Clothes of the new millennium -- See what we thought of new collection from Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors and others

By Degen Pener
March 05, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

Clothes of the new millennium

It was all about the millennium. During the recent shows in New York — the annual preview of what will be in vogue next autumn — the fashion world struggled with how to look fabulous for the dawn of a new age.

Some designers, including the venerable Ralph Lauren, offered a sort of security-blanket approach to the future, all comfort and padding. Others looked to outer space for inspiration, from Helmut Lang’s astronaut-like jackets to Stephen Sprouse’s dresses printed with NASA photos of Mars. And a few fashion gurus, such as Michael Kors and John Bartlett, approached this new frontier by ruminating on an old one — the wild, wild West. ”It’s a simple, sexy thing,” said ex-Seinfeld gal-turned-tyro lingerie designer Shoshanna Lonstein, explaining the appeal of Kors’ rancher collection. ”These are clothes for sitting by the fire and saying ‘Go shoot my dinner for me.”’

What else have designers added to the menu? Three fashion critics, The New York Times‘ Constance C. R. White, The Washington Post‘s Robin Givhan, and Fashion Television’s Jeanne Beker, weigh in on the smorgasbord of clothing choices — and which looks really made the grade.

CALVIN KLEIN
GRADE:
Beker – B
Givhan – B
White – A
EW – B
Average – B+

Our advice? Fewer kids in underwear, more bold strokes on the runway. This collection disappointed all our critics except White (”Back to the Calvin we know and love”). For Givhan, the presentation wasn’t ”as provocative as Klein’s advertising. He even put models in sheer black panty hose and tasteful heels.” Beker, though happy to see Klein ”celebrate black again,” concludes, ”There was nothing romantic or particularly sexy.”

JOHN BARTLETT
GRADE:
Beker – B+
Givhan – B+
White – A+
EW – A
Average – A

Bartlett had Georgia O’Keeffe (and Alfred Stieglitz) on his mind while working on these clothes, but the painter never looked this voluptuous. Ideal for Julia Roberts at home in Santa Fe (though of course she’d keep her shirt buttoned more). Beker fell hard for such romantic pieces as the midnight blue serapes and the blue burlap evening gown. And White declares, ”It’s among the best American collections.”

DKNY
GRADE:
Beker – B
Givhan – C+
White –
EW – C+
Average – B-

If you want to look like an escapee from the cold, sexually icy world of Gattaca, look to Karan. The fabric here — mostly molded wool — seems stiff and uncomfortable. Other pieces also failed to appeal: ”The ‘duvet’ parkas are as enticing as a down comforter,” says Givhan. Still, the line had its fans. Beker calls it ”a high-tech fantasy, with just enough cozy, hand-knit pieces to make us feel human.” In other words, on Donna, our critics are as divided as Congress.

MICHAEL KORS
GRADE:
Beker – A
Givhan – A
White – A
EW – A
Average – A

If you’re a movie star who has staked out a claim in Montana (or would just like to look like one), these are the pieces for you. This ”Sundance chic” collection has ”the perfect mix of American iconography, glamour, luxury, and ease,” according to Givhan. Beker also couldn’t say enough: ”Clothes designed for living real life.” Surmises White, ”It’s simple, but not simplistic.” All of which puts Kors at the head of the class.

RALPH LAUREN
GRADE:
Beker – A
Givhan – D
White – D
EW – B-
Average – C+

It’s been a tough month for Lauren. Belt tightening has led to company layoffs — and now some very mixed reviews. ”I don’t know what happened to him,” says White. ”A screaming yellow trench?” Lauren’s parade of cashmere suits in coral and powder blue are, says Givhan, ”straight from the archives, where they should have stayed…good taste is synonymous with dull.” But he still has fans: Beker appreciates the ”simple lines, pretty colors, and luxurious shapes. Very modern.”

TOMMY HILFIGER
GRADE:
Beker –
Givhan – C
White – B+
EW – C
Average – C+

Too Behind the Music for us. Hilfiger’s new line (studded motorcycle pants, python patchwork jackets, and punk red-and-black plaid kilts) resembles a rack of rock-star castoffs. ”It’s not really part of anyone’s real world,” echoes Givhan, who still gives Tommy props for showmanship. ”The celebrity-studded audience and high-energy presentation were a strong pitch for the seemingly unstoppable brand.” And White waxes, ”Music, sports, haute street — a fail-proof mix.”

RANDOLPH DUKE
GRADE:
Beker – B-
Givhan – B+
White – B-
EW – B+
Average – B

Duke, the former Halston designer famous for dressing the spurned Minnie Driver in scarlet at last year’s Oscars, had the only true Hollywood collection of the week. Givhan credits him with ”taking the vocabulary of sportswear — comfort, ease, luxury — and beautifully applying it to formal wear.” Beker was more subdued (”wasn’t much that looked new here”) but she still agrees, ”Randolph knows how to dress the divas…. Expect to see lots of these gowns at the Oscars.”

Advertisement

Comments



EDIT POST