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NANETTE LEPORE clearly transmitted next season's fashion forecast in a smash-hit show featuring a beautiful, chic and colorful collection last night.

The popular New York designer hit the strongest of the new trends which, next spring, will make their way into the stores - and onto our wish lists.

Cropped jackets, cut close to the body, topped softly ruffled or peplum dresses.

High-waisted skirts, in feathery yellow cactus-print fabrics, were paired with cowpoke-chic skinny red crocheted tank tops.

Ivory canvas-cuffed shorts, worn with high heels, looked city-smart over a richly rope-embroidered vest.

A white eyelet cami lost its whiff of innocence worn under a beaded peach cocktail jacket. And a crochet red dress, nostalgically cut to kiss each one of the models' curves, put an end to the suggestion - made by a number of other designers - of buying yet another little black dress.

Of 13 shows on yesterday's Fashion Week line-up, designers Roland Mouret, Zang Toi, Chaiken, Benhaz Sarafpour, Matthew Williamson and Michael Vollbracht for Bill Blass packed the most exciting punch.

Mouret, who worked in long, clean lines, showed sleek skirts and dresses cut well below the knee, that finished in kick pleats.

His tailored jackets were loaded with luxe detailing - short puffed sleeves, peplum hemming and modern origami-style pleating.

At Bill Blass, designer Michael Vollbracht gave classic eveningwear a fresh twist. A lilac paisley silk gown was embroidered with a racy cut-out bodice. A green gingham dancing dress looked fit for those over the legal drinking age thanks to an elegant, deep square neckline.

Contrasting underskirts, which have been a prominent trend at the collection unveiled during fashion week so far, were particularly pretty.

Zang Toi took his well-heeled clientele on a wild safari to Africa.

For daytime, Toi showed hourglass figure-creating bone-beaded corset tops with hip-hugging tracker jeans. His ivory silk twin-set, beaded with an African feather motif that ran through the collection, was paired with a luxe, red kidskin leather skirt.

For night, Toi turned up the heat with a mix of glamour gowns (a flowy black silk organza gown was beaded with amethyst butterflies) and vamp minis (a strapless slip was encrusted with sparkling orchids).

Minimalism was the main theme for cutting-edge designer Behnaz Sarafpour. Her intensely ladylike line, colored mainly in black and white, owed its drama to details such as bows, puffed sleeves and - especially around the neckline - ruffles of lace.

Julie Chaiken and Jeff Mahshie, the duo behind Chaiken - a line that was launched on the backside of their original super-fitting pants - also took a minimal approach.


Their trench and robe-inspired wrap dresses and a pair of banana yellow parachute pajama trousers look bound for the best-seller list.

Additional reporting by Lisa Marsh

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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