Project Runway winner steals show

September 12, 2008 5:01:38 PM PDT
Nude - not naked - is what's sexy for spring. As New York Fashion Week came to a close on Friday, the Band-Aid color dominated the runways as a modest substitution for the bare skin and cleavage that are often designers' favorite accessories.

The stripped-down approach has been a popular strategy for designers battling it out in a weak economy, but these looks are anything but dull. Narciso Rodriguez and Herve Leger opted for nude-colored beads, while Ralph Lauren presented liquidlike satins in a sophisticated palette from light sand to olive and gold.

Traditional "skin" tones work best on women with olive and darker complexions, says Suze Yalof Schwartz, executive fashion editor at Glamour magazine. For paler skin, try pink or gold.

More than 100 designers previewed their spring collections during New York Fashion Week's eight days of runway shows. Other trends to emerge were a casually elegant draped look, including a popular one-shoulder goddess style, harem-style pants, corsets and beachy shades of blue, violet and marigold.

DONNA KARAN
Donna Karan named her spring collection Liquid Assets - and it was rich.

Karan previewed one fluid look after another on the runway of her downtown studio. There were no gimmicks here, something she had done in a few recent seasons; this was organic Karan, with sultry draping, a sandy palette and natural embellishments.

There was a sexy, raw vibe to it all, but the collection was also elevated, luxurious and elegant. It was a new take on the nice girl-naughty girl contrast that has been visible on many catwalks.

She wrote in her notes that she aimed for "clothes that evoke the fluidity and freedom of water cascading down the body. Fabrics that reflect the sky's luminosity on the glass of Manhattan's cityscape."

RALPH LAUREN
If there is such a thing as "refined ruggedness" Ralph Lauren found it: Think "Raiders of the Lost Ark" with a Moroccan-Egyptian theme.

He captured a weathered spirit with safari and bomber jackets and even a ripped cotton-gabardine shirt, but, of course, the core of the Lauren label is luxury, so most of the outfits were ramped up with beautiful beadwork, liquidlike satins and a sophisticated palette.

Lauren also offered both the harem and modified track pant silhouettes, with billowy legs and tight, tapered hems, that have been all over the runways.

"My new rule is, if you're going to wear harem pants and you're over 40, make them eveningwear and make them Ralph Lauren," Yalof Schwartz said.

BADGLEY MISCHKA
The Badgley Mischka collection proved that pared down could still be pretty.

Mark Badgley and James Mischka scaled down considerably the bells and whistles in their clothes and their runway show, but it wasn't missed because it gave the designers a chance to highlight the fancy, feminine doctrine that guides their brand.

Among the best looks were a cocktail dress and complementary gown in a cheerful-yet-sophisticated floral print that selectively highlighted some blossoms with beads. There also was a yellow-and-white printed chiffon gown with beaded petals of fabric that looked like pieces of candy - a treat for the audience.

CARMEN MARC VALVO
On the Carmen Marc Valvo runway, it was hip to be square. The designer created a spring line that was a study in geometry with a smart, not overly feminine aesthetic.

In Valvo's signature eveningwear, that translated into basketweaves of patent leather and metallics, or a checkerboard of satin ribbons. Almost all the outfits were graphic colors, too: black, white, silver and gold, with a few sexy flesh tones.

Valvo has built up a luxury swimwear business and his theme carried over into crisscross mailots that would look fantastic beside the pool but didn't seem made for the water. The finale look, a tank-strap gown with all-over silver beading, would be foolproof body armor for celebrities on the red carpet.

PROJECT RUNWAY
The women ruled the "Project Runway" finale Friday, leaving the reality competition's remaining male designers in the dust of jewel toned silks, vintage inspirations and dramatic showpieces.

For most of the show's alums, the clear favorite was Portland, Ore.-based designer Leanne Marshall, the quiet, bespectacled brunette who was one of six designers to present before an audience that included stylist Rachel Zoe, a bevy of former "Runway" contestants, studio exec Harvey Weinstein and actress Michelle Trachtenberg.

Marshall sent down a beautifully crafted collection of separates and dresses draped in large panels of white, cream and shades of turquoise. Korto Momolu, another tent favorite, had a collection of halter dresses and minis with balloon sleeves in bright green, khaki and yellow.

Kenley Collins sent down vintage silhouettes in bright prints inspired by painting, fantasy and "Alice in Wonderland." The men - who included Jerrell Scott, Joe Faris and the mohawked Suede - showed far less inspiring and innovative pieces. "I thought Leanne's was fabulous," said last year's winner, Christian Siriano. "She has to be winner, because everything else was not cute."

CHRISTIAN SIRIANO
"Project Runway" winner Siriano showed his debut collection Thursday and wants the fashion world to know he's not a flash in the pan.

His namesake line, shown to an audience of the show's alums and judges, along with actresses Elise Neal and Amanda Setton, featured futuristic skinny pants and ruffled blouses along with looks that are already his signature styles, like layers of chiffon circles.

The theme of a stormy night was repeated in dresses covered with layers of chiffon circles like groups of dark rain clouds. A one-shoulder mini dress made from diagonal tiers of gray and neon yellow chiffon strips looked like a rainy sky lit up with lightning bolts.


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