Hey, fashion fans! As the NYFW shows have ended and there are countless other places covering the ongoing scene, I'm putting The Fashion Informer on hiatus unti the next round of shows in September. Have a wonderful summer and I'll see you in the fall.
So another New York Fashion Week has come and gone. We've seen some great fall fashion, discovered some talented newcomers and helped launch Foundation Onda, a NYFW nonprofit that benefits Safe Horizon, the largest victim's assistance organization in the country.
Below is a list of Foundation Onda's current Partners, including Narciso Rodriguez, Cynthia Rowley, Derek Lam, Ralph Rucci, Donna Karan, Christine Alcalay, Libertine, Honor and Emerson—to name just a few—and next season we hope to have even more designers, beauty brands and PR firms on board.
Here's to New York's exceedingly generous fashion community, who value the importance of doing good while looking good! And please visit Foundation Onda to learn how you can help.
February 2014 marks the tenth year—and 20th season—that I've been covering New York Fashion Week. In years past, when friends and colleagues have asked how I'm feeling about the shows, which I covered first for Fashion Wire Daily and later, for Vogue.com UK, the answer has been an unfettered "excited" or "inspired" or (midway through the week) "exhausted."
This season, the only word that comes to mind when people ask how I'm feeling is demoralized. Part of this has to do with the fact that there are, as has been pointed out in countless other articles, just too many damn shows (320 this week alone, according to the latest New York Times' T magazine). Part of it has to do with the fact that the fashion cycle seems to be operating on warp speed these days, so you've barely had a chance to stop and catch your breath after covering one season—pre-fall! couture! fall! resort! holiday! pre-spring! couture! spring!—when the next round of shows is upon us and we have to do it all over again.
Part of it has to do with the fact that Fashion Week itself has morphed into a bloated, swollen free-for-all that seems to have more to do with feeding the blogosphere/social media beast than discovering and appreciating the work of the designers we're supposedly there to celebrate. (I mean, really, do the words "street style" even mean anything anymore, what with all the freebies and paid placements that have become de rigueur for the endlessly photographed bloggers and street style icons? Even worse are the fashion world hangers-on who dress up in elaborate, look-at-me! costumes and parade around Lincoln Center or outside Milk Studios with studied nonchalance, desperately hoping to catch the eye of the shutterbug wolf pack. It's all just so sad.)
But more than any of the above, the mind-numbing machinations of it all—running around from venue to venue, uptown and downtown, east side to west, for the privilege of watching a 15-minute parade of mostly mediocre clothes worn by skeletal teenagers—just leaves me feeling meh about the whole thing.
That's not to say there aren't some worthwhile shows and transformative moments during NYFW. Of course there are. It's just that they're increasingly few and far between, drowned out by the incessant clatter and hype that surrounds Fashion Week like a swarm of locusts. (Though I did find a renewed sense of Fashion Week purpose through my involvement in Foundation Onda, the NYFW nonprofit started by my friend and colleague Erin Dixon, which you can learn more about here.)
But given my general ambivalence, rather than load up my fall 2014 calendar with shows I don't really care about (which is to say: most of them), this season I opted to only attend shows by designers I love and admire, those who march to the beat of their own drummer and work to push fashion forward in their own, unique way. Unfortunately, I missed the first two days of shows after getting stranded in Idaho following Snowpocalypse #5 and coming down with a wicked chest cold, so apologies to my designer friends who presented last Wednesday and Thursday.
On Friday, I kicked off the week with Tess Giberson, who set herself the task of reinterpreting classic pieces from her New Hampshire childhood into something more modern and fashion-forward. She accomplished this beautifully in curved hem puffer vests with hand-knit back panels, silk skirts and dresses with a watercolor forest print by her artist husband, Jon Widman, boyish wool bombers softened with feminine fur collars and elongated flannel print button-downs worn with sleek leather leggings. She evolved her signature knits by way of a grandpa cardigan with hand-crocheted sleeves, a sleeveless double panel turtleneck worn atop black leather shorts and reverse jacquard sweaters that looked as chic and cozy as a hug. To me, Giberson epitomizes what it means to be a designer, in that she does not try and reinvent the wheel every season but instead forges her own path, quietly and consistently trying to better her own highly personal raison d'être. That black puffer vest is number one on my Fall Hit List, along with her borrowed-from-the-boys knit cap, which reminds me of the hats all the cool stoner kids in my rural high school wore while sneaking smokes outside the gym between class.
Newcomer Tanya Taylor was in a playful mood for fall, with hand-painted leather coats and dresses, polka dot knits and flirty floral jacquard pieces in graphic black and white offset by jolts of neon (including removable fur collars and rabbits' feet lariats strung around the models' throats). A bold check sweater looked terrific paired with a silver camera print skirt—a metallic motif that repeated itself on dresses, tops and coats—and she knocked it out of the park with a series of silk cocktail frocks with colorful, three-dimensional petals that fluttered softly with every step.
Like Giberson, Sally LaPointe is a designer who has a finely-honed aesthetic that she moves forward, inch by beautiful inch. This season she took the Charles Bukowski poem "Bluebird" as her inspiration, outfitting her girls in tough luxe leather skirts, wool shantung bustiers, sexy fox-trimmed sweaters, armor-like fish skin bombers, and dresses and tops with artfully embellished silver beading that looked, from a distance, like exposed zippers. All conveyed a femme warrior vibe that will surely resonate with LaPointe's cool, confident customer. And she ended the show with a trio of bluebird print evening ensembles that evolved her trademark style from goth to gorgeous.
Although this is only her second NYFW season, Rosie Assoulin already has an immediately identifiable look, comprised of oversized, sculptural silhouettes, luxurious fabrics used in easy-breezy ways and clever high-low pairings (think: hand-constructed evening gowns worn with Superga sneakers designed in collaboration with her friend Leandra Medine, aka the Man Repeller). For fall, Assoulin continued apace with colorful, super wide-legged trousers, beautifully tailored coats, artfully draped and wrapped evening dresses and a lovely ankle-length gray wool tulip skirt topped by a cropped windowpane plaid pullover that yanked the classic Sixties funnel neck into the here and now.
Azede Jean-Pierre was in a cozy mood for fall—no surprise there, given the incredibly cold and snowy New York winter we've been experiencing—and she worked a long, louche silhouette in a variety of highly textured knits that made me think of the off-duty lounging outfits favored by Scandal's Olivia Pope. To wit: ribbed wool sweaters, tights, jumpers and tanks. Fancy high-waisted sweatpants. Slouchy ponte pants worn with a super luxe knitted mink sweater (you know how you do). There was even a glorious round shouldered felted wool coat and matching trousers in soft dove gray—exactly what D.C.'s famous fictional fixer would wear to meet Fitz…I mean President Grant…for a secret tête-à-tête.
Thom Browne has no need for secret tête-à-têtes (real or imagined) as he wears his sartorial heart on his sleeve for all to see. Last season was a paean to glamorous, institutionalized lunatics. This season he turned his showman's eye to the Catholic church, as evidenced by the cross-and-candle backdrop, wooden pew seating, burning incense and model-priest supplicants kneeling at the edge of the runway. On said runway: white wigged, wimple wearing women in monastic gray flannel capes, nipped-waist blazers and long, hourglass satin dresses marched in mournful procession on the road to redemption. Then the church came into some money (ka-ching!), as one sinful gold look after another passed by, each more heavily embellished with fur, embroidery and beading than the last. Whether Browne was commenting on the corruption of the church or its ability to deliver us from evil is unclear. But as to whether this was a transporting, captivating Fashion Week experience? Gilt-y as charged.
One can't speak of captivating Fashion Week experiences without giving a shout-out to Libertine designer Johnson Hartig. Like Azede Jean-Pierre, he, too, was inspired by the winter weather, embellishing black coats and dresses with white crystal frost-and-snowflake beading. Elsewhere, Yeats' poem "The Sorrow of Love" appeared as a graphic text print on coats and sweatsuits, Boy Scout-meets-punk rock patches adorned coats and blazers, and Gerard Richter-esque grids were used to fantastic effect on multicolor tights paired with clashing socks and pumps. These disparate themes, filtered through Hartig's fertile imagination and worn by energetic young models, made for a delightfully uplifting and memorable show. The colorful Pologeorgis fur that closed the proceedings perfectly encapsulated the wit and whimsy of this stellar collection, as did the Sucre Bleu chocolate/sea salt crucifix left on the seat of each front row guest—an inspired touch that would have been equally at home in the Church of Thom Browne.
Also memorable, but for different reasons, was Kristine Johannes' Rauwolf collection. Sophisticated and elegant in the extreme, Johannes once again presented her Plexi evening bag collection in the Parkview Suite at the Grammercy Hotel—and she once again hit a home run. The designer took her cue this season from HBO's Game of Thrones, which translated to the dragon scale-etched Lindworm clutch, the metal studded Elettra grid, antique mirrored oval Sposa bag and the Castellum with 3-D matte pyramids that had me rethinking the fashion possibilities of Legos but were, in fact, inspired by the cabochon cuts in the Met's JAR exhibit. Johannes comes by her inspiration honestly: she's a huge Thrones' fan and none other than dragon mother Daenerys Targaryen herself (aka, actress Emilia Clarke) carried a Rauwolf clutch at the Emmys last season, as did Elisabeth Moss, Leslie Mann, Kelly Osbourne and a host of other A-listers, making it the most-carried evening bag brand at the event (take that, Judith Lieiber!). Expect to see much more of Rauwolf when the Oscars roll around next month.
I ended NYFW at the Milk Studios show of Jeremy Scott, which drew the likes of Perez Hilton, Kat Graham, Joe Jonas, Coco Rocha and Liz Goldwyn. Oscar nominee Jared Leto arrived 35 minutes late, rushing into the packed-house venue after everyone else had been seated and the runway cleared for the show to begin. "My apologies," he announced to the room, arms held high. "But you all look lovely!" The crowd burst out laughing, he took his seat and the show began. And what a show it was. Perfectly timed to coincide with the 2014 Winter Olympics, Scott reworked football jerseys as fuzzy knit gowns, recast the varsity jacket as a furry tuxedo blazer and re-imagined old-school tube socks as dresses and cardigans. The classic leather basketball morphed into a bustier and miniskirt, and sheer mesh jerseys were worn with protective laced leg pads given Scott's signature sexy spin. A suite of Band-Aid print looks nodded to the after-effects of his athletes' endeavors while a quartet of Madballs knits played into the designer's love of retro pop culture. It was cute. It was clever. It was fun. He shoots, he scores. And the crowd goes wild!
photos by Lauren David Peden/The Fashion Informer 2014
I'm thrilled to announce my involvement in Foundation Onda, a non-profit founded by my friend and colleague Erin Dixon that's launching during New York Fashion Week. This season, Foundation Onda will benefit Safe Horizon, the largest victims' services agency in the United States.
Please visit the Foundation Onda website to learn more about this exciting new venture—and you can read more about it in this terrific Style.com feature. I look forward to seeing you at the shows!