Day Two of New York Fashion Week dawns bright and sunny (thank Jehovah), which means I can leave my umbrella at home wear my fave white suede Pierre Hardy for Gap sandals (yeah, I'm rocking white after Labor Day, call the Fashion Police and have them issue a warrant for my arrest). Having lived in New York a very long time, I know that taking the subway to Lincoln Center will be a thousand times faster (and five thousand times cheaper) than taking a cab, so I wear the new Julie Verhoeven for Melissa shoes I got in my goody bag last night as commuter shoes and will strap on the PH/G platforms when I hit the tents.
I swing by the press trailer first hoping to pick up my Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week credentials, but there's already a line snaking down the block at 9:30. So I head into the tents, swap flats for platforms and take my place not in the first, not in the second, not in the third, but in the sixth row at BCBGMAXAZRIA. Despite having profiled both Max and Lubov Azria in the past few months, apparently I still only warrant a nosebleed seat. Oh, well. At least I'm not in standing. (I used to rate first row seats at all NYFW shows, but then I left Vogue and, well, let's just say that you are very quickly reminded of your place in the fashion firmament if you no longer work at the Mother Ship. It's a very humbling—and sometimes hilarious—experience.) But I digress. The clothes at BCBG are inspired by the "femme fatale muses and high contrast of Helmut Newton's black and white photography," according to the program notes. And while the collection is nothing if not consistent (dare I say repetitive?), the leather-and-lace patchwork effect and illusion of exposed skin on body con dresses, louche jumpsuits and S&M-tinged harness tops feels exclusively suited to cocktails or the red carpet, but not so much to 9-to-5 life. Which is a good thing for Whitney Port, Selita Ebanks, Cory Kennedy, Sanya Richards-Ross, Manrepeller Leandra Medine and the other front row A-listers in attendance, but not so great for the rest of the audience, who probably won't have much use for these beautiful, if overwrought, creations. But points for the melancholy orchestral version of a Blondie song I can't quite place.
At The Box space down the hall, Kaelen's presentation features pale yellow shirt dresses, modern wrap skirts, floor-sweeping striped trousers, neoprene peplum tops with bike shorts and rock print blazers with matching shorts, all worn by expressionless girls standing atop white pedestals while a video of the collection plays on an old-school (read: not flatscreen) TV set nearby. Not sure there will be much call for neoprene bike shorts in most women's wardrobes, but the moody-mod prints are terrific.
Back on the main stage, Richard Chai's front row includes Nick Cannon, NBA star Russell Westbrook, Cory Kennedy and Whitney Port (both of whom have changed out of their BCBG duds) and Chai's best bud, Phillip Lim. As the Stone's Sympathy For the Devil plays in the background, the designer sends out a strong—and surprisingly sexy—collection defined by the word "light," from the pale blue, gossamer-fine shimmery nylon parkas and trench coats that open the show to the flirty mesh-and-floral flippy-hem minis, several of which feature sternum-baring cutouts. Light of a different sort comes into play in the sequined, holographic print looks that close the show. Amid all this Unbearable Lightness of Seeing (get it?), a crisp denim A-line mini worn with a sharply tailored white button-down works like a sartorial palate cleanser. Now that's brisk, baby!
I want to grab an early lunch at P.J. Clarke's between shows, but I also need to pick up my press credentials, so my burger fix will have to wait. But my decision to wait until today to visit the press room was apparently fortuitous, as I'm told the computer went down yesterday, resulting in folks who had been waiting 3.5 hours (in the rain) being turned away and told to come back this morning (hence the long line earlier). Yikes. I while away the time listening to the two Chicago-based hair bloggers behind me excitedly speculate on what 'do Rihanna will sport to tonight's VMAs (they consult an iPad and give four thumbs up to the singer's new pixie cut—"Now that's the Rihanna I love!").
Thirty minutes later, I'm sailing down the West Side Highway in a cab driven by a very nice Indian gentleman, who tells me about his recovery (10 years sober—kudos to you, sir!) before depositing me at Pier 55 for the Kimberly Ovitz show, where I'm seated across the runway from…wait for it…Cory Kennedy and Leandra Medine, the former of who (whom?) has changed yet again, this time into a (you guessed it), Kimberly Ovitz outfit. Leandra, meanwhile, wears the same floral skirt and Givenchy t-shirt to all the day's shows. To which I say, brav-fucking-o! Wearing your own clothes during Fashion Week is so much chicer than being a front row shill (sorry, front row shills and designers who love them, but it's true). I can't stay after the show (I have a lunch date with my growling stomach) so PR whiz Bonnie Morrison takes me backstage beforehand to say hi to Kimberly, who has dropped a considerable amount of weight since I saw her this spring. She tells me the collection was inspired by performance artist Almagul Menlibayeva's belief that you can create your own mythology, which is what she aims to help women do with her designs. I adore Kimberly and her aesthetic, and am very excited to see what she sends down the runway. I am less excited about having accidentally walked across said runway, which is made of soft red Play-Doh-like clay that is now staining the soles of my white shoes. Grrrrr. The collection, however, is beautiful, replete with macramé-edged gowns, layered mesh dresses, sheer pants and fluid matte jersey skirts, all of which are rendered in pale hues or dusty earth tones that twist around the body as if blown there by an errant wind. The models' bare feet, purposefully messy braids and thick silver arm bands and rings only add to the nomad-chic vibe.
After a leisurely (read: 45 minute) lunch at La Bottega, it's on to Costello Tagliapietra's show at Milk. As always, Jeffrey and Robert send out a wonderfully feminine collection full of luscious prints and artfully draped dresses, with a strong emphasis, this season, on the color beige. That could be boring in less capable hands, but here, the result feels winningly au courant and offers a nice juxtaposition to their abstract painterly AirDye prints, which swirl around the models' bodies like a marbled solar system made flesh (or, in this case, fabric). And a shout-out to Kathryn Neal for the understated styling, as well.
I chat with Simon Doonan while waiting to greet the bears, I mean boys, then hightail it over to MADE at The Standard to take in Katie Gallagher's presentation. The downtown darling is up to her usual tricks in a collection dubbed "Everything Forever," which tackles the weighty themes of rebirth and purity. In Katie's hands, this translates to crumpled leather jackets, languid hoodies, multi-seamed leggings, ruched skirts and textured cocoon sheaths, all worn with messy updos, delicate filigree hand and ear cuffs (done in collaboration with jeweler Megan Isaacs) and statement-making shoe boots by models' standing atop a flour- (or is it cocaine?) strewn pedestal in the stifling-hot room. (Seriously. All the models are visibly uncomfortable and one poor girl is so sweaty she looks like she just finished running a marathon as she stands beneath the blazing hot lights trying to discreetly blot her dripping face. And you thought being pretty was a easy.)
As I'm skipping FNO this year, I take a quick walk down The High Line and pop into the DWR on Fourteenth Street to visit my dream couch (don't worry, Raleigh, we'll be together one day) then head home to spend Fashion's Night In with President Obama and the rest of the DNC crowd.
Summer 2012 may have just ended two days ago, but in the fashion industry, it's all about spring 2013.
New York Fashion Week (aka, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week) doesn't officially start until Thursday, September 6th, but there are so many off-calendar shows on Wednesday that I'm forced to hit the ground running a day early, despite still being in chillaxed summer mode after several weeks at the beach (I know, I know, boo-fucking-hoo).
I had planned to swing by Lincoln Center to pick up my press credentials first thing, but it's raining like crazy—and there's often an hour-long wait outdoors the first day registration opens—so I decide to hold off until tomorrow morning (when it's supposed to be sunny) and head over to the Park Avenue Armory instead to see what Juan Carlos Obando is up to this season. As JC chats with a steady stream of buyers (Bergdorf's LInda Fargo, Barney's Tomoko Orguro, Amazon's Julie Gilhart), I take in his subtly patterned creations, which are worn by surreal animal head mannequins (made by his LA artist friend Sebastian Paul) who stand like otherworldly sentinels in the stately wood-paneled salon. Turns out the prints were taken from JC's days as a graphic designer. "I wanted to merge the two worlds" he says of his past and present careers. The graphic animal prints work to great effect on twisted bodice dresses and sheer, low-slung trousers—and the whimsical papier-mâché heads add a playful twist to the supremely elegant clothing.
A few blocks south, Hermès is hosting Festival des Métiers, a four-day "rendezvous with Hermès craftsmen." I wander around the glittering hall, watching live demonstrations of engraving, saddle making, tailoring and other decorative arts. It's fascinating to see the painstaking work that goes into crafting every product made by the house of Hermès, and makes one appreciate exactly why the stuff is so damn expensive.
Downtown at the Maritime Hotel Cabanas, Brooklyn designer Whitney Pozgay debuts a fun, upbeat collection full of tropical prints, maritime stripes and easy-breezy silhouettes for her label WHIT (inspired by her recent St. Lucia honeymoon), all styled to quirky perfection by my pal Doria Santlofer. The indoor/outdoor venue is the perfect complement to the jungle print dresses and playful straw chapeaux, and palm fronds make an appearance on ankle-length dresses and in ceramic pots that ring the terrace.
Then it's time to Head West, Young Woman, to Rachel Comey's show at Pier 59 on the West Side Highway. While a monotonous live band drones in the background, the designer—who is due to give birth to her second child today (yes, today, as in the day of her show)—sent out terrific white textured tunics, jumpsuits and flippy hem skirts, along with quilted sundresses in a sophisticated, pixilated floral, several two-tone, flutter-bodice dresses (that skewed more cool than cute), and a series of soigné maillots, some with cutouts or mesh panel details. The prints were moody and gorgeous, and the metallic shoes had many a guest—including Manrepeller's Leandra Medine and Refinery 29's Christene Barberich—swooning.
After a quick catch-up with my friend Amina (aka, the lovely and talented executive editor of Elle.com), I hightail it over to Soho, where Laura Siegel is presenting her desert-inspired collection in the soon-to-open Debut New York showroom helmed by Lisa Weiss. Working with artisans in Peru, Bolivia and India, Laura—who has been nominated for the 2012 MADE for Peroni Young Designer Award—offers handmade pieces including fringed macramé maxis, rugged leather vests, draped jersey dresses and shibori tie-dyed prints in natural shades of green and bark offset by the unexpected pops of neon found in desert flowers.
Around the corner at the United Colors of Benetton Art of Knit pop-up shop, I'm treated to the sight of woolly, life-sized couples going at it on tables, on the floor and while suspended from the ceiling, alongside less NSW installations (including an adorable knit basketball hoop, watermelon and other unlikely surprises). The overall vibe is fun, sexy and colorful and I'm bummed to learn that the luscious-hued sweaters won't be sale until the following day (boo!). I am consoled, however, by the goody bag, which contains a Benetton print t-shirt (cute!) and a purple knit iPad cover (even cuter!).
The Julie Verhoeven exhibit on display at Galeria Melissa on Greene Street is decidedly less NC-17, though it's just as engaging, from the found object mobile collages surrounding the entrance to the dreamlike video installations in the rear of the space. And the brightly tressed London-based artist herself is on hand, personally customizing the white peep-toe flats she designed for the Brazilian footwear brand, which are being given to guests as they exit the party. "I'm not going to do too much to yours," she says to me in a stage whisper. "I think it ruins them. I want you to want to wear them." She discreetly signs her name on the back of one of the size 9's intended for my goody bag, and I leave the store in a haze of happiness, the proud owner of a pair of signed Julie Verhoeven originals.
After a delightful cab ride with a young driver two weeks' into the job—who, at my urging, fills me in on his life story along the way (he was a chef for seven years, has a degree in chemical engineering, is newly married, and started driving a cab when said chemical engineering degree failed to result in a paying job)—I arrive at Erin Fetherson's presentation at MADE at The Standard. Held in the High Line Room (an outdoor terrace overlooking the High Line and the Hudson), the space is literally wall-to-wall with people, which makes it somewhat difficult to see the clothes. I elbow my way to the edge of the crowd and manage to glimpse some PYTs in PYDs: red-and-white dip-dyed chiffon dresses, ivory strapless gowns and black and white embellished party frocks, along with a great nude-and-chartreuse pants suit. The crowd, however, just makes me sad, filled as it is with desperate-seeming fashion hangers-on lounging on banquettes swilling ginger/vodka cocktails while posing with excruciatingly self-conscious nonchalance in an attempt to attract the attention of the many photographers hovering nearby, who outnumber the models 5 to 1.
My last stop of the day is MoMA, where newbie Tanya Taylor is presenting her much-buzzed about collection (she's already been profiled in T, Daily Candy, WWD, NYmag.com and NBC). Her publicist, Patrick Bradbury, tells me the presentation is running about 15 minutes late. I don't usually drink on duty, but I'm hot and parched—and this is my ninth event today—so when 15 minutes turns to 30…and then 40…I accept a Campari and white wine spritzer, which I gratefully guzzle while waiting for the proverbial show to get on the proverbial road. The MoMA lobby, meanwhile, is SRO by the time the doors finally open. Taylor (who worked at Elizabeth and James before launching her own label last season), hits the mark with a tightly edited collection of wide-legged trousers and swingy cropped tops, boxy jackets with matching cigarette pants, full-skirt dresses and two-tone tunics in black, white and cement grey enlivened by bold floral prints and pops of tangerine. It's all very Sixties Modern—and was definitely worth the wait.
And with that, I call it a night.