NEW YORK -- Two designers, working in the shadows of designers who have died, showed their collections this week. Patricia Pastor, who assisted Perry Ellis for eight years until his death last year and now carries on under the Ellis label, showed a worthy collection Thursday morning. In the afternoon, Louis Dell'Olio, the designer for the Anne Klein label, presented his strong and wearable collection.
Both designers have retained elements of their mentors. Both, too, have moved on to a more sophisticated style strictly their own.
With buyers and press crammed in bleachers in a showroom that was once a bank, Pastor showed a more confident hand for spring, with clothes a bit more serious than any Ellis created. Ellis always used animal prints, but Pastor's mix of animal and reptile prints look quite different, less innocent. Ellis introduced a wide-leg pants style that was widely copied. Pastor, too, showed a pajama trouser this season, but hers, made with deep pleats, is more complicated in design than Ellis' easy style. Her shorts were shown in a more sophisticated manner, too, as under a short silk trench coat.
When Ellis made suits, they tended toward a casual mix of sportswear. Pastor has many suits this season, and she means them to be casual, with rolled-back sleeves showing off contrasting lining. But her suits are far more grown up than Ellis' ever were, in silk shantung with rounded short skirts, shorts or pants.
Like Ellis, Pastor plays with some quirky colors. This season they are lavender and citrine, the latter a yellow that's a bit hard to wear but undoubtedly appropriate for followers of the Ellis label. In fact, Perry Ellis customers will have little trouble recognizing the label (even without checking it), but when they take a close look at the clothes, they'll notice another, intelligent point of view behind the design.
Anne Klein, many women's first designer label, put American sportswear on the map with wonderfully simple, wearable, versatile separates that fit everyone. Her lion symbol was one of the first American designer logos. Klein died in 1974, and the label's design responsibilities fell first to Donna Karan and then, after Karan started her own business, to Dell'Olio, whom Karan had hired.
Dell'Olio still makes sportswear worthy of the Anne Klein label. But his interpretations, like his customers, have matured. His skirts for spring are rarely straight and simple; instead they are shaped with draping and pleats. And the blazer is replaced by a jacket with drape and detail. Every jacket is lined in a print -- a very grown-up way to dress.
His Bermuda shorts, which Dell'Olio says women can wear from daytime through evening, are not exactly the L.L. Bean variety, and his trousers have given way to high-waist pants with wide legs. Even his tank tops and cashmere sweaters are more complicated than they used to be. Now many have cutout backs and are designed to be worn for evening with draped or pleated shorts.
Anne Klein would occasionally borrow from ethnic costumes, showing a caftan, a Mexican embroidered shirt or a peasant blouse. Dell'Olio has carried this theme further this spring with an African inspiration obvious in his colors and prints, including one black-and-white print that looks like body painting, and many safari styles. One open-stitch sweater, Dell'Olio says, was inspired by the rope bags used by men and women in Zaire.
Much of the show's music sounded African and the accessories were sometimes authentic. Others, like the black earrings and big beads, were done in the spirit of African design.
"I've never been to Africa, but I've seen a lot of books," he said before the show. "I know it is a wonderful way to look."