Fashion Review: Jason Wu, Richard Chai, Rachel Comey, Lisa Perry — Fashion Reviews

February 9th, 2013

Josh Haner/The New York Times

JASON WU A funnel-neck wool coat and belted wool dress; RACHEL COMEY A two-tone leather bomber and high-waist pants; CREATURES OF THE WIND A vinyl and wool zip jacket and wet-look polyester skirt.

Josh Haner/The New York Times

JASON WU A chevron mink and fox coat and a feathered cocktail dress.

Jason Wu said he never gave the storm much thought. “What could we do?” he asked before his show on Thursday in a Park Avenue church. “We didn’t have a contingency plan.” In fact, looking around at the hairdressers and models backstage, you’d think it was a normal scene.

“Normal?” Mr. Wu said, sounding almost disappointed.

Twice chosen by Michelle Obama for Inaugural clothes, Mr. Wu picked a good moment to present a polished collection of feminine tailoring. There were few surprises in this collection, which opened with a black satin trench coat with fur pockets, stovepipe pants and peplum jackets (a bit prissy) with crisp white shirts. There were some froufrou bits, like feathery cocktail dresses and a well-done finale of pleated gowns in black, white and ink georgette, with belted waists, but tailoring was the main event.

Mr. Wu said he wasn’t interested in doing a theme this season, just giving a grown-up look. “Well, I’m more grown up,” he said. Themes are usually a bore anyway. Coats with a touch of military pomp looked great (especially in bright red), as did separates in wool bonded lace — a Wu specialty.

Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times

RICHARD CHAI A tailored wool plaid coat over crinkled cotton pants.

The opening days of Fashion Week tend to attract young designers, so naturally one expects to learn something new about dressing, or at least see some decent troublemaking. Instead, we got socked with a dishwater palette of grays, greens and browns that was identical to the one in department stores last fall. Thanks!

Richard Chai chose those colors, brightened with dark purple, and drudged out a uniform look, with olive-drab pencil skirts, trousers and boyish tweed coats. This isn’t a new idea in any tone. Two-piece dresses with sleeveless tailored tops offered some relief, but again, the fresh shape winds up looking muddy.

Rachel Comey’s colors can also put you in a funk, but at least she puts some solid design in her clothes. Everyone always says her clothes are “quirky,” and I suppose a leather popover top and soupy men’s trousers qualify. But are they really so quirky, or is Ms. Comey just using her feminine instincts to propose something surprising? Women love odd pieces to mix into their wardrobe, like those pants or a denim work shirt with an orange and black leather bomber.

Like Lyn Devon, whose collection of tweeds, chunky knits and paper-bagged trousers in wool or cotton velvet was a woman’s version of her favorite guy pieces, Ms. Comey remains one of the girls. She knows what masculine bits she needs, and leaves the rest. Also, she can make a sexy dress in a silk print that doesn’t look tacky or retro. This was one of her stronger collections for those hard-to-find pieces. Call me quirky.

Once you get past the name of Chris Peters and Shane Gabler’s label, Creatures of the Wind, and embrace their awkward sense of femininity, things start to make sense. They’re great with skirts — boxed-pleated, dirndls — and even their more complicated collage effects, done with high-contrast fabrics and colors, manage to retain a sense of proportion. Their patternmaking is O.K.

But the overall result is murky. One of the nicest things they showed on Thursday was a brushed cotton minidress with a wide belt in the same fabric and elbow-length sleeves. You don’t want to tell the designers to narrow down their fabric choices or be more straightforward in their cutting, because that sounds horribly discouraging to a pair of designers who actually like to experiment.

But they ought to put more thought into what they want to achieve from a fabric or a design. You can’t improve on that little brushed cotton dress, or on a windowpane check dress, or a skirt in filmy red polyester. For now, though, too many of their garments feel like charming strays with no home.

If you see a woman walking around on the Upper East Side in a tent dress with ridiculously cheerful dots, the outfit is sure to be a Lisa Perry. You won’t get an innovative take on the ‘60s from Ms. Perry; she’s more interested in updating a style for her customers, who clearly are not down for dishwater green.

Among her new additions are double-face wool coats and suit separates, with a dot pattern on one side and glen plaid on the reverse. She has also put some waist in her tents, so all that exercising and dieting won’t be in vain. A long-sleeve, funnel-neck dress in red wool was a nice departure from her A-line shapes. Indeed, the more freely she interprets the ‘60s aesthetic, the more interesting her stuff becomes.

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