My day begins with the Tanya Taylor show down at Industria Studios in the West Village. While waiting for the proceedings to get underway, I spy the Anndra Neen girls across the aisle (looking super glam, as always) and have a lovely chat with jewelry designer Anna Sheffield, whom I haven't seen in quite some time. Taylor was inspired by colors and the work of Caro Niederer, a contemporary Swiss artist who specializes in rich, color-saturated paintings based on situations from her personal life and environment. That would explain the seating assignment card and run-of-show notes, which boast bright splashes of color I first mistook for lipstick swipes. The show opens with a series of bold skirts, suits and dresses with graphic black and white stripes bisected by riotous rainbow lines. Next up is a suite of "rainbow scroll" dresses, which feature swirly patches of color on ladylike chiffon worn with pointy-vamped stilettos with color-blocked heels. The color is tempered by a pair of white-piped denim skirt-and-top ensembles that give the eye a chance to rest. Then it's back to mirror embellished strapless cocktail dresses, floral mesh jackets and coats, blossom-splashed gingham and a series of hand-painted floral pieces that recall a garden in full bloom. The models wear neon crystal jewelry and headbands by Shourouk (who owes a debt of gratitude to Tom Binns) and wing-back mules by Paul Andrew. It may sound like overkill on paper, but in person it was lyrical, transporting and heart-stoppingly beautiful. Wisely, the models' hair is slicked off their faces and they appear to be totally bare-faced, with nary a trace of mascara or lipstick, placing the emphasis squarely where it belongs: on the clothes.
I walk up Washington to the Titania Inglis presentation at Made at the Standard and detour through the High Line park since I have a few minutes to spare, stopping to take a few shots of the gently swaying grasses (planted by Piet Oudolf, my favorite garden designer) and the DVF domed skylight in the distance. I overshoot the Standard by a block so circle back via Fourteenth Street, and when I round the corner in front of the DVF store, I spy the woman herself talking to the guy behind the counter. After a brief hello, I'm in the High Line room at the hotel, where Trent Reznor's singing about how he wants to fuck me like an animal. (Not tonight, honey.) The rmatte black runway is topped with a silver cage-like structure that reminds me of a kid's jungle gym but is, according to the show notes, inspired by the work of Buckminster Fuller, father of the geodesic dome, and Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, whose work employs light, water and air temperature (among other elemental ephemera). The resulting collection features a storm-grey mini with decorative leg braces and clay-colored sheaths topped by metal cage overlays. The most winning looks are those—like a simple grey halter dress with a triangular metal clasp and a slinky white gown with delicate waxed cotton cording criss-crossing the cutaway back—that wear their muse lightly. And as always, this eco-chic designer used natural dyes and veg-tanned leather throughout.
I kill some time answering emails in the Standard lobby, then head over to Milk Studios for the Costello Tagliapietra show. I pop backstage to see the boys (Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra) pre-show, where I find them chatting with their longtime friend Debi Mazar, who has her daughter, Giuliana, in tow. She agrees to pose for a picture as long as I take another using her camera ("the one we took before didn't come out"). Mission accomplished. As for the collection, says Robert, "We wanted to broaden the spectrum. Our friends always want what we make for ourselves, so we took the Costello girl on vacation. It's easy, light and approachable. So a touch of us with an inherent femininity." All I know is, I'm loving the muddy plaid prints that are hanging nearby and can't wait to see them on the runway.
I head back to my seat and notice Marie Claire Accessories Director Kyle Anderson directly across the aisle. I've never met him but am a huge fan of his work (seriously, don't be put off by his OTT personal style; the guy is a genius at uber-inventive, out-of-the-box accessory stills and if you think I'm exaggerating, check them out for yourself ). "Tell my boss!" he cracks when I tell him he's the only reason I buy the magazine. "They think my ideas are too out-there!" Au contraire, mon frere. [Note to Anne Fulenwider: Whatever you're paying him, it isn't enough.] Once I'm back in my seat, Robert Verdi swings by to say hi and give me a little present: a black box festooned with a Louis Vuitton-like RV logo ("It's tongue-in-chic," he quips. "In honor of my fifteenth anniversary in the fashion industry.") Inside: a handmade beaded bracelet spelling out "Front Row," a sweatshirt with his cartoon image on it and a postcard depicting him alongside Anna Wintour, André Leon Talley, RuPaul and Andy Warhol at runway show (Andy Warhol? Robert. Honey. You aren't that old!).
But back to Costello and their fabulous clothes. Which really are fabulous, from the blurred plaid blouses and knits to the persimmon pantsuit with bright yellow blouse to the navy tuxedo pants with a red stripe running down the inside of the leg. I love many of the looks here, most especially a navy dress topped by a long, belted sleeveless cardigan (modeled after the ones the designers wear most days) and a blue "pieced" dress with seams that curve around the body like a hug (a very, very sensuous hug). And I love, love, love the Costello-does-Birkenstock sandals and cross-body messenger bag, both of which I plan to incorporate into my own wardrobe next summer. On my way out, I bump into Vogue's Meredith Melling Burke and fashion consultant Roopal Patel. "Oh, I like your little bag!" cooes MMB, pointing to my RV logo'ed box. Back off, bitch, this swag is mine!
After a late afternoon lunch (arugula and prosciuotto pizza, if you must know), it's up to Lincoln Center for my final show of the day. I still haven't picked up my official Fashion Week press credentials but figure I'll have time after the show so head in to the tents, where I'm immediately reminded how much I dislike this venue and all that it represents. Why? Because unlike Bryant Park (or even more than Bryant Park, I should say) it feels like a sterile, commercially driven convention hall. Between the space itself (which is ugly and artlessly designed with icky fluorescent lighting), the off-message sponsors littering the lobby (Sweet"N Low? Reel Code Media? DHL?) and the people littering the lobby (fashion hangers-on who seem more interested in taking selfies than seeing the shows), it all feels very tacky and bottom-of-the-barrel. And while I'm well aware that fashion is a business (one that generates billions of dollars annually), there's a crass commercialization to the tents that feels at odds with the creativity and blood, sweat and tears that go into producing a collection—even if said collection is ultimately destined to be sold and marketed to throngs of insatiable consumers. That's all fine—and necessary—but it should come later, after the clothes have been shown and sold to buyers, not before. In fact, I'm not sure why designers still choose to show here, aside from the economic benefits (the tents are far cheaper than an off-site venue, where the designer also has to pay for lighting, seats, security, et al.). Still, the venue kind of encapsulates the basest parts of the business and feels very much like a dinosaur well past its prime. But I digress…
I'm here to see Marissa Webb, and the J.Crew alum does not disappoint. Before the show, I watch as a cute, young illustrator named Danielle Meder sketches a woman in the front row (who turns out to be Cory Kennedy). As for the collection, it's inspired by the designer's own personal style—and hers is a style worth coveting. She opens with a high waisted blush pink silk skirt with matching shell (so pretty!), which is quickly followed by an austerely cut red crepe dress, moto jacket, tie-neck blouse, deep-v tunic and full skirt mini before segueing to a borrowed-from-the-boys-but-better olive (excuse me, fatigue) green shirt jacket with black leather pockets. It's tossed casually over a floral ruffle dress and accessorized with black cutout booties and a faceted onyx pendant. The perfect sexy-tomboy mix, in other words, which is Webb's preferred oeuvre. Other standout looks include a white silk-tie blouse over a black floral silk minidress, and an electric blue petal shirt atop black leather shorts with colorful racing stripes zooming down the sides. It's Webb's own wardrobe writ large—and it's exceedingly cool and exceedingly sexy (in a smart, sophisticated, not slutty way).
I'm hoping to end my day by picking up my press credentials (which make it easier to get backstage and which I registered—and paid for—weeks ago). Alas, the press office is set to close in 15 minutes and a burly security guard informs me that no one is allowed to get on the line past where he's standing (that would be me and a few other unlucky journalists) and no amount of wheedling will sway him from his appointed task. He tells us to come back at 7am the next morning. As if. I have seven shows on Friday, none of them in the tents, and the next time I'll be at Lincoln Center is for an evening show and the office will be closed. He is unmoved.
I'm supremely pissed and feeling sorry for myself when I pass a young woman sitting on the sidewalk a block or two from the tents, surrounded by a suitcase and backpack, begging for change. She's holding a hand-written sign that reads "A little kindness goes a long way." I mentally congratulate her for this lovely sentiment, then realize I should practice what she's preaching. I double back to give her a few bucks and ask, "How did you wind up here?" (meaning out on the street, begging for money). She acknowledges the cash I hand her with a nod and half-smile. "I took a bus from where I'm from," she replies. "No, I mean how did you wind up living on the street?" I inquire. Something about this girl—she looks so young and so alone, surrounded by all her wordily possessions and her DIY cardboard sign—has gotten under my skin. "Family troubles," she says with a resigned sigh and a look that speaks volumes. "Welcome to the club," I say, which turns her half-smile into a full on grin.
I walk to the subway wondering about this girl's story and the circumstances that led her to find herself, not yet old enough to drink or vote, sitting on a sidewalk near Columbus Circle. And having just come from the vulgar display of commercial excess that is the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week tents, I find myself wondering about the fashion world's priorities—as well as my own.
photos by Lauren David Peden/The Fashion Informer, 2013