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With chignons held high, outsize prints and ultra-high heels, Diane Von Furstenberg's models lived up to the name she gave her show: "La Dolce Diva." "It captures a certain moment in my life when I discovered glamour for the first time," said the designer, referring to that Roman holiday period in the 1960s, when the Italian Cinecitta movie studios gave birth not only to "La Dolce Vita" but to photographers baptized "paparazzi."
Fraught with drama, as a lighting unit crashed down on the audience, this show still succeeded in making a statement about female glamour and empowerment without falling into the trap of retro dressing.
Modern glamour has been a focus in New York not least among fledgling designers who have been given a stage through UPS sponsorship at the Olympus Fashion Week. Their visions are diverse, but one thing unites them: a desire to turn away from figure- hugging garments and flashing flesh to something more sophisticated and discreet.
Von Furstenberg and her designer Nathan Jensen produced an intriguing mix of artifice and nature. The former came with the silhouettes created as jackets and coats stood away from the body in fabrics that held a shape like well-whipped meringue; the latter from bold, oversize prints such as palm leaves and artichokes. Burgeoning skirts in silken fabrics contrasted with crochet and eyelet cottons, all giving a sense of seductive summer dressing. Evening gowns with encrusted jewels and the look of Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra might have overdone the glamour quotient. But Von Furstenberg is moving fast forward from her signature wrap dress not least with new accessories, that included clutch bags with bold motifs.
Luella Bartlett was also big on bags enormous even, as the satchel, dangling with charms, came up bigger than the brief shorts and skirts. Using as a venue the New York yachting club, with its array of carved hulls, Bartlett sailed off on a naval theme. The undercurrent was Balenciaga, by way of Helmut Lang. Both houses have shown matelot material such as sailor pants and rope fastenings. But Bartlett gave it her own female spin, making cheeky skirts that turned into tiny shorts at the back and giving a perky glamour to shapely, sporty clothes.
The Indian designer Ashish N. Soni is one of New York's new discoveries yet he has been in business for 12 year. After graduating from India's National Institute of Fashion Technology, he had a mission to draw out the craftsmanship and culture of his country but in a subtle way.
Until a burst of burnt orange at the end of his collection, the palette was in quiet shades of black, white and gray, often with Indian handwork. The show was inspired by photographs of Japanese Buddhist monasteries, although the long bulbous silhouettes and puffed up bodices recalled the Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto and the Dutch duo Viktor and Rolf.
But in fabrics and embellishment, Ashish was on his own territory, using specialist techniques such as white-on-white embroidery or Madras checks. Tailored mannish silhouettes, including Raj coats, reflected a more thoughtful vision of India than the more familiar Boho-meets-Bollywood.
Doo Ri Cheung, born in Seoul but raised in Amerca, started her own label in 2001, after working at Donna Karan and Geoffrey Beene. Her simple and graceful clothes, playing on textures of satin and tulle and shades of beige or ivory, reached a climax with softly draped dresses, as worn by the "Desperate Houswives" star Eva Longoria, who found in the clothes a state of grace.
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