Monday kicks off with Rachel Roy at Alice Tully Hall. She's looking gorgeous, as ever. Her fall collection, which boasts plaid forest green coats, slate grey suiting, color blocked fur coats, petal-hem dresses and floral sheaths, is worn by models standing atop grassy, pebble-edged platforms—all in keeping with the designer's stated landscape architecture inspiration. The sun blazing in the floor-to-ceiling windows makes it hard to see some of the looks (my retinas are burning!) but I can see that the collection is bit incoherent, with Fifties-style full skirts and Swinging Sixties A-line dresses and coats facing off (literally) against lanky Halston-era evening wear. Megan Hilty, Coco Rocha, Brad Goreski, Olivia Palermo and Philip Bloch all swing by to pay their respects, sending the photogs into a tizzy.
I have almost two hours to kill until my next show, so I pop into the tents the grab today's WWD, The Daily and just-released New York mag fashion issue (score!), then send some tweets for Rue La La before heading over to P.J. Clarke's for my traditional Fashion Week burger fix (what, you think these hips are going to pad themselves? None of that Fashion Week juice fasting for me).
On my way across the Lincoln Center campus, I see two handsome gentlemen approaching in really cool sneakers, so I ask if I can take their photo. They graciously oblige, and it's only after I've snapped a few shots that I realize the guy in the gold leather kicks is none other than Michael K. Williams (aka, Omar from The Wire, my all-time favorite character on my all-time favorite TV show). I immediately start blubbering about what a huge fan I am of the show and his work on it and do the "I'm not worthy" bow. He's incredibly sweet and gracious, and I head to lunch floating on a cloud of Omar-induced happiness. Also happy-making: the host at P. J. Clarke's seats me at a table near an outlet so I can recharge my iPhone while I eat. During NYFW, it really is the little things in life...
Then it's back to the tents for Emilio Cavallini's luxury legwear presentation at The Box, which promises to be "a daringly sexy collection of tights and bodywear designed to incite a woman's sexual fantasies." The press notes describe a risqué short film featuring a woman alone in a hotel room with only her lingerie and her (ahem) thoughts. But they're apparently still on Italian time—or forget to push "play"—and the increasingly impatient crowd waits for close to 30 minutes while staring at a static video screen until finally—finally!—seven lanky lingerie-clad models saunter onto the otherwise bare stage, plop down in black folding chairs, pull on their pantyhose as sensually as possible—and we're talking pantyhose here, not stockings so this, coupled with the stark lighting, makes for a less than erotic experience—then exit stage right. Talk about a letdown.
I exit into the back of a taxi and head to the Donna Karan show. LIke DKNY, it's held at Cedar Lake in Chelsea but this time the doors are closed to prying eyes on the street. Sade and K.D. Lang tunes set the mood pre-show and Bill Cunningham offers DK PR girls some lozenges just as the first model hits the catwalk. The show opens with a dozen looks from the designer's Casual Luxe line (lots of blanket plaid toppers and stretch jersey skirts) before segueing into the main collection, where the message is all about tailoring of the boy-meets-girl—make that man-meets-woman—variety, with an emphasis on the grey flannel peaked lapel suit, cut broad at the shoulder and slim at the waist, topped off by Stephen Jones' flirty fedoras cocked just so over the models' foreheads. There's also plenty of sculptured body con dresses (many with sequins and illusion-net details), but the return of the power suit is the big news here. The effect is that of watching an army of female dandies march by, and it's a seriously empowering—and seriously chic—vision.
Next stop: the Highline Stages on Fourteenth Street for the 3.1 Phillip Lim show. I grab a cab and surprise a fellow showgoer by pulling over outside Donna Karan and offering her a lift ("Random Acts of Kindness" being my Fashion Week mantra). Lim's audience includes a Who's Who of style bloggers (you know: Bryanboy, Manrepller, Garance Doré, Hannali Mustapata, Susie Bubble), along with Gia Coppola and singers Oh Land and Annie Clark (aka, St. Vincent). KCD's Ed Filipowski runs back and forth as the lights dim, directing backstage security to get out of the way of the photographer's shots, but it hardly matters as the billowing smoke machine is obscuring the runway so much that the entire photo pit starts yelling "Stop the smoke! Stop the smoke!" to no avail. And the speakers are crackling feedback at top volume, as well. Yikes. It's difficult to make out the looks, but what I do manage to see are lots of graphic black and white separates with subtle color block and fur details worn with silver metal collars that recall Alexis Bittar's recent jewelry collection. Likewise, a teal digitized intarsia cape reminds me of the high-tech toppers at Alexander Wang's fall 2012 show.
Karen Walker is next, and it's just a short walk over to Pier 59 so I decide to hoof it along with what feels like half of the Phillip Lim audience. Although the collection is called "Sea Monsters" and inspired by Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the result is mercifully short of hokey maritime references, though there are a few too many ruffles and bows for my taste—even the shoes are ruffled. The best looks are the simplest: low-slung white trousers with a paisley blouse or fuzzy midnight blue sweater, an oversized paisley print dress and a navy crepe wool shirtwaist with gold watch chain are the standouts.
After walking several looong blocks trying to find a cab (it being nearly 5pm, the witching hour when cabbies switch shifts), I realize with a heavy heart that there is no way in hell I'm going to make it up to Avery Fisher Hall in time for the Chris Benz presentation (cue sad face) so I hop on the F train to catch the first of Thom Browne's three womenswear viewings at the Edna Barnes Salomon Room at the New York Public Library. Telling the story of 10 girls who rise from the dead once a year to celebrate their love of fashion (you know how they do), we're treated to wonderfully whimsical—dare I say otherworldly?—looks that are a little bit Comme-y (humps and bumps) with some Tim Burton thrown in for good measure. It all unspools at an appropriately somber pace but hey, there's no rushing the dead, people! For the finale, a glow-in-the-dark bride is followed by a same-sex groom sporting a white morning (make that mourning) coat trailing a dramatically long n' lumpy dinosaur-meets-alligator tail. There's nothing like a well-executed fashion fantasy to relieve the more craven commercial aspects of New York Fashion Week, and I head home a very happy woman (thanks, Thom!).
photos © The Fashion Informer/Lauren David Peden 2012