Labor Day weekend is still receding the rearview mirror—and summer along with it (*sigh*)—but it's time to ditch the paddleboard, stash the rash guard and pull out ye old Moleskine and ballpoint and head back to school. And work. Which, in my case, means New York Fashion Week.
The spring 2014 shows are kicking off a day early (Wednesday is now—egads!—part of the official fashion calendar), so I bid adieu to the beach and hit the ground running, the memory of a summer spent in flip-flops growing dimmer as I try on each NYFW look (something I do before each season so I don't have to think about what to wear once the week gets crazed). Armed with a fresh mani/pedi, I head into the fashion fray.
Thankfully, my first day is a light one (only four shows) and begins at the home of my old friends Phoebe and Annette Stephens, the designing sibs behind the jewelry line Anndra Neen. "We wanted to bring people into our working environment," says Annette, who's wearing a graphic black-and-white top with silky trousers, of inviting editors and buyers to view the collection in their art-filled living room just east of Manhattan's Grammercy Park neighborhood, where their latest pieces are surrounded by paintings and sculpture by their grandmother, father and Maxwell Gordon, their father's creative mentor. "It was inspired by the movie Baraka," adds Phoebe, who's a vision in fuchsia. "Baraka means 'blessing' in Arabic." The duo was also inspired by recent vacations in St. Barths (Annette) and Mexico (Phoebe). "It's textures from around the world," says Annette. "So we think of it as a global collection." Indeed, the webby brass cuffs and flat hammered chokers have a distinctly organic vibe, while other more streamlined pieces (such as pair of sleek brass and silver collars) feel more urbane and future-forward. Throughout, there are reworkings of Anndra Neen signatures—from an updated version of their iconic caged clutch to a 3D triangular breastplate worn by a regal-looking model—and they've introduced a chic cross-body caged cell phone bag for spring. Phoebe mentions that their four-year anniversary is fast approaching and confides that they still get a thrill out of seeing someone wearing their jewelry. "it never gets old," she says with a dreamy smile. "Seeing someone in one of your pieces it's like hearing your song on the radio."
On my way back to the subway I bump into my pal Doria Santlofer, who styled the Whit presentation earlier this morning. After a quick sidewalk catch-up, it's straight up the East Side to Lisa Perry's in-store presentation on Madison Avenue. The invitation posed the question "tennis, anyone?" and I'm assuming the collection will follow suit. I greet InStyle EIC Ariel Foxman on my way in, who just saw the first viewing. "You'll love it!" he enthuses. "It's really fun." I settle in on a white wooden bench just in time to see the first models stride out onto the green felt court…I mean runway, in pairs or quartets (nodding, I assume, to a singles or doubles match), wearing their all-white ensembles while Dionne Warwick's Do You Know The Way to San Jose? and a moody remix of Walk on By play in the background. As for the clothes, Ariel was right: I do love them. They're both cute and incredibly refined, whether it's an asymmetrical crepe mini-max dress, an iridescent Watteau-back cocktail frock, a sporty cable knit sheath or shorts worn with a matching crop top. Many of the looks feature round cutouts or circular pockets, and all are worn with high, sporty ponytails, white terry wristbands and strappy, sky-high sandals or canvas slip on sneakers. There's even a tennis bride, resplendent in her white backless halter gown. The final score? Lisa Perry: Game. Set. Match.
The Ivana Helsinki show is taking place at Pier 59 in Chelsea, and I arrive at the second floor venue to find a crazy-long line snaking past the glass doors, around the corner and all the way down the hall. But what do you expect when the invite promises "music by Shirley Manson" (yes, Shirley Manson, the frontwoman of Garbage). I cut the line (shhh, don't tell!) and make my way to my front row seat. Designer Paola Ivana Suhonen was inspired by The Bridges of Madison County, a 1995 chestnut starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep as star-crossed lovers in 1960s Iowa. The show opens with a moody short film, directed by the designer, featuring a Helsinki-clad model, suitcase in hand, cavorting in color-saturated meadows and revisiting the bridges for which the movie and collection are named. Ah, yes, the collection. It's a sweetly nostalgic, highly naif paean to quaint midwestern style, replete with prim lace and button-back floral dresses, fringed suede minis, polka dot swing coats and a sundress embellished with raffia-like wooden beads. Butterflies come in many forms—on silver necklaces, as an embroidered motif, as 3D rubber appliqués taking wing on a vest and as an original print (dubbed "Iowafly") in cheerful shades of turquoise and orange. There's even a macramé butterfly perched atop one girl's head. Most of the looks are worn with coordinating gloves, kerchiefs, she's-come-undone braids or ginormous straw sun hats—and a few models sport hand-painted seamed "stockings" on their otherwise bare legs. And though Shirley Manson does not appear on the soundtrack (which features vintage Neil Young, Simon & Garfunkel and Bill Withers tunes), she has collaborated on a duck-illustrated tank top worn with faded high-waist denim flares. While I find a few of the butterfly pieces and ruffled pinafores a bit heavy-handed, overall this is a sweet, highly personal outing that puts me in a really good mood, despite the Shirley Manson no-show. It's only when I get home, hours later, that I realize she produced the music for the short film (which is mentioned nowhere in the program notes and flashed so quickly on the screen that I—and many others in the audience, judging from the grumbling I heard on the way out—missed it entirely. Thank God for Youtube.
The Veronica Beard presentation is over at the Bleecker Street Arts Club, a third floor walk-up in the West Village. Outside, it's still 2013. But upstairs, it's 1983 all over again. Models with long, slicked-back hair stand on bright, graffiti covered cubes decked out in leopard print suits, denim leather jumpsuits, neon floral sweatshirts, multi-zip dresses and clear, python embossed trench coats accessorized with Jennifer Fisher spike earrings and a playfully surly 'tude. It's as if VB designers Veronica Miele Beard and Veronica Swanson Beard took this past spring's Met Museum "Punk" moment, evolved it a few years to the early Eighties (when their new wave girls ditched CBGBs in favor of the Mudd Club and Pyramid) then dragged the whole shebang into the here-and-now and gave it a modern uptown do-over. For despite its retro inspiration, this collection feels very fresh and of the moment.
The same, alas, cannot be said of my retro self. So while I'm supposed to end the first day of Fashion Week at the celebratory launch party for the new accessories e-com site Editorialist (which just published my fall features on Tom Binns and Jessica Alba), my dogs are barking and I'm too tired to socialize, so I hightail it past the Big Gay Ice Cream store and call it a day.
photos by Lauren David Peden/The Fashion Informer 2013