Jen Mankins Likes Alex Wang’s Dark Energy, Vena Cava’s Romantic Vision, and Yigal’s Extremes

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From left: Yigal Azrouël, Alexander Wang, Vena Cava. Photo: Imaxtree

All throughout the week, buyers from Bird, Bloomingdale's, and the owners of Odin, Den, and Pas de Deux will be telling us what they liked at the collections. After all, they're the ones who pick what you'll be buying next season. Today's installment is by Bird's Jen Mankins. So far, she's loved the dark mood that fall's brought, but there's a romantic edge as evidenced by Vena Cava. Alex Wang has proven himself to be fashion's rock star, and Yigal showed his strongest collection to date. See more of Jen's picks after the jump.

Yigal Azrouël

It's no surprise that designers (and everyone else for that matter) are feeling dark and moody for fall. In one of his strongest showings to date, Yigal Azrouël offered up lean and feminine shapes that were equal parts tough and romantic. Leather stovepipe jeans looked perfect layered under cocoon coats, blanket cardigans, and pouf-sleeve gothic blouses. Bold shoulders, studded accessories, and fierce jewelry designed in collaboration with Pamela Love gave the whole collection a punk edge. Cardinal red, Concord-grape purple, and admiral blue popped against a background of jet black. And be prepared to go to extremes come September with floor-sweeping flowing gowns or skintight, slinky jersey minidresses.

Watch a slideshow of Yigal Azrouël's collection.

Robert Geller

Hours after the announcement that he was the winner of GQ magazine's Second Annual "Best New Menswear Designer in America" project, Geller showed a beautifully tailored, darkly romantic collection that took inspiration from the imperial city of Vienna at the turn of the century. The gorgeous set and floral design created an ethereal atmosphere for the elegant, exquisitely styled collection. Boiled-wool and cotton-canvas outerwear was contrasted with textural alpaca and mohair knits. Keeping with the somber trend, the color palette was primarily deep black and gray with touches of fuchsia, plum, and ultramarine. I loved the washed-leather wingtip dress shoes and the hunting knickers, though.

Rachel Comey

Wraps, scarves, double cardigans, and alpaca fur vests and headbands will surely keep my customers cozy come fall, though I'm not sure I recommend wearing them all at once as Rachel's supreme styling suggests. Bird customers will love her latest offering of whimsical prints, my favorite being the cherry and violet florals and the oversize animal print. Her shoes are always best sellers, and this season will be no exception. Buckle-back ankle booties, heeled wallabees, and side-lace clogs will all be on my order, especially in calf hair and patent leather. The hilariously unnerving voice-over by comedian Heather Lawless was maybe Rachel's way of reminding us to please not take this all too seriously.

Watch a slideshow of Rachel Comey's collection.

United Bamboo

A thoughtful, artistic mood was set by ultraslow pacing, dreamy music by James Iha and Julie Dippelhofer, and a stunning print from artist Rita Ackermann, which was used for drop-shoulder dresses and silk blouses. While many designers are going with a harder edge for fall, Thuy Pham and Miho Aoki, known for pushing a fairly rigid architecturally inspired aesthetic, are easing up a bit and offering a softer, perhaps more comforting take on their classics. Particularly strong were the gray wool melton coats with hexagonal paneling, and the nouveau metallic jacquard dresses and skirts in emerald and ochre. I also really like their newly expanded shoe collection, full of suede and patent peep-toe pumps and lace-up cut-out boots.

Watch a slideshow of United Bamboo's collection.

Vena Cava

Even the perennially romantic vision of design duo Vena Cava took on a steelier edge for fall. Pretty silk dresses and blouses were toughened up with punky studs and paired with motorcycle leather jackets and skirts. The stunning "obsidian"-print silk column dress was inspired by the hard, dark, glasslike volcanic rock of the same name. Metallic fringe, silver foil, and holographic sequin detailing was underscored by the striking "Crystalarium" installation by artist Marisa Tesauro: made of 30,000 shredded CDs, a literal well of light in the center of the painted black venue.

Watch a slideshow of Vena Cava's collection.

Alexander Wang

The line outside Roseland Ballroom was three deep and wrapped all the way down and around 52nd Street. If you hadn't heard of him before he clinched the 2008 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award, then you probably have by now. Alexander Wang is the closest thing New York fashion has to a bona fide rock star, and he chose a fitting venue to show his over-the-top sexy collection. His infectious high-octane energy suffused every aspect of the show: the razor-sharp clothes, the pounding music, the models' signature sexy stomp. I think the whole trend toward dark and edgy is as much due to the critical and commercial success of this collection as it is to the recession. There was a strong focus on luxury and tailoring, with custom cube rivets and studs adorning jackets and pants. Where in seasons past the fabrics were denim and fleece, they are now fox, leather, and croc. Biker shorts and cropped leggings will be de rigueur for every downtown twentysomething. He also offered an almost endless variety of the body-hugging minidresses for which he is known. Add to that his exponentially expanding accessories collection and you have a recipe for even more success.

Watch a slideshow of Alexander Wang's collection.