There was no doubt that Gwen Stefani and Naeem Khan presented stellar fashion shows to end Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Thursday night. Both designers surpassed expectations with strong collections that emphasized major fashion trends for fall.
Stefani's L.A.M.B. show was a multimedia marvel with a gigantic screen projecting images, a bouncing soundtrack and an abundance of styles for six types of customers: Soldier Girls, Ragga Muffin Girls, London Girls, Buffalo Girls, Mod Girls and Glamour Girls.
The clearly delineated divisions helped Stefani offer something for everyone: Menswear-tailored suits (a big fashion week trend), languid lounging clothes, smart tunics over skinny pants, patchwork capes, and a skirt and bustier made from fabric that looked like an Army blanket. Wonder if it scratches.
A poster backstage instructed models to embody different attitudes on the runway. A Soldier Girl should be "tough, serious, hard" while glamour models should affect a "sexy, sultry" swagger. But the young models in teased blonde hair looked a little silly rather than sultry, like they were playing "dress up" in mom's clothes.
The most affecting models with the Ragga Girls, who smiled and pranced on the catwalk in Navajo print minis and punker pants, clearly acting their age. The attitude was so carefree that when one "Mod Girl" model wiped out on the runway, it was OK.
While taking her runway bow, Stefani, looking glam in a flowing print pantsuit, was surprised when her young son broke away from his seat and ran to her as she was midway down the runway. It was a spontaneous moment that clearly delighted the audience, which let out a collective, "Ahhhhhhh."
After the show Houston native Cesar Galindo received congratulations backstage for his contributions. Galindo was brought in as part of Stefani's design team and his influence showed in the show's strongest segment, a series of exquisitely draped glamour gowns and jump suits — all in black — that closed the show.
Houston fashion event producer Bambi Lynn was also on hand. She's scouting out designers for the second edition of Audi Fashion Houston this fall.
A Khan-do Spirit
A favorite of Houston's society set, Naeem Khan gave women planning their fall social calendar plenty of entrance-making gowns to choose from. Recovering from a wobbly spring collection that featured way too many caftans in bright colors, Khan returned to what he does best: Creating "wow"-including gowns dripping in feathers, beads and sequins.
On the front row, an antimated Becca Cason Thrash literally dropped her jaw in amazement as she gazed at a colorful one-shoulder paisley print gown and a beaded cap sleeve dress and matching coat. Also in the audience: Saks Fifth Avenue's Fady Armanious, who was ecstatic at the options for his Houston customers.
Will they go for the unique — a cocktail dress with the entire bodice covered with three-dimensional gold flowers or the mini dress of pink feathers?
Maybe the black tulle ball gowns with big skirt covered in sequined flowers and embroidered silver beading?
Or perhaps the flowing gold beaded gown that closed the show and earned the Indian-born designer a standing ovation?
One way a customer might justify the five-figure price for such a creation — the pieces are so ornate, you don't have to worry about wearing jewelry.
Joan and Melissa at Tahari
Elie Tahari's first full-scale runway show in a decade covered many of the emerging trends for fall.
Black lace. Check.
Burgundy shades. Check.
Bold furs. Check.
Animal prints, Check.
Joan and Melissa. Checkmate?
Joan Rivers and daughter Melissa Rivers made their first and only fashion week appearance on the front row of the Tahari show. Though the comedienne, who has resurrected her career with a number of newsmaking projects, looked puzzled at some of the racy black lace looks that went down the runway during the Tahari show, she didn't play the role of fashion police about her friend's collection afterwards.
"They're so new, so feminine, so luxurious. There is something for everyone," Rivers purred.
She was more outspoken about the success of her new reality show, Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best? on the WE cable channel.
"It's a real reality show. It's not 10 women in a room slapping each other around," Rivers said, referring to the Real Housewives series on Bravo. "I've been to lunch with all my girlfriends and we've never bitch slapped each other."
And who is she looking forward to critiquing for the special Oscar edition of her Fashion Police show on the E! channel in a couple of weeks?
"Natalie Portman," Rivers said. "She's so pregnant that I think she and her baby should wear diapers."