Tara Subkoff's artsy, installation-style presentations make it easy to dismiss her as pretentious, but her Imitation of Christ show has become a Fashion Week must-see nonetheless. She has a sensitive pop culture radar; she attracts colorful, offbeat collaborators (this season, Park Avenue pop pranksters Mother Inc. performed in the Damien Hirst-decorated lobby of power dining spot Lever House); and according to industry insiders, she is maturing as a businesswoman, delivering her clothes on time and driving respectable sales.
That's not to say this was a great showthe usual mayhem prevailed, and Subkoff showed a torpor-inducing 70 looks. But there were some gems, several referencing the high points of American fashion history. The obi-tied minidresses bowed (to put it mildly) toward Rudi Gernreich; double-faced wool jackets recalled Bonnie Cashin; and there was a touch of Geoffrey Beene in the dolman-sleeved, bound-waist suits. Male models in drag called to mind Steven Meisel's gender-bending cover shoot for the October 2004 issue of W and picked up a theme that's bubbled up this season in shows as diverse as that of newcomer Jeremy Laing and Ruffian.
Less timely was Subkoff's revisiting of the Grecian theme she mined for spring. Her most successful update was a gray jersey dress with an attached drape on one side, but the rest seemed familiar, or worse: A riff of looks at the end featured seemingly stray pieces of fabric twisted and tucked into the waistbands of trousers and shorts. As always, what looks best on Subkoff herself looked best on the runway: every variety of minidress, from velvet with a Mandarin collar to hooded styles in jersey, silk, and suede.