The bad news: once again, I have to skip some a.m. shows on to meet deadlines (sorry, Joy Cioci, Wes Gordon and Christine Alcalay). The good news: I still make it to seven shows, and Monday's weather is truly spectacular—mid-70's, low humidity with blue sunny skies—which makes running around town so much more enjoyable.
My day starts at the High Line Stages with Marimekko, a brand I am officially obsessed with. This outing only fuels my ardor, as Noora Niinikoski (head of fashion design for the Finnish printmaker) focuses on the colors of spring, which she splashes with controlled abandon on easy shift dresses, boxy tops, fluid jumpsuits and cropped trousers. Elongated black and white ovals look like juicy raindrops, bold cabana stripes are used both vertically and horizontally (often in the same garment), flowers bloom both delicate and brash, polka dots appear in abundance and color blocking turns up in myriad forms, all of it fun and fresh-looking. There's also some very savvy casting in the form of newer faces (such as Sessilee Lopez) alongside industry icons Carol Alt, Pat Cleveland and Carmen Dell'Orefice, all of whom look terrific (and age-appropriate) in the clothes, which handily illustrates Marimekko's something-for-everyone appeal. No wonder all the models are smiling as they bop down the runway. The adorable Marimekko for Converse sneakers further the argument that this is a truly ageless brand—and being told we can take the Marimekko-covered seat cushions lining the benches at show's end is just icing on the happy-making cake. As many guests opt not to take their cushion (fools!), I help myself to four mismatched prints, which will be given pride of place in the kitchen of my family's summer home alongside our floral Marimekko tablecloth.
I go backstage to introduce myself to Noora (who I've interviewed via email but never met in person), and run into my photographer friend Kristiina Wilson, who is shooting behind-the-scenes images for the company. We kibbitz for few minutes and then I take a leisurely 12-block stroll up to the Donna Karan show in Chelsea, savoring the sunshine and the lovely breeze that wafts up Tentth Avenue. It's the kind of day that makes you happy to be alive and happy to be in New York. Donna is the type of designer who also makes me happy to be in New York—and proud to be a New Yorker—and this season finds her in an unusually tranquil mood. Citing dappled sunlight, beach elements and the volume of clouds as her inspiration, the show opens with a series of spare dresses whose fitted bodices relax into shell shaped skirts that undulate around the wearers' legs with each step. The silhouette remains basically the same throughout, though the materials grow ever more luxe (pongee silk, handkerchief linen, glazed suede, shredded raffia, sculpted organza) and the execution more complex (spiral collages, eyelash embroidery, mother of pearl embroidery, handwoven ribbons) with a finale of silk chiffon sequined evening gowns in misty shades of sunset rose, sea blue and platinum. On hand to witness this paean to the natural world are Nina Garcia, Anna Wintour, Russell and Kimora Lee Simmons (who are seated together across the aisle from me), Bianca Jagger, Bernadette Peters, Rachael Taylor, and DKNY campaign star Ashley Greene. After she does her lap around the runway, Donna makes her way backstage—or tries to, anyway, but is prevented from doing so by the crush of people making for the door. So she stands near the photo pit and greets friends and well-wishers as they leave. "I"m here anyway, I may as well stay," she says with a grin.
Outside, I meet up with my friend Amina, who has offered me a ride in her Bentley Mulsanne. Yes, you read that right. I'm going to riding in a Bentley. Awwww, yeaahhh. The car has been loaned to a different magazine editor each day of NYFW to help boost the brand's profile in fashion circles. Amina, the executive editor of Elle.com, is one of those chosen for this honor, which I'm honored she's sharing with me. We slide into the back seat alongside Elle.com photographer, Kelly, who takes photos of Amina pretending to use the built-in keyboard-equipped iPad—which slides out from the seat back in front of her at the touch of a button—while the driver, Tony (who's a total charmer) regales us with facts about the $300,000 vehicle. Such as, it's the only one of its kind in the US, features leather seats made from 14 free-range cows (so their hides don't get scratched on wire fences while grazing) and comes equipped with the "executive package." There's another iPad behind the driver's seat, which is where I'm sitting (I try it, it's awesome) and there's a dock and USB charging ports hidden in the armrest behind Kelly, who sits between Amina and I. Dang, son. That is one impressive automobile. Feeling like the swanky bitch I know I am (inside, anyway), I head into the 3.1 Phillip Lim show. Oddly, the paparazzi do not seem to know who I am despite my having stepped from the back of a quarter million dollar car and ignore me, as always. Oh, well.
In Lim's front row: True swanky bitches Mandy Moore and Dree Hemingway (though I'd venture to guess that neither of them just alighted from a Bentley—ha!). On the runway: an ambitious collection based on the notion of "Cut-Up" (borrowed from the literary technique popularized by the Dadaists and William S. Burroughs). This results in a sartorial mash-up of recognizable wardrobe items—the utility vest, overalls, bralet top, pajama bottoms, apron dress and I Heart NY tourist tee—given a fresh new spin. Set to the tune of Neil Young's Hey, Hey, My My (Into the Black), Lim updates the classic motorcycle jacket in pony corded silk or raspberry nubuck leather with unexpected—and unexpectedly sexy—back zips, while a faded botanical print renders a classic flight suit more femme fatale than Top Gun. A series of shredded denim pieces makes the case that maybe, just maybe, we are overdue for a Nineties do-over. Likewise, his twisted take on Seventies punk and early-Nineties grunge also makes me look at those overplayed eras with a renewed appreciation (as Neil sings, "There's more to the picture/Than meets the eye.") Two-tone booties and a pointy-toed wrestling boot/creeper hybrid complete the looks, and there are enough cool carryalls to keep Lim's growing cadre of handbag collectors happy. Fashion's original grunge collection may have gotten Marc Jacobs fired from Perry Ellis back in 1992, but twenty years on, it's a good bet that Lim's thoughtfully proposed, same-but-different sartorial scrapbook (which he tells me was a year in the making) will win the designer legions of new fans.
Then it's back down to Chelsea Piers (which, along with Lincoln Center and Milk, has become my home away from home this week) for the Karen Walker show. Dubbed Fantastique Magnifique and envisioned as a paean to 1950s optimism and all things celestial, the New Zealand designer offers up her trademark whimsical prints. Tthis time around, she lassoes the moon and stars—the entire galaxy, in fact—and splashes them across sweet georgette dresses and crepe de Chine blouses, offset by copper foil toppers, blue and white polka dot suits, sky blue organza cocktail frocks and flirty denim pieces. As always, Walker offers some kick ass accessories, most notably the two-tone loafers, filigree clutch and oversized sunnies. And while the models' tall straw hats and cheekbone-grazing bangs make for a dramatic runway statement, they should probably come with a "don't try this at home" warning sticker.
My iPhone battery is nearly dead (again), so I swing by the Apple store near Lincoln Center to buy a Mophie Juice Pack Reserve, a small rechargeable battery pack I saw Amina using while we were en route to the Phillip LIm show and which I've realized I cannot make it through Fashion Week without. (Seriously, Apple? Improve your damn battery life.)
Over at Avery Fisher Hall, Chris Benz is up to his old tricks for spring with the pile-it-on, youthful bag lady aesthetic that has become his stock in trade. This season, the purposefully clashing offerings include a lurex striped slip dress over a gold poplin skirt over skinny yellow jeans (part of the just-launched CB Denim collection), the whole of it topped by a black and pink floral blazer. Then there's the sheer lurex striped t-shirt over a bright yellow and orange floral dress worn with yellow denim flares, Alejandro Ingelmo for CB floral platform shoes and a red and white book bag that's part of Chris's new collaboration with the Cambridge Satchel Company. There are plenty of looks that don't involve five separate pieces, including some lovely full skirt and oversized top ensembles (one of which boasts an adorable fried egg appliqué). But for the most part, the designer never met a layer he didn't like, which makes his models look just this side of cray cray. I don't actually think that's a bad thing—there's something very charming about CB's Little Edie leanings—but it's definitely not for everyone.
The same can be said of Thom Browne, an undeniably talented designer who loves him some spectacle and some OTT clothes. Today, he mounts an Oskar Schlemmer/Bauhaus-inspired production complete with silver-domed spaceman, extraterrestrial ballerinas and bubble-headed models sporting the designer's awkwardly proportioned suiting, which is quite sculptural and colorful this season, complete with stiff tulip skirts, bright plaids and candy colored prepster prints (think: cartoony whales and delicate seahorses). The models slowly perambulate around the perimeter of the Edna Barnes Salomon Room in the New York Public Library before taking their place atop individual Lazy Susan hypno-discs, at which point one of the spacemen steps forward to twirl them till they face the audience. It's all very Plan 9 From Outer Space-meets-Bride of Frankenstein, and while I have no idea how to fully interpret Thom's unique brand of spring 2013 kookiness, I absolutely love it and can't wait till he tires of the fashion game and takes his rightful place on the Great White Way (though the freedom of Off-Off-Broadway is probably more in keeping with this former actor's left-of-center tendencies). Think of the costumes, people!
Like Benz and Browne, Libertine designer Johnson Hartig is also known for a specific aesthetic but in his case, it's all about reworking vintage with a defiantly irreverent twist. "It started with the Viennese work state, then I got really into Bloomsbury then I was feeling Austrian rugs and then it went back to Bloomsbury," said Johnson while male and female models wearing his vintage 2.0 creations mugged for the cameras in front of a colorful collage at Pier 57 off of the West Side Highway. For the girls, this translates into highly romantic—and highly embellished—garden party dresses (made even more fanciful by Rainbow Brite Bird-of-paradise hairpieces), plaid duster coats and paint-splashed socks, arm warmers, slip skirts and pants, the latter of which also turns up on a few of the men's pieces. The guy's collection is heavy on printed manifestos (including a "Don't Mitt Where You Sleep" t-shirt, which I need to own immediately), a graphic dot print that nods to Marimekko and an abstract face graphic, which appears, most arrestingly, on the crotch of a black short's suit (oh, be-have!). Between the clothes and the casting (Johnson likes to use highly spirited young models), this is one of the most lively, upbeat presentations I've attended thus far. But then, that's always the case with a Libertine joint.
I can only hope that tomorrow will be as much fun as today!