To get Down to Earth for her spring show, Catherine Malandrino had 36 models climb onto concrete pedestals at the Pace Wildenstein gallery. That wasn't the only paradox in the show's theme and title; on view were pieces from the designer's limited edition line, Malandrino, a jump up in price from her other signature collection.
Her two primary influences, Amish craftsmanship and West African colors, were combined with varying degrees of success. Dresses won out as the strongest pieces, providing a great opportunity to show off both the handiwork, like lace and quilting, and textural fabrics. Liu Dan wore a patchwork dress that was a medley of diamond-shaped pieces of indigo fabric. Atong wore a dress of lace cedar circles that widened in diameter from the bodice down to its orange ribbon-trimmed hem. A woodsy print on cotton voile, with wood bead detailing at the bust line, had a full skirt, and a cotton Jacquard version shot through with silver leaves had an appealing openwork bodice.
Separates, however, were a little trickier. A laser-cut leather cardigan was on target, but bib-front shirts with insets seemed fussy. Coats, both the trenches and pea coats, looked bulky. Flag-print ballet flats, which Malandrino is making in collaboration with Repetto, were eye-catching. And her eponymous shoe line, mainly crocheted designs with wooden heels, had its debut during the show.
Overall, it was a departure for a designer who is known for petal-pretty, flowing pieces. While the clothes were well made, the effect could be precious and artsy-craftsy, and maybe not as grounded as the designer intended.