Donna Karan pens an exquisite tale of ageless beauty with an inherent strength, an alluring confidence, and an unapologetic self-awareness. “Evolving forward with urban sophistication, embracing a woman’s femininity with conviction, empowering her to express her strength through her softness—modern, elegant, seductive, this is a woman who commands a room…” This was the preface to the Donna Karan Fall 2011 Runway Presentation. The collection’s showrun foreshadowed an underlying current in this season’s chapter, with one of my favorite fashion icons, Grace Kelly, serving as muse. The icy blonde caricature was to Alfred Hitchcock what a bare shoulder and exposed collarbone are to Donna Karan—whether the nucleus of a plot or silhouette. And that telltale Hitchcock heroine was reincarnated with a twist for fall with 39 monochromatic new looks.
Fashion is full of paradoxes, always reinventing the past, making the old feel now again. While the silhouette had a decidedly retro feeling, the pieces felt entirely modern. Donna Karan accomplished this by manipulating the proportions, keeping the line below the waist fitted and the upper half throughput the shoulders and torso loosely covered in layers of sensuality. “We gave her structure on the bottom to hold her together and we allow from waist up to feel her femininity and come from the heart,” said Donna Karan backstage. “When we think of women in power, and what they were like in the 50’s and 60’s, it was definitely an inspiration.”
The 1950’s is one of my favorite eras, it was a time when women embraced and celebrated their femininity; it was like an intoxicating concoction that yielded men powerless. But this enduring cinematic leading lady was captivating for so much more than her pretty face and slight frame; she possessed an intelligence, a self-assuredness, and tenacity that were no match for the wayward paramour. This season was clearly about the empowerment of a woman! She was armed with a softly structured powersuit and cowl neck bodysuit, whose chiffon scarf can be worn over the shoulders, on top of the head, wrapped around the arms. Donna Karan purposefully made the sleeves larger, more draped, and sculptural perhaps as a sartorial metaphor for the weight of the world we women bear on our shoulders.
The tonal palette of pearl, silver, moonstone, and graphite shifted all the focus on tailoring. Some of the collection’s most exquisite looks included: the pearl stretch wool double-knit jersey dress; the pearl felted wool lace dress; the moonstone frosted long haired shearling jacket with pearl stretch double face wool felt skirt; the iridescent silk chiffon blouse atop the misty beige wool/mohair boucle tweed skirt; the autumn haze stretch viscose jersey and iridescent head wrap with scarf wool bodysuit, and nougatine wool crepe boucle skirt; and the facepowder stretch wool double-knit jersey dress.
Mohair jackets, shearling coats, and elbow length gloves with fur cuffs softened the thematically cool influences. If grey is the new black, then this monochromatic use of gradient color is the exponentially new and improved grey. High-waisted skirts, belts worn higher on the torso, hosiery, and shoes all in the same harmonious color family further elongated the silhouette. Eugene Souleman gave the hair a thickened texture before curling and twisting it into an oversized chignon high at the crown. Charlotte Tilbury began with a luminous base, encasing the eyes in an orange shadow across the lid and beneath the lower lashes, leaving the rims unlined with only mascara for a wide-opened look; a pink pout completed the face. “Chic, smart, and innately powerful; she’s a woman of substance. Giving voice to new ideas, while discreetly seducing everyone she meets with her passion, commitment, imitable style, and grace.” As the liner notes closed with a message to be continued, we know at least until then, this collection will have the Donna Karan woman channeling her inner demigoddess!
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