>> Christophe Lemaire's third outing at Hermès made a strong case for the cloak. They were everywhere in his Argentinian cowboy-inspired Fall 2012 collection — and in drapey leather, fringed cashmere, high-pile fur, and slouchy wool, they pretty much stole the show. That's not to say, however, that there weren't plenty of other knockout pieces here to admire: pleated leather gauchos, flared midi-length skirts, and boxy boleros were beautifully chic, as were the mix-print silk ensembles and bold-hued suede suits that closed the show.
>> For Issey Miyake Fall 2012, Yoshiyuki Miyamae took the concept of "tech" fabric to a whole new level. The designer made use of a recently-developed material called steam-stretch, which — as the name implies — snaps into a predetermined shape when it meets the steam of an iron. It's a neat trick, one that Miyamae showed off at the start of today's show with a team of iron-wielding assistants who steam-shaped fabric into crinkle-pleated dresses and gowns right there on the runway.
But steam-stretch — and its accompanying theatrics — was only part of the story. Also on offer were some surprisingly straightforward tailored pieces, as well as a boatload of innovative outerwear; a two-tone waffle-weave coat in a funnel-necked silhouette was refreshing in its simplicity, and a mesh jacket that had been stuffed with multicolor wads of fabric was a fun take on the classic puffer.
>> What's a Galliano collection without a little subversion — even if John Galliano isn't the one dishing it out? Bill Gaytten is well-aware of the signature Galliano ingredient, and for Fall 2012, the designer — now in his second season at the label's helm — offered it in the form supershort hems, hourglass silhouettes, thigh-high hosiery, and see-through gowns. But it wasn't all undone Victoriana, even if the main inspiration was the art nouveau eroticism of illustrator Aubrey Beardsley. Stephen Jones-designed hats, fur-trimmed capes, and easy-wearing dresses looked plenty romantic, as did the belted and ruffled riding coats that dominated the show. It may not have been over-the-top theatrical — but it sure made for a lovely mix.
>> Ennio Capasa's Fall 2012 collection for Costume National — titled "New Wave - No Wave - Dark Wave" — was a study in asymmetry and layered angularity. Classic tailored pieces, such as tuxedo blazers or menswear-style trousers, were re-imagined and deconstructed, resulting in a tough-looking assortment of cutaway panels and off-kilter tiers. "My women have a metropolitan and post-punk attitude, they combine androgynous and feminine silhouettes," the show notes explained.
>> The message was black leather — and lots of it. It was there in nearly every incarnation and in an endless array of textures — pebbled, hammered, matte, and laser-cut. Silhouettes were boxy and '60s-tinged on top and knee-length and full-flared on the bottom, making for a combo that felt downtown and chic — especially when paired with the house's terrific new box-bags. In shiny textured calfskin, they were real knockouts.
>> Every season, there are a few collections that really make the audience stop and ponder. This season, Rei Kawakubo's Fall 2012 Comme des Garcons was one such offering. On a plywood runway and set to a soundtrack of nothing at all, the designer sent out a collection of paper-doll shapes in cartoon hues and prodigious prints. Dresses, jackets, suits, and blouses were cut in felt-like fabrics and appeared super-voluminous when seen head-on, but were actually steamroller-flat when seen from the side. It was breathtaking, surreal, and definitely a bit strange — but more importantly, what does it all mean? Is it a commentary on the shallowness of contemporary fashion? A satirical look at the flatness of the digital age? Just an imaginative essay on color and shape? "The future is two-dimensional," was the designer's only explanation.
>> Jean Paul Gaultier sure knows how to have fun with clothes; for Fall 2012, he unleashed an edgy collection that felt like a downtown New York City street scene — and we're not talking Wall Street. Graffiti prints covered everything from knit dresses to tailored blazers, and models walked in outfits that showed a gritty, urbane mix — maxi skirts with leather jackets, striped tees corseted and paired with a black pencil. The fun part came with coats that Gaultier turned on their heads to make a double coat — you have to see it — and jackets that were tied to make into skirts. Overall, Gaultier's affection for rebellion mixed with glamour did come through, although perhaps not as brightly as in past collections.
>> In a dizzying show that included a ghostly bride, a model on a bicycle, and a rather interesting take on Sherlock Holmes, Vivienne Westwood reminds us she doesn't play by the rules. Fall 2012 was intended as an ode to London, not in its current state, but its rich, sometimes seedy past. There was the requisite tartan, but rendered in oversized floor-skimming blanket coats or tightly structured blazers. There were punk tees over maxi skirts, and plenty of tulle, brocade, and crinoline to please a princess, but done here with gigantic platforms and ripped tights. Look by look, the show can seem overwhelming and a bit disjointed, but then again, that's a Westwood strategy to upset the balance a bit — and it's clear the 70 year-old designer is still having a rollicking good time.
>> Cacharel Fall 2012 was a literal flight of fancy — aviator references came via bomber jackets, aviator caps, metal collar necklaces, and one very chic "flight" jumpsuit. However, Cacharel's signature femininity still ruled thanks to sweet knit dresses, flowy maxi skirts, and a baby-hued color palette shot through with red.
>> It's no wonder Haider Ackermann has so many fans. Artful draping, masterful tailoring, clever color-mixing — Ackermann excels at all. This season, the designer put those talents to great use, offering up a collection that felt modern, powerful, directional — and sublimely feminine. Strict silhouettes — think lean jackets, slim trousers, straight skirts — were punctuated by artful folds and sculptural drapes, then cinched with wide, hard belts for an exaggerated sense of proportion and drama. Perhaps most delightful, however, was Hackermann's masterful use of color. Rust, olive, umber, carmine, smoke, and cobalt — in synergistic combos, they really made you think.