While I head off to my Saturday morning shows, Mr. TFI heads off to cross-country ski in the park (the lucky so-and-so). Winter Storm Nemo has gifted us with nearly a foot of fresh white powder but—despite the storm-related Metro North, LIRR, NJ Transit, Amtrak and airport shutdowns—the NYFW shows must go on!
And so they do, beginning with Ruffian at 9am. The venue is surprisingly packed given the time and weather conditions. Ruffian duo Brian Wolk and Claude Morais reward the faithful with a stellar lineup of peplum jackets in old-world tweeds and floral jacquards, Prince of Wales check trousers, metallic bouclé coats, horsehair corsets and men's shirting. The collection, dubbed "Reverie," is inspired by life on the Bowery then (Sherlock Holmes hats, sweeping peignoir capes) and now (Moscot shades, knee-high Frye boots, knee-length tassel necklaces and loose-in-front, bun-in-back hairdos). The guys are greeting well wishers backstage and I add my hosannas to the chorus then head to the Marissa Webb presentation next door.
Marissa Webb, for those who don't know, is the former head of womenswear design at J.Crew who launched her own label last season. For fall, she's moved further away from the colorful, piled on aesthetic that is her ex-employer's stock-in-trade in favor of a more pared down, upscale vibe. There's still a wealth of textural interest in the form of short sleeve tweed tops, an asymmetric leather skirt, windowpane plaid blazers and bold pops of color via a flame red popover and electric blue moto pants, but these street style magnet pieces are offset by a delicate white drop waist dresswith lacy inserts, sober charcoal peplum skirt suit, military coats, bow-neck silk blouses and fur or herringbone capelets atop camel reefer coats. And the pointy, metallic-tipped shoes are the epitome of ladylike cool.
I once again find myself with three hours to kill between shows—in an attempt to not overload my schedule and maintain some semblance of sanity and balance this season, I've opted to cover far fewer shows then I have in the past. So I cool my heels in the nicely appointed Samsung Galaxy Lounge (think: white leather seating areas with Jonathan Adler-meets-Kelly Wearstler pillows, throw rugs, tables and floor lamps overlooking the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Lincoln Center lobby, with a white lacquer bar serving complimentary tea and cappuccino and a handy-dandy iPhone…err, I mean Samsung….charging station). I call my sister in LA, catch up on work (Tweet, Tweet!) and revel in the feel-good tunes spun by DJ Crysal Clear, a cool-looking chick with a 'fro to rival Erykah Badu's and delightfully old-school musical tastes. In the two hours I'm there she spins The Police (Roxanne), The Stones (Miss You), Prince (Musicology), Janet Jackson (That's the Way Love Goes), Stevie Wonder (Higher Ground), Rod Stewart (Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?), Talking Heads (Psycho Killer), Sweet (Fox on the Run) and remixes of classic pop tunes like Human Nature by the late, great Michael Jackson. I couldn't have chosen a better playlist if I was manning the turntable (or iPod) myself and am as happy as a pig in you-know-what.
Then it's off to lunch and the Libertine show at Café Rouge near Penn Station. On my way down 32nd Street I pass the Crazy Coughing Lady who emptied my subway car yesterday morning. (What are the odds?!) She's wearing the exact same outfit (though it's now obvious she's a woman) and still hacking up a lung in the most disgusting manner imaginable. I swerve about eight feet to avoid getting sprayed with spittle and she gives me the stink eye but keeps walking.
I pop backstage at Libertine to get a few pics of the hair and makeup team in action and say hi to designer Johnson Hartig, who tells me the collection was inspired by "many things," including a recent holiday trip to India ("which was my second time visiting but felt like it was my first; everything felt new"), punk rock (especially the songs of his favorite band, The Damned) and tie-dye, among other things. He calls over a model who's wearing a beautiful coat with matching silk pants in a mosaic-like Moroccan carpet pattern (yet another inspiration) and I remark that these look like new garments (Libertine is known for producing artfully reworked vintage pieces). "They are!" Johnson exclaims. Also new: the men's luxe cashmere cable cardigans and eye- or silhouette-print sweaters with matching scarves. But his beloved vintage do-overs are also very much in evidence, including several gorgeous plaid coats and skirt suits with new rock crystal beading embellishment. This technique is repeated to dazzling effect on many of the pieces, such as a suite of black evening looks with colorful Indian-inspired beadwork. On the way to my seat, I run into Mary Alice Stephenson, Meredith Melling Burke and Bonnie Morrison, who's handling the front of house press. On the runway, I'm happy to see all of Johnson's disparate themes come together as a cohesive whole, along with several versions of Libertine's signature crystal skull motif, which feels softer and a bit more abstract this season. I also love a trio of looks with the childlike exclamation "neat" repeated from head to toe. It's an apt summation of the collection, which is feel-good fashion at its best.
The Katarina Grey presentation is down Broadway at the Nomad Hotel penthouse. The young Barcelona-based designer is hosting her first-ever New York Fashion Week event, which is a paean to decadent opulence. In sartorial terms, this translates to a sheer silk top with an elaborately embroidered black duchess satin bell skirt and a red crepe poet blouse atop black leggings with gold embroidery snaking up one thigh and black leather "waves" cascading down the other (a motif that's repeated on the sleeves of a lavishly embellished leather jacket, as well). There's also a black lace top with swagged duchess satin/leather pants, a goddess-worthy ivory crepe de chine blouse paired with a matching chiffon skirt encircled by a gold appliquéd leather belt, several lipstick red evening looks in decorous-from-the-front, revealing-from-the-back silhouettes, and a black satin column gown with Barbarella-like cutouts at the waist and a gold lace sleeve so fine that from a distance it looks like Saran Wrap. Working with shapes that "deconstruct the female body," the designer tells me she based one statement-making jacket (with a stiff, cocoon-like structure that rises from the model's back like a cobra's hood) on the S-curve. It takes a bit of maneuvering to see the looks clearly, as the models are standing in front of a wall of sunny windows, which renders them little more than silhouettes from certain angles, but Katarina clearly has a strong, original vision and the technical chops to back it up. Heightening the effect is the models' classic maquillage and ladylike updos, which have been painted with glittery gold leaf for a truly decadent touch.
I'm scheduled to attend seven more shows tonight (VPL by Victoria Bartlett, Calla, Louise Amstrup, Jonathan Simkhai, Otswald Helgason, Alejandro Ingelmo and Moncler Grenoble) but my stomach has been acting up for the past few hours—whether from the terrible pizza I had at lunch, residual germs from the Crazy Coughing Lady or something else entirely, I do not know—so in an effort to preserve my health and not make anyone else sick, I decide to go home and rest. Tomorrow is another day, as our fashionable friend Scarlett O'Hara so famously declared. Until then, I bid you adieu.
photos © Lauren David Peden/The Fashion Informer 2013