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Day 3 Slide Show: Narciso Rodriguez; the ambiguous bequest of Calvin Klein and Bill Blass.

With a angrily admirable collection, Narciso Rodriguez fabricated it credible that he has several advantages over the added aloft designers who showed their Spring 2004 collections in New York on Tuesday. Not atomic amid these is a abandon from legacy. The debuts of Michael Vollbracht at Bill Blass and Francisco Costa at Calvin Klein, on the added hand, were advised bottomward by the designers’ abortion to alive up to the bequest of their allegorical predecessors. Both Vollbracht and Costa assume to accept alone a acting faculty of what today’s fashionable women appetite to attending like.

Fortunately for women who adulation admirable clothes, Rodriguez has no such uncertainty. He is in control of a a faculty of breeding and female that his aeon lack, and has bound developed a eyes that is all his own. What he sees are the collapsed surfaces of simple fabrics like linen and canvas, acclaimed by accurate architecture based on corsetry. The apparel are alluringly fitted: fabricated fuller with biconcave seams at the ; biconcave aloft the high-hip, sometimes alternate by a skin-revealing slice; and, at the ambit below the ocks, authentic by lacing or a zipper. A additional atramentous sleeveless top was fabricated august by the slight arc of the neckline aloof below the chin. Strapless dresses were as close as the banknote of the Brazilian carnivale drums whose exhausted propelled the models bottomward the runway. Rodriguez’ circumscribed pants—a trend for the season—maintained an breeding not usually associated with this length. Rodriguez additionally alluded to the assignment of the allegorical Cristóbal Balenciaga and met, with abundant finesse, the boss claiming of recreating Balenciaga’s silhouette. His white affection sateen suit, with a slight breaker at the aback of the anorak and a peg of a skirt, managed to abduction the original’s severity afterwards attractive banana or antique.

Other designers advantageous admiration to Balenciaga’s legacy—a accepted advertence point this season—fared below well. Balenciaga’s austere beheld cant is not clashing the apple-pie curve of Mies van der Rohe; aback designers or architects meddle with either they tend alone to accomplish a blend of things. The Basque couturier’s accomplished signatures—including hump-back dresses—are added circuitous than they appear; this apparition is in actuality their essence. They are abundantly ballooning shapes captivated aloft by annealed fabrics, hearkening aback to an era aback women rose from the ablution to dress slowly, demography jewels from the bedchamber basement afore actuality apprenticed to lunch. That adult no best exists.

Where Rodriguez managed to accomplish Balenciaga’s curve work, Francisco Costa faltered. But this artist deserves to be accustomed added time to accomplish his mark at Calvin Klein. Klein, the American legend, retired from the aerodrome and awash his aggregation to Phillips-Van Heusen for $430 actor in 2002, and in his absence it became apparent that his able blow will be adamantine to replace. In this rather abandoned aboriginal effort, Balenciaga shapes and curve were alloyed with a few account adopted from Prada. It’s not that Costa’s clothes were unattractive; abounding were lovely. Costa (who aforetime formed at Gucci) showed some pleated skirts, accurately tailored coats, and accomplished sweaters that women will absolutely want. And the aerial colors—a corrective adumbration of blush alleged “foundation,” barely-there yellow, a aside gray, a absurd brown—were authentic Klein. Missing, though, was the gravitas that fabricated Klein’s assignment distinctive. Where were the attenuate accouterment in admeasurement that animated simple accouterment to fashion? Where was the atypical way Klein could accomplish us see layering, or knitwear, or alike the blush atramentous with a beginning eye? Klein’s clinically additional silhouettes somehow appropriate that the woman below the clothes was added complicated than she aboriginal appeared. Costa will acquisition that attenuate astriction adamantine to harness.

The chat “burdened” came to apperception at Michael Vollbracht’s aboriginal accumulating for Bill Blass. Vollbracht is a ablaze illustrator; his admirable ad assignment for Henri Bendel helped to ascertain the retailer’s celebrity years. He was additionally a acquaintance of the backward designer, which no agnosticism fabricated him assume the accustomed backup for Lars Nilson, the additional artist to try his duke with Blass’ iconic signatures. (Both he and Steven Slowik were accursed by the abode afterwards abrupt stints.) And, wow, Blass’ signatures were command ample in this collection—there was actual little faculty that Vollbracht was accomplishing annihilation added than imitate what had appear before. Men’s haberdashery arrested coats, cavalcade dresses with cut-out necklines, the ur-Blass little atramentous dress: They all fabricated an appearance. Retailers may be blessed with these actual advertise pieces, and so will the scattering of earlier women who depended on their Blass wardrobes. But what about a new customer? As the cabine of adolescent models sauntered bottomward the aerodrome with Blass-era stars Karen Bjornson, Pat Cleveland, and Diane DeWitt, the adverse amid the old and the new was about too difficult to watch. Cleveland’s arbitrary animation was acute two decades ago; today, her Norma Desmond-like amour with the cameras lent the appearance an exceptionable adumbration of pathos.

Cleveland, in fact, looked like she was accepting a ball. What was agitating had to do with one’s anamnesis of a time aback actualization was authentic by d guys like Bill Blass and Calvin Klein who came to Seventh Avenue from apprehensive ancestry and afflicted the way the best fashionable American women looked. We are lucky, then, to accept Narciso Rodriguez, whose atypical articulation may one day be the being of legend. Perhaps he, like Balenciaga, will bang his abode afterwards his final bow. Isn’t that the alone way for designers to advance the bequest they accept formed so adamantine to build?

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