackets and patchwork sweaters. Kors showcased gray flannel suits and simple black dresses toughened up with heavy silver chain-link necklaces.

The must-have item for fall from nearly every designer: a long cardigan sweater that covers the rear.
We’re bold

Kors punctuated his largely black and beige collection with bright bursts of pink, yellow and orange, which he called “safety” in his program notes. Marc Jacobs revived eye-popping fluorescents (an ’80s revival), while Oscar de la Renta created burnt-orange blouses, yellow bubble skirts and cocktail dresses combining fuchsia and red.

Electric shades brighten up our spirits, Bailey said.

“We need to stand out amidst the doom and gloom. That’s where optimism comes in. Fashion should be about being happy and optimistic and making everyone feel good about themselves. Right now we desperately need that.”
And we're tough

Store those frillies. Clothing with clean architectural lines predominated. This tough chic look often comes in black and features padded shoulders. Donna Karan revived her 1980s power suit; the shoulders aren’t as heavily padded as in the past but still offer a strong silhouette. Yigal Azrouel and Nicole Miller were among those offering dresses with peaked shoulders for a Star Trek look.
We want to shine

The runways dripped with gold. Just about every designer featured a metallic dress or evening gown. The look extended to accessories as BCBG showcased gold tights and Oscar de la Renta featured gold-plated heels.

Metallics historically have been a staple in troubled times, Bailey said. “It goes back to the theory that in war times you want to be shiny. It’s your modern-day armor.”
It helps to have a sense of humor

Isaac Mizrahi titled his show “Smile” and topped off several of his designs with hats that mimic purses. He seemed to be saying, “Don’t lose your head over the financial situation. Everything is going to be all right.”

That’s good advice.


Fashion,dress party