There was a "Christmas in June" party last week under the plastic trees at the Playboy Club at Great Gorge, N.J., complete with Santa and Christmas carols. And though the bunnies had passed the word around that the menswear fashion types meeting there were probably more interested in each other than the bunnies, they were matching up in the Bunny Hutch before lone. And bunnies were enlisted for a couple of the fashion shows later on.
Not everything at the Men's Fashion Association meeting at the hutch went without a hitch, however. Pietro Dimitri sent down the runway one of his celebrity customers, Robert Sacchi, the Humphrey Bogart look-alike who is a star in the soon-to-be-released movie, "The Man With Bogart's Face." But Sacchi soon lost his Bogart cool when Nancy Grigor, a Lauren Bacall look-alike, showed up in Dimitri clothes and then started to head down the runway with "Bogart." He signaled for her to stay behind. "He didn't like the idea that I was taller than he is," said Grigor, even though Bacall was really taller than Bogie.
Sacchi said he's been doing his Bogart act for 12 years and has been working on the voice longer than that. "Fortunately I have a naturaly high forehead," he said. "Bogart got his with a toupee."
The Men's Fashion Association was one of more than eight conventions being held at the Playboy resort, where the flowers and stones, as well as the trees, are plastic. So you shouldn't forget where you are, carpets are embedded with bunny insignias, and beds in the swanky suites are covered with fake bunny fur.
The good news at the twice-yearly menswear meeting, sponsored by the MFA, the public relations arm of the menswear industry, is that there really isn't much news these days. "With the current state of economy, men are not looking to spend on something startingly new," Chip Tolbert, fashion director of the MFA told manufacturers attending the four-day meeting.
But the good news is bad news for the guys who have been skinnying up their ties, narrowing their lapels, and pushing up their sleeves. The current crop of clothing soon to be shipped to stores for wear in the fall looks far more like what traditional dads wore than what has spun off from the antiestablishment thrust of the 1960s or the comfortable me-decade designs of the 1970s. The name of the game seems to be dressing like a successful executive, even if you're afraid that someone else will be at your desk in the morning.
Far from the relaxed and rumpled spirit of the past two years, the clothes for both work and play look quite dressy. Even the bomber jacket, the most successful comfortable clothes item after jeans, is shown with a shirt and tie.
Daring and dash came from an injection of color in the clothes. The guys at the top, such as Alexander Julian, Bill Kaiserman and Jhane Barnes, put five or six colors together to get their conservative gray tones. And even the more establishment types, such as Cricketeer, one of Washington's most popular traditional suit lines, showed their conservative styles with bright-colored sweaters underneath, an occasional pink tie and even a mauve velvet jacket.
Bright colors were one of the ways you could tell the fashion crowd from the others in Playboyland. While pink polyester pantsuits for ladies and bright leisure suits for men were offered in the stores on the premises, the men's fashion crowd liked their pastel pink another way. At the opening dinner Wednesday night, there were six men in pink jackets, and at least a dozen more wore pale pink sweaters during the four-day session.
Designers pulled out all the stops to catch the eyes and the pens of the press, including packages of loot in the rooms, containing everything from sweat socks by Monsanto to bunny ears and matching tail in its own hat box by designer Van-Martin Rowe.
Hard times are making many of the clothes more practical. Bill Kaiserman is sticking with lightweight fabrics like wool gabardine in place of tweeds so they can be worn year-round, and he and other designers expect men to divvy up their suits to wear them as separate jackets and trousers.
The bunnies are getting more practical, too. According to Sandy Schiffer, Bunny Mother to the 80 bunnies in this resort, the original custom-made bunny suits in satin have been converted to a totally washable version. But the ears and cotton tail still have to be dry-cleaned.