Dispatches from Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, continuing until Thursday in New York City:
COULD OHNE TITEL BE THE NEXT DONNA KARAN?
The most exciting thing I saw on the runway Saturday was the Ohne Titel collection. Bringing a new kind of cool to draped silk, velvet and washed leather separates by working them with athletic mesh and knit, designers Flora Gill and Alexa Adams challenged the boring vernacular of office suiting.
Could we be looking at the next Donna Karan?
The designers, who met at Parsons School of Design and have stints at Helmut Lang and Karl Lagerfeld between them, launched their line in 2006, and they have been on an upward trajectory ever since, garnering nominations and awards from the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation and the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
For fall, they worked in a palette of black, moss green, sand and pewter to create a number of separates that could find a place in any woman's wardrobe - lean, asymmetrically cut soft leather and ribbed knit jackets, cropped shearlings, combo leather and knit leggings. Their version of the suit was a moss-colored silk blazer worn with silk pants that were slouchy up top, spiraling into ribbed knit at the bottom of the legs.
Although they cited the 19th century as inspiration, there was nothing retro about a techno collage, multicolored mesh dress, a sand leather and silk cowl neck top or a silk drawstring skirt with black leather front pouch pocket that brought motocross to mind.
After all, these are clothes for women on the move. And let's hope this is the collection that brings this label to a wider audience. In Los Angeles, Ohne Titel (German for "untitled") is stocked at Zainab and Satine.
GURUNG NEEDS TO STAY GROUNDED
For some reason this season, Prabal Gurung was anointed the new kid to watch. When he staged his first runway show in the Tents on Saturday, everyone was there - department store buyers, magazine editors, even a celeb or two.
Why? Who knows. Oprah's a fan, the designer has a quirky name (pronounced Praa-ball) and a cute face, he grew up in Katmandu, started his career in India, and was design director at Bill Blass for five years.
Sculpted coats and skirts in camel, black and white wool cashmere with curvilinear seams had a Blass feel to them, but a bit too much bulk, and the floating panels, peplums and double layers weren't incorporated well enough into the designs.
One-shouldered silk gazar dresses, distinguished by sculptural ruffles, didn't feel that special either.
The best look - a motocross-inspired minidress that was a patchwork of metallic oxidized lace and wool faille. Too bad he didn't stay focused on that technique a little longer.
JASON WU, A CASE OF OUTSIZED AMBITION
Jason Wu's fall collection was a case of outsized ambition. On the one hand, menswear-inspired separates strayed too far from the designer's comfort zone. On the other, couture-inspired Chantilly lace ball gowns (some with padded hips) overwhelmed his tiny, poorly lit runway.
Daywear fell flat with boxy jackets in too-heavy mohair, fold-over-waist pegged trousers and unremarkable draped wool plaid skirts. Only his cocktail dresses hinted at what could have been, the best in a blush-colored gauze that looked like spun sugar.
ALEXANDER WANG, THE COOLEST THING
The zipper sunglasses, the studded-base handbags - Alexander Wang is the coolest thing in New York fashion right now. And this season, he let loose his tough 'n' trashy aesthetic on the men's suit.
Although we've seen this exercise in deconstruction many times before (Jean Paul Gaultier, Junya Watanabe), Wang gave it his own pseudo-Goth night-crawler spin with the addition of velvet thigh-highs and lace-trimmed swallow-hemmed dresses. (And let's not forget his more accessible price point.)
There was more than a hint of skin when he hacked the waistband from of a pair of pinstriped pants and left in its place a leather belt sitting seductively on a bare navel, and removed the front of a morning jacket and left a bandeau in its place.
He worked and reworked the menswear theme, hollowing the shoulders of a camel hair cape, and lending blazer details to miniskirts and Bermuda shorts.
Wang is one of several designers making a case for a velvet redux this fall, with a pearl-studded pinstripe velvet waistcoat, slinky draped velvet mini-dresses with chiffon ends trailing, and velvet bras.
There was even a touch of the long-lost knit of a million '90s-era oversize Express sweaters - chenille! A chenille bandeau layered under a cropped chalk stripe jacket.
If it seems like a lot (tiger face macrame tops too!), it was. But Wang fans will be more than happy to parse out the pieces.
And with his knack for starting trends, come fall, expect to see plenty of backpacks and velvet sunglasses on the scene.
- Booth Moore, Los Angeles Times