Sunday dawns bright and beautiful. I, however, do not. Having stayed up til 4am writing yesterday's copy (why, oh why, did I think it would be a good idea to cover 14 events in one day?), I sleep til 9 then spend the better part of the morning editing Saturday's photos and uploading everything to the blog. Which means I miss the Lela Rose, Catherine Malandrino, DKNY and Skaist Taylor shows (aargh!). I finish up in time for a late lunch, and stumble upon a cute indoor-outdoor joint called Brighton, off the lobby of the Eventi hotel in the flower district (aka, NoMad), just around the corner from my first event. It's a faux seaside boardwalk, complete with a fish shack, burger stand, bar and pizza counter—like Coney Island without the 90-minute train ride.
One Kobe beef hot dog and black cherry soda later (hey, I'm still pretending it's summer), I find myself cooling my heels at the disorganized check-in desk at the Anna Francesca show. I had reservations about attending her show after reading last season's reviews but am trying to make a point of seeing more new talent during Fashion Week, so I force myself to chill (this is where my yoga breathing comes in handy) while they find me a seat. If the yellow brick runway and Over the Rainbow soundtrack don't clue you in to the fact that we're about to take a trip to Oz, the first model out—complete with Dorothy braids, a pinafore and ruby reds—leaves little doubt that this is not going to be a subtle homage. The Wizard gives way to Little Richard (Tutti Frutti), which ushers in yellow suspender pants, lots of fuzzy manmade materials and bright red tinsel separates (Christmas in September!) for the girls and sequined cigarette pants and brocade jackets for the boys. When Jailhouse Rock starts booming, out comes an Elvis lookalike in a shiny silver suit. The girls wear short shorts festooned with a cartoon muscle man print and high waisted snake and animal print bikinis. The Jackson 5's Rocking Robin ushers in a series of cheongsam fabric pieces on the guys—most of whom, it must be said, are incredibly handsome in a strong-jawed 1950s kind of way. There's also a plethora of upholstery fabric pieces, a few of which are trimmed in tassels and fringe better suited to drapes (which, accompanied by the home sewn, DIY craftsmanship—if that word can even be used to describe Francesca's designs—makes me think of Carol Burnett's infamous Gone With the Wind skit, in which she fashions a gown out of heavy drapes, rod and all). The show ends with another literal Wizard of Oz getup and I marvel at how well cast Francesca's Dorothy is (the model has the same cherubic sweetness as the young Judy Garland.) This is, in a nutshell, kitschy, camp and a whole lot of fun. I'm not entirely sure who, save for very young, undiscerning club kids, would actually wear these costumes (and to be sure, they are costumes, not clothing). But the audience, which reminds me of the Heatherette crowd of days gone by, loves every minute of it, so clearly there are folks out there who appreciate this type of thing. Hey, it's New York, baby! All you need is a dollar and a dream. Good taste is optional.
A Détacher, on the other hand, is what a fashion collection should be: thoughtful, carefully crafted clothes for thoughtful, carefully crafted women. Designed by Mona Kowalska and styled by Haidee Findlay-Levin, the spring outing at Pier 59 features twisted-torso dresses and tops that both highlight and obscure the body beneath in bright solids and faux naive prints. Spare jumpsuits and curved cable knit sweaters round things out, and all the looks boast fanciful names ("Rita deeply admired Le Corbusier," say, or "Olivia was brutally honest" and, my favorite, "Genesis never took orders.") Colors not usually on speaking terms play well together here (as seen in a dusty cobalt cable knit over saffron cropped carrot pants), and the prints, inspired by the Swedish children's illustrator, Elsa Beskow, are strong but never garish. Everything is worn with thick strapped sandals, striking white eyeshadow and crazy equine-esque hair, which is tied tightly under the girls' chins in front and explodes into crazy, frizzy poufs in back, lending a sense of whimsy to the proceedings.
I cab uptown to Lincoln Center with enough time to actually sit outside on a bench for a while, enjoying the cool early evening air in the courtyard before the Chado Ralph Rucci show begins. Of course, I am furiously typing on my phone the whole time, but still, it's nice to be doing it outside instead of ringside. I notice a sizable crowd gathered in front of the fountain, jostling for a view of the second floor terrace of Avery Fisher Hall, where the Zac Posen show has just started to the strains of Etta James' Sunday Kind of Love, with none other than Naomi Campbell scheduled to to walk the runway. Unfortunately, the angle only makes it possible to see the models' heads gliding down the runway, the rest of their bodies obscured by the guests, who sit in gilded salon chairs with their backs to the hoi polloi.
Inside the tents, the crowd has shifted (as it always does at the evening shows) from working industry professionals to party-hardy hangers-on whose main objective is to drink as much free booze as possible. I want to avoid these bottom feeders—and realize that there's a presentation in The Box by David Tlale, a designer I've never heard of—so I swing by to check it out. The South African native is known for his prints, and while they're good in a trippy kind of way, the OTT styling, replete with elaborate headwraps, overwhelms the clothes and makes me think of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Everyone here is ready for their close-up, Mr. DeMille. And the couples in matching outfits (she in a yellow gown and he in a yellow button-down under a black leather blazer, for instance) just screams "junior prom" to me. Which is probably not the designer's original intention.
There are no such missteps at Chado Ralph Rucci. Presenting his collection to an audience that includes Martha Stewart, Deeda Blair, Carmen Dell'Orefice and other women of a certain age (like, you know, me), this designer's designer plays with the idea of "eclipse," which makes itself felt in ways both subtle (a curving white, pink and yellow panel bisecting an otherwise austere black coat or the riotously colorful layers beneath a pouf-skirted ballgown, for instance) and overt (a black mesh-bodice gown with strategically placed pailettes covering the models bare breasts). Elsewhere, the torso of a black cocktail dress is defined by swirly neon pink and orange panels, and the same fabric shows up on one sleeve of a nip-waist blazer. There's a big push for color here, from fuchsia sheaths and chartreuse a-lines to a pea green coat and citron skirt suit. But my favorite look is the bias cut lilac lamé pajamas (topped by a shimmery, cocoon like overlayer that makes it look as though the model is wearing the moon itself), followed closely by a modern white silk caftan encircled by a wide, bright yellow stripe. My only quibble is with the music, which is poundingly aggro and doesn't really work with the cultivated élan of the collection.
Down the hall in The Studio, Jackie Fraser-Swan is presenting her third Emerson collection. I bump into my friend Amina on the way in, and we nab seats together—jumping up to shoot a pint-sized Paula Abdul, who's seated further down the front row (Abdul is so tiny I could put her in my pocket and carry her around). Using horror films old and new as her muse (from Carrie and The Amityville Horror to The Devil's Rejects and American Horror Story), the collection has a slight Seventies feel (heavy on the peplums, maxi skirts and girlie button-downs) with a mouthwatering selection of delectable prints, including some smudgy painterly florals and graphic flower-splashed stripes. All are worn with custom Kork-Ease wedge sandals (some with platforms wrapped in fabric designed by Fraser-Swan) and several models sport Emerson's brand-new bags and belts, made in collaboration with the British accessories label Bracher Emden. The show concludes with a bang—literally—as red confetti pours from the rafters during the finale, Carrie-style (hold the pig's blood!) while the Beastie Boys implore the audience to fight for their right to parrrrr-ty. It is a celebratory ending to a celebratory show, and after running backstage to congratulate the designer (and take a few pictures of her with her husband and four adorable kids), I head back out into the night in a very good mood.