Report from the front row

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What a fun night! I’m really happy with how the pictures for Washingtonian.com turned out from the other night’s Nordstrom Designer Preview. The place was packed with a an equal mix of well-coiffed & lipglassed New York executives and equally polished Washington women, who brought out the bling and major bags for the occasion (a male friend of mine: “I’ve never seen so many quilted Chanel bags in one room”). Hors d’oeuvres were great and thoughtfully appropriate (ie, not embarrassingly sloppy to eat): tenderloin crostini, sushi “pearls,” truffle-infused risotto in little glasses with little spoons…and “Watermelontinis” that tasted so good you marveled at the alcohol content.

I sat next to DC Magazine’s Cory Ohlendorf for the show. We acted in symbiotic fashion tandem, gesturing and murmuring appreciatively when looks we loved slinked down the runway. Here are my thoughts, as it went. Check out the pics and you’ll understand what I’m talking about…

Donna Karan presentation, first “Scene” of 10: frustratingly distracted by camera adjustments. wahh.

Dolce & Gabbana: opened with four models in bright satin dresses, proving that fall isn’t all burgundy and hunter green (yay). The seventh look was totally rock-meets-rockabilly: plaid Western-style shirt, abbreviated denim and David Bowie face tee. It was the outfit Olga Sherer modeled in the “actual” fall show (where a David Bowie remix was the music of choice). I loved the fur and ruffled-silk coat.

Jil Sander: all lean, sculpted shapes, with a focus on the jackets designer Raf Simons does so well. The music is appropriately stark and a little paranoia-inducing. Love how the models walk differently for each collection…for this one, they were stony-faced and walked very linearly down one side of the runway, directly across the front, and down the other side.

Michael Kors: an appealing, if kitschy, nerdy-ladylike mix. According to my not-so-scientific survey afterwards, this was the surprise hit of the night. Narrow mid-calf skirts, camel cashmere cardigans and cheetah suits were totally forties lady-detective (I’d scribbled “Brenda Starr” in my program so I wasn’t surprised when I later read that the collection had garnered Hitchcock-chick references). I can see myself wearing the violet brush-stroke Jacquard tulip dress.

Valentino: tres French, from the Jane Birkin hair to the spectator pumps & booties to the music: a male voice speaking words like “baguette” and “Camembert” in a ridiculous French accent. It opened with a double-breasted navy coat that was the indication of a fall trend, and later, both Blumarine and Versace emphasized navy where black might have formerly held court. Not to say that black isn’t back for fall in a huge way – the rest of Valentino’s collection was black, white and grey with touches of red patent on accessories. Some great jacket-coats.

Roberto Cavalli: looked young, and not in the sweet, romantic way he notably showed for his Spring collection. So it was definitely a return to the brights and metallics (hello, reflective gold heels!) – certainly fun to wear for a night out.

Missoni: further emphasized the season’s key accessories: hats and long gloves. These were paired with plenty of color-blocked separates, signature patterned knits, and one of my favorite looks, the teal and grey “floral” Scilla coat. One belted dress in particular was a mesmerizing marriage of color and texture – it’s hard to say what color it was, and the fabric’s overall effect was of shimmering scales or even little shells.

I have to say that I didn’t particularly love much about the looks from Blumarine. If that show was the moth, then the following collection, Carmen Marc Valvo Couture, was literally and figuratively the butterfly: the winged creature was the reference for everything from the feathers in hats to the colors (emerald, cobalt, black) of the sumptuous fabrics. The last look, a berry-colored gown, was pretty but was far too much dress for the skinny model. Hallelujah for a dress that would have looked better on someone with more of a figure (I’m thinking Catherine Zeta-Jones)! I was lusting over the black leather over-the-elbow gloves by the end.

Versace closed the show, opening with several navy looks (including a gorgeous one-shoulder cocktail dress) and plenty of fuschia, purple, and floral. There were two colorful silk shifts emblazoned with city scenes that proved popular with a few teenage attendees post-show, and are sure to inspire more than a few knock-offs.

Beyond the sheer giddiness I felt from the uninterrupted parade of eye candy – clothing I’d only glimpsed via online slideshows – I found the show itself interesting since really, these looks are the result of the buyer perspective. What I saw are the looks Nordstrom’s buyers felt were commercially viable – what women will want to wear and buy this season. With that in mind, I’ll take one of each!

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