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Mendel's daybook: Obama and NY Fashion Week

It was "so fabulous" and so "thrilling." In fact, it was "historic."
/ Source: The Associated Press

It was "so fabulous" and so "thrilling." In fact, it was "historic."

That's the week Gilles Mendel has had — and that was before his runway show at New York Fashion Week on Wednesday that attracted the normally camera-shy Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen.

On Tuesday, he was in Washington to be honored by the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt with a National Design Award. First lady Michelle Obama sat next to him at the luncheon.

"It was beyond, beyond ... so inspirational," he gushed.

But then it was on to the next thing: the J. Mendel spring collection at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

He turned out vertical colorblocked dresses with pleat details for daytime and pleated georgette and mousseline ones for night. Strategically placed draped fabric kept the look soft, but there was a lot of architecture to the pieces, too.

"With a slouchy modern style, the Mendel woman is both powerful and sexy," he said in his notes.

His best gowns had open backs, high-low hemlines and unexpected contrast insets. There were some high slits to make them that much sexier.

Of course, there was fur — that's where Mendel got his start — but it had a supporting role this time. A long-haired goat and shadow-fox bolero topped a sheer georgette bias-cut T-shirt, and a chalk-white vest made of mink was trimmed in goat hair.

Mendel said in an interview before the show backstage that his inspiration was "modern Baroque" that had the regency of old Hollywood. He enjoyed experimenting with the more electric colors of yellow and blue, and playing with graphic white and black combinations.

But, he added, in the end, it all comes down to "lots of skin, and ethereal looks that are feminine and light."