Wednesday begins with Norma Kamali at Pier 59 in Chelsea (which I reach via two subways and a cab fifteen minutes before the presentation's slated to end—whew). Norma is showing her fall signature collection and introducing KamaliKulture, a new line priced under $100. All the looks are shown on NK Glamazons (9' tall photorealist cardboard cutouts) and via two adorable videos filmed for the occasion—showing the models dancing and clowning around—with the collections and videos facing each other across the cavernous space. Norma tells me both lines are about "timeless pieces," though there's definitely more of a Thirties evening wear vibe to her higher-end line, with its emphasis on turbans, swingy polka dot dresses, fun faux fur, sequin coats and glittery gowns (with some OMO logo sportswear pieces thrown into the mix for good measure). KamaliKulture, on the other hand, is more work- and weekend-appropriate, with suits, pencil skirts, striped tees, capris and lots of LBDs. Both collections feature the pinup-girl swimwear for which Kamali has become famous. Guests are given a Doctor Green juice from The Juice Press as they exit, accompanied by a note from Norma that reads: "Assertive women that drink juice are fucking sexy!" She would know.
After a quick lunch at La Bottega (solid, not liquid), it's time for Jeremy Scott at MADE at Milk, which is a capital-M Madhouse. I arrive just after the doors open to find my seat's been taken—along with nearly ever other seat in the jam-packed room. People's Rev quickly finds me another one, but it's cheek-to-jowl (literally) with nary an extra inch of bench space in the house. But that's because everyone knows they're in for a wacky good time. As always, Mr. Scott does not disappoint, with a Nineties-themed collection that boasts all sorts of retro signifiers—including an AOL "You've Got Mail" logo sweater, a Lisa Frank sticker corset, melting LOL emoticons, old-school screen savers, the cursor arrow and hand pointer icon, rainbow keyboards, unicorns and, of course, Bart Simpson—all worn with rainbow wigs and light-up bindis. "Just like Facebook, where you can never truly delete your photos, that's the same thing that's going on in fashion, everything is co-existing," Jeremy tells me backstage post-show, where Terry Richardson, Joe Jonas, Nigel Barker, Leigh Lezark, Cory Cobrasnake, Sky Ferreira, Paper editor Kim Hastreiter and ID's Terry Jones gather to offer their congrats. "You could have flared pants with bondage pants, short with long—it's all up for grabs. Everything is possible and you never really lose a style or delete it from history."
I swing by the True Religion VIP lounge in Milk's basement and am devastated to discover they aren't offering massages today (nooooo!) but console myself by charging my phone, drinking a pear juice and flipping through the latest issues of Vogue and Another mag.
Then it's on to the Levi's show in Soho, where the scrum at the door is followed by another scrum upstairs where everyone is funneled from the large installation room into a smaller side room where the show is taking place. One loooong bi-level runway—faced by one loooong bench for guests—runs the entire length of the room, and is designed to look like a series of closets or dressing rooms on the upper level and a cement sidewalk (complete with curb and metal grates) down below. Following the sounds of a traffic/weather report and The Beatles' Come Together on a morning radio show, models emerge in their undies from various doors onstage one at a time, get dressed, walk down the steps at the farthest end of the runway to reach the sidewalk then head off for the day in their Levi's (denim dresses, jumpsuits, rompers and skirts for the gals; modernized jeans, suits, anoraks and workwear for the guys), accessorized with some killer two-tone shoes. It's a very cool presentation and the clothes are just terrific.
I hoof it over to the threeasFOUR presentation at the Hole Gallery on The Bowery, where guests are treated to a collection of circle-themed looks (think: face-obscuring cocoon coats, laser-cut leather dresses with spherical overlays, boots and face masks with jagged circular vine motifs and the like) set to the sonorous sound of Tibetan singing bowls played by a quintet of white robed musicians led by Joni Mitchell lookalike Brooke Hamre Gillespie. The clothes aren't wearable (by which I mean commercial), but they are indescribably beautiful and make the models look like extraterrestrial woodland nymphs—or a very luxe version of Poison Ivy (the comic book heroine, not the itch-inducing plant).
Next stop: Marchesa in the Palm Court at The Plaza, which feels worlds away from threeASFOUR's artsy downtown crowd and venue, though the level of craftsmanship and devotion to a singular vision is something these otherwise disparate designers' have in common. Here, though, the woodland nymphs have been replaced by elegant socialites who eschew Mother Nature for more gilded environs, such as the sumptuous mirrored ballroom in which I now find myself. Inspired by William-Adolphe Bouguereuau's 1878 portrait, A Soul Brought to Heaven, design duo Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig invite the audience to imagine a world where women waft through rooms in black lace cocktail frocks worn over shimmering skeleton bodysuits that trace a silver finger down their spine, or appear to float by on a skirt of clouds, or emerge, swan-like, from a bed of downy white feathers. One stunning gold lamé ball gown seems to absorb and reflect all the light in the room, so onlookers can't help but be mesmerized by both the gown and the woman wearing it. And that's kind of the point of confections like these, no? As always, Marchesa creates the dresses every little girl dreams of wearing when she grows up.
I walk over to Anna Sui at Lincoln Center—my last show today and my last tent show this season (tomorrow, the final day of New York Fashion Week, my shows are all off-site). Inspired by vintage illustrations, the collection—full of daisy print sweaters, chunky crochet cardigans, jacquard shorts, checked capes and jackets, folkloric floral frocks and unicorn appliquéd tops—has a faux naif charm (even more so than usual). The effect is heightened by the adorable bird hats, fingerless owl gloves and smiling models—something I wish there was a lot more of during Fashion Week. Thanks, Anna, for sending me home with a smile on my face, too.
photos © The Fashion Informer/Lauren David Peden 2012