Saturday dawns with Ruffian at Lincoln Center. I've been following the work of Brian Wolk and Claude Morais for years but this is my first Ruffian runway show. Why? Because they're always held at 9am and I'm usually still finishing up work from the night before. But this morning I'm all caught up, so here I am, bright eyed and bushy tailed (or as close as I can be on three straight nights of four hours sleep, anyway). The collection is fantastic—a winning blend of old (traditional fabrics like toile, muted brocade and cotton ticking) and new (updated utilitarian shapes, including pencil skirts, bow blouses, boy shorts, painter jackets and corsets). The duo cited a desire to rethink old world luxury fabrics for a forward-thinking city girl (the Williamsburg woman, in fact, in honor of their home turf). And the show, with Lorenzo Martone*, Dani Stahl, Kate Lanphear and Nadejda Savcova in the front row, was fast paced and set to great, upbeat music, making for a lovely (and lively) way to start the day—and two additional thumbs up for the Adam and the Ants pompadours. *Shout out to Lorenzo for the use of his photos.
Marissa Webb is another designer who's new to me—but that's because this is the first season of the eponymous collection she launched after leaving her longtime gig as J.Crew's vice president of women's design. Her presentation at The Box highlights the same sophisticated sense of color blending that's become a J.Crew hallmark, but the silhouettes and fabrics Webb uses in her namesake collection are far more elegant and rarefied. To wit: a linen white French scallop lace blouse atop a full black leather and tulle skirt, or a watermarked plaid print blouse worn with color blocked cropped trousers and contrasting neon orange pointy toed shoes. A sedate olive green blazer tossed over a neon necktie blouse with matching hand sequined shorts is another winning look. All told, Webb is proposing an polished—and unexpected—way of dressing that's sure to resonate with a wide range of women.
I wait out a torrential downpour in the Lincoln Center lobby, then run between the raindrops to the VPL show at Chelsea Piers. I chat with my neighbors Susie Lau and Love mag's Alex Fury until the familiar cry comes from the photo pit, directed at front row guests who are blocking the runway: "Ladies and gentlemen, please uncross your legs. There is a man with black shoes down there. I'm sorry, but you're not at home." Taking the idea of exertion as her jumping off point, designer Victoria Bartlett explores motion, movement and the push-pull between resistance and effort via sports-inspired leggings and cropped knit tops (some with keys dangling from the hem) and slinky open-back dresses with contrasting racer back panels. There's an intriguing interplay between taut and loose (as seen in fitted bodices that give way to easy bottoms and boxy cropped sweaters that float atop torso-hugging mesh underpinnings. This dialogue continues through to the palette, which finds neutral shades of steel, oyster and greige facing off against burnt orange, lilac and mint green. Victoria reinvents the oversized t-shirt using panels of deconstructed sequins that look like shimmering fish scales, and closes the show with a series of fluffy white cocoon sweaters over VPL's signature scanties, followed by a suite of diaphanous nude coverlets (picture a cape-cum-anorak) that waft over elegant color blocked swimsuits, driving home the tough/tender message. And the harness-style jewelry, headwraps and athletic-brace footwear only heightens the sensual tension.
After a quick stop for lunch I find the MM6 Maison Martin Margiela presentation on the ninth floor of a nondescript office building in Chelsea. Staffers clad in Margiela's signature white lab coats mill about in front of mirrored display cases filled with gold and Perspex jewelry, neon booties and sandals, and utilitarian handbags. Then a tribal beat sounds and summons the crowd to a makeshift runway, where straight-haired models walk in front of an abstract video backdrop. On their backs: sheer anoraks (which seem to be shaping up to be a big spring trend), calf-length skirts, oversized sweatshirts and luxe track pants. On their feet: clear plastic sandals with stacked wooden heels or comfy-cool padded hightops. It's sporty and winkingly sexy in equal measure.
Next stop: ThreeASFOUR at Hole Gallery on the Bowery (always one of my Fashion Week favorites because of its creators' boundless creativity). This season is no exception, as design trio Adi, Ange and Gabi attempt to "make visible the unseen energies of the human magnetic field." This translates into kaleidoscopic maillots and jumpsuits in shocking shades of violet, magenta and fuchsia, mesh capes that float around the body like a gossamer cocoon and cracked mirrored dresses that put me in mind of a 21st century warrior princess. The shattered mirror shoes, armbands and lilac Vulcan monobrows only serve to heighten the extraterrestrial superhero vibe. Is it wearable by most women's standards? Not by a long shot. But who cares? It's fierce, ferocious and over-the-top fabulous, just like all things threeASFOUR. To which I say: Bravo!
I follow the threeASFOUR models to the backstage basement to snap a few quick shots of the shoes and makeup, then it's back up to Lincoln Center for a presentation by my pal Gemma Kahng (of All on the Line fame). Colorful nature images play on wall mounted video screens as models in the designer's handmade creations—inspired by her Upstate New York farm and the Amish who live nearby—pose for the cameras. The colors recall a summer's day (grass green, sky blue, the bright pink and yellow of flowers in bloom) and the silhouettes are also nature-based, including strips of leather (fashioned into coats and skirts) inspired by falling rain. It's a lovely outing that showcases Gemma's enormous talent and pure-hearted love of craft.
I'm desperate to charge my iPhone battery so I cop a squat on the staircase leading down from Gemma's second floor presentation in the WNET Studios building, which is lined with comfy cushions and (cue Amazing Grace) a row of unoccupied AC outlets. Charge me up, Scotty! Eighty minutes later, I'm juiced and ready go. To Alexander Wang, that is, whose front row boasts Justin Theroux, Liberty Ross, Karen Elson, South African hip-hop band Die Antwoord (and singer Yo-Landi Visser, wearing a mesh face mask and hoodie), Carine Roitfeld, Bryanboy, Anna Dello Russo, the NY Knicks' Tyson Chandler and The New York Times' Bill Cunningham, who happily snaps away from his front row perch. Before the start of the show, a voice booms from the speakers, instructing guests to refrain from using flash photography "and this includes cell phones." It isn't immediately clear why, as Wang's collection—which consists primarily of black and white laser-cut leather, python and karung pieces, the individual sections of which are connected by invisible fishline, making them appear to float independent of each other yet remain magically intact—do not seem to be photosensitive. But all is revealed at the finale, when a troupe of models takes to the stage in white dresses and the lights dim to reveal the fabric glows in the dark. It's a fun, if somewhat kitschy conclusion to an otherwise sophisticated outing, full of surprisingly elegant clothes that seem to pay homage to the work of Ralph Rucci, who has long been mining the floating-panel concept in his couture-level collection. Alex's version is more downtown-edgy, to be sure. But the connection is there, nonetheless, though, like the aforementioned fishline, it may not be visible to the naked eye.
It's drizzling when I emerge from Alex's show onto the West Side Highway. But no matter. My next stop is Milk Studios, where I'm slated to see six designers all the space of an hour and a half (or half an hour, if I play my cards right, as all are presenting on the same floor at the same time, which will allow me to do five-minute drive-bys). First up, Ostwald Helgason, a London-based brand helmed by Susanne Ostwald (who hails from Germany) and Ingvar Helgason (from Iceland). Together, the duo utilize colorful couture fabrics to create simple, well-priced clothing with a fun twist (dig those alligator and cheetah illustrated dresses, and extraordinary layered prints).
I bypass the Pamela Love tattoo parlor, which the jewelry designer is hosting in lieu of a formal presentation (yes, they're offering real tattoos and yes, people are getting them) and head instead to Calla, the two-year-old French-based label by Ontario native Calla Haynes. Another print and color enthusiast, Calla is full of quirky-cool party dresses and cute pleated minis inspired, this season, by the landscape surrounding Lake Ontario.
Jonathan Simkhai took his inspiration from SoCal surf and skate culture, which results in a collection of laid-back Hawaiian print tops, generously cut trousers, laser cut white leather shorts, drawstring puff skirts and floral taffeta board shorts, among other covetable pieces, all styled to nonchalant perfection by Susan Joy. Dude! It's totally awesome. [Read in Jeff Spicoli voice for full effect.] And the hunky shirtless skateboarder lounging beside the models makes for an even more delightful viewing experience.
Irish designer Dean Quinn's collection is a different kind of awesome, inspired as it is by the David Lynch film, Wild at Heart, and full of beautiful pieces that marry sporty minimalist shapes to luxurious cottons in monochromatic brights for an uptown-meets-downtown vibe.
My final stop at Milk is Anndra Neen's presentation. Sibling designers Phoebe and Annette Stephens opted not to do their usual OTT art installation this time around and instead show their jewelry the old fashioned way: on models, who are wearing simple Pina Bausch-inspired gowns by TOME, which, along with their uniform bobs and red lips, act as a perfect backdrop for AN's bold pieces. Integrating the graceful geometry of the Thirties and the movement of Busby Berkeley dancers with their signature organic aesthetic makes for a more streamlined, modern-feeling collection. Standout pieces include a cascading waterfall choker made of elongated silver discs and a graceful crescent pendant fashioned from melted brass loops strung with a marbleized triangular shell framed inside a perfect circle. The sisters tell me that 12 of their pieces got stuck in customs—including their "showstopper"—so they were forced to create an entirely new piece from scratch earlier today. Gulp. The result, worn by a striking African-American model, is stunning.
I walk down to The Standard and manage to get into the Alejandro Ingelmo presentation before anyone else has arrived, which gives me plenty of room to take in his new footwear collection, which is displayed on stacked cinderblocks beneath an enormous hanging shoelace sculpture made for the occasion by artist Sheila Pepe. On the cinderblocks: luscious sherbet-hued suede sandals with silver leather trim, metallic turquoise snakeskin stilettos and sky-high lattice-back pumps for the ladies, and silver mesh and neon patent leather sneakers for the gents.
And with that, I call it a day.