Hey, fashion fans! As the NYFW shows have ended and there are countless other places covering the ongoing scene, I'm putting The Fashion Informer on hiatus unti the next round of shows in September. Have a wonderful summer and I'll see you in the fall.
illustration of The Fashion Informer by Lana Frankel
So another New York Fashion Week has come and gone. We've seen some great fall fashion, discovered some talented newcomers and helped launch Foundation Onda, a NYFW nonprofit that benefits Safe Horizon, the largest victim's assistance organization in the country.
Below is a list of Foundation Onda's current Partners, including Narciso Rodriguez, Cynthia Rowley, Derek Lam, Ralph Rucci, Donna Karan, Christine Alcalay, Libertine, Honor and Emerson—to name just a few—and next season we hope to have even more designers, beauty brands and PR firms on board.
Here's to New York's exceedingly generous fashion community, who value the importance of doing good while looking good! And please visit Foundation Onda to learn how you can help.
February 2014 marks the tenth year—and 20th season—that I've been covering New York Fashion Week. In years past, when friends and colleagues have asked how I'm feeling about the shows, which I covered first for Fashion Wire Daily and later, for Vogue.com UK, the answer has been an unfettered "excited" or "inspired" or (midway through the week) "exhausted."
This season, the only word that comes to mind when people ask how I'm feeling is demoralized. Part of this has to do with the fact that there are, as has been pointed out in countless other articles, just too many damn shows (320 this week alone, according to the latest New York Times' T magazine). Part of it has to do with the fact that the fashion cycle seems to be operating on warp speed these days, so you've barely had a chance to stop and catch your breath after covering one season—pre-fall! couture! fall! resort! holiday! pre-spring! couture! spring!—when the next round of shows is upon us and we have to do it all over again.
Part of it has to do with the fact that Fashion Week itself has morphed into a bloated, swollen free-for-all that seems to have more to do with feeding the blogosphere/social media beast than discovering and appreciating the work of the designers we're supposedly there to celebrate. (I mean, really, do the words "street style" even mean anything anymore, what with all the freebies and paid placements that have become de rigueur for the endlessly photographed bloggers and street style icons? Even worse are the fashion world hangers-on who dress up in elaborate, look-at-me! costumes and parade around Lincoln Center or outside Milk Studios with studied nonchalance, desperately hoping to catch the eye of the shutterbug wolf pack. It's all just so sad.)
But more than any of the above, the mind-numbing machinations of it all—running around from venue to venue, uptown and downtown, east side to west, for the privilege of watching a 15-minute parade of mostly mediocre clothes worn by skeletal teenagers—just leaves me feeling meh about the whole thing.
That's not to say there aren't some worthwhile shows and transformative moments during NYFW. Of course there are. It's just that they're increasingly few and far between, drowned out by the incessant clatter and hype that surrounds Fashion Week like a swarm of locusts. (Though I did find a renewed sense of Fashion Week purpose through my involvement in Foundation Onda, the NYFW nonprofit started by my friend and colleague Erin Dixon, which you can learn more about here.)
But given my general ambivalence, rather than load up my fall 2014 calendar with shows I don't really care about (which is to say: most of them), this season I opted to only attend shows by designers I love and admire, those who march to the beat of their own drummer and work to push fashion forward in their own, unique way. Unfortunately, I missed the first two days of shows after getting stranded in Idaho following Snowpocalypse #5 and coming down with a wicked chest cold, so apologies to my designer friends who presented last Wednesday and Thursday.
On Friday, I kicked off the week with Tess Giberson, who set herself the task of reinterpreting classic pieces from her New Hampshire childhood into something more modern and fashion-forward. She accomplished this beautifully in curved hem puffer vests with hand-knit back panels, silk skirts and dresses with a watercolor forest print by her artist husband, Jon Widman, boyish wool bombers softened with feminine fur collars and elongated flannel print button-downs worn with sleek leather leggings. She evolved her signature knits by way of a grandpa cardigan with hand-crocheted sleeves, a sleeveless double panel turtleneck worn atop black leather shorts and reverse jacquard sweaters that looked as chic and cozy as a hug. To me, Giberson epitomizes what it means to be a designer, in that she does not try and reinvent the wheel every season but instead forges her own path, quietly and consistently trying to better her own highly personal raison d'être. That black puffer vest is number one on my Fall Hit List, along with her borrowed-from-the-boys knit cap, which reminds me of the hats all the cool stoner kids in my rural high school wore while sneaking smokes outside the gym between class.
Newcomer Tanya Taylor was in a playful mood for fall, with hand-painted leather coats and dresses, polka dot knits and flirty floral jacquard pieces in graphic black and white offset by jolts of neon (including removable fur collars and rabbits' feet lariats strung around the models' throats). A bold check sweater looked terrific paired with a silver camera print skirt—a metallic motif that repeated itself on dresses, tops and coats—and she knocked it out of the park with a series of silk cocktail frocks with colorful, three-dimensional petals that fluttered softly with every step.
Like Giberson, Sally LaPointe is a designer who has a finely-honed aesthetic that she moves forward, inch by beautiful inch. This season she took the Charles Bukowski poem "Bluebird" as her inspiration, outfitting her girls in tough luxe leather skirts, wool shantung bustiers, sexy fox-trimmed sweaters, armor-like fish skin bombers, and dresses and tops with artfully embellished silver beading that looked, from a distance, like exposed zippers. All conveyed a femme warrior vibe that will surely resonate with LaPointe's cool, confident customer. And she ended the show with a trio of bluebird print evening ensembles that evolved her trademark style from goth to gorgeous.
Although this is only her second NYFW season, Rosie Assoulin already has an immediately identifiable look, comprised of oversized, sculptural silhouettes, luxurious fabrics used in easy-breezy ways and clever high-low pairings (think: hand-constructed evening gowns worn with Superga sneakers designed in collaboration with her friend Leandra Medine, aka the Man Repeller). For fall, Assoulin continued apace with colorful, super wide-legged trousers, beautifully tailored coats, artfully draped and wrapped evening dresses and a lovely ankle-length gray wool tulip skirt topped by a cropped windowpane plaid pullover that yanked the classic Sixties funnel neck into the here and now.
Azede Jean-Pierre was in a cozy mood for fall—no surprise there, given the incredibly cold and snowy New York winter we've been experiencing—and she worked a long, louche silhouette in a variety of highly textured knits that made me think of the off-duty lounging outfits favored by Scandal's Olivia Pope. To wit: ribbed wool sweaters, tights, jumpers and tanks. Fancy high-waisted sweatpants. Slouchy ponte pants worn with a super luxe knitted mink sweater (you know how you do). There was even a glorious round shouldered felted wool coat and matching trousers in soft dove gray—exactly what D.C.'s famous fictional fixer would wear to meet Fitz…I mean President Grant…for a secret tête-à-tête.
Thom Browne has no need for secret tête-à-têtes (real or imagined) as he wears his sartorial heart on his sleeve for all to see. Last season was a paean to glamorous, institutionalized lunatics. This season he turned his showman's eye to the Catholic church, as evidenced by the cross-and-candle backdrop, wooden pew seating, burning incense and model-priest supplicants kneeling at the edge of the runway. On said runway: white wigged, wimple wearing women in monastic gray flannel capes, nipped-waist blazers and long, hourglass satin dresses marched in mournful procession on the road to redemption. Then the church came into some money (ka-ching!), as one sinful gold look after another passed by, each more heavily embellished with fur, embroidery and beading than the last. Whether Browne was commenting on the corruption of the church or its ability to deliver us from evil is unclear. But as to whether this was a transporting, captivating Fashion Week experience? Gilt-y as charged.
One can't speak of captivating Fashion Week experiences without giving a shout-out to Libertine designer Johnson Hartig. Like Azede Jean-Pierre, he, too, was inspired by the winter weather, embellishing black coats and dresses with white crystal frost-and-snowflake beading. Elsewhere, Yeats' poem "The Sorrow of Love" appeared as a graphic text print on coats and sweatsuits, Boy Scout-meets-punk rock patches adorned coats and blazers, and Gerard Richter-esque grids were used to fantastic effect on multicolor tights paired with clashing socks and pumps. These disparate themes, filtered through Hartig's fertile imagination and worn by energetic young models, made for a delightfully uplifting and memorable show. The colorful Pologeorgis fur that closed the proceedings perfectly encapsulated the wit and whimsy of this stellar collection, as did the Sucre Bleu chocolate/sea salt crucifix left on the seat of each front row guest—an inspired touch that would have been equally at home in the Church of Thom Browne.
Also memorable, but for different reasons, was Kristine Johannes' Rauwolf collection. Sophisticated and elegant in the extreme, Johannes once again presented her Plexi evening bag collection in the Parkview Suite at the Grammercy Hotel—and she once again hit a home run. The designer took her cue this season from HBO's Game of Thrones, which translated to the dragon scale-etched Lindworm clutch, the metal studded Elettra grid, antique mirrored oval Sposa bag and the Castellum with 3-D matte pyramids that had me rethinking the fashion possibilities of Legos but were, in fact, inspired by the cabochon cuts in the Met's JAR exhibit. Johannes comes by her inspiration honestly: she's a huge Thrones' fan and none other than dragon mother Daenerys Targaryen herself (aka, actress Emilia Clarke) carried a Rauwolf clutch at the Emmys last season, as did Elisabeth Moss, Leslie Mann, Kelly Osbourne and a host of other A-listers, making it the most-carried evening bag brand at the event (take that, Judith Lieiber!). Expect to see much more of Rauwolf when the Oscars roll around next month.
I ended NYFW at the Milk Studios show of Jeremy Scott, which drew the likes of Perez Hilton, Kat Graham, Joe Jonas, Coco Rocha and Liz Goldwyn. Oscar nominee Jared Leto arrived 35 minutes late, rushing into the packed-house venue after everyone else had been seated and the runway cleared for the show to begin. "My apologies," he announced to the room, arms held high. "But you all look lovely!" The crowd burst out laughing, he took his seat and the show began. And what a show it was. Perfectly timed to coincide with the 2014 Winter Olympics, Scott reworked football jerseys as fuzzy knit gowns, recast the varsity jacket as a furry tuxedo blazer and re-imagined old-school tube socks as dresses and cardigans. The classic leather basketball morphed into a bustier and miniskirt, and sheer mesh jerseys were worn with protective laced leg pads given Scott's signature sexy spin. A suite of Band-Aid print looks nodded to the after-effects of his athletes' endeavors while a quartet of Madballs knits played into the designer's love of retro pop culture. It was cute. It was clever. It was fun. He shoots, he scores. And the crowd goes wild!
photos by Lauren David Peden/The Fashion Informer 2014
I'm thrilled to announce my involvement in Foundation Onda, a non-profit founded by my friend and colleague Erin Dixon that's launching during New York Fashion Week. This season, Foundation Onda will benefit Safe Horizon, the largest victims' services agency in the United States.
Please visit the Foundation Onda website to learn more about this exciting new venture—and you can read more about it in this terrific Style.com feature. I look forward to seeing you at the shows!
I recently had the pleasure of spending an afternoon at the Bro0klyn studio of artists' collaborative, Fort Makers. (They paint! They quilt! They do woodworking! They design clothing!) The result of our fun and freewheeling conversation was published on Dossier, accompanied by some kickass images by photographer Kate Owen. Go. Enjoy.
image courtesy Kate Owen/Dossier
The Label: Rosie Assoulin
Based In: New York City
Designed By: Rosie Assoulin. The 28-year-old Brooklyn native has always loved fashion—she began experimenting on her grandmother's sewing machine at age 13—and hopscotched from floral design to event planning to jewelry design (under the tutelage of her future mother-in-law, Lee Angel creative director, Roxanne Assoulin) before turning her talents to fashion. Having dropped out of FIT, the designer honed her skills through internships at Lee Angel, Oscar de la Renta, Brian Reyes and Lanvin. "We launched our collection with Resort 2014 this past June," said Assoulin. "It was centered around what my ideal wardrobe would be."
Looks Like: Based in Tribeca and produced in New York's Garment District, Assoulin's resort outing is full of what she terms "evolved classic" silhouettes (think: relaxed drawstring waist jumpsuits, a trench back vest, low-slung palazzo pants atop a bell sleeved crop top, and architecturally draped cocktail frocks in bold, figure flattering stripes crafted from pure silk and luxurious cotton faille). Her début outing is, she said, "a blend of many aesthetics I've always been drawn to, including American sportswear, Fifties French couture and ethnic tribal wear with a healthy dose of menswear throughout." Indeed, it's the ladylike boyishness of Assoulin's designs—even the evening dresses feel refreshingly sportif—that sets her work apart. She's also adept at using big, graphic prints in unexpected ways, such as a pair of trousers that are white above the knee and black below, worn with a matching tie belt, or a strapless sheath with diagonally striped panels that meet in a flirty cascade at the hip. For spring 2014 (pictured below) she continued to evolve her signature menswear tailoring-meets-feminine volume by way of double-belted trousers with a cold-shoulder blouse, grommeted palazzo pants paired with a casual-cool polo, sari-sashed le smoking and a hand-painted striped gown with an adjustable zippered train. The designer also collaborated with her mother-in-law on a small range of semiprecious bags and jewelry for spring. "I am drawn to women who are strong, passionate, individualistic and confident," the designer said of her dream client. "She’s stylish, not trendy, but she’s got an adventurous spirit. It is for a woman who approaches dressing herself with a deep understanding of who she is—and has a healthy curiosity for the new and unchartered within herself and the world."
Sold At: The Rosie Assoulin collection retails from $550 - $7,200 and is carried at Fivestory, Louis Boston, Forty Five Ten in Dallas, Capitol in Charlotte, The Webster Miami and online at Moda Operandi.
graphic design by K Sarna
My final day of the New York Fashion Week fall 2013 shows starts at The Box at Lincoln Center with Brandon Sun, one of my favorite emerging designers. Inspired by the organic, tranquil interiors of Axel Vervoodt and the Gutai art movement of 1950s Japan—particularly Kazuo Shiraga, who applied paint to the soles of his feet then hung from a rope above the canvas and let nature take its course—"I let my fabrics dictate how they would hang," says Brandon. "It was about finding the soul of the fabric and creating a new way to wear fur." (Fur being his raison d'être.) To this end—and with Blackgama sponsoring the presentation, which featured 20 models standing on a raised platform in the center of the room—he sheared mink to resemble plush velvet, topped a texturized leather biker jacket with Persian lamb panels and crafted leather and mink into an undulating peplum bodice with detached mink sleeves. "I wanted to take mink in a new direction," explains the designer while standing in front of his drop dead gorgeous collection, which feels feminine, sculptural and powerful in equal measure. Elsewhere, a long satin skirt pools at the model's feet, her upper half swaddled in a cashmere kimono cardigan and the aforementioned lamb and leather biker jacket. A black-and-white intarsia mink overcoat and stole (the latter worn atop a Chantilly lace tuxedo blouse and draped flannel skirt) instantly sets my heart racing. Ditto a Kazuo embroidered leather sheath and tank worn with slouchy black tuxedo pants and a silver fox collar. And the palette of moody black, grey, inky blue and hunter green strikes just the right note of somber and soignée. (And on the beauty front, his models sport a loose in front/bun in back 'do that is similar to those worn at Ruffian. One more sighting and we've got ourselves a hair trend, people!)
Designer Christina Kim is showcasing her ZuZu Kim collection via private appointments at the Empire Hotel across the street, so I pop in to see what she's got up her sleeve for fall. Inspired by 16th century garments, Christina focused heavily on the shoulders this season. "I love a sculptural, cape-like silhouette with an almost armored shoulder," she says while two models change into various looks. I especially like a high-collared trench with leather half-sleeves and a structured, belted raspberry cape with lace shoulder details. Another winning piece comes in the form of a black curly lamb, rabbit and leather vest that "kiss" at the seams.
Then it's on to the Garment District, where the CFDA Incubator designers are hosting a group press preview. I swing by to say hi to Daniel Vosovic, who is displaying his Egon Schiele-inspired spring 2013 pieces as his fall collection is currently at the showroom for buying appointments (and isn't debuting until his official presentation in March). He tells me he picked up 23 new stores for spring, including Shopbop,Treasure & Bond in New York and Isetan in Tokyo. I've known DV since his Project Runway days, so I couldn't be happier about his well-deserved success (I feel like a proud mom…I mean, big sister). After admiring his silk print tops and "cracked seam" pants [note to self: order a pair in black asap], I head next door to see WHIT designer Whitney Pozgay, who I was unable to track down at her presentation last week. CFDA poobahs Diane von Furstenberg and Steven Kolb swing by to pay their respects to designer Emanuela Duca while I'm checking out her fine jewelry wares, and I do quick drive-bys at Burkman Bros (rugged menswear), Reece Hudson (killer handbags) and Jonathan Simkhai (ska- and sports-inspired womenswear). I missed Jonathan's presentation Saturday night at Milk (which was styled by the incomparable Susan Joy) and his publicist tells me the designer's not on hand for today's event because he tore his meniscus muscle while hemming pants on a model and is currently in surgery. Yes, really. And you thought fashion was all fun and games. I peek into the W Hotels Inspiration lounge on my way out. W Hotels sponsors the CFDA Incubator and is sending each of the designers on a five-day trip to a W of their choosing, anywhere in the world, as inspiration for the spring 2014 collections. Daniel Vosovic and Reece Hudson are both heading to Instabul in a few weeks (separately), while Whitney P's off to Bali. Now that sounds like fun and games. [Note to DV: If you need a traveling companion—or valet—I'm available.] I run into CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund nominated jewelry designer Jennifer Fisher on my way out and snap a shot of bauble-laden appendages.
Back downtown at The Standard High Line Room, I take in the sustainable stylings of Titania Inglis, who I first met last winter when she won the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation award. This season, she tells me she's channeling "a parallel world where magical things can happen" (a phrase I hear her repeat to reporters a half-dozen times, verbatim, before she says it to me). So much for original questions or original answers; Fashion Week fatigue has set in and we're all on autopilot. No matter, as her designers are original enough, from the leather and jersey asymmetrical hem cone dress to a grey geometric paneled dress to a color blocked druid gown with a neckline slit down to there. And then there's her use of fur, which sprouts from the shoulders of a military coat, is fashioned into a puffy miniskirt and, in the case of a reindeer jacket with leather sleeves, engulfs the model's head like some creature from the great beyond (or, you know, a parallel world where magical things are happening rightthisminute). (I call that world Jacques Torres.) Titania tells me that at first she was "grossed out" by the thought of using fur, but as she learned more about sustainable and ethical methods of fur farming and tanning, she decided to try and incorporate it into her designs in ways not usually seen in an urban environment or an eco-chic collection. Hence the reindeer hoodie, which was sourced from the Sami tribe in Lapland and helps sustain their way of life and the surrounding woodlands. But I do wish the designer would include fabric details in her program notes. Without them, it's hard for the layperson to tell what makes her plaid trousers or sweaters different from those of her less environmentally concerned colleagues.
Anarchy symbols? Check. Shredded t-shirts? Check. Exposed zippers? Check. Animal prints, checkerboard, cartoon graphics, black leather minis, colorful fun fur, asymmetrical haircuts and seriously bright eye makeup? Check, check, check. Jeremy Scott clearly hearts the '80s this season. And the crowd, which includes Bryanboy, Leigh Lezark, Michelle Harper, CL, Kat Graham, Mia Moretti, Natalia Kills, A$AP Rocky, Big Sean, Ellen von Unwerth, a buff Perez Hilton (wearing a kilt, suspenders and no shirt), clearly hearts Jeremy Scott and his OTT street style tributes. Terry Richardson is sitting in front of me and before the show starts he and the other celebs are mobbed by photogs, to whom he gives his signature thumbs up over and over. "Is that thing insured?" I ask him. "No, but it is a little swollen right now," he says with a grin, holding it next to his left thumb so Leigh Lezark and I can compare. "I need to remember to switch them." Which he does for the next 50,000 photo ops. Once the lights dim, though, all eyes are on the runway, where retro-punk boys and girls bop around to the strains of the Beastie Boys, Blondie and the B-52s ("Rock Lo-o-ob-ster") in a fun, energetic New Wave homage that makes me instantly nostalgic for the 80s and—having worn it all the first time around—makes me feel young and old at the same time. I think I actually owned a version of Scott's "Too Weird to Live, To Rare to Die" t-shirt back when Sid and Nancy roamed the earth. *Sniff*
After lunch at my favorite Mexican joint, I cab back up to Lincoln Center for yet another presentation in The Box (which I've been to I don't know how many times this week, which is why it felt like Groundhog Day when I woke up and looked at my schedule this morning). On the way, I cringe in horror watching models in a Taxi TV Juicy Couture ad butcher Joan Jett's Bad Reputation. Just stop it, Juicy. Co-opting the original Runaways' badass anthem is not going to make your craptacular mid-market mall clothes seem any more sexy or subversive than they are (which is to say: not at all).
Sexy and subversive are, however, fitting descriptives for the Leather Japan event. Featuring eight Japanese-based leather designers, this group outing is a mix of presentation, runway show and live musical performance. While the 10-piece Japanese punk band Turtle Island plays in a screened-off arena in the middle of the venue, male and female mannequins stalk the square runway that rings the stage in clothes by Sasquatchfabrics and Blackmeans. Meanwhile, shoes, bags, jewelry and electronic charging devices designed by Genten, Hender Scheme, Ed Robert Judson, Ini, e.m. and Kenji Amandana are displayed in glass cases on the floor surrounding the stage. It's a bit cacophonous, but I like the shoes and bags and I love, love, love the music and the energy in the room, which is exhilarating, even if most in the too-cool-for-school fashion crowd are afraid to let loose and whoop it up.
Twenty-three dollars and one harrowing cab ride later, I'm at the Hotel on Rivington for an appointment with Kristine Johannes of Rauwolf. I've covered this new, uber-modern evening bag collection in TFI's Introducing column but have never actually met the designer in person. Kristine turns out to be absolutely charming (and much less intimidating than her rather stern-looking headshot might suggest) and she excitedly shows me a two-page spread featuring her bags in the March issue of Elle before showing me the new bags themselves. Crafted entirely from Plexiglas—polished, matte and of varying thicknesses—the designer worked with her factory in Italy this season to make the bags lighter and carve out more interior room for one's iPhone, lipstick and other evening essentials. In addition to being less heavy and more capacious, the new fall styles feature degradé and wood details, including one clutch fashioned from a wafer-thin briarwood panel sandwiched between two pieces of colored Plexi for an almost 3-D holographic effect. In addition, the frame of each bag is now dyed to match for a chic, tonal look. Rauwolf bags really are unlike anything else out there, and it's exciting to imagine where Kristine will take her creations—and us—in the future.
I'm supposed to finish up the day back at Lincoln Center with Anna Sui and Clover Canyon, but I've got several (non-Fashion Week-related) deadlines looming so I decide to call it quits early so I'll have time to finish my show coverage and get my other work done, as well.
I wound up having to skip the shows on Monday due to that pesky stomach virus (boo hiss!), which means I missed some of my favorite designers, including 3.1 Phillip Lim, Donna Karan, Karen Walker, Kaelen and Thom Browne.
Mercifully, I am feeling better this morning so off I go to Vera Wang. The show has drawn an A-list crowd that includes John Legend and Chrissy Telgen, Olivia Palermo, Christine Baranski, Jada Pinkett Smith (looking very pretty—and extremely tiny—in a pleated peach sheath) and my old pal Rachel Roy, who tells me she'd just seen Beautiful Creatures with her daughter the night before. "It was a bit corny," she says with a smile. "But I loved it." And I love Vera's collection. Riffing on the idea of classical dressmaking in sculptural silhouettes, the designer takes her minimalist-meets-maximalist tendencies to a whole new level via a series of curvy black wool vests, dresses and boleros atop slim stone or charcoal sheaths, and a strapless lace shift topped with a silk bandeau bra that binds the model's breasts in a most flattering fashion. This bralet is repeated on many looks, most winningly in bejeweled black on a simple kimono sleeved frock and in concert with a jacquard and brocade jumper. A passage of fringe tweed pieces add a dash of irreverence (and movement) to the highly textural proceedings, and the designer rebukes those who say she's too focused on black by way of stone rose jacquard and metallic flower cloqué separates in eye-popping shades of magenta, tangerine and fuchsia. Fur is another big story here: draped into capes, epaulets and uber-sophisticated shrugs. And let's not forget the chiffon-trains-atop-skinny-pants that trail down the runway. It may sound a bit all-over-the-place on paper, but in person it feels assured, cohesive and very, very desirable. Also desirable are the thick ankle strapped booties, which strike just the right balance of edgy and elegant.
After a delicious steak lunch at The Smith near Lincoln Center, it's a hop, skip and a jump on the 1 train to see Jules Kim's trunk show of her avant-garde jewelry collection, Bijules, at the W Hotel in the Financial District. Instead of releasing an entirely new collection for fall 2013, says Jules, "I wanted to push my archive and communicate my work over the past 10 years." To that end, she's dubbed this outing The Origin of Creation and set up displays throughout the spacious hotel suite, starting with the horizontal bar ring that she invented nine years ago (and which you may remember from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and segueing through her bony knuckle ring to her nail ring to her ear cuffs to her gold nipple pasties to her sexy silk panties with delicate gold suspenders, all of which have been—how to put this delicately?—ripped off ad nauseum by other people. They've also been worn by a Who's Who of celebs, including Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, Rihanna and Stephanie Seymour (to name a few), all of whom can be seen in the various press books scattered throughout the space. "The way we consume fast fashion and deliver fast product is through that consumerist influence," she says while trying on rings for my benefit. "I wanted to really showcase the gut-wrenching creative process that's behind the finished product, which is not something people usually get to see." So in addition to the jewelry itself, Jules commissioned videos from four emerging directors from four different countries, all of whom were given a directive based on the designer's experience living on the Lower East Side during Hurricane Sandy, when she watched strangers come together in a time of darkness, both literal and figurative. "It was about shedding light on a very dark place," she explains. "So not just about the darkness but about hope and possibility and a sense of community." The four artists—Lina Plioplyte (from Lithuania), Gunnar Tufta (Norway), Ruben XYZ (Stockholm) and Alessandro Simonetti (Italy)—were given complete creative freedom and each took a unique approach, from Plioplyte's visual tone poem to Sznajderman's winkingly funny film starring a Bijuled Venus emerging from the half shell. The designer will be taking these videos—and the concept, the collection and the afterparty—on the road to Paris, Los Angeles, Berlin, Stockholm and Copenhagen over the next six months while she evolves her archival pieces into brand new creations for spring 2014. "I want to expose the story behind it now so that spirit of origin takes off like seeds in the wind," she says with a grin. "In today's market it's just about doing the safe thing and being accepted. But that's the worst—it just sustains the status quo." No chance of that happening with Jules Kim on the case.
From here, I cab up to The Standard for the presentation of Misha Nonoo's namesake collection. Following the adventures of a young Englishwoman invited to spend a weekend in the Russian countryside, we're treated to riding jackets and greatcoats adorned with Bolshevik military medallions, flippy skirts in Prince of Wales checks, Russian red gowns and leopard print shorts worn with furry Shapka hats. Standout looks include a tomboyishly chic fur collared herringbone topcoat whose sleeves are slit at the elbow and a black silk blouse with a magpie print bib tucked into a pair of checkerboard pleated trousers with a solid cropped cuff. "The heart of the brand is always British tailoring," Misha tells me while surveying the crowd from a corner of the wood-paneled High Line Room. "That's consistent from season to season." And if the clothes themselves aren't enough to telegraph her current romance with the Romanovs, the handsome young gentleman in the Russian military uniform escorting the models back and forth to the platform drives the message home.
And home is where I'm headed next. But not before a quick stop at Tess Giberson's Crosby Street store to pick up my just-arrived spring personal order (yay!). Because there's no better way to cap a day of seeing new clothes than to actually get some new clothes of one's own.
photos © Lauren David Peden/The Fashion Informer 2013
After sleeping till 9am (!) and writing yesterday's coverage, I help Mr. TFI plan his upcoming snowboard trip then watch the DKNY livestream from the comfort of my living room. The connection keeps dropping, which is frustrating, but I spy lots of floor-sweeping dresses and tops with trains, cozy charcoal knits, leopard print sweater dresses and color block motocross pieces, all of which have a slight Nineties vibe. Also channeling the Nineties: the finale's Frank Sinatra/ Notorious B.I.G. remix of Juicy/New York, New York.
My first in-person event of the day, Cynthia Rowley, doesn't start 'til 6pm, which gives me plenty of time to recover from yesterday's tummy trouble. Combining her fall 2013 presentation with the opening of her new Upper East Side boutique-cum-candy store/art gallery, Cynthia is hosting a party at the four-story townhouse on East 78th off Madison. It's a lovely building set back from the street that guests enter by walking up an alleyway decorated for the occasion with a fanciful arbor and flower installation by Raul Avila, the man behind the Met Costume Institute Gala decor. Models in the fall 2013 collection pose in a French Door'ed antechamber off the ground floor wearing styles with a "mysterious and curious feeling." Styled by Vanessa Traina with a nod to Helmut Newton, this translates into mother-of-print print skirts and popovers with a luscious holographic effect, an elegant quilted cocoon coat and a soignée indigo fur jacket. Much of the volume is reigned in with real mother-of-pearl belts and many looks are worn with sheer tights studded with giant cabochons, which resemble luxe dot candies. Meanwhile, the designer is holding court on the second floor, a whimsical wonderland devoted to her latest venture, CuRious candy and CR-branded party supplies (sparklers, piñatas, paper plates, wrapping paper, ribbon and the like). "We just signed the lease on December 28th," she says of the townhouse (which also includes the Half Gallery and Exhibition A spaces upstairs). Wow, that was quick. "I don't fuck around," she replies with a laugh. Eddie Roche from The Daily asks if she's worried about getting cavities. "No, but I was just thinking this afternoon that I should have invited my dentist!" With that, Cynthia's youngest daughter, Gigi, helps me fill up a goodie bag with malted milk balls, sour peaches, Twizzlers and gummy bears and I head back out into the night.
Fifteen minutes later, I'm seated in the front row at Zac Posen's show at the Plaza. I chat with Moda Operandi's Taylor Tomasi Hill then run around the upper level of the stately Terrace Room taking pictures of all the Posen-clad PYTs (Leigh Lezark, Katharine McPhee, Harley Viera Newton, Amanda de Cadenet Taylor, Michelle Violy Harper and a very pregnant Molly Sims). I bump into Sarah Sophie Flicker and Tennessee Thomas and mention how much I liked the "You Don't Own Me" women's rights PSA they did with Tavi Gevinson and Miranda July pre-election. "We just did another one about fracking, it's out in five days," says Sarah Sophie, proudly adding that 10 million more women then men voted in the recent election. "Well, we had to," I say. "We sure did!" she replies. On the runway, Posen showcases other strong women—including HIlary Rhoda, Coco Rocha, Lindsey Wixson, Catherine McNeil and a lusciously curvy Crystal Renn—in evening looks that range from red carpet-worthy mauve satin/chiffon and bordeaux draped velvet gowns to a structured camel wool coat with floral embroidered pants and a stunning rust duchess satin peplum top with a bordeaux tweed pencil skirt.
From here, I hoof it over to Lincoln Center for Ralph Rucci's latest tour-de-force, featuring 65 beautifully crafted looks in shades of citrus, violet, beige, black and white, including a mouth-watering passage of mink and feather coats in nude, shocking pink, chrome yellow and optic white worn by seven models who walk the runway en masse. Other standout looks (among the thoroughly standout collection) include a black leather wrap skirt with a painterly print silk top, a black leather embroidered dress with sheer insert encircling the waist, and a black crepe pant suit with skin-baring mesh-and-leather center panels that trace the contours of the wearer's torso in a way that manages to be simultaneously daring and decorous. (Neat trick, that!) I also love an OTT faux fur coat that looks like otherworldly tinsel and an embossed leather pants and jacket ensemble worn with a knee-length lace tunic. Post-show, I congratulate Ralph and ask why he's dropped "Chado" from the name of his label. He explains that was done as the brand expanded into the Asian market, so as "not to polarize" anyone. "It was my idea, not our new CEOs," he adds with a grin. "Plus, do you know how many people in this country are confused by the name? I can't tell you how many times I've been in Neiman's and heard a client ask, 'Is Chado here yet?' So it was time."
Jackie Fraser-Swan is showing her fall 2013 Emerson collection next door in The Studio, and on my way through the Lincoln Center lobby I'm offered yet another free electronic cigarette (the season's newest swag trend, of which I heartily disapprove). Thankfully, there's no smoking—mechanical or otherwise—at the Emerson show. What we do get is a collection inspired by her idea of a beautiful, post-apocalyptic world. "It's a new vision," she tells me backstage, where the girls are dressed and lined up in first looks while waiting for the Boston-based designer's mother and four children to arrive from Penn Station (their flight from Beantown was cancelled and their subsequent Amtrack trip delayed multiple times earlier in the day, so they're literally arriving with seconds to spare). The towhead children arrive around 9:40pm to rapturous applause from the crowd (who've been clued in to the situation by People's Rev PR doyenne Kelly Cutrone) and out come the models in all their sophisticated punk finery while a Ramones/Billy Idol/Siouxsie Sioux remix blasts from the speakers. I'm loving the muddy yellow-and-grey chiffon plaids (which nod to the designer's Scottish heritage), including a black lambskin dress with a pleated plaid swag at the hip. Even models' manicures are plaid! The purple metallic tinsel knits are cool, too, as is the show jewelry, designed by my pal Anna Sheffield, who just happens to be sitting across the runway.
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
On my way into Manhattan, a well-dressed young man treats folks on the subway platform to a rousing soliloquy from The 300 ("This is Sparta!"). When none of his startled audience responds—but begins inching away in case he's crazier than he appears on the surface—he mutters something about his cousin Allen being in the movie. A pigeon coos and he says, in a mock serious tone, "Thank you, pigeon. I know you appreciate my ac-ting!" An elderly black gentleman offers a hearty round of applause, bringing a smile of delight to the thespian's face. "Thanks, man!" he says, offering a grateful fist bump.
Once I'm on the train, a certifiably crazy older woman (man? it's hard to tell beneath the many layers and hat) begins coughing and sneezing and honkingly blowing her nose (sans tissue) in a loud, extremely aggressive manner, purposely spraying nearby straphangers with her germs. Gross! Everyone on that side of the car begins moving away in droves or jumping out at the next stop, whether they need to get off there or not. The woman next to me starts exclaiming loudly in Spanish about her being loco. No shit, Sherlock. Another woman across the aisle warns the complainer (in Spanish) not to make a bad situation worse and tells the rest of us (in English) not to stare at the crazy lady or make eye contact. Good advice. Thankfully, the Loco Lady gets off at 34th Street, leaving the rest of us to ride in silence until Fourteenth Street. Ah, life in the big city. So glamorous.
When I get out of the subway, it's sleeting sideways. Nothing like a little freezing rain pelting your face to get you in the mood for a fashion show (though today I'm dressed for the weather in my cozy, shearling-lined Cole Haan duck boots and have ditched yesterday's fur vest for a more snowstorm-friendly hooded wool coat and trapper hat, as it's supposedly the start of Snowmageddon 2013).
Thankfully, my first show of the day, Sally LaPointe, more than makes up for my transportation and weather woes. Quoting the lyrics to Depeche Mode's In Your Room in her show notes—"In your room where time stands still/Or moves at your will/Will you let the morning come soon/Or will you leave me lying here/In your favorite darkness/Your favorite half light/Your favorite consciousness/Your favorite salve"—LaPointe sends out a stunning collection of edgy-chic, artfully layered pieces—bonded mohair dresses and jackets whose ocelot print looks like a cross between marble and an H.R. Giger print, crocodile tops with trailing camel silk shirts, sleek leather and suede blazers, dresses and jumpsuits in refined shades of camel, red and pink—some bisected by contrasting patent and mohair panels or architectural cutouts. The play of texture upon texture is beautiful, the colors softer in the beginning of the show before segueing to rich burgundy ombré and inky black—and the last passage features black suede and patent pieces or crocodile print cashmere with cool matte sequins. All the looks are worn with thigh high black or white leather gators, shoes designed in collaboration with Alejandro Ingelmo and jewelry by Made Her Think. It is, imho, the designer's best collection to date.
I sprint up the West Side Highway and make it to Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation winner Susan Woo's Pier 59 presentation with enough time to do a quick twirl around the room to check out her collection of sleek, tailored pieces with clever details (such as the mesh panel bisecting the waist of a black wool georgette sheath, the sheer snakeskin print torso and sleeves on a cream georgette blouse, or the charcoal and cement twill color block coat with black leather sleeves). I especially like a white poplin/georgette drop tail button down worn with perforated black leather shorts and a cropped wool turtleneck with attached wrap scarf.
Tess Giberson's hour-long presentation is taking place down the hall, so I jet over to catch the last 15 minutes. And good thing I did, as this is a tour de force (dubbed "Evolution") that follows the designer's progress from artsy-craftsy knitwear specialist to her more recent incarnation as creator of clean, modern clothing for empowered creative types. Fittingly, the first thing one sees upon entering the space is a quartet of colorful knits based on a quilt Tess's mom had made when she was a kid, including a multicolored intarsia collage sweater dress and a kick-ass black cashmere coat with multicolor hand knit sleeves (yes, please!). From there, the vignette segues to layered asymmetrical tunics over pieced leggings with fur or waxed cotton toppers. Then it's on to slightly less layered looks (heavy on the slashed, leather stitched knits and sharply tailored coats) in moody shades of olive, cement and charcoal. An all-black foursome of sleek cape dresses and drapey, fur-trimmed coats follows, culminating in a split back wool blazer with tonal floral print overlay and a pair of floral collage silk dresses featuring a print made in collaboration with Mr. Giberson (that would be her artist husband, Jon Widman). In keeping with the spirit of collaboration for which Tess is famous, an original soundtrack was created for the occasion by musician Sahra Motalebi, inspired by the birth of singing as heard through women's voices as they evolve from talking to singing tentatively to something more spiritual and transcendent. And while there are a few professional models among the 20 women standing on the raised wooden platforms, most are musicians or artists, which lends the event a welcome air of originality and authenticity, two qualities that are sorely lacking in most NYFW affairs. "I wanted to get back to the performance aspect of putting together a show," Tess tells me after explaining the idea behind the evolution concept. "Something collaborative and much more personal—more of an event." Between the thoughtful, well-designed clothes (which are self-reflective without being nostalgic), the non-model casting and the soaring score that fills the high-ceilinged space and resonates with the viewer emotionally, that is exactly what she's done.
I have three hours to kill before my next show so I hightail it to midtown to meet Mr. TFI for some afternoon delight (by which I mean lunch at Saju Bistro, people. Geesh, get your mind out of the gutter). Afterward, I accompany him back to his office where I spend a few hours writing up the morning's events (I have a laptop but hate toting it around during the shows and am loathe to thumb-type entire posts on my iPhone). After some mental to- and fro-ing, I decide to skip Cushnie et Ochs' Milk Studio show despite the lure of a front row seat in order to finish filing my story.
I watch Rebecca Minkoff's live-streamed show instead (think: leather coats, color blocked grandpa cardis, houndstooth boots, plaid balmacaans and print pants with matching tees). I'm surprised to see that the cameras zoom in on guests' cellphones while they're texting (to the point that I can clearly read the recipient's name and the exact content of their messages). I'm sure that there are signs posted all over the venue warning that the audience will be filmed but I'm not sure folks realize this means their private texts and emails are being broadcast to an audience of millions online. Big Brother is watching, indeed. As for the clothes, they're ok, if a little all over the place (and what is up with those poufy primary color dresses?). Minkoff seems to change sartorial direction each season, which isn't all that surprising for someone whose strong suit is accessories and only recently branched out into ready-to-wear. I think she's talented but am hoping she's able to solidify her vision in seasons to come rather than continue to take a "let's throw everything at the wall and see what sticks" approach.
By the time I get back down to Pier 59 for A Détacher at 6pm, the ground is covered in a fluffy white carpet of snow and the city feels hushed and peaceful (for now, anyway). This feeling continues inside, where designer Monika Kowalska unveils a collection of abstract camo and fur print jumpsuits and dresses, long 'n lean calf-length cardigans and cozy blanket capes to an audience that includes designers Tom Scott and Marcia Patmos (I'm surprised to see it's a full house, despite the hype surrounding the impending Snowpocalypse). I'm especially digging the refined sweatpants (worn with Kowalska's signature wooden heeled pumps and booties) and the oversized paperbag waist navy wool trousers topped by a slim orange and taupe striped sweater. And I am tickled to see yet another knit turtleneck dickie on the New York runways (this is the third one I've seen in as many days, which means it's officially a trend). Other winning looks include a series of dresses and blouses with a horizontal ruffle/pleat overlay running across the shoulders and down the arms, and the globe print finale jumpsuits and dresses, which, like the much of this outing, have a slightly louche, Seventies vibe. And while the two-tone mullets are definitely a don't-try-this-at-home trend, they're fun in the context of the show, which was styled by the incomparable Haidee Findlay-Levin.
The snow is really starting to stick by the time I leave so I jump in a cab to Soho for my final show of the day—the debut of knitwear designer Amanda Henderson. While in transit, I read on Twitter that the MTA has begun shutting down portions of the 5, 6, 7, J/Z and B subway trains. Gulp. I did a little feature about Amanda for Elle.com earlier this week and am really glad I made the effort to see her presentation, as her pieces are even more beautiful in person than they are in photos. Devoted to creating hand knit, one-of-a-kind items, the ethereal blond tells me she is expecting buyers from Barneys at the event but has no desire to mass produce her wares, preferring instead to work with a small number of retailers and boutiques to whom she'll offer exclusive styles in limited runs of five or so pieces. Smart cookie. In addition to displaying her finished pieces on a half-dozen models and an artfully curated wooden rack, the designer has also set up a selection of her incredibly elaborate beadwork (which she later translates to her knits), alongside a table showcasing her inspiration/mood book, sample beading stitched on pieces of felted wool and her fall 2013 look book. On the way out I pass a wall that's strung with her fanciful sketches, hanging from tiny wooden clothespins. I'm blown away not only by her talent but by the creative and thoughtful way Amanda chose to present her work to her first Fashion Week audience, which allows viewers to not only experience the designs themselves but to get a glimpse into the ideas behind them and to see firsthand the painstaking handwork that goes into making her concepts a reality. I exit on a cloud of fashion euphoria, knowing that I've witnessed the arrival of a uniquely gifted new talent—and for me, that's what NYFW is really all about.
Unfortunately, my fashion high is short lived as I bump into Andrew Mukamal (Kelly Cutrone's former assistant-turned stylist) on the 6 train, who tells me he was supposed to be working till 2 or 3am prepping for a Tuesday night show but the whole design studio was sent home after being told the MTA was shutting the entire subway system down at 8pm due to that selfish bastard Nemo. Seeing as it's 7:53pm and I still need to transfer to the train that'll take me home, I start to have a teensy weeny panic attack, jump off the 6 at Union Square and run to catch the last train out of Dodge. I make it with seconds to spare (whew!) and later learn that the subway system is not being shut down at 8pm (Andrew, you are a big fat liar pants).
A few hours later, I get confirmation emails from both Ruffian and Marissa Webb's publicists informing me that their early morning shows at Lincoln Center are scheduled to start on time tomorrow, as planned. Clearly, it's business as usual for the fashion crowd this weekend. Snowmageddon be damned: Nemo is no match for the juggernaut that is New York Fashion Week.
photos © Lauren David Peden/The Fashion Informer 2013
Thursday is the official start of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week fall 2013 shows—meaning the tents at Lincoln Center are open for business.
I arrive an hour earlier than I need to for my first show, assuming there will be a sizable wait, as there always is, to pick up my press credentials. After freezing my butt off yesterday, I'm dressed for the occasion in my Tess Giberson hooded wool coat topped by a black Mongolian lamb vest (also by Tess). I'm laughing my ass off at Daniel Vosovic's Twitter rant about people so desperate to be shot by street style photogs that they're walking around the Garment District in open-toed shoes, sans coats (can you spell "lame," boys and girls?), and look up as my cabbie reaches Lincoln Center to see that there's no line (I repeat: NO LINE) at the press trailer. What the what? In nearly a decade of covering the shows, this is the first time I've ever waltzed right in to pick up my press pass. Richard Chai, here I come!
But while there isn't a line for credentials, there is a big line for Richard Chai's 11am show. On my way up the stairs, I'd spied the entire edit teams of Vogue, Elle and InStyle spilling out of the tents but the Lincoln Center lobby is more packed then I've ever seen them this early in the morning, full of outlandishly dressed hangers-on who are clearly more interested in preening and being photographed then in taking in a fashion show. Who are these people and where did they come from? And why won't they get the hell out of my way so I can enter the venue, already? Geesh.
I take my seat in the nosebleed section (literally, the seventh—or last—row) and await the start of the show. The redhead seated to my left announces she's going to go find a better seat until they "start to shimmy" (whatever the hell that means), flounces down the steps and plops down in a front row seat. Ballsy bitch. I watch as Chai's publicist, Megan Maguire Steele, escorts a tall, thin blond in sequins and hooker heels (totally appropriate kit for a mid-morning show—not!) to a front row seat in the Teen Vogue section. Then the redhead is back, asking if there's still room for her to squeeze into the row. There is. She announces that the blond is, in fact, a "newly skinny" Ashlee Simpson. An usher invites me to move up to a sixth row aisle seat, and I happily accept.
After peeping Jim Moore, Cathy Horyn, Suzie Bubble and Kate Lanphear (among others), the lights dim and out come the models—male and female—in handsome olive drab wool coats, great plaid suiting for the guys and slim wool peplum pencil skirts in black and a dazzling shade of purple for the gals. My favorite piece is a women's metallic poliamide/wool bomber with ginormous, face-framing collar. And I get a chuckle out of an evergreen suit with boxy, double-breasted jacket and cropped pants that looks like an homage to the clothing favored by RC's bff, Phillip Lim. There are subtle touches of embroidery on some of the men's coats and sweaters, and really terrific outerwear (always a strong suit in Chai's collection). I grab a copy of the discarded run-of-show notes off someone's chair on my way out (they only provide them to guests in the first and second row) and am surprised to see the colors described as powder blue, lilac, citrus and lavender. Clearly it read darker from where I was sitting (or maybe Chai is colorblind?). The fabric descriptions don't make sense, either. Did I just have a hallucinatory experience? I email his publicist to ask about the discrepancy and learn that the program notes are, indeed, incorrect (his team printed out last season's notes by mistake) and the colors are military green and pewter and charcoal and mercury. Whew. I thought I was losing my marbles for a minute there.
Over lunch at The Smith across from Lincoln Center (where I order the Fashion Plate Special (heavy on the fish) and read in The Times' Thursday Styles section that Chai takes out a row of seats at his show to widen the runway to give the clothes a more "sweeping effect." Not sure why a designer who specializes in daywear (with nary a space-hogging ball gown in sight) would require said "sweeping effect" but that explains the tight squeeze, seating-wise. I also peruse the debut issue of the Deborah Needleman-helmed T mag, which looks fantastic (love the redesign) and appears to be full of interesting articles (which I won't get to actually read until Fashion Week ends).
At Kimberly Ovitz, I'm seated next to the DJ Chelsea Leyland and we chat about our mutual friends Annette and Phoebe Stephens, designers of the jewelry line Anndra Neen (Chelsea and I are both wearing Anndra Neen necklaces, though hers is definitely more of a show stopper). As for Kimberly's show, well, it is a show stopper, too. Truly. I am besotted from first look to last, and that rarely happens. Full of sensuous, cocoon knits and trailing, dripping layers of swagged jersey in beautifully blurry, bright-yet-organic shades of lapis, azure, lagoon blue and sulphur, KO has scored a K.O. with this outing (sorry, I'm helpless in the face of a bad pun). I pop backstage to congratulate the designer on a job well done and tell her I want every. single. piece. "It was all about the protective responses of animals and insects" she explains of her trapunto stitched jackets, webby knits and exoskeleton-like dresses, which could be termed sophisto-goth.
Next stop: The Harvard Club, where I take in the 40th anniversary celebration of the tennis line, Boast, which is helmed by a quartet of partners that includes Ryan Babenzien and Andy Spade. "It's fun with a little twist," CEO Babenzien says of the modern prepster collection, full of kangaroo-pocket polos, sporty shorts, colorful bombers and stripey knits. He tells me that Boast's president is a member of The Harvard Club and that they are the first-ever brand invited to do a Fashion Week presentation in its hallowed halls. After saying hi to Peter Davis and his sister, Minnie Mortimer (who helped with Boast's womenswear), I head downtown to Milk Studios for the Costello Tagliapietra show, passing an amazing installation of Marilyn Monroe in NYC photos in the Penn Station subway tunnel.
I don't have time to go backstage afterwards so I pop in beforehand to wish the boys (Costello Tagliapietra designers Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra) my best. Jeffrey and I talk about the ridiculous number of shows on the NY calendar this season then I join my colleague Rachel Felder in the front row and people watch while waiting for the show to start. Inspired by maps, topography and aerial views, the collection features gorgeous painterly prints, sophisticated knit caplets, teddybear skirts and coats, and lots of sexy secretary silhouettes. Standout pieces include a purple-blue and voilet draped waist dress, a gray-brown v-neck draped dress and a zipfront alpaca teddybear cape, which looks so plush and luxe and cozy that I want to wear it immediately. I tease Rachel (who is famous for her bold red lip) that she was clearly the muse for the makeup—the model's lips are so bright they're practically neon. Also attention-getting are the shoes, made by Schutz for CT.
I hoof it down to Industria for the NYFW debut of Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation winners, Tome, where I bump into the Anndra Neen gals in the flesh on my way in (Tome designed the jumpsuits featured in their spring 2013 presentation). The Georgia O'Keeffe-inspired collection is austere—full of sculptural shapes and a purity of line—without feeling cold or untouchable. Neat trick, that. The staging is also terrific, with the models standing side by side in individual spotlights, which results is an interesting play of shadow and light and makes the girls feel connected yet separate, allowing the viewer to easily see them as individuals and a cohesive whole.
I cab up to the Novis presentation in Chelsea and am, I must admit, sadly underwhelmed. I had wanted to check out this show after loving the vibrant and colorful spring lineup on the designer's website. But while this collection is ok—with lots of fit-and-flare crinoline dresses and velvet, houndstooth and leopard print separates—it's a little too retro and derivative to warrant much excitement. Even the models' hair feels like old news (unless you find Jane Birkin and Anita Pallenberg-style tousled tresses noteworthy).
Decidedly more in the present tense is the Dezso by Sara Beltran jewelry collection. Inspired by the concept of the Nahual, a sacred element that lives within each of us and helps protect our souls and guide us toward our truest selves, Sara found her Nahual in India—and it's this special relationship between woman and place that informs her fall collection. Showcased in wall-mounted display cases, in evocative photos of Indian elders and worn by a handsome young Indian(esque?) male model, who sits cross-legged on a painted bench, the pieces blend semi-precious stones, shells, resin shark's teeth, gold and neon cording into jewelry that feels both personal and universal in a preconscious, old-as-time kind of way.
My last stop of the day is the Haus Alkire presentation in the brand's Soho storefront. I'm surprised to see only four models standing on the raised wooden platforms and when I ask if this is the whole collection, a staffer tells me there are 24 looks in all, being shown in groups of eight, and that four more looks should be out shortly. After what feels like an interminable wait (but is probably only 10 or 15 minutes), I head backstage to see what's up. Turns out one of the models had fainted just before I arrived, then began convulsing. Needless to say, the designers (husband and wife team Julie Haus and Jason Alkire) are totally freaked out and waiting for the EMTs to arrive before resuming the presentation. Two minutes later, the EMTs have arrived, and while their production team tends to the ailing model, the duo shows me their mood board and explain the genesis of the collection, which was borne from the 10 days of darkness, quiet and solitude that enveloped lower Manhattan after Hurricane Sandy. So in addition to prints based on a dying Banksia flower, there are images of a dark building lit by candlelight, a "Dream Tree" park graphic and others based on overexposed images of the uncollected trash and newspapers that littered the streets of Soho for weeks after the storm. They also explore texture through the use of eel and anaconda skins, flat furs, fused wool and hard crystals (which is why there are three Swarovski reps taking in the show). They also cite The Elephant Man as an influence, as it is one of two DVDs the couple owns, which they watched ad nauseum during the blackout on laptops they'd charge at their 38th Street office each day. "It was about finding beauty in something that's normally not so beautiful," Julie says. "Making a happy moment from something somber." Mission accomplished, J&J! And on another happy-from-somber note: the fallen model has recovered by the time I'm getting readt to leave and insists on rejoining the lineup at the front of the house.
Sadly, I do not fare as well and suffer a major fashion fail on my way home, when my usually comfortable Rick Owens booties threaten to hobble me, once and for all. Maybe it's the fact that I'm wearing two pairs of socks to beat the cold or that I've been running around town and on my feet for the better part of eight hours, but my toes are totally numb and the balls of my feet feel like they're on fire.There are no cabs in sight and I am, quite literally, limping up Broadway and trying not to cry when a Lady Foot Locker suddenly appears in front of me like a vision from heaven (cue angelic trumpets). Though I've been trying not to do any impulse shopping, I gimp inside and buy a pair of Liberty print Nikes. It's either that or sit on the sidewalk crying until a good samaritan offers to pick me up and carry me home.
I'm supposed to go back to the West side to see Erin Barr and La Perla, but the thought of being on my feet a minute longer than I have to is unfathomable. So I carry my booties onto the subway and call it a (very fashionable) day.
photos © Lauren David Peden/The Fashion Informer 2013