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Fashion Goes Austrian

Plus: Designer Alvin Valley

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Fashion Old and Neue
Austria has always had a stylish side (see Rudi Gernreich, Helmut Lang), but recently, as evidenced by the group of fashion editors happily munching on apple strudel at a preview of Jane Mayle's fall collection, a passion for things Tyrolean is reaching fever pitch. It's been percolating for a while: Even before the Austrian Cultural Forum there was Danube and Wallsé and chicken Riesling on the menu at Balthazar, but the milkmaids at Alexander McQueen and the fur-trimmed suits (perfect for ice-skating to the Viennese Waltz) at Louis Vuitton indicate that fashion has caught the bug. As for Mayle's inspiration, she's been spending a lot of time at the Neue Galerie; her fall collection -- drop-waisted dresses she's named Liebe and Esterhazy, and thirties-style silk tops with names like Ringstrasse -- looks like what Dora might've worn to her sessions on the couch.

Lord of the Pants
Designer Alvin Valley has been to a lot of places -- a Cuban-American, he lived in Spain and Miami before hitting New York a year and a half ago -- but he is still waiting to find the woman who doesn't look good in his pants. "Sometimes I'll meet someone who's short, or round, and I'll worry," he admits, "but then they work!" Valley's most popular style is long-legged and low-slung with a beltlike leather strip around the waist ($300 at Kirna Zabête and Saks Fifth Avenue). Pants aren't Valley's only strength; when Carolina Gutierrez, of the wealthy Fanjul clan, wore an Alvin Valley dress to her sister-in-law Emilia's wedding in March, she got so many compliments that she decided to throw a party in the designer's honor. "The girls ask me what they will get, and I tell them I will talk to you and see what you are like," Valley reports. "No fittings, no nothing. Then I will make a dress. I just know."


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