Sadly, I had to miss the weekend shows due to previous, non-Fashion Week work commitments (deadlines to meet, money to be made and all of that). But I'm back in the proverbial NYFW saddle bright and early Monday morning. Ok, ok, late Monday afternoon.
My first show of the day is Azede Jean-Pierre, a designer I just discovered this season. Jean-Pierre is a SCAD grad who worked at Ohne Titel before launching her namesake collection in fall 2013. I somehow missed her debut, but her sophomore outing, presented at Made Fashion Week at the Standard Hotel, is mightily impressive. This season, she was inspired by the patterns found on beetle shells, which she's blown up into larger-than-life prints when not featuring the creepy crawlies themselves meandering up dresses and across low-slung shorts. "The overall vibe is happy and fun," the charming designer says of her feel-good collection. "I always do black and white so I wanted to try color." Clearly, she has a feel for it, combining yellows, blues, oranges, reds and greens in a very pretty, high-spirited stew. As for her garments' rounded hems? "There are no harsh lines or square edges in nature, so it was important to me to portray that," she says. "And the pieces show a little skin but aren't too sexy." Indeed, the collection feels both flirty and decorous, even in a crop top that bares a wide swath of midriff.
I hoof it over to the Maritime Hotel on Ninth Ave, where Adam Lippes is hosting an intimate showing of his spring 2014 collection in the light-filled penthouse. Having taken a little fashion break, Lippes kicked off with a soft relaunch last fall, so this is his first foray back into the Fashion Week fray. Just don't call it a presentation! "I prefer to call it a preview," he says with a smile, gesturing to the racks of clothing inside the suite and the five AL-clad models on the terrace. "I took a year off and thought, 'who am I and what is my role in fashion?'" The answer: he's evolved his brand from the contemporary to designer market, with pieces that blend relaxed silhouettes and uber-luxe materials, as can be seen in a white python t-shirt dress, delicate lace tops, leopard print suiting fashioned from a stiff jacquard fabric and a skirt with hand-embroidered leather appliqués that nods to the collection's signature lion motif. There's also a boxy tee and spaghetti strap dress that look like well-worn patchwork denim but are actually soft-as-a-cloud linen, and easy-elegant tank dresses designed to see you through summer in style. And those of us who mourned the closure of his Adam + Eve brand have reason to rejoice: Lippes is bringing back his t-shirt and undies line, which will be sold exclusively on his website beginning later this month. So even those who can't afford a snakeskin dress from his designer collection can get in on the action with his beautifully cut, well-priced basics. (I know Mr. TFI will be jumping for joy.) I bump into Derek Blasberg and Elettra Wiedemann on my way out, the latter trailing her chihuahua-mix puppy, Happy, who looks anything but. "He's very mellow, that's why I bring him everywhere," she says. "He's jaded. He just isn't very impressed by all of this." Unlike the rest of us.
The good folks at Donna Karan were kind enough to squeeze me in at the last minute (bisous, Aliza Licht @DKNY), so I hop in a cab to Cedar Lake, located on the farthest reaches of 26th Street in Chelsea. The audience, which includes Goldie Hawn, Joy Bryant, Marisa Berenson, Carine Roitfeld and Ali Larter, is treated to a medley of hits old (Adele's Rumor Has It) and new (Robin Thicke's catchy-if-completely-misogynistic Blurred Lines) while waiting for the show to begin. I misread the show notes as Librarian Culture and have a moment of cognitive dissonance (Donna's doing librarians? Whaaat?) before realizing it says "Urban" Culture. That makes more sense. Except it doesn't really, as the show itself is based on "the search for a scarf" and features lots of sunbaked, vegetable dyed mudcloth coats, a canvas lace-up skirt, handwoven suede fringe jacket and oversized linen caftan shirts in desert shades of sky blue and terracotta worn with flat stone necklaces, low-slung belts and distractingly large deconstructed leather hats by Stephen Jones. There are a few great looks here, to be sure (an indigo stretch georgette balmacaan with matching dress strikes the right note of rugged sophistication, as does an embroidered block print evening dress worn by Karlie Kloss that signals Donna's wanderlust muse without going overboard). And the shoes and bags are terrific. But a more prudent edit would've made things feel a bit less costume-y.
Speaking of costume-y. My next show is Thom Browne, master of the uber-creative, thought-provoking (if not always wearable) runway show. As always, he does not disappoint. Held at Center 548 a few blocks south of the Donna venue, guests step off the cavernous elevator into a warren of small rooms with white tiled- and padded walls. There are displays of medicine jars and plastic cups filed with Rx pills, headless mannequins hanging from the ceiling and disembodied limbs strewn about. The Edison lightbulbs are flickering wildly and there's some tinkly glockenspiel music droning through the speakers. The effect is totally creepy, like having entered an insane asylum, circa 1955. The TB-uniformed orderlies…I mean publicists, scurrying about trying to tame the crowd only heightens the Shutter Island vibe. I introduce myself to Harper's Bazaar editor Laura Brown, who's one of my fashion world faves (if you haven't yet seen her addictively hilarious video series, The Look, in which she interviews everyone from Sofia Vergara and Kate Hudson to Kiernan Shipka and Elmo (yes, Elmo), you can catch them here). Just be warned that once you start Looking, you won't be able to stop. I can't resist trying some of the pills (they're white M&Ms) and watch as a woman across from me keeps popping up to take photos after it's clear the show's about to start, causing a harried publicist to run out of the corner and escort her back to her seat.
Except the show is not about to start. As we listen to the repetitive music, the audience grows increasingly restless and uncomfortable, which surely is Thom's intention: once the crazy-making music and seizure-causing lights have driven us half-mad, the show will do the rest. Bwahahaha. All around me is impatient laughter and nervous chitchat. At one point, the lights dim and we all prepare for the first look. Then the lights go back up and the whole room explodes, "Oh, come on!" Editors from The New York Times, Bazaar and Teen Vogue are tapping their feet and checking their iPhone clocks. At 5:47 (nearly an hour after the scheduled start time), the photographers in the adjoining room begin a countdown ("5, 4, 3, 2, 1") hoping to kick things off. No dice. As the clock approaches 6pm, the elevator doors finally creak open and the sound of shrieking, crazy laughter fills the room, followed by Bjork ("Shhhh! Shhhh! Shhhh!"). A group of snood- and sunglass wearing, padded hipped nurses walk slowly down the runway and take up their posts near the entrance to each padded cell. Then come the poor inmates…I mean models, clad in ivory papier-mâché jackets, sliced latex tunics, paper doll dresses, opera-length rubber gloves and off-kilter pearls, their ghostly white makeup, smeared red lipstick and towering rat's nest bouffants attesting to their fragile state of mind. Some of the girls act a bit crazier than others, stumbling vacant-eyed through the rooms, their heads lolling at odd angles and their handbags hanging open while they listen to voices only they can hear. As what sounds like cats being tortured fills our ears, the models trail out and the nurses follow behind, offering select front row denizens little vials of pills (which prompts everyone in the room to burst into laughter). The show itself lasts 25 minutes (an eternity in Fashion Week Time), so guests bolt from their seats before Browne has even finished taking his victory lap, anxious to get out of the asylum and on to their next engagement.
In my case, that would be dinner with Mr. TFI followed by Libertine at Lincoln Center (I was supposed to hit the Rosie Assoulin and Maki Oh presentations at Industria, as well, but Browne's late start scotched those plans). Johnson Hartig's upbeat outings are about as far from Thom Browne's macabre theatrics as one can get. The Libertine invite trumpeted the word "Love" in big, bold letters above the choices oui or non. Naturally, oui had been circled in Magic Marker, as Johnson's is always an enthusiastically optimistic, say-yes-to-life POV. He's the fashion world's answer to Auntie Mame, and I love him for it (oui, oui, a thousand times, oui)! I sneak backstage to say hi and spot a trio of young men in sparkly suits, one of whom is clad only in black briefs. They pose for a picture and I lean in to stage whisper, "You're not wearing any pants!" The boy in question stage whispers back, "I know!" and we all crack up laughing. I spy Johnson in the corner, showing socialite skin doc Lisa Airan a few of his more colorful creations. Well, truth be told, they're all pretty colorful, awash in sparkles and beads and tie-dye and stripes and polka dots and the aforementioned LOVE/OUI/NON print. Even the model's nails are encrusted in Rainbow Brite crystals, and the women are sporting what could be construed as black tears or a prison tat near their right eyes. "I'm continuing my journey inward," Johnson says after enveloping me in a big bear hug. "I've traveled a lot this year—to India, Marrakech, Peru, France—and it's bringing me closer to my…well, I don't want to say inner spirit, but you know what I mean…" Indeed, I do. "I think of them as Earthly Warriors, protecting us," he adds with a smile while gesturing to the multicolored masses surrounding us. The good vibes continue on the runway, with models in God Save the Queen topcoats, sunny yellow hippie-chic maxis and foil-printed, party-in-the-front, business-in-the-back sweatsuits strutting to a Vanilla Ice remix (Ice, Ice Baby!) and Keef Richards' Happy. Which is exactly how this collection makes me feel.
Unfortunately, it's all business-in-the-front for me, as I head home to file my daily coverage. Thank Jehovah for my new Esquivel wingtips (a gift from the designer—thanks, George!), which allow me to pound the NYFW pavement in style, sans blisters. It's a Fashion Week miracle, people!
photos by Lauren David Peden/The Fashion Informer 2013