BY CONSTANCE C.R. WHITE
Recently, one chilly night in Manhattan, Martha Stewart and the actress Claire Danes, two strong, accomplished women with blonde hair, happened to be at events across the street from one another, each supporting their go-to designer. Contemplating the two women got me thinking about consistency and success.
Danes has for the past several years delivered reliably excellent acting from “My So Called Life” to presently, “Homeland,” the can’t-look-away television program that’s earned her enthralled fans and numerous awards.
Stewart’s empire is about housework done to an exalted level of detail, a message that’s been consistent across cakes, doilies and making the bed.
If we want to earn trust, if we want to achieve excellence, scientists have found, a constant repetition of core attributes (actions) is required.
Danes was backstage after Narciso Rodriguez’s show, looking incredibly saucy in a black dress by the designer, with artfully placed slit up the front. It was wholly consistent with the spirit of what we’d just seen on the runway, but for some subtle and important differences.
Stewart, for her part, had dropped in to see Ralph Rucci. It takes heaps of discipline, clear knowledge of what you want to do and, let’s just say it – the passage of time – to build a signature. Both Rodriguez and Rucci have climbed this mountain and there’s no rolling down now.
Each has invented a look so classic, so original, and so remarkably consistent, it’s timeless.
Every woman needs a few seductively sexy clothes at some point and Rodriguez knows how to deliver. If you’re looking for a sexy cliche, Rodriguez is not your man.
His dresses play with a woman’s body, skimming around it and cocooning it in luxurious fabrics like cashmere or bonded silk – and suddenly – revealing a slash of skin along a leg or an erotically bare back.
A sulphur-green dress is unexpectedly paired with bright green high-heels. Pale ones and skirts on the bias sometimes got topped with a light minimalist coat or jacket, or a sweater with an unusual neckline.
Rucci emerged against considerable odds. (He’d pragmatically pitched his tent nearby Rodriguez to make it easy for guests to go easily between the shows, a wise strategy many in the know have adopted from time to time.) Last year, as widely reported in the fashion media, Rucci lost his backer, his name and control of his company. Determinedly, he is back. A different moniker was necessary – RR331 – but we all knew it was Rucci. His name was on the invitation.
Furthermore, in case you missed that, the clothes gave it away. Black sheaths were punctuated by signature knotting. One with cut-outs vibrated with tension, as if the knots daringly holding the dress together could come apart at anytime.
Operatic hemlines spread across the floor in full skirts and dresses. A subtler hand showed itself in light, silk, hand-painted dresses, either short or long.
And if it’s Rucci, there’s a sable in there somewhere. In fact, there were a few of them, including a plush coat the color of chestnut and an interesting little jacket with tiers arranged like tiles on a roof.
A few minutes before Ralph Lauren’s show was to begin, his wife Ricky wandered in to say hello and take her seat. She wore a brown check menswear jacket that hugged her small waist and tapered pants in a similar autumnal shade that fit snugly over her slim, fit frame. Down the runway came a parade of brown-toned, mannish pieces in the same hue: cardigans, double-breasted suits, blazers, classic Ralph, perhaps to a fault. Had Ricky ripped a look from the runway? No, she said, after the show. “I don’t know what’s coming. He doesn’t tell me what he’s doing.”
Asked about the similarities, the designer concurred with his wife. “She doesn’t follow what I’m doing,” he said, as he cracked a smile. “I follow her. I look what she’s doing.”
And why not? Cast with the obligatory, attractive millennial models, no one on the runway wore the look better than Ricky Lauren, proving what the facetious talk-show host and millennial-favorite Wendy Williams once said, “Older women can look fabulous and drop it like it’s hot, just like younger women can; it just may take us a little longer to get ready.”
While we are talking youth serum, Adrienne Landau, the glamorous designer of glamorous furs, had her own moment.
If you went to Landau expecting a mink car coat, well, boo. Surprise. Landau’s widened her expert gaze to include street trends and youth influences. “It’s gonna bring in a whole new customer,” she said. “We’re still doing the glamour, but younger people want something different.”
Ever wondered what a firefighter would wear if he or she wore a fur? Ok, no? Well, that’s what some of the styles evoked. Catching the gender-neutral wave, Landau created looks like nylon olive jackets that would look good on a guy or his honey, with utility-orange strips visible on the outside. Backpacks trimmed with fur accessorized both sexes. Properly summing up the whole funky feeling were joggers in black or oatmeal. Now that’s something shoppers will run to, come fall.