Cheryl Shops on vacation

I'm off to Greece for my (slightly delayed) honeymoon! I'll be back the first week of October, so please check back then!

Spring 2012 New York Fashion Week in Review: Alt Selects

Have you noticed my photos of Fashion Week were 1000% more awesome this time? It's because I got a fancy new camera! And since this is such a novelty for me (I thought I was a bad photographer; it turns out my old camera was just a piece of crap), I published an album of my favorite alternate images on my Facebook page, complete with captions. This includes detailed close-ups, beauty shots (seriously, I was mesmerized by the hair at Emerson), photos of models actually smiling, and celebrity front-row pictures. So become a fan of Cheryl Shops and check 'em out!

Spring 2012 New York Fashion Week in Review: My Favorite Shows

Hey, I think it's ok to play favorites—after all, this blog is called Cheryl Shops, not Cheryl Reports Without Bias. So, in no particular order...

Yigal Azrouel
Minimalism, bold color, buttery's like Mr. Azrouel is reading my mind. These are exactly the clothes I want to be wearing next season.

Chado Ralph Rucci
His show shows up here nearly ever season, and for good reason: no other American designer quite achieves Rucci's level of artistry. His spring show was a study in lightness with an otherworldly bent.

Nanette Lepore
In a season filled with superbright colors, Lepore did it best with wearable, feminine dresses in day-glo hues.

Light and airy looks so easygoing and relaxed, I found myself shopping the run-of-show sheet. One of the most talented new contemporary designers in recent seasons.

Monique Lhuillier
Known for her romantic bridal and red-carpet looks, Lhuillier proves she can do sexy, body-conscious, and bold too.

Spring 2012 New York Fashion Week in Review: By the Numbers

Shows attended: 27
Difference from last season: -7
Shows declined: 23
Invites given away to friends, coworkers, and friends of friends: 7
Shows I didn't get into due to overcrowding: 1
Shows I didn't quite make it to: 14
Shows attended that I have yet to write reviews for: 3
Tent shows: 17
Off-site shows: 10
Presentations: 6
Average row seated in: 5
Shows with swag: 3
Percentage decrease in swag from last season: -43%
Official Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week press bags received: 0
Seasons since I last received an official press bag: 4
Alcoholic beverages consumed in the tents: 0
Alcoholic beverages consumed off-site: 7
Free Maybelline products received in the tents: 0
Free Tres Semmé products received in the tents: 2
Parties attended: 0
8 p.m. or later shows invited to: 6
8 p.m. or later shows attended: 0
Arizona Iced Tea beverages consumed in the tents: 1/8

Probiotic yogurt beverages consumed in the tents: 0
Pounds gained/lost: -2
Ailments caught: 0

Sample Sale of the Week: Hermes

As much as living in New York City can get me down sometimes, twice a year the Hermes sample sale comes along, reminding me that I live in a magical, magical place. Here, you can score the legendary French luxury house's scarves, jewelry, accessories, bags, clothing, and fragrances for up to 70% off. Expect long lines and big crowds, but the venue, Soffier Haskin, is all class (as far as sample sales go).9/22-9/24; 9-8 Th & F, 9-6 S; 317 W. 33rd St. (8th & 9th Aves.).

TheFind Guest Post: Friendship Jewelry Gets a Fashionable Update - It's Not Just For Kids!

Ah, I remember the good old days on the playground when all my friends (and "not-so"-friends) would swap severed halves of a single plastic heart necklace (or, during that weird phase when hippie-inspired symbols were so in, opposite halves of a yin-yang). One extra-popular girl would have five different strands adorning her neck, another girl would have none... and someone would always be the odd gal out in a group of 3 friends. In any case, jealousy inevitably ensued without fail. Let's face it - we made even the cattiest gals on Gossip Girl look like peacemakers. Now that we're past those days (ha!) and have learned to choose our friends wisely, it seems only fitting that we embrace friendship jewelry back into our lives... in a much more stylish fashion! The playground favorite heart necklace gets a much more elegant interpretation courtesy of Dogeared (perfect if your BFF happens to be your sweetheart, too), but if you prefer stackable bracelets, share these delicate bangles by Good Charma with a dear friend. Get a blast from the past, summer camp-style, with a woven trio (ideal for those tricky groups of 3!) of braided bracelets from Kris Nations, or go subtle with an adorable pair of matching lovebird earrings by Gorjana. Here's to hoping your equally fashionable BFF doesn't become a frenemy!

- Alex Gambardella

Content provided by TheFind in partnership with Cheryl Shops.

Chado Ralph Rucci Spring 2012

Attending a Chado Ralph Rucci show is an experience like no other during Fashion Week; saying it's akin to having a personal shopper at Bergdorf's versus braving a One Day Sale at Macy's does not quite do it justice. For spring, Rucci returned to the tents after several seasons of showing at his Soho atelier, but there was none of the three-ring circus that surrounds the other shows (although I did have to ask a woman and her teenage daughter to vacate my seat); as always, the audience was stocked with loyal clients, many of whom wore Chado to the show and oohed, aahed, and applauded their favorite looks. And the clothes were definitely deserving of the praise. Rucci stuck to a mostly black, white, and silver color palette with a few pale lavender and blush looks thrown in for good measure, and many of his signature motifs—the spine, re-construction, spirals, topstitching—were present. But there was a new, slightly futuristic undercurrent, with clear plastic insets in jackets and dresses, a latex trench coat, and tiny silver pailettes that looked like mercury in motion. There was a lightness to everything, and also an element of surprise—jackets completely cut open in back, evening gowns slashed to reveal a sequined underskirt. It was all so beautiful and joyful, ending in another Fashion Week anomaly: The audience gave Rucci a standing ovation. Well deserved.

Nanette Lepore Spring 2012

I always look forward to Nanette Lepore's show for several reasons: One, she usually has a random selection of celebrities in the front row, many of whom are her personal friends (this year, Stanley Tucci, Kelly Rutherford, Aida Turturro, Arianna Huffington, actress Carol Kane, Austin Scarlett from Project Runway, and SNL's Vanessa Bayer). Two, she often has live entertainment; in this case, Sam Bisbee, whose CD everyone received as a gift. Finally, not only are her clothes very wearable, but they make it to the stores in almost exact runway form, which means that you can basically shop the runway—a dangerous proposition, but an appealing one as well. And in spite of all this, there's something distinctly mellow about her shows (or maybe that's because it's the second-to-last day of Fashion Week and we're all dragging). What was not mellow was Lepore's use of color, which, in a season of mega-bright citrus shades, outshone everyone else. With a seemingly go-big-or-go-home ethos, Lepore went with full-on day-glo for nearly every look, but when teamed with her sweet cutout sundresses, work-friendly suits, and retro ruched swimsuits, the color was totally wearable—irresistible, even. I've already made my shopping list for next spring.

Tibi Spring 2012

The spring runways in New York have been filled with a kaleidoscope of color and crazy prints, and while it's certainly been refreshing—in uncertain economic times such as these, designers tend to play it safe with a lot of neutrals—after seven days, it gets a little jarring. I was steeling my nerves for an all-out assault from Tibi, which is known for its prints, but was totally surprised to see Amy Smilovic stick to a pretty minimal, yet still colorful aesthetic. It was refined and toned down, and very smart, considering the almost aggressive use of color by nearly every other New York designer. Smilovic used just one print in the entire show, and a fairly simple colorblocked one at that, which showed up in just four looks toward the end. Once I got over my initial surprise, I really enjoyed the collection for what it was—soft-looking yet well-tailored jackets with narrow lapels, fluid palazzo pants, and streamlined tank dresses, all of which prove that Smilovic is more than the sum of her prints. (Pun intended.)

Badgley Mischka Spring 2012

The hair was high and the vibe was super-feminine at Badgley Mischka, whom I suspect have been reading The Help—their very coquettish collection was heavy on flirty flounces, ruffles, and peplums, with syrupy-sweet doses of pink, yellow, turquoise, and red, in shades varying from soft pastels to blaring neons. Mixing their namesake line with their contemporary Mark + James outing as they have in seasons past, the collections interspersed the duo's signature heavily embellished red-carpet looks with more trend-conscious pieces like corset tops, palazzo pants, and high-waisted shorts; the only disconnect was that some looks seemed intended for the mother, and some for her daughter. But judging by many of the attendees and their attire for a 10 a.m. show, age-appropriate dressing is the least of their concerns. Regardless, it was a lovely collection, especially if springtime has you yearning to dress like a southern belle. Look for the diaphanous chiffon gowns on the red carpet soon.

Jenny Packham & Carlos Miele Spring 2012

British designer Jenny Packham is known foremost for her romantic wedding gowns and, more recently, for dressing Kate Middleton. And so Packham ventured back into more sweet territory after her sexy foray for fall, all the better to appeal to the Duchess of Cambridge's less outré tastes. The show begain with creamy, dreamy lime silk chiffon gowns and progressed through turquoise and coral before ending with a series of breathtaking crimson numbers while the Rolling Stone's "She's a Rainbow" played on (coincidentally, the processional for my wedding back in June). Interspersed throughout were heavily beaded frocks and even a flirty romper or two; Swarovski was a sponsor, and Packham knows what she's doing when it comes to sparkly beads. Packham makes eveningwear that's sweet and demure but just sexy enough to be interesting; one can see why Ms. Middleton is a fan.

Whereas Packham's version of sexy is romantic and proper and British, Carlos Miele's is all exposed limbs and sheer fabrics and Brazilian glamour. It's a caipirinha versus a white wine; both are equally refreshing in their own way. Opening with a series of three sheer swirl-print chiffon caftans, Miele's cocktail of choice this season was, like many other designers, bright color: vivid orange and green in solids and prints, mixed with gold and white; one can only imagine all the fabulous places Miele's customer will wear these things. Adding to the glamour was the relative simplicity of the shapes— clothes that don't overpower the wearer let her sexuality truly shine through.

TheFind Guest Post: The Midi Skirt: Babelicious in Below the Knee Skirts

It seems that skirts of Little House on the Prairie are hitting the cool radar as fashionable bloggers and street wear icons are rocking vintage and vintage-inspired frocks that hit right below the knee. Your grade school teacher will be jealous, because this once geeky style has instantly become a most-have style option in practically every single style-forward state, from New York to San Francisco. What’s the best way to wear it? A form fitting top and a belt! A waist hugging blouse and belt will ensure that you don’t get lost in all that fabric and look well-dressed instead of frumpy. My favorite thing to pair with below-the-knee skirts are almost skin tight, ruffle button downs and tank tops. You can layer it with a blazer or a sweet cardigan for whatever the weather entails! Avoid looking like a hippie or hobo and swap in your big bags with a cute clutches and slip on a pair of those wooden platforms with gorgeous, out of the ordinary, street credibility. Take a gander at these shin skimming lovelies: Ella Moss Best Friend Pleated Skirt, Twelfth St by Cynthia Vincent Below The Knee Skirt, and Camay Floral Silk Dress.

- Mira Torres

Content provided by TheFind in partnership with Cheryl Shops.

Libertine, L.A.M.B., Callula Lillibelle & Walter Spring 2012

I wish all fashion shows were like Libertine: guests were given free drinks, everyone had an unassigned front-row seat, and the models got to totally camp it up on the runway—they smiled, they danced, they pretended to drink and smoke. It was the most fun I'd had at a show in awhile (and will likely be the most fun I have all week). As for the clothes, whereas last season designer Johnson Hartig embraced all manner of wacky color, this season he went for a primarily black-and-white palette, though still with a madcap mishmash of prints. Like the models, he seems to be having a great time, and such enthusiasm is contagious.

I was really excited to be invited to Gwen Stefani's L.A.M.B. for the first time—until, that is, I saw the line to get in (one guest likened it to 'Nam). And considering Stefani wasn't present (she was reportedly in California, recording), I'm not sure what all the fuss was about. The collection read like Gwen's greatest hits: cargo jumpsuits, ikat-print maxi dresses, stripes, menswear-inspired shorts. The shoes and bags, however—bright, strappy platforms for the former, colorblocked totes and clutches for the latter—looked, as Stefani would say, hella good.

Callula Lillibelle is a line that's been around for a few seasons, but, to me, hasn't had a very strong identity until now. Originally launched as a work-friendly line, designer William Calvert seems to be having much more fun now, perhaps targeting a more fashion-friendly customer. The spring line carried a slight 1950s Elizabeth Taylor vibe, with innocent polka-dots mingling with slim-fitting sheath dresses, sexy lace tops, and brocade separates. It was put together in a fresh way, with modern neon accents and a refreshing mix of prints. It was all very wearable (in fact, even moreso than before), proving that it's not enough to give women what they need—you have to give them what they want as well.

Walter Baker presented his spring collection on the rooftop of the Empire Hotel, which, if you watch Gossip Girl, is where Chuck Bass resides and presides. I really like Walter—I find it just edgy enough to still be widely appealing, but I felt sad for the clothes, which seemed like a total afterthought to the utter chaos (earpiece-wielding doormen, open bar, reality TV cameras, party crashers) surrounding them. My favorite pieces were a series of sheer dresses and tops, some layered with snug jackets in leather or tweed. Then again, I'm not sure I even saw the whole collection—the crowd had swallowed all the run-of-show sheets by the time I arrived, and I wasn't about to fight for one. Sometimes, as the song goes, you got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run. And run I did.

Lela Rose Spring 2012

I woke up Sunday morning eager to get to the tents, if only to escape all the September 11th coverage on TV, on the Internet, on Facebook, and so on. It turns out I wasn't the only one—Lela Rose's show was so packed, I ended up wedged into a back corner of the standing section (hence the less than stellar quality of my photos)—and Mandy Moore, Susan Sarandon, and her daughter, Eva Amurri, all showed up too. Rose began with a tasteful homage, playing John Lennon's "Imagine" in darkness, then got down to business with a characteristically ladylike show inspired by, uncharacteristically for her client base, trips to Vegas and Coney Island. Set to the music of one of my favorite new bands, Cults, the result was a perfect balance of whimsy and polish, with slightly off-kilter casual looks bursting with mixed prints and colorblocking, and more refined evening dresses finished with lace. Rose's clothes are decidedly uptown, but you get the feeling their wearers must be fabulously fun party guests.

Yigal Azrouel and Cut25 Spring 2012

While my dream job is that of a fashion critic, I'm glad that I have this outlet, as opposed to a traditional medium like a newspaper. Ideally, a critic should have no bias, but even Cathy Horyn of the New York Times has favorites, which she alluded to in this article—which ended up being so controversial, Women's Wear Daily wrote a story on designers' reactions to it. I, on the other hand, have the freedom to fawn over whomever I want, whenever I want—ah, the luxury of having your own blog!

Which brings me to one of my favorite designers, Yigal Azrouel. I am a huge fan of his, owning several pieces that I've collected over the years (his twice-yearly sample sales unearth some great finds), and whenever I get an invite to one of his shows, my heart skips a little. Typically known for his sexy draped dresses and snug leather jackets, last season Azrouel made an about-face in favor of a more sophisticated tailored look that I loved just as well. For spring, he picked up where he left off, with a very clean, minimal yet impactful collection that married streamlined shapes with super-saturated colors. He played with more volume this season, with fall's skinny colored pants giving way to wide-legged cuts in leather and double-faced cotton. And speaking of leather, there was a gorgeous buttery trench coat that I could live in (and anticipating its price tag, I'd likely have to). But lest you think Azrouel has gone too polished and uptown, he reminded you of his downtown roots (his store is on 14th Street in the Meatpacking District, after all) with super-sexy, up-to-there thigh slits. Azrouel's client might have grown up, but she still knows how to have a good time.

For Azrouel fans who aren't quite ready to give up the sexy jersey and leather, there's Cut25, which is his fairly new secondary line. The past few seasons, Cut25 has been a more distilled version of Azrouel's signature line, but for spring, he took an entirely different direction—it was all about color, like the main line, but with a sporty surfer influence and a more casual vibe. The silhouette was still pure, with clean, simple shapes, but it felt much younger, with techno fabrics, sheer layers, and cutouts. It was one of the happiest collections I'd seen thus far (and even in a pretty colorful, optimistic season)—on a surface level, and because it shows while Azrouel's signature line has grown up, he still remains young at heart.

Monique Lhuillier Spring 2012

When I first started going to Fashion Week back in 2006 (!!), I had to talk my way into most shows. This, of course, was a time when most PR firms didn't know what blogs were (or if they did, they didn't know what to do with them), and so I found that a smile and good manners had to do. And so, five years later, I may not be sitting front row like some of my blogger peers, but it's come to the point where I often have to choose one show over another (the New York schedule is so clogged that there are often three shows at once), and I also have the luxury of a seat at most shows—granted, I'm usually somewhere around the fourth or fifth row, but, hey, I'm not complaining. Something amazing that started happening this season: I've been invited to several shows with a plus-one, which is how I brought my friend ES to Monique Lhuillier with me on Saturday. Attending a show with a friend was a new experience—it's different than sitting next to an industry friend, with whom, no matter your relationship, I always find a bit of competitiveness—ES was totally pumped to be there, she oohed and aahed over every gown, and the fact that our seats were in the third row, right at the end of the runway, was certainly the frosting on the cake, so to speak. As jaded as I get over fashion shows, having her there reminded me of how much fun they can be.

As for the show itself, Lhuillier focused on bold, saturated colors with an athletic bent. It may seem at odds with Lhuillier's dreamy, super-feminine gowns, but as I've found in the past, she's incredibly adept at pushing the boundaries of her own talents, and she always manages to turn her inspirations into glamorous, sophisticated, almost universally appealing looks. There was definitely a sexy undercurrent to the collection, but in a very refined way; silhouettes were very close to the body, however, requiring a certain level of fitness on the part of the wearer. As for the colors, there was rich cobalt, shocking pink, and cadmium yellow, and while the brights trend started last season, as long as the colors continue to be so vivid and vibrant, I am all in favor of it continuing indefinitely. Plus, think how beautifully these gowns will photograph—I think we can safely expect to see many of them on red carpets soon.

Christian Siriano Spring 2012

What can I say about Christian Siriano that hasn't been said already? Perhaps the most loved Project Runway contestant ever, he's arguably the most successful as well, smartly leveraging a shoe line with Payless (and several other strategic partnerships) to fund his ready-to-wear line. He might be one of the most talented contestants as well; there's no question as to his design skill, especially after seeing his show on Saturday. For spring, Siriano explored the neutral/acid brights motif that's already a big trend for the season, and watching him play with different proportions was a delight: Sometimes a beige day dress with a chartreuse belt, then a dramatic pair of crepe palazzo pants in the same shade, and finally, as if he couldn't hold it back any longer, a dramatic tulle trumpet gown in an overwhelming burst of color. Sometimes, however, a little restraint could have been in order—Siriano went a bit overboard with the pleating on a few organza numbers, and several of the show-closing ballgowns overwhelmed the models (and if a gown swallows a six-foot woman, think of how ridiculous it will look on an average-size one). Still, there's a reason he's carried in high-end boutiques like 4510 and Neapolitan, and it's not the novelty factor—Siriano simply makes beautiful, ladylike clothes.

Emerson, Son Jung Wan & Kaelen Spring 2012

While I love seeing the big-name designers of New York Fashion Week, I always try to make it to a few up-and-comers' shows. After all, fashion is always about what's new, and you never know when you're going to come across the next Alexander Wang or Phillip Lim. (Case in point: Back in February 2007, I saw, and loved, a fledgling designer by the name of Jason Wu.) Of course, it's kind of a toss-up, but, hey, hope springs eternal.

Emerson is a fairly new label out of Boston; with only two previous collections under its belt, this was the line's first showing at New York Fashion Week. Designer Jackie Fraser-Swan was inspired by that old chestnut, "lightness and darkness," and while that might be a pretty vague theme, it translated into interesting mottled and tie-dyed prints and lightly textured fabrics. Less imaginative were a series of jersey pieces with bandage details—compared to the structured, tailored separates and leather items, they looked almost slapdash. Still, it was all very wearable, and definitely a promising start.

I attended Son Jung Wan's first New York show last February and decided not to write about it because, well, some things are better left unsaid. I was quite impressed, however, with her spring/summer collection, which featured dreamy metallic neutrals with interesting textures, pleating, and beaded accents. There were a lot of trapeze-type tops, which felt very light and warm-weather appropriate, as well as skirts that hit between the knee and midcalf--while pretty and undeniably feminine, the collection seemed geared toward a fairly young working woman (that is, after all, who can generally afford to buy these things), with suits for day, sparkly dresses for night, shorts for the weekend. While the collection could've benefited from some editing, you got the impression that Son Jung Wan kept coming up with more occasions for which to dress her customer and just couldn't help herself, which, like her clothing, is charming.

Kaelen Farncombe has been one of my favorite emerging designers of the past two seasons, and her latest collection pretty much solidified my impression that she's one to watch. For spring/summer, she continued to explore minimalism in an ethereal series of nude, cream, pale blue, and soft orange, with some stripes and a wallpaper print for good measure. What was most interesting to me was that she took macramé--a medium known for its bohemian hippie-dippiness--and seamlessly incorporated it into the collection. In other words, making macramé look minimalist is no small feat. Nor, it should be mentioned, is making very wearable-looking shorts, which Kaelen also did quite well. My absolute favorite look, however, was this pleated white dress, which is just so clean and simple and perfect. It's the kind of thing you'd buy for a second wedding but that you'd really want to wear again and again and again. I think the true test of a good designer is the ability to transcend trends in favor of timeless design, and if Kaelen keeps coming up with frocks like this, I'd say she'll be around for a long, long time.