Richard Chai Among First NY Fashion Week Designers

The models were rounding the runway for the finale of the first show at New York Fashion Week Thursday when the crowd began to buzz with sobering news: Bad-boy designer Alexander McQueen had died.

The designer’s death at age 40 cast a pall on the preview of fall 2010 designs, setting BlackBerries buzzing through the Bryant Park tents, with editors, stylists and retailers clearly distracted.

“I’m overcome with grief today with his shocking passing and my heart aches at the pain he must have been in,” designer and friend Jeremy Scott said by e-mail, explaining that he was too emotional to speak.

Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour said she was devasted by the death of “one of the greatest talents of his generation.”

“In such a short career, Alexander McQueen’s influence was astonishing — from street style, to music culture and the world’s museums,” she said in a statement. “His passing marks an insurmountable loss.”

But the show, as they say, went on. After all, McQueen was the consummate showman.

The evening ended with a star-studded charity show for heart health.


Celebrities including Felicity Huffman, Kim Kardashian, Robin Roberts and Joan Collins can say they’ve walked in models’ shoes after participating in The Red Dress Collection runway show.

Well, except for swimmer Dara Torres. She did the catwalk in a stylish one-shoulder cocktail dress by Rachel Roy but carried her silver, sparkly stilettos by Brian Atwood in her hands, shrugging her shoulders and giving a “don’t blame me, blame the shoes” face.

This show has become an annual tradition at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at the Bryant Park tents as part of The Heart Truth campaign to raise awareness about heart disease and women.

It’s never about the clothes. Kristin Chenoweth and Jordin Sparks mastered the model walk, and Raven-Symone clearly relished her runway moment. A pregnant Bethenny Frankel mugged to the Supremes’ “Baby Love,” and singer Estelle, in an elaborate Zac Posen gown, left the audience in awe with super-long eyelashes.

The finale, though, was handled by a pro: Heidi Klum. She wore a slinky John Galliano halter dress — and was a crowd favorite. It was her third year participating, and she’s never given the other “models” any advice. They don’t need it, she says.

“All these women have never done runway and they get out there and strut their stuff,” Klum said backstage. “It’s fun and I love all the different fashion. … This is not modeling with a runway walk and a mean face. It’s a different feeling. It’s goofy, funny and you ham it up.”


The layered look is popular, so that’s exactly what BCBG Max Azria put on the runway.

No great new ground was broken on the catwalk of blacks, grays and some winter whites — all in varying doses of intensity — with occasional blues and yellows.

The company’s scarf-style wrap dresses with sheer, long-sleeve, crew-neck tops underneath have real potential to be worn to cocktail parties, date nights and important business meetings. Another choice would be one of the many dresses with subtle studding in a nod to most women’s desire to be slightly unpredictable but not downright edgy.

There was a hint that Max and Lubov Azria, the husband-and-wife design team, left everything slightly askew for a nonchalant style but nothing outlandish. They said they were inspired by “a clean and modern approach to fashion.”


It was a backhanded compliment to Gwen Stefani that few people in the crowd noticed her on a stepladder in the back of the room. All eyes were on the models — with pouffy hair, smoky eyes and skyscraper heels — and the hip, urban clothes that Stefani’s label is known for.

The new styles show that Stefani is evolving as a designer, not just retreading her own wardrobe.

The LAMB look has some hard edges, with skinny leather pants and grommeted military-style belts wrapped around slinky dresses as if they were holding ammunition.

Stefani herself proved a leather jacket-and-bloomer-short combination wearable on the right person — or at least the right celebrity — when she took her bow. But some of the futuristic styles, including some dresses with strong shoulders or a lot of hardware, seemed a little late to the trend.


There’s a trick to taking simple garments — items people really need like peacoats and turtlenecks — and tweaking them just enough to keep them from being boring. Richard Chai proved Thursday he’s got it down.

The fall collection for his contemporary Love label was at its best when the styling wasn’t overworked, such as a boyfriend sweater over a sweater dress over leggings, or cargo jacket with a georgette button-down and long, ribbed tube skirt.

Chai used as his muses the art-school girls he’d see when he was a student in New York, especially the ones who liked to raid their boyfriends’ closets.

One of the best outfits was a shrunken T-shirt with a tubular, oversized sweater and pinstripe twill pants with a folded-over waistband, like a slim 20-something might wear if she unexpectedly had to borrow men’s trousers. It didn’t work as well on a few dressier looks: The whole boyfriend look doesn’t really work with a skirt.