Chic Sheet: Inside New York Fashion Week

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An inside look at who, what, when, and wear at New York Fashion Week this September

By Mariel Rittenhouse

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 Mother Nature is finally back in fashion’s good graces thanks to a band of eco-minded designers who’ve given green garb a very haute makeover.

Fashion Week sweeps through New York but twice a year and with it comes a whirlwind of design demigods, uptight assistants, VIP after parties, and V-VIP after-after parties. While the onslaught is exciting, it’s nothing if not overwhelming and for those of us who regard fashion as part of-not all of-our lives, Fashion Week often feels like a long fall off a steep learning curve.

While we wouldn’t dare remind you that Marchesa is the house’s muse, not the name of the designer, everyone needs the occasional crib sheet. So as the invitations begin to invade the mailboxes of Manhattan’s privileged, remember, even the most enthusiastic can’t possibly attend every show. So without further ado, we present our top picks for the Spring 2008 (SS08) shows.

The Guardians

Barring the sudden onset of pneumonia, you generally don’t demure when the houses of Calvin, Oscar, or Ralph come knocking. These are the few, the proud, and the perpetually press-worthy.

Calvin Klein Collection for Women needs no introduction. For SS08 (September 11, 4 P.M.), the ‘King of Chic’ Francisco Costa, creative director for Calvin Klein Women’s Collection, will showcase a lineup inspired by Christy Turlington. Costa is also finding insight by looking to India, “I love the colors, the bold sensibilities, and the spiritual culture.” Although Costa says he prefers “fall, because of the luxurious fabrics and layering,” there is no doubt his spring collection will be regarded as a benchmark of the season.

Despite a transitional year- think JCPenney brand building, Levi-Strauss lawsuit, and Richemont partnership-Ralph Lauren has remained unwavering in his quest to embody the American lifestyle. Lauren’s fall 2007 presentation highlighted polished silhouettes that were punctuated by glossier (and more voluminous) pieces, like a gold leather vest and a cowl-neck satin gown. It remains to be seen whether this “Ralph Goes to Hollywood” theme will be perpetuated in his SS08 show (September 8, 8 P.M.), but you can count on the Bronx-born billionaire showcasing his vision for American Royalty.

This year Oscar de la Renta has relocated his September 10 show at 1 P.M. from Bryant Park to 583 Park Avenue-a move that has ruffled the feathered frocks of a few gridlock-fearing Upper East Siders. De la Renta fell in love with the venue, which was formerly a Christian Science church, when he used it to showcase his resort collection this past June.

The Ones to Watch

While the big name shows are buzzing with a hive of glossy A-listers, the up-and-comers are where it’s at if you’re looking for an adrenaline contact high.

The ethereal Erin Fetherston, a 2007 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist and Ellen von Unwerth muse, has the industry atwitter with her unapologetically whimsical aesthetic. For SS08 (September 5, 3 P.M.), Fetherston continues her celebration of eccentricity with a palette “inspired by a white nautilus shell and all the hidden colors you can find within it.” She adds, “I was thinking of the imaginary granddaughter of Kate Hepburn, how amazing she must be with all of her grandma’s hand-me-downs to dress up in with a contemporary spin.”

Victoria Bartlett’s VPL (Visible Panty Line) has made unmentionables oh-so-mentionable by bridging the gap between underwear and sportswear. Bartlett is a 2007 finalist for both the Fashion Group International’s Rising Star Award and CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and she’ll present her SS08 collection on September 10 at 12 P.M. In 2008, Bartlett will jet to the Paris couture shows to debut a Swarovski crystal-studded VPL wedding dress.

This year’s crop of new kids also includes Unruly Heir (September 9, 8 P.M.). The brand encompasses a motley crew of twenty-somethings, like Joey Goodwin, Curtis Rose, John Gagliano, Elizabeth Charron, Angelina Ulanskas, and Kristian Laliberte. Laliberte says, “It’s very much a frat house atmosphere, but with a serious edge…it’s a crazy dynamic mainly because we’re all so different.” Up next, in 2009, the group will launch a women’s spin-off dubbed Unruly Heiress.

Headliners

From Page Six and The Daily to Vogue and WWD, the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of a handful of designers have been chronicled excessively, if not obsessively.

Summer 2007, a.k.a. the “Summer of Som,” has been abuzz with news of Peter Som’s redeployment to Bill Blass as the creative director of womenswear. For Som, this is a return to his roots; before launching his own label he worked as a Blass design assistant. Since Som’s first collection for Bill Blass will be pre-fall 2008, his SS08 presentation (September 9, 12 P.M.) has received his undivided attention and will undoubtedly be another marvel of effortless sexiness, this time “with an architectural influence…and a return to the waist.”

Hot off her CFDA induction-and Vanity Fair’s 2007 Best Dressed list-Rachel Roy is gearing up for her September 5 show at 1 P.M.. As a fledgling stylist, her ladylike tastes had her on the blacklist of several directors, but after an internship at hubby Damon Dash’s Rocawear, she launched her own collection in 2004 to critical acclaim. Her “conservative with a twist” aesthetic is part Jackie O, part starlet on the PR rebound, and a must-see at the SS08 presentations.

Marchesa, the flamboyant, Harvey Weinstein-backed brainchild of Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, is just three years old, but it has already tucked a 2006 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund nomination under its duchesse satin belt. Marchesa has also attracted a veritable spotlight of megawatt stars like Lindsay Lohan, J. Lo, and Sienna Miller. The SS08 show, with makeup by the M.A.C. Pro Team, is slated for September 5 at 6 P.M..

Team Green

Mother Nature is finally back in fashion’s good graces thanks to a band of eco-minded designers who’ve given green garb a very haute makeover.

Koi Suwannagate, another 2007 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist, is beloved by celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Nicole Kidman for her sculptural-yet-feminine recycled cotton and cashmere designs. For her SS08 collection (September 11, 1 P.M.), Suwannagate found her muse in the American Art Nouveau glass artists. “The nature of its plasticity offered the most opportunities for innovative design. I find its exciting shapes and the imagination of the designers very inspiring.” This spring she hopes to swathe “Manhattan dermatologist Lisa Airan, she perfectly represents the Koi customer.”

Podoll, conceived by Josh and Lauren Podoll, launched in Spring 2007 as an offshoot of the high-end t-shirt line, Josh Podoll. Rooted in eclectic artistic influences, Lauren says a primary concern is “to empower the wearer to look and feel their best in clothing that was created with ethical responsibility in mind.” The SS08 collection (September 10, 7 P.M.) highlights pieces inspired by visionaries like painter Agnes Martin and artist Olafur Eliasson.

Aspiring to render “corporate social responsibility sexy,” Peter Ingwersen, founder of Noir, has enlisted Shalom Harlow to mug for his androgynous, provocative spring campaign. Noir’s fifth ready-to-wear collection, Transparent, will show on September 8 at 5 P.M. Ingwersen says Noir is about “luxurious fabrics developed in the third world, masculine complementing femininity, slim versus oversized.” Earth-friendly is finally fashion-friendly.

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