Designers enjoy calm before storm Fashion: A week of craziness begins today, but yesterday was for massaging the press and for a well-received debut by young Baltimorean William Calvert.


NEW YORK -- It was oh so refined and civilized here opening day of the designer collections yesterday. The full frenzy of fashion week begins today when more than 60 designers begin showing their spring lines in a dawn-to-dusk schedule.

Sunday was a day for schmoozing. Isaac Mizrahi invited some fashion editors to breakfast -- pastries filled with bacon and egg for the hardy or clotted cream filling for the finicky. His more glamorous collection will be unveiled later in the week, but this time he showed samples of his secondary, less expensive line of clean-cut summer sportswear. Dear Isaac mugged and charmed and talked about his new itchy beard and his new slim self and the democratization of women's fashion. He says women can now pretty much wear what they want to, and if that means stiletto heels or dumpy flats, fine.

Then it was on to brunch for the launch of the latest book by Tiffany's design director, John Loring.

"Tiffany's 20th Century: A Portrait of American Style" chronicles the evolution of fashion this century by spotlighting the women who set the style and wore fabulous jewelry. Loring worked the receiving line, pointing guests to the chafing dishes and ministrations of the catering staff. If picking through a plate of seafood crepes and the dearest little muffins -- which were smaller than some stones in the jewel cases -- doesn't give a girl a feeling of style, we don't know what does.

Then, just across Fifth Avenue in luxury land, Baltimorean William Calvert opened his first formal evening collection for review. The showroom was cool gray with white lilies in crystal vases and camellias floating in glass bowls. Such a nice touch.

The dresses, too, were sleek and cool in shades of jet, platinum and alabaster. Jersey columns caressed the models in polite but meaningful ways. There were cleverly engineered cutouts and drapings enhancing the body without giving away the secrets of the infrastructure. Passing comments made reference to the techniques of American master Geoffrey Beene, high praise for a new 28-year-old designer.

Calvert's love of the fluidity of jersey also signals a new softness that will stroke spring clothes. There's a definite dearth of hardware in the season ahead. Mizrahi sees more stretch than ever and clothes that cry to be touched. He has even resurrected pull-on pants and skirts, but his versions are a far cry from grandma's comfort polyester pants because they're spun from airy and slippery filaments.

As for length, it is finally and truly a non-issue. The question of hems is not even being raised in conversation this week among the fashion cognoscenti. Up to the derriere or down to the floor, it's your choice.

Fashion can now encompass every look, and only in New York can it be so clearly seen on such a grand scale. It was marathon Sunday here and the streets around Central Park were jammed with runners and spectators. Style on the street was divided into the bright and shiny logo-driven athletic types and the black-clad and distant fashion handmaidens.

Both factions thought they had a lock on the latest trend.

Pub Date: 11/03/97

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