September 14, 2005
It wasn't that long ago that the idea of a spring collection from furrier J. Mendel seemed indulgent, silly even. Who south of Saskatchewan really needs mink after March? What a difference a year makes. Gilles Mendel's front row was socialite city, and can't you just see them clamoring for his broadtail bolero vests? Ultraluxe pelts aside, there was plenty to love in this collection, starting with a smart little suit pieced together from panels of washed gold canvas and chiffon trim. As with most of his numbers, its edges were frayed; for all of Mendel's talents as a tailleur, he loves to deconstruct his fabrics.
At night, he really shined, but not in a predictable way. The sparkle of last season's bullion embroidery has been replaced with matte white beads or, more frequently, with an absence of ornamentation that let his sinuous silhouettes in barely-there face-powder shades take center stage. By this point in the season, the tiered evening column gown has already become familiar, but Mendel's hand-worked numbers, with their chevrons of chiffon, were in a category of their own.