Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fashion Week Review: Twinkle by Wenlan

This youthful collection by designer Wenlan Chia brought a smile to the faces of most in attendance in the Salon at Bryant Park. The collection of casual separates and dresses was bold and playful, but the mood was witty and charmingly feminine.

While the sharp combinations of stripes and color gave the collection a graphic feel, the strongest statement was about pattern, both subtle and bold. Chia’s quirky, smart patterned silks were like 21st-century technologically-evolved florals, delicate and light. The variety was impressive — one like a modern paisley, a mash-up recalling alligator hide, leopard skin, marbled paper, feathers and low-tech computer printouts — while another combined colorful geometric elements over sky and cloud imagery, reminding us of the paintings of Joan Miro. A broken herringbone pattern of overlapping fine horizontal lines rendered in white with pink and gray added texture and visual interest to a deceptively-simple sleeveless dress and long-sleeved tunic. We also loved the colorful jagged-edged pattern that looked like a modern evolution of the fatigue print. While pattern-rich, these looks were controlled and well-balanced.

Loose drapey bias-cut knit sweaters and tunic tops glided over boldly patterned leggings, and the overall silhouette was easy and relaxed. Short dresses covered a wide variety of styles — with bold black banding used as wide shoulder straps or define the waist and shoulders, with coolly casual drawstring waists or trapeze-cut, with loose floating layers — yet each felt fresh and distinct.

With the whimsy and infectious playfulness exhibited in this collection, we got the feeling that donning any of these looks means instant fun for the wearer. — Julie Yee

Photos: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Mercedes Benz

Fashion Week Review: Ports 1961

Beautiful details were in abundance at the Spring 2010 show for Ports 1961. This striking collection, inspired by the “ephemeral beauty of nature,” left us breathless, as if we had taken a stroll through a Japanese garden or explored a coral reef teeming with life. Tia Cibani celebrates the natural visual phenomena of color, light, translucency, texture and form in her beautifully constructed, comprehensive collection of fifty looks. While each season’s line is in service to a design concept or locale, the resulting collections are never derivative or simplistic. Rather, they acknowledge the source of the inspiration while creating something original, modern and new.

The collection was broad and diverse and included severe abstract forms along with delicate, fragile constructions. Coats, blazers and dresses exhibited origami-like folds and draping while transparent blouses hovered on the models like a cloud. Several dresses wrapped and cloaked the body, recalling flower or seashell-like forms. While much of the line is in a subtle, sophisticated palette of cream and pale pink tones, the collection is not demure. Brightly colored details like a red braided rope, an obi-like sash or a fabric pattern in gold or black brushstrokes provided graphic — almost calligraphic — bold accents. Body-conscious embellishments, like a curved bamboo rod joined to shoulder straps across the back of a minimal sheath dress, make each piece artful but wearable. No aspect is left unconsidered — chunky raw necklaces made of glass, vinyl and leather, braided rope pumps and sheer gloves complimented the looks in this jewel box of a collection. — Julie Yee

Photos: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Mercedes Benz


Prescription For an Ailing Economy? Take One Capsule Collection.

In response to the economic downturn, several designers have taken steps to make their clothes more accessible and affordable. While collaborations with mass-market retailers like Target, Topshop and H&M are commonplace, many have taken a more direct approach - making their clothing immediately available through technology. The most innovative example of this is Norma Kamali’s iPhone application (downloaded free through iTunes) which contributes to the “democratization of fashion” by providing access to all three of her collections through your iPhone.

Many designers have expanded their lines to include lower-priced capsule collections — offering a focused version of their work (usually limited to twenty five pieces or fewer) at a more accessible price point. Temperley London has a capsule collection in the works, while Givenchy's Redux line is already in stores.

We’re a little late in blogging about Under.Ligne, Doo-Ri Chung’s lower-priced capsule collection. If we weren’t so attached to the contents of our closets, we’d be tempted to start our wardrobes from scratch with all twenty one pieces from this Fall 2009 collection, priced from $150-$495. The jersey separates — cardigans, t-shirts, leggings, tops and dresses — have a sophisticated urban vibe. In black, gray and white (future collections will add a new color to this minimal palette), the collection is versatile and adaptable for work and play. The pieces feel exquisitely comfortable on the wearer and move effortlessly with the body. Many of the pieces feature the designer’s signature draping and create a distinctive silhouette. Well-placed zippers, ruffle and rope details and drawstring closures make the pieces special. We stalked this line and pounced when it arrived in stores (Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue and selected boutiques nationwide) in mid-summer, and we’re eager to see what's coming next.

From the runway at Doo.ri's Spring 2010 collection

We’re most excited about Narciso Rodriguez’s upcoming capsule collection available exclusively through eBay. This Spring 2010 limited edition line of eight pieces (each priced at less than $350) is designed to work together or independently. We’ve been known to declare that if heaven exists, we’ll be wearing Narciso Rodriguez’s clothes there. With the launch of his eBay line, it looks like there might be a little heaven on earth for us this Spring. — Julie Yee

A dress from Narciso Rodriguez's Spring 2010 collection

Photos: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz (Doo.ri); Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz (Narciso Rodriguez)