Gilles Mendel's front row is always a photographer's dream. Today it was studded not just with Patrick McMullan's favorite New Yorkers (Dr. Lisa Airan, Helen Lee Schifter, Jennifer Creel) but also with a gaggle of stars who live in a red-carpet world (Céline Dion, Cynthia Nixon, Natasha Richardson). It's hard to imagine any of them walking away from this show without a wish list.
"This collection is not about colors, but textures," Mendel said. And so, restricting his palette to ivory, slate, and "blacks of many shades," he focused on a silhouette he described as "post-war." Mendel isn't known for day looks, but he did some very viable, unapologeticallly dressy office options, like suits (pant and skirt) with fitted jackets and a tweed sheath that hit above the knee. His clients go to him mainly, though, for photo-op looks. He delivered these in spades. Glamour gowns featured interesting contrasts. A wrap number, for example, had pleated chiffon on one side and silk satin on the other. The finale piecebackless, cap-sleeved black velvet with patent trimwas long on glamour and begging to be worn by a modern-day Madame X.
The minks and chinchillas were also very glam (quite naturally, from a firm that once was exclusively a furrier). Kim Noorda looked every inch the snow princess in a white lamb coat with a halo of a fox hood. And there was a very J. Mendel take on the coat-with-contrasting-sleeves trend: It came cinched at the waist, with two kinds of black fur on the body and full, silvery Old Hollywood sleeves.