Few things get me out of bed before noon on Sundays, but a Lela Rose show is one of them—and apparently also for Mariska Hargitay, Lauren Conrad, and Mandy Moore, who were all sitting in the front row. For spring, Rose explored the duality of lightness and mass, and fragility and permanence, inspired by American artist Jim Hodges. These qualities came across most strongly in a series of metallic lace and chiffon gowns and stunning guipure lace dresses adorned with mirrors, the lighter fabrics reflecting and springing forth from the heavier, more obscuring ones. Everything was pretty, but thoughtfully and interestingly so. There are plenty of designers who create unabashedly feminine looks, but Rose elevates them to another level altogether.
For those of you who didn't watch Fashion Star on NBC, Kara Laricks was the winner, and with a skill for tailoring and an androgynous yet approachable aesthetic, it was clear from pretty much the second or third episode that she'd take the prize. For her first fashion week presentation, she reinforced her signature elements—neckties, wide trousers, asymmetrical piecework—in a clean, well-tailored, focused collection in mostly neutrals with occasional pops of orange, which is emerging as spring's hottest color. It was familiar territory, but it will be interesting to see how she'll move her vision forward in seasons to come.
It had been several seasons since I'd last stomached a Custo Barcelona show, and since time heals all wounds, I somehow decided I was up for another one. Apparently so had everyone else. When I got to the tents, the check-in line stretched out the door; I had a barcode but no seat number. At some point, the publicists gave up and started admitting anyone with any kind of confirmation, so I clambered in, grabbed whatever seat I could find, and wished I had a shot of vodka to steady my nerves. The first few looks were an assault on the senses: fringe, patchwork, mesh, sequins, appliques—no amount of embellishment was too much, and the colors were Euro-rave-bright shades of pink and orange. However, about halfway through, either the clothes or I—or maybe both of us—started to mellow out. All of a sudden, there were some solid pieces in the mix, including some nice-looking leather leggings, and even the sheer half skirts started to grow on me. I started to feel like that old person at the party who loosens up after a drink or two. And I was okay with that.
Full disclosure: I am not cool. I do not get invited to the cool shows (like anything at Milk Studios, for instance). So i was pleasantly surprised to be invited to Timo Weiland, a somewhat new downtown-darling line (it's part of the CFDA's Fashion Incubator program) designed by two nerdy-cute dudes. At first, I was a bit thrown off by the styling—high ponytails, doorknocker earrings—and the old-school hip-hop soundtrack, neither of which seemed to totally complement the menswear-inspired mixed patterns and graphic silk prints of the collection. But I was completely won over by the sparkly Swarovski-crystal-encrusted looks at the end. I might not speak downtown cool, but I do at least speak sparkle.
Chado Ralph Rucci
Nearly every time I go to a Chado Ralph Rucci show, I end up kicking someone out of my seat, and with good explanation—it's a hot ticket. No other designer in America creates fashion on Rucci's level. Generally immune to trends, his spring collection was an explosion of rare color: shocking pink, lemon yellow, grass green, and plenty of white and black as always. Rucci kept his shapes on the simpler side, the better to let the vivid colors spotlight the shape and form of his designs. He did, however, slash his was through the collection, using crescent-shaped insets to open up his shapes and let them take a breath of fresh spring air. But lest we think Rucci went minimalist on us, he finished with an "ooh"- and "ahh"- inspiring series of evening gowns, some with hand-painted silks, others with exaggerated taffeta sleeves, and still more with an aura of feathers. He got a standing ovation, and deservedly so. If only more designers inspired such a reaction from their audiences.