More than halfway through the Calvin Klein show today, Paris model Mounia stopped mid-runway, posed with jutted hip and hankie as if for a vintage Avedon photo and then sashayed to the other end of the room.
She was wearing a dress that turns heads, one of the sophisticated, form-fitting kinds that Klein believes women want now in place of the casual American sportswear that he, more than anyone, boosted to international recognition.
"Women want sophisticated, well-cut, well-designed clothes," insisted Klein, who believes women already own all the casual clothes they need. "There is no need to buy anything today unless it is something special."
Klein's show, which attracted a packed house to his showroom just off Seventh Avenue, highlighted the final round of spring shows following the presentations in Milan and Paris.
Klein picked up a favorite scheme of several European designers -- movie-star, body-conscious clothes that sometimes looked more old Paris than those of his Paris counterparts.
He started his tilt to sophisticated, close-fitting clothes in his fall collection, and he says the success of those clothes now in the stores is what encouraged him to develop the look. For spring, he emphasized:
The short-jacket, wide-lapel suit, with slim, tapered skirt.
Belted dresses with fitted bodices and peplums and flounce over the hips.
Strapless dresses and tops that are sometimes wired like bustiers.
Klein showed virtually everything with high heels, splashy jewelry, kid gloves, sheer black hose and hats. "Everyone is wearing hats. Three of my assistants wear hats all the time," the designer said after the show. His suits were worn with watch fobs like one he had spotted in an old John Barrymore photo.
Klein, who was wearing one of the watch fobs with his fitted navy flannel suit, white shirt, striped tie and slightly punk hairdo, said American women "need more glamour, more excitement."
What he favors is the style of Bianca Jagger, who was sitting in the front row with his daughter Marci, who just celebrated her 16th birthday at Studio 54; Steve Rubell, the former owner of Studio 54, was seated on Marci's other side. Klein also undoubtedly had in mind Marina Schiano, former Yves Saint Laurent American representative, who just joined his company.
"I loved everything," Jagger said after the show.
His new clothes are not for women whose necks get dirty, since all of the silk blouses have high, stand-up collars, or women who can't ride or drive small cars in skinny skirts -- some of them so tight the lining of the pocket shows through.
But they are not uncomfortable, insists Klein. "I wouldn't make clothes that weren't comfortable." Skirts have buttons on the side, and you can open one or two and take big strides, he explains. As for comfortable flat shoes: "I don't see flats at all. We've done them for years."
Klein has decided that to make the sophisticated kind of clothes more reminiscent of French couture than American sportswear, he will have to make everything in Europe. "We don't have the craftsmen in this country to make these clothes," he said, referring not only to the tailoring but the pave' embroidery on some of the evening clothes. He insists that making everything abroad won't make them any more expensive. "The women who appreciate this kind of quality are willing to pay for it. It is a question of value," he said.