Originally created 09/15/05

Fashion Week includes designs inspired by architecture

NEW YORK - Narciso Rodriguez makes architectural clothes with creative cutouts, boning and seams that keep the garments close to the body. None of that will change next spring, but at his New York Fashion Week runway show, Rodriguez showed he has a softer side, too.

An otherwise sleek black skirt suit - with a hemline below the knee - was made of washed silk satin, giving it a slightly broken-in look, and a white layered silk voile dress with a bateau neck had a fuller shape with a gentle A-line bottom.

Some of Rodriguez's red-carpet customers, including Claire Danes and Rachel Weisz, were in the front row where they could get a close-up view Tuesday of a stunning white Swarovski crystal pearl embroidered tank with a sheer overlay. It was paired with a silk voile skirt and an ivory satin bias-cut dress with a crystal pearl bust.

Rodriguez also debuted his menswear, sending out male models with the same crisp, clean look that he does for women. The first outfit was a two-button suit in white micro canvas with a white shirt and silver tie; next was a black version of the suit. The best men's outfit, though, was a gray stretch peacoat with an asymmetrical fly front that was worn with black washed linen trousers and a black cotton faille tie.

Earlier Tuesday, Roland Mouret also embraced asymmetrical silhouettes. Mouret's style is similar in some ways to Rodriguez's - he uses sharper edges and keeps things slimmer than most other designers - but his signature is the way he plays with proportions to emphasize a woman's curves.

Mouret also thrives on contradiction: "This collection explores a combination of rich versus poor, flat versus textures," he explained in his notes to the audience that included Scarlett Johansson, whom Mouret dressed for this year's Oscars.

Noteworthy looks included a portrait-collar short-sleeve coatdress, a navy halter chiffon top with white trim worn with a scarf-style skirt, and a two-tone blue bias-cut dress with a vertical flounce from waist to hem.

A green jersey cowl dress with a dramatic back and cap sleeves was sexy though it barely showed any skin.

"I thought Roland did a great job. I especially loved all the green silk jersey he showed," said Harper's Bazaar editor in chief Glenda Bailey.

Monique Lhuillier's show featured mod swing jackets paired with straight skirts and white heels, and a silk white gazar tuxedo-style cocktail dress with a ruffled halter neckline. She also showed a jade Chantilly lace pleated sheath and a satin back cowl gown in dusty rose with a blouson top and heavily beaded straps.

Celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch said these dresses are "as pretty coming as they are going."

Behnaz Sarafpour opened her collection with a double-faced wool dress with black trim and bows on patch pockets, an ivory dress with embossed stripes and lace around the scoop neck, and an ivory wool jacket paired with black silk evening shorts.

A black eyelet leather skirt was a new way to do a classic, as was a tank top that created an animal print with beads. A black-and-white houndstooth check raffia jacket and a white cotton crepe tank dress with two tiers at the bottom was a nice mix of dressy and casual, but Sarafpour's lace collar worn with a cotton tank and a hammered satin ruffled skirt missed that mark.

Meanwhile, Bill Blass designer Michael Vollbracht wants the ladies who lunch to embrace their sexier side. His new collection includes a lilac paisley silk print gown with embroidered straps and a cutout bodice that flashed skin under the bustline - a departure from the label's trademark day dresses and pantsuits.

Safari dresses shortened to minis made them modern, while a light blue swing coat moved just the right way.

However, the tulip skirts that pouffed out over the hips aren't a wearable or practical shape for most women today, though they were true to Vollbracht's 1964-era muses Jane Fonda, Catherine Deneuve and Brigitte Bardot.

Fashion Week continues through Friday, ending with a "Fashion for Relief" show to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina. Participants will include Naomi Campbell, Iman, Cindy Crawford, Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie.

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