New York Times Fashion Review Fashion, but Maybe Beside the Point Marilyn K. Yee/The New York Times Left, JONATHAN SAUNDERS Layered silk dress in a geometric pattern; center, MARIA CORNEJO A halter dress with a draped front; right, CAROLINA HERRERA A ruffled silk evening dress. By CATHY HORYN Published: September 8, 2008 Now that the runways are a medium for just about everything — celebrity, marketing, corporations — you can never be sure of the message, if there is one at all. On Monday, before the Carolina Herrera show, guests entering the Bryant Park tents were offered samples of Tasti D-Lite ice cream. A moment later the socialite Tinsley Mortimer stopped to pose in her black lace outfit. Beyond her, some women in pink evening dresses held out trays of Evian. It was 10:15 a.m. The self-elected group of insiders and fashionistas troops onward, hour by hour, like Sherpas toward Everest. Ultimately tens of millions of dollars will be spent on collections, but since only a small percentage will ever reach stores, you have to wonder what you’re supposed to understand? Or is it just the action in the broadest sense: the Tasti D-Lite girls, the Tinsleys, the odd twilight moments of genius you can’t possibly explain to someone tapping rapidly on an iPod Touch? So many designers seem strangely displaced, through no fault of their own. Miguel Adrover, who came to New York on behalf of a German company, Hess Natur, which produces clothes from organic materials, turned his creative energy to nine pieces of high conceptual fashion. Maybe a museum will acquire them. The clothes Isaac Mizrahi showed on Monday wouldn’t spark appreciation or desire except among connoisseurs or people familiar with his history and love of drama. There were coats and dresses that closed like a paper wrapper; neon underpinnings that mixed couture and sport; fuzzy, caterpillar-like skirts, a ball gown with a crackled pattern in gold. Seeing the clothes, he should have done the costumes for the new remake of “The Women”— that is, if the film had been given an arch style. Mrs. Herrera opened her show with a slim persimmon-red shift with transparent shoulder, an emerging theme of Fashion Week. She effectively combined masculine tailoring — little swing-back jackets with cigarette pants — and feminine flounces. Tweed hems splashed with ruffles and some of the long dresses, in deep blues and silvery black prints, had pastry ruffles — pastry, hah, for girls with the metabolism of a squirrel. It was a smart collection, though perhaps it needed, along with the dressiness, a more relaxed look. Over the weekend, you could tell you were in the vicinity of a fashion show by the higher quality of footwear. Young fashion followers love chunky stacked-heel shoes, on wet or dry pavement, and if you wondered who went for Saint Laurent’s patent leather platform booties — they would look adorable on Minnie Mouse if she carried a whip — Jennifer Lopez had on a pair at Diane Von Furstenberg’s show. Women love to exercise their fantasies, and that is why we have designers. Ms. Von Furstenberg’s message was a simple one, as it always is, dressed up in memories of the 1960s and Diana Vreeland, who was famous for saying things like “Bluejeans are the most beautiful things since the gondola.” Ms. Von Furstenberg’s many dresses looked festive indeed. There were airy chiffons in blurry prints, a black-and-white mini-caftan flocked with butterflies, a white cotton lace dress redolent of Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, and gypsy knitwear and such with pareo or harem pants. There is something beautiful, or clueless, about women with colorful flower streamers in their hair, their outfits bright and diaphanous. It is the sort of look that is not so much optimistic as it is at a remove from discussions of bad health care systems and the volatile stock market. For that reason, the collection seemed as ornamental as a little gondola on a shelf. Young designers tend to dress the women around them rather than provide direction of their own. Alexander Wang’s collection had the moment-to-moment quality of young urbanites who buy on Friday to wear on Saturday, and so you have the feeling that the clothes — the bloomers and perforated leather basketball shorts, the oversize tunic tops, the leggings — had been tweaked rather than wholly designed. Jonathan Saunders, who is based in London, is an exception among young designers — or, anyway, he belongs to the school that doesn’t think it hurts to properly make a seam and actually propose something thoughtful as well as eye-catching. Last season, he got carried away with architecture and asymmetry. His show on Sunday was a lovely and sane reversal. It contained two relevant ideas: the small nipped-waist jacket in a couture silk worn with a soft flaring skirt, and the vigorous palette. Mr. Saunders has made his reputation as a colorist. The preciseness of the electric colors — the turquoise and vermilion, the lavender and platinum edged in acid green or red — made them appealing. And he combined this precision with sharp, almost military tailoring, or prints that suggested shards of light exploding from a prism. Sometimes Mr. Saunders doesn’t know when to quit; the handkerchief drapes on skirts were a bit much. But those TV shades of blue, green and violet, blurring together on a spare silk dress with fluttery sleeves convince us that he is a talented modernist. Maria Cornejo didn’t reinvent the wheel on Monday — and isn’t that great? She stayed closed to her geometric shapes, offering spiral-cut tops, curved boleros, sidedraped dresses dipped in silver, and some great-looking draped jodhpurs. An accomplished designer, Ms. Cornejo seems to flee from the idea of fashion. Or maybe she just knows where to draw the line between too much and not enough, as she did with a lovely violet summer dress that was a blend of feminine halter and masculine waistcoat. Riding uptown, I looked out the window of the cab and saw, passing slowly through Union Square, a young man with a mohawk on a skateboard. He was pushing himself along with a long pole, like a gondolier. I swear. Elizabeth Lippman for The New York Times DIANE VON FURSTENBERG Printed pants with layered knits. Evan Sung for The New York Times ALEXANDER WANG Sweatshirt mini over leather shorts. Rahav Segev for The New York Times ISAAC MIZRAHI A graphic coatdress over bike shorts. Stephanie Colgan for The New York Times MIGUEL ADROVER A vest of twisted fiber coils.
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