Fashion Week: JOIE Travels the Italian Coast, Anya Caliendo Brings the Crazy

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Heather Baysa
As NYFW hedged off its last full day, only the discreetly buffed security and a few visibly twitchy out-of-towners suggested that it was the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Yes, as if to issue forth a collective "suck it, terrorists," the tents were more energetic than we've seen them all week, with big names like Michael Kors, Betsey Johnson, and Anna Sui drawing crowds.

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Heather Baysa
To keep it quirky we resolved to check out Anya Caliendo in the Box. The Russian-born designer has been crafting couture headwear (re: really really fancy hats) at her "atelier" on Fire Island since 2008, and was former apprentice to Rose Cory, milliner for her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. More high art than apparel any living woman could practically or even safely wear on her noggin, the pieces were nevertheless stunning in their detail and ability to defy certain gravitational laws. Her 36-item SS 2014 collection titled "Confessions" made history, marking the first time any American milliner has had a solo presentation at Fashion Week.

"This collection is my ultimate confession of love for the glory of millinery art," Caliendo has said, and "inspiration is something that lives everywhere I look."

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Heather Baysa
This is clear in each of the fully hand-crafted hats. They're ultimately about fun, and definitely adhere to the Marie Antoinette school of bigger-is-better. A rainbow jewel-encrusted set of Mickey Mouse ears is surprisingly elegant, and there's something humorous about a pair of tiny porcelain crossed legs that emerge from another. The set of caviar hats--a pair in red and black, of course--come complete with spoon attached.

The centerpiece, perched atop a model wearing a red ruffled gown that made her look like she had just stepped out of some Satanic quinceañera, was a Swarovski-encrusted "bug hat"--a sparkly, horned apparatus might have more accurately been titled something like "The Sexy Triceratops." It was pieces like these that, however absurd, made us grateful to Caliendo for fearlessly spicing things up.

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Heather Baysa
Earlier in the afternoon, downtown by the High Line, we saw one of our favorite and most wearable collections of the week at the JOIE presentation. Designer-in-charge Serge Azria based the Spring collection off a recent trip to Southern Italy's Amalfi Coast. Heavily based--not only were the billowy silhouettes and a white-on-searing blue color schemes spot-on Mediterranean, but some items, like the unmistakable circular-brimmed straw hats, were downright cultural artifacts fashionably appropriated, endemic to little old card-playing men on the Sorrentine Peninsula for centuries.

In keeping with the carefree motif, models embodied a spruced-up version of natural beauty, hair loose and wavy with sea salt, or in this case probably a less-nautical sea salt spray. They perched obediently on a faux clay exterior set with cerulean-painted doors, but seemed altogether more relaxed than some of the other glorified mannequins we've seen this week.

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Heather Baysa
Highlights included a bright white day dress featuring this year's popular cut-out back panel, and a not quite ankle-length, vertical-striped skirt paired with a bucolic button-up peasant crop. Breezy Nouvelle Vague on the soundtrack and circulating wine glasses of citrus Pellegrino (what did you expect, something with calories?) created an atmosphere as refreshing as it was to view this collection we could actually wear--or at least emulate on a budget.


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