2010 September 16

Runway Reviews: J. Mendel, Reed Krakoff, Bill Blass, Gant by Michael Bastian

J Mendel Spring 2011 J Mendel Spring 2011
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Proving his mastery of the palette once again, Gilles Mendel used the costumes he created for City Ballet's "Call Me Ben" as a starting point for J.Medel's Spring 2011 collection. Icy grey, pink opal, pumpkin, and a saturated nude were given equal play in fur and evening, introduced by a smattering of silk jersey and silk chiffon cocktail dresses. Mendel's signature lightness---not levity---brought the looks to life, and endowed them with the movement that makes these gowns among the most coveted on the evening circuit. Degrade boleros and vests in Tibetan lamb and shadow fox were the pieces to pine over, especially in these extraordinary shades of nude and blush. In the last two seasons, Mendel has expanded his repertoire to include the hors-fashion stuff making news at Lincoln Center, and the effects on his aesthetic have been mesmerizing. What's next---opera?

Krakoff, the longtime creative director of Coach, turns up the luxury for his eponymous line, playing with fabrics like tissue-thin leathers (especially gorgeous in a deep red shade) and gold and black pythons in streamlined silhouettes. You can't find a better suit on the runways than these; in red or nude elastic viscose, the cut is the only thing traditional about them. Long dresses came in panels slit up the sides for movement, and his two finale dresses in black or cobalt blue came wrapped with leather for a vaguely bondage-y vibe less severe than in past seasons. Of course, being the Coach king means all eyes are on Krakoff's accessories, and he didn't disappoint: sandals with lacquered black wood block heels, python, gold leaf toe rings, and boar's hair trim will surely make appearances both editorially and on the feet of editors. His sole misstep? "Utility wraps," a waist wrap somewhere between a belt and miniskirt worn over pants. They were a tricky styling choice in an otherwise strong collection.

For Spring 2011, Jeffrey Monterio focused especially on color and texture, adding bold drama, but still maintaining a sense of sophistication. The red, black and white color scheme is "meant to give strength, but also give an ease to the collection, as well," Monterio explained. He continued, "I was really interested in mixing textures. If something is light, then the question becomes, okay, how do you now ground this?" Most notably, the pieces in the collection clearly carried the Bill Blass woman from day to night. A black metallic dot lace dress, a fringe and bead embellished jacket and cream textured crepe jacquard dress all had elements appropriate for both noon and midnight.

"Designing for women is basically like learning a new language," said Michael Bastian at the presentation of his Gant line. Judging by his first womenswear effort, Bastian is almost fluent in his new tongue. The idea behind his second collection for the Swedish brand revolved around the idea of bombshell Marilyn Monroe and the two most important suitors of her life: Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio. Bastian illustrated the glamorous, 50's era trio through crisp blazers, distressed jeans, cotton cardigans for guys and notable trenches, dresses, and fleece skirts for gals. Overall, it was a very strong outing for the designer, signaling his possible future as American sportswear heir.