Friday, July 27, 2007

FASHION'S FALL FORECAST: DARK 'N STORMY


By Barbara Barton Sloane

Gone are summer’s baby-doll dresses. Fall/Winter ’07 captures the strength and electricity in clothes that Illuminate the power of a woman. The color palette reflects a dark, dark season shot through with lightening flashes of shine and color.

One exception to all this somberness is Matthew Williamson’s collection for Pucci. He showed tunic dresses, short skirts and A-line coats in Popsicle orange and pink. A departure from the ultra-bright was a pretty, hip-length pearl gray vest worn over a short, cobalt blue dress. Wiliamson’s prints were angular and geometric, true signature Pucci.

Valentino Garavani is one of the few designers who persists, at each show, in giving us all he’s got, and Fall ’07 was no exception. Seventy outfits came down the runway, a distinct challenge to a modern audience with an attention span permanently set on “tell it to me quick!” This old-school master’s collection referenced forties’ movie star glamour with puffed-up shoulders, tunics over pants, and a spectacular signature red suit with cropped jacket and an ultra-wide band of black, quilted leather encircling the skirt.

Somber will never be Carolina Herrera’s style. However, there is an almost brooding, mysterious quality to her Fall collection. Side by side with chic little skirtsuits and covetable furs, she showed a cropped jacket in broadtail with a sly, standup collar, plaids and jacquards, and long, languorous skirts. There were moments of lovely simplicity in her show, especially a luxurious black maxi coat worn with an organza blouse and wide-leg pants.

When Frida Giannini for Gucci showed pretty, forties-inspired floral-printed silk dresses and blouses in her first collection, they were a commercial hit. This Fall, after veering through glam-rock disco and last summer’s folkloric frocks, she returned to vintage-inspired dressmaking. “I’ve been reading a biography of Lee Miller, a woman who was a close friend of the surrealists and then a war photographer – a strong woman with two sides to her,” she explained, adding,
“I was thinking about the dresses of the thirties and forties, with high waists and emphasis on the shoulder.” Since the idea of the forties is gaining traction this season, these dresses steered this collection in line with the general direction of fashion at large. Referencing the forties theme was a persimmon-colored sweater worn with jodhpurs, high black leather boots, and an iconic Veronica Lake wave falling softly over the model’s eye.

Delicious dichotomy. Michael Kors’ collection was at once youthful and elegant, covered and bare, with tonal shades of truffle, loden, oatmeal, coffee and heather, and bold accents of taxi and royal. Black and gold touches added graphic glamour. His short, short sculptured tweed chubby coat with large, pointed collar and oversized buttons was a nod to both youth and sheer sophistication.

Delivering a self-assured collection, Ralph Lauren once more proved that he has the power to delight. Classic cardigan coats in hand-knit metallic tweeds cut a reliably elegant figure. One of his best coats: Slim on top, sexily hugging the waist, then flaring out to just above the knee. Youthful, fresh, a winner!

Oscar de la Renta’s Fall inspiration gave us a take on the good life: crystal embroidery, trimmings of chain and stone, from beginning to end and day to night, a collection that sparkled! On top of that, the fur was flying, with apr├Ęs-ski fur vests to weightless chinchillas for warding off the wind as it whips down the avenues. Even the designer’s sweaters were lined and edged in the stuff.

Michael Vollbracht for Bill Blass continued to reference the forties with his choice of music for the runway. It was Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” that put one in a retro mood. His cropped jackets with fur collars and cuffs gave this collection a pure luxe feel. One of Vollbracht’s best efforts was a series of slithery mermaid dresses done according to a technique borrowed from the great American master, Norman Norell. Remember Norell’s liquid sequined mermaid creation worn by Marilyn Monroe in the 50’s? In these dresses, Vollbracht’s sterling level of craftsmanship was clearly evident.

One ubiquitous feature in all Fall ’07 shows: black tights. Whether matte or shiny as patent leather, models strutting the runway wore them. Black tights slim the leg. Legs look longer and downright sexy and strong. Powerful women, this is your season!