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Acra shows femme fatale at ready-to-wear show

BEIRUT: Black leather, scarlet lips, elbow-length gloves and fur capes – the gothic femme fatale haunted Lebanese designer Reem Acra’s fall winter 2013 collection at last week’s New York fashion show.

Acra was the only Lebanese designer to show at New York’s ready-to-wear fashion week, as most of the country’s fashion giants like Elie Saab and Rabih Kayrouz will present on the Paris runways at the end of February and beginning of March.

Arab design duo Noon by Noor also showed at New York Fashion Week. The designer pair from Bahrain, Sheikha Noor Rashid al-Khalifa and Sheikha Haya Mohammad al-Khalifa, showed a far less dramatic winter collection that had the feel of a university campus circa 1940, with silk necktie blouses, loose tailored trousers and a collegiate color palette of steel gray, crimson and navy.

By comparison, Acra’s collection was luxurious and dark with a color scheme almost exclusively in black with hints of red, white and silver. She upped the luxury factor with lush winter fabrics: velvet turtlenecks, fur cloaks, feather details and furry collars so fluffy they buried the models’ chins.

Like the knit layer trend of several winters ago, Acra layered black over black over black: scrunched leather gloves up to the elbow, black silk jacket with a fur collar and a cinched waist over a black blouse, slouchy black trousers and knee-high black leather boots.

The fabrics and color scheme imbued Acra’s collection with Gothic sex appeal while she kept the necklines at the collarbone or higher. Only several dresses interrupted that modesty with dramatic sheer fabric cutouts that exposed an entire back, a waistline and torso. Skirt lengths also remained modest, never creeping up higher than knee length and always paired with sheer black tights.

Many of her dresses had slim rectangular shapes that avoided pronouncing the waistline and gave a straight, but feminine silhouette. For instance, she showed several looks that paired long knit tunics over loose trousers.

Some of the most interesting pieces from Acra’s show included a pair of cropped leather pants cinched above the ankle; a silver dress that had the appearance of fantasy animal skin, dragon hide perhaps; a turtleneck dress made from a textured silver that glittered like chain mail; and a cape-like coat in dramatic red and black furs.

All in all, her collection was a continuation of this winter’s Gothic trend, which Solidere’s resident fashion expert Hadia Sinno coined “high darkness,” and which was inspired by the recent slew of violent blockbuster fairy tales like the Twilight series.

The ode to dark fairy tales, whether intentional or not, was the most literal in a long knit tunic with two white swans across its front – a nod, perhaps, to the tragic and sinister Russian ballet cum modern fairy tale Swan Lake.

There was also a bit of Asian inspiration in the cuts and patterns. For example, Acra showed oversized jackets and blouses with asymmetrical necklines that buttoned to the side, as well as tunics and jackets with oversized sleeves that had a slight hint of kimono about them.

The end of her show featured a handful of her ready-to-wear, red-carpet gowns – these particularly fit for an evil stepmother – using the same red and black color scheme on enormous tulle skirts and transparent fishnet tops with red floral appliqué growing around the waist and chest.

Noon by Noor debuted their designs on the international stage last fall at New York’s ready-to-wear spring-summer 2013 shows.

The designers’ second-ever New York show had a continuity with their spring collection in its youthful playfulness.

Where Acra’s pairing of red and black rung sinister and sexy, the same color scheme had a tone of prep-school holiday party for Noon by Nour.

A silky scarlet dress had a loose black bow tied at the collar. Rhinestone beading decorated the top of a stunning red winter jumpsuit. Even totally black looks were playful: a loose, black velvet suit with a patterned silk bow tie, a long-sleeve V-neck maxi-dress in charcoal plaid and a black skirt and jacket with abstract dragonfly beading.

There was a distinct collegiate theme in the details, like the prevalence of Oxford navy blue and Harvard crimson, sweaters over collared shirts, loose silk bow ties and opaque tights. The designers also seemed to draw inspiration from the 1940s with wide-legged trousers, square-shouldered jackets, simple modest blouses and full, knee-length skirts.

But Noon by Noor’s spin on preppy was by no means boring, as brave fabric and pattern choices gave the simple looks their wow factor: For instance, colorful winter floral patterns brightened trousers, evening dresses and pantsuits, or warped geometric prints that placed modest maxi-dresses more in the psychedelic ’70s than the austere ’40s.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 20, 2013, on page 2.

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