Musings on the culture of keeping up appearances

All the Rage

Category: New collections

New York Fashion Week: At Donna Karan, shades of Angelina Jolie

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Donna Karan's collection reminded me of Angelina Jolie in the film "The Tourist" (those costumes were designed by Colleen Atwood). Or Grace Kelly. (Karan made ample use of the chiffon headscarf.)

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The palette was meant to evoke "the glow of pearls on skin," which meant a dozen shades of pale. And the shapes were simple and elegant -- a stretch skirt that hit below the knee, a flirty satin blouse with decorative folds on the bust, a felted wool jersey shift worn with long leather gloves.

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Evening was about shimmery pale gowns, which truth be told, looked a little bit "I Dream Of Jeannie" with the head scarves.

Although there were certainly nice moments, this was an odd collection for Karan, more make-believe femme fatale than the real-world power woman for which the designer is known.

-- Booth Moore in New York

Photos: Looks from the Donna Karan fall-winter 2011 runway collection shown during New York Fashion Week. Credit: Jonas Gustavsson and Peter Stigter / For The Times

New York Fashion Week: Thom Browne's sister act

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Thom Browne's first women's runway show may have taken place here on Valentine's Day, but the collection was no love letter to the female form, offering up dramatic pieces that played with volume:  broadening at the hips like a set of parentheses, wrapping like a fur tourniquet tightly around the  thorax, layering bell shapes to form an almost  Christmas-tree silhouette, and closing with an outfit that looked like the cross between an egg-timer and a tea cozy.

The show itself was exactly what you might expect from a showman like Browne -- before the show, the cavernous, wood-paneled Edna Barnes Salomon Room upstairs at the New York Public Library contained only a pair of altar boys kneeling in prayer and a soundtrack of monastic chanting.

Then the models entered -- each clad in an identical black nun's habit topped with a winged, white Rage_TB_collage
wimple (similar to the headgear sported by Sally Field in "The Flying Nun"). Then, to the tune "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" the models began to step forward one by one to be literally defrocked by the altar boys, revealing the outfit from the fall-winter 2011 collection underneath.

The first few looks to shed the habit looked like the standard-issue shrunken men's suits Browne is famous for, only with tailoring tweaked to fit the female form and pant legs cuffed so high the garments might technically qualify as clam diggers.

But then Browne's beauties quickly became studies in shape and volume. One gray wool coat sprouted a funnel-neck collar that reached the upper lip, arms that flared in semicircles from shoulder to elbow to mimic the arc of skirt ballooning from hip to thigh. Another gray wool mini-dress had a hem that grazed the thigh, a tall collar reaching mid-cheekbone, and was styled with a pair of gray cable-knit leggings.

Tb99 Some outfits were nipped in at the waist to form a silhouette that "Mad Men's" Betty Draper would feel right at home in, others were designed with an empire waist. Many looks were layered -- skirts, capes, jackets and scarves.

It was this focus on layering -- and Browne's love of capes -- that resulted in the most unusual silhouette of the collection, a closing look that might kindly be called the Humpty Dumpty, which layered a stiff white felt ovoid cape trimmed in red-, white- and blue-striped grosgrain over a white cable-knit pencil skirt.

Avant-garde? Certainly. Wearable? Not so much. But like the three-legged trousers and feather-festooned suits that Browne has been known to send down his menswear runway, it's as much -- if not more -- about showcasing the vision and tailoring talent of the creative team as it is about wearability.

Besides, Browne knows that making an omelet requires breaking a few eggs.

And what we saw here during New York Fashion Week was merely his first crack at it.

RELATED:

Thom Browne women's collection fall-winter 2011 runway show gallery

-- Adam Tschorn in New York

Photos: Looks from Thom Browne's debut women's wear runway collection on Monday. Credit: Jonas Gustavsson and Peter Stigter / For The Times

Norwegian designer Leila Hafzi launches a chic casual eco-collection

LeilaNorwegian designer Leila Hafzi has been working with eco-friendly fabrications since 1997, spinning natural and fair trade textiles into artsy outerwear, romantic ready-to-wear and dazzling wedding dresses.

Now the designer has introduced a collection of more day-friendly clothing simply called Leila.

Comprised of tops, shirts, dresses, tunics, kaftans, skirts, shawls and belts, the apparel line is made from 100% organically farmed cotton from Andhara and Gujarat in India.

Pretty and ultra-wearable, the breezy pieces marry flattering silhouettes with winsome details, such as a back strap made from outsized ruffles.

"Ultimately, I am trying to offer sustainable clothing that can  be functional, yet very chic," said Hafzi. "Most people think of sustainable fashion as yoga pants or a burlap bag."

Included in the collection is a cache of handcrafted jewelry that incorporates buffalo-bone horn, smoky crystal stones and silver.

"I have always been concerned with the issues facing our world," added Haifzi. "People are not aware that the process of making clothing can be very damaging to the water and earth. The process of making material and dying material is very toxic. I knew that there had to be alternatives that were sustainable."

The collection, which ranges from $50 to $500, will be available on the designer's website in November.

--Emili Vesilind

Photos: Snippets from Leila Hafzi's new Leila collection. Credit: Leila Hafzi.

Soul clothes: Amy Winehouse inspires a collection by Brit brand Fred Perry

Winehouse Remember Amy Winehouse? The talented, troubled singer seemed to all but disappear after owning up to a drug problem and a shady relationship, but her influence on the style set can be felt to this day.

Before "Mad Men" mania, Winehouse was giving us major 1950s kitsch with her exaggerated beehive and winged eyeliner. And now the songstress has inspired a new retro-feeling fashion collection — created by British streetwear brand Fred Perry.

The brand's "Amy Winehouse" collection includes vintage-inspired looks including capri pants, a bowling dress, a trench coat, pencil skirts, a longline argyle sweater and a pink-and-black checkerboard-printed collared shirt.

The online catalog for the collection shows Winehouse looking healthier than ever — and precisely in her style element, decked out in formfitting halter dresses and insignia sweaters.

Converting British pounds into U.S. dollars at press time, prices range from $87 for a button-front fitted shirt to $435 for a cropped black trench coat. That's not including pricey shipping from the U.K.

As cute as the collection is, it might be cheaper for us Statesiders to hit up the thrift store down the street.

--Emili Vesilind

Photo: Amy Winehouse in a checked halter dress by Fred Perry. Credit: Fred Perry

[Corrected at 11:45 a.m. 10.28.2010: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that Winehouse had only released one album.]

Cool new L.A. Collection: Charles Henry

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Designer Meredith Fisher had her first sales appointment for her now-defunct fashion collection, WAYF, at L.A. boutique Satine when she was still in high school.

Soon after, the Kentucky native was shipping orders to Barneys New York out of her college dorm room. And now, after a brief hiatus from fashion, Fisher's back with a new collection, Charles Henry.

And the sleek line, which debuted for fall 2010, all but encapsulates how Soho House-hopping 22-year-old girls want to dress.

Named after her grandfather, a former women’s ready-to-wear manufacturer, Charles Henry's first collection features a host of hip separates, from leather-ette pants and ruffled silk tops to sharp little blazers and peek-a-boo cut-out tunics.

But Fisher's frocks are particularly pretty — and party-ready. There's a ruched two-toned body conscious mini dress that's begging for a red carpet moment (may I suggest Kate Bosworth as mannequin?) and a cap-sleeved floral frock that's super sexy without showing too much skin. Prices range from $195 for tops to $425 for jackets.

"The collection is really a mix of sexy, sweet and edgy," said Fisher, a former intern for Jennifer Nicholson who now lives in L.A. She added, "I focus on using beautiful fabrications. I got my start in fashion working with silks, and silk is still my favorite medium."

Fisher's already striking a chord with retailers. Well-trafficked L.A. boutiques including Madison, Switch and Intermix have recently snapped up the line.

-- Emili Vesilind

Photos: Looks from the Charles Henry fall collection. Credit: Charles Henry
 

New collection: IMPROVD's dark simplicity

Imp "Avant-garde basics" is how designer Valentino Vettori describes his new collection, IMPROVD, adding, "I didn't want women to have to think about how to put the pieces on. I wanted them to be avant-garde but simple."

Vettori, a 10-year veteran of Diesel’s design team, recently launched the wearable, chic collection with another industry insider, Sam Ben-Avraham, founder of the well-known Atrium boutique in New York and the Project Global Tradeshow.

And while the pared-down edginess of the line renders it infinitely wearable, there's another element to love -- its reasonable prices. Tops start at $60 on the low end, with leather jackets running around $500 on the high end. The collection is available at Madison Et Cie and EM & Co. in Los Angeles.

Accessible pricing "is a must," said Vettori. "It's the base -- the whole point of the brand." As a former showroom owner who imported pricey European lines, "I was seeing all this new avant-garde all the time, and every time I picked up something I liked, it was $2,000. It was ridiculous. You make a raw-edge cut and it automatically has to be expensive? I wanted to position myself as an amazing product at an amazing price for a generation that understands the avant-garde."

The fall collection is full of moody pieces wrought in black and gray -- body-conscious printed dresses, shrunken leather jackets and a kimono-wrapped puffer coat among them.

As for the label's name (pronounced "improved"), Vettori says it's a reference to improving his life and his work. He also likes that it could be misread as "improv-ed." After all, he said, "fashion is improvising."

-- Emili Vesilind

Photo: A look from IMPROVD's fall collection


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