image courtesy Editorialist
Wednesday dawns sunny and h-o-t with highs in the 90s and lots of good old NYC humidity. Fun! Dressing stylishly when you know you'll be running around town in a convection oven (sans car and driver) is always a challenge, but I pulled on one of my favorite summer outfits (Catherine Malandrino white embroidered peasant blouse, Eileen Fisher summer weight crepe pants and black patent/silver Mephisto Hubilias, which are like cooler, even more comfy Birkis). Because when it's nearing 100, you can't be a slave to fashion (apologies to Anna Dello Russo and Michelle Harper).
My first stop is the Grammercy Park Hotel for the presentation of Rauwolf, an incredibly chic Plexiglas clutch collection designed by Kristine Johannes. For spring, Kristine was inspired by the "tragic beauty" of Gavin Bryars' classical score, The Sinking of the Titanic, which led her to consider all manner of oceanic denizens and decay. There's a graphic black and white minaudière that recalls a wentletrap shell found of the coast of Japan, and others with silver surfaces that appear blistered and decomposed—but in the loveliest way possible. "Basically, you take a sheet of Plexiglas and you make it sick," the designer says with a laugh of her top secret technique, which had her Italian artisans shaking their heads in disbelief. The results remind me of the scarred, cloudy surface of an antique mirror—destroyed and worn down by time, to be sure. But also achingly beautiful and a tacit reminder of the fate that awaits us all. (All this from a little evening bag? Yup. That's the genius of Johannes.) I'm also enamored of the new Noblesse ("we're gettin' fancy with the French names"), a slope-sided clutch encased in a blown-up skin cell print with faceted Plexi crystals on the sides. Kristine demonstrates its super-light properties by faux tossing it while instructing me to "go long." We're interrupted by Deena Abdulaziz, the charming Saudi Arabian princess/owner of Riyadh boutique D'NA and her marketing director, Alex Aubry, who are running an hour behind schedule. After a quick introduction and a catch-up with Alex (whom I've never met in person but know from back in the day, when we both used to be frequent commenters on the then-new On the Runway blog), I reluctantly leave Kristine and her beautiful creations—and the equally beautiful Park View Suite, which is hands-down the nicest NYFW hotel venue I've seen thus far—to head to my next appointment.
On the way downtown, my cabbie and I start off having a pleasant enough conversation about politics and yesterday's primary results. He tells me he voted for Christine Quinn and Eliot Spitzer (whom he calls "my governor") and says his biggest issue is anti-bullying, suggesting there be signs posted in all classrooms and outside schools outlawing bullying. The penalty for noncompliance? "First offense: one week's suspension. Second offense: a month's suspension. Third offense: transfer to another school. No exceptions!" He also advocates higher education for all NYC teachers (at least one Master's Degree in the subject of their choice). We agree that Bill Thompson needs to concede, already (really, Bill, a few paper ballots are not gonna bring you to the 40 percent you need for a runoff) but things go off the rails when he begins ranting against Thompson—and blacks in general. "I'm not a racist, but…" and he's off to the races. Gulp. I express my disapproval and try to reign him in but he's now slagging off the city's entire Puerto Rican and Spanish community. Oh, Jeebus. Thankfully, my cab reaches its destination before I'm forced to physically slap some sense into him (as if that's even possible). Another New York cabbie conversation gone bad. Oy. But I've learned to pick my battles in these situations because, as my friend Sharon says, "You can't fight crazy, cause crazy always wins." True dat.
The accessories tour continues at the Kotur presentation at…wait for it…The Standard Hotel. Instead of the ubiquitous High Line room on the third floor, designer Fiona Kotur has taken the Empire Suite, which is filled with her colorful, whimsical creations. There are snakeskin wristlets, multimedia evening bags, sparkly clutches and an iPhone 5 minaudière with an outside slot for your cell, so you don't have to open it to read texts or take photos. Clever! I'm entranced by a tiny square snow globe bag with faux expletive graphic—it's got delicate red and gold stars encased in its liquid center that move when you shake it, and a slot for a 3x5 photo on the front. And the designer has introduced shoes for spring 2014, which range from two-tone snakeskin flats to flower and tassel-bedecked sandals to Turkish slippers and cap-toe pumps, all based around a globetrotting theme. "It's about the spirit of travel," the designer explains. "She's a Gypset who's been to Morocco, Istanbul…" Kotur's artist mom, Sheila Camera Kotur, did all the illustrations for the presentation, which depict wildly colorful creatures lounging atop piles of pillows or surrounded by riotous bouquets. "My mother was a successful fashion illustrator in the Seventies and Eighties who gave it up when she became an interior designer," says Fiona. "But she told me that she had so much fun doing these illustrations that she might take it up again." Watch your back, Garance!
After admiring the view from the Standard's top floor, it's on to my next stop: Jeremy Scott at Milk Studios' Made Fashion Week just up the street. As always, it's a celebrity scrum up in here, what with Nicki Minaj, Paris and Nicky Hilton, A$AP Rocky, Chanel Iman, Joe and Kevin Jonas, Liz Goldwyn, Iggy Azalea, Kat Graham, the MisShapes and more boldface names seated directly in front of me. I'm nearly blinded by the photogs shooting the Hiltons and have to resist the urge to photobomb them. (Must…stay…seated.) Jeremy's spring line is titled "Teenagers from Mars" and features a collaboration with the artist Kenny Scharf. His characters appear throughout the collection, as do the phrases "Mars or Bust," "Earth Sucks" and "I'm a Mess." You and me both, JS. The girls sport TV color bar bustiers and miniskirts with flippy, Mary Tyler Moore-as-Laura Petrie 'dos while the boys sport not much at all, save for painted on pants and purple zebra moto jackets. Freda Payne's Band of Gold and The Angels' 1963 classic, My Boyfriend's Back heighten the feel-good, nostalgic vibe. When one bikini-clad beauty sashays down the runway, I watch A$AP Rocky's jaw drop open (literally) while he mouths "Damn, she fine!" He watches her walk away until girlfriend Chanel Iman playfully slaps him on the leg to regain his attention—though he can't resist craning his neck to catch the rear view as she circles back down the other aisle. Backstage post-show, the couple are all smiles as they pose with Jeremy amid the craziness (and it is, to be sure, a crazy—and crazy crowded—scene). But everyone has a reason to smile as the show was a fun, exuberant paean to Eighties fashion at its finest.
I'm supposed to catch the Betsey Johnson and Anna Sui shows later tonight, but as Betsey's folks have only seen fit to give me a standing spot (uh, thanks but no thanks), that would leave me with two-plus hours to kill before Sui. So I decide to head home early. On the subway I see an ad that inquires "How ya feelin'?" Well, thanks for asking, MTA. I'm about ready for this Fashion Week madness to be over. And you?
photos by Lauren David Peden/The Fashion Informer, 2013 (except taxi photo by Noel Hidalgo, 2008)
I start my day by voting in the Mayoral Primary (cause I'm civic-minded like that) then hop a train (well, two trains) to the West Village presentation of LaQuan Smith. I'm heartened to see the big turnout for this emerging designer, whose work has been worn by the likes of Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Ciara and others of that ilk. For his spring 2014 outing, dubbed "Dark Summer," LaQuan focused on what he calls "transitional casual wear" for those on the go, inspired by his own summer travels. "This is an ode to the girl that lives on a plane during the summer, the girl that is running to make her flight and then rushing to dinner, the girl that only packs two pairs of shoes for a week on vacation," the designer said in his program notes. So that would explain the sportswear/eveningwear mash-up, which featured models in schmancy sweats (think: metallic trimmed scuba shorts, reflective stripe terry crop tops) alongside plunging v'ed plastic lace dresses, a flounced hem canvas sheath and cutout metallic denim dresses that were decorous in the front and cut so low in track that they showcased the dimples on the models' bums. There's a bit of a disconnect between the activewear and the va-va-voom cocktail fare, but I give him points for trying.
Outside, I notice a crowd gathered to watch another crowd on the corner of Washington and Horatio. Turns out they're shooting an episode of Law & Order: SVU, and curious tourists have stopped to watch the crew in action. I didn't even know that show was still on the air. (Oh, the joys of not having television.)
It this is Tuesday, it must be the Highline room at The Standard. And so it is, in honor of Nellie Partow's presentation. It's a beautiful collection, full of sharply tailored daywear alongside softly sensual After Dark attire. "It's all about the silhouettes," Nellie, a former designer at John Varvatos and Calvin Klein, tells me. "I've always been into menswear and really wanted to play with the juxtaposition between menswear and softer pieces." Which she did via textiles like nickel foil jacquard and fine silk crepe. Nellie is also a fan of minimalism, as can be seen in the spare-yet-flattering cuts—especially evident in a nude off-the-shoulder dress and black sheath with shoulder cutouts. "I wanted to focus on a woman's character and her disposition this season," she added. Bravo! And did you know that the diminutive designer is also a competitive boxing champ and NY Daily News Golden Gloves title holder? It's true. So clearly she knows a little sumthin' sumthin' about the often conflicting elements that make up a woman's character and disposition.
My next stop is a few floors higher at The Standard (suite 1210, to be exact), where my friend Sinje Lesemann in showing her Koza collection of travel bags and accessories by appointment only. I'm very familiar with the brand—I've covered Koza many times since it launched in 2010 and am the proud owner of an early-edition Rajani tote—and am excited to see the latest evolution. In addition to introducing fun new fabrics (I especially love a blue and peach fern print and the cornflower tiger silk), the jungle-inspired collection includes a new, smaller hobo bag, two cork-bottomed totes, a twisted clutch that can be hooked onto your belt loop for hands-free sightseeing and a super-chic "lunchbag" that does double duty as a day-to-night clutch. And in keeping with the line's style-meets-substance ethos, Koza's beach clutch has a removable plastic pouch for storing your wet bathing suit at day's end. Smart! On the urban front, Sinje has introduced a range of new leather- and nubuck-trimmed bags, including a double-flap backpack designed to hold your yoga mat or umbrella (along with the rest of your everyday essentials), a two-tone tote that reverses from leather to fabric, and an iPad case with cool cork trim. A luxe diaper bag is also on offer (complete with removable plastic lining and coordinating changing pad), as is a chichi leather handle that can be clipped onto your shopping bags—or your favorite Baggu—to allow them to be carried over the shoulder in style. Sinje's girlfriend, Prim, stops by just as I'm leaving with her friend, Bridget Russo, in tow. I happen to know Bridget pretty well—we met years ago when she was the publicist at Edun—but we haven't seen each other in eons. It's an impromptu fashion reunion, and one of the things I like best about covering the shows.
I'm slated to hit the Newbark and Heidi Gardner presentations next, but they're 10 blocks away, I'm melting and my dogs are barking. While I'm sitting outside the hotel Tweeting and debating whether to nip into the Biergarten or just head home (it's crazy hot and a cold brewski sounds great right about now), I watch as a sloppy drunk tourist accosts the guy next to me, who is chatting obliviously on his cell phone until the drunkard practically sits on his lap. He swats the guy away and then it's my turn. He plops down beside me on the small yellow metal bench (where there's only room for one). "Can I ask you shhumpthing?" he slurs before grabbing my arm in a most unpleasant fashion. "No," I reply. "And why are you touching me? Get your hand off my arm." He looks hurt and perplexed—why wouldn't I want his meaty paw on my person?—but leans in to continue the conversation. Time to go!
As I cross Ninth Avenue at Fourteenth Street, I see a pair of girls holding enormous balloons that say "Shut Up & Shoot." Turns out they're shilling theQ, the world's first social media camera, which uploads your images to the interwebs automatically. Because God forbid you should have an experience and not document and share it immediately. I walk on into the night, feeling old and missing the days when social meant just that, and when friends were people you'd actually met and liked (as opposed to "liked.") Sigh.
photos by Lauren David Peden/The Fashion Informer 2013
Sadly, I had to miss the weekend shows due to previous, non-Fashion Week work commitments (deadlines to meet, money to be made and all of that). But I'm back in the proverbial NYFW saddle bright and early Monday morning. Ok, ok, late Monday afternoon.
My first show of the day is Azede Jean-Pierre, a designer I just discovered this season. Jean-Pierre is a SCAD grad who worked at Ohne Titel before launching her namesake collection in fall 2013. I somehow missed her debut, but her sophomore outing, presented at Made Fashion Week at the Standard Hotel, is mightily impressive. This season, she was inspired by the patterns found on beetle shells, which she's blown up into larger-than-life prints when not featuring the creepy crawlies themselves meandering up dresses and across low-slung shorts. "The overall vibe is happy and fun," the charming designer says of her feel-good collection. "I always do black and white so I wanted to try color." Clearly, she has a feel for it, combining yellows, blues, oranges, reds and greens in a very pretty, high-spirited stew. As for her garments' rounded hems? "There are no harsh lines or square edges in nature, so it was important to me to portray that," she says. "And the pieces show a little skin but aren't too sexy." Indeed, the collection feels both flirty and decorous, even in a crop top that bares a wide swath of midriff.
I hoof it over to the Maritime Hotel on Ninth Ave, where Adam Lippes is hosting an intimate showing of his spring 2014 collection in the light-filled penthouse. Having taken a little fashion break, Lippes kicked off with a soft relaunch last fall, so this is his first foray back into the Fashion Week fray. Just don't call it a presentation! "I prefer to call it a preview," he says with a smile, gesturing to the racks of clothing inside the suite and the five AL-clad models on the terrace. "I took a year off and thought, 'who am I and what is my role in fashion?'" The answer: he's evolved his brand from the contemporary to designer market, with pieces that blend relaxed silhouettes and uber-luxe materials, as can be seen in a white python t-shirt dress, delicate lace tops, leopard print suiting fashioned from a stiff jacquard fabric and a skirt with hand-embroidered leather appliqués that nods to the collection's signature lion motif. There's also a boxy tee and spaghetti strap dress that look like well-worn patchwork denim but are actually soft-as-a-cloud linen, and easy-elegant tank dresses designed to see you through summer in style. And those of us who mourned the closure of his Adam + Eve brand have reason to rejoice: Lippes is bringing back his t-shirt and undies line, which will be sold exclusively on his website beginning later this month. So even those who can't afford a snakeskin dress from his designer collection can get in on the action with his beautifully cut, well-priced basics. (I know Mr. TFI will be jumping for joy.) I bump into Derek Blasberg and Elettra Wiedemann on my way out, the latter trailing her chihuahua-mix puppy, Happy, who looks anything but. "He's very mellow, that's why I bring him everywhere," she says. "He's jaded. He just isn't very impressed by all of this." Unlike the rest of us.
The good folks at Donna Karan were kind enough to squeeze me in at the last minute (bisous, Aliza Licht @DKNY), so I hop in a cab to Cedar Lake, located on the farthest reaches of 26th Street in Chelsea. The audience, which includes Goldie Hawn, Joy Bryant, Marisa Berenson, Carine Roitfeld and Ali Larter, is treated to a medley of hits old (Adele's Rumor Has It) and new (Robin Thicke's catchy-if-completely-misogynistic Blurred Lines) while waiting for the show to begin. I misread the show notes as Librarian Culture and have a moment of cognitive dissonance (Donna's doing librarians? Whaaat?) before realizing it says "Urban" Culture. That makes more sense. Except it doesn't really, as the show itself is based on "the search for a scarf" and features lots of sunbaked, vegetable dyed mudcloth coats, a canvas lace-up skirt, handwoven suede fringe jacket and oversized linen caftan shirts in desert shades of sky blue and terracotta worn with flat stone necklaces, low-slung belts and distractingly large deconstructed leather hats by Stephen Jones. There are a few great looks here, to be sure (an indigo stretch georgette balmacaan with matching dress strikes the right note of rugged sophistication, as does an embroidered block print evening dress worn by Karlie Kloss that signals Donna's wanderlust muse without going overboard). And the shoes and bags are terrific. But a more prudent edit would've made things feel a bit less costume-y.
Speaking of costume-y. My next show is Thom Browne, master of the uber-creative, thought-provoking (if not always wearable) runway show. As always, he does not disappoint. Held at Center 548 a few blocks south of the Donna venue, guests step off the cavernous elevator into a warren of small rooms with white tiled- and padded walls. There are displays of medicine jars and plastic cups filed with Rx pills, headless mannequins hanging from the ceiling and disembodied limbs strewn about. The Edison lightbulbs are flickering wildly and there's some tinkly glockenspiel music droning through the speakers. The effect is totally creepy, like having entered an insane asylum, circa 1955. The TB-uniformed orderlies…I mean publicists, scurrying about trying to tame the crowd only heightens the Shutter Island vibe. I introduce myself to Harper's Bazaar editor Laura Brown, who's one of my fashion world faves (if you haven't yet seen her addictively hilarious video series, The Look, in which she interviews everyone from Sofia Vergara and Kate Hudson to Kiernan Shipka and Elmo (yes, Elmo), you can catch them here). Just be warned that once you start Looking, you won't be able to stop. I can't resist trying some of the pills (they're white M&Ms) and watch as a woman across from me keeps popping up to take photos after it's clear the show's about to start, causing a harried publicist to run out of the corner and escort her back to her seat.
Except the show is not about to start. As we listen to the repetitive music, the audience grows increasingly restless and uncomfortable, which surely is Thom's intention: once the crazy-making music and seizure-causing lights have driven us half-mad, the show will do the rest. Bwahahaha. All around me is impatient laughter and nervous chitchat. At one point, the lights dim and we all prepare for the first look. Then the lights go back up and the whole room explodes, "Oh, come on!" Editors from The New York Times, Bazaar and Teen Vogue are tapping their feet and checking their iPhone clocks. At 5:47 (nearly an hour after the scheduled start time), the photographers in the adjoining room begin a countdown ("5, 4, 3, 2, 1") hoping to kick things off. No dice. As the clock approaches 6pm, the elevator doors finally creak open and the sound of shrieking, crazy laughter fills the room, followed by Bjork ("Shhhh! Shhhh! Shhhh!"). A group of snood- and sunglass wearing, padded hipped nurses walk slowly down the runway and take up their posts near the entrance to each padded cell. Then come the poor inmates…I mean models, clad in ivory papier-mâché jackets, sliced latex tunics, paper doll dresses, opera-length rubber gloves and off-kilter pearls, their ghostly white makeup, smeared red lipstick and towering rat's nest bouffants attesting to their fragile state of mind. Some of the girls act a bit crazier than others, stumbling vacant-eyed through the rooms, their heads lolling at odd angles and their handbags hanging open while they listen to voices only they can hear. As what sounds like cats being tortured fills our ears, the models trail out and the nurses follow behind, offering select front row denizens little vials of pills (which prompts everyone in the room to burst into laughter). The show itself lasts 25 minutes (an eternity in Fashion Week Time), so guests bolt from their seats before Browne has even finished taking his victory lap, anxious to get out of the asylum and on to their next engagement.
In my case, that would be dinner with Mr. TFI followed by Libertine at Lincoln Center (I was supposed to hit the Rosie Assoulin and Maki Oh presentations at Industria, as well, but Browne's late start scotched those plans). Johnson Hartig's upbeat outings are about as far from Thom Browne's macabre theatrics as one can get. The Libertine invite trumpeted the word "Love" in big, bold letters above the choices oui or non. Naturally, oui had been circled in Magic Marker, as Johnson's is always an enthusiastically optimistic, say-yes-to-life POV. He's the fashion world's answer to Auntie Mame, and I love him for it (oui, oui, a thousand times, oui)! I sneak backstage to say hi and spot a trio of young men in sparkly suits, one of whom is clad only in black briefs. They pose for a picture and I lean in to stage whisper, "You're not wearing any pants!" The boy in question stage whispers back, "I know!" and we all crack up laughing. I spy Johnson in the corner, showing socialite skin doc Lisa Airan a few of his more colorful creations. Well, truth be told, they're all pretty colorful, awash in sparkles and beads and tie-dye and stripes and polka dots and the aforementioned LOVE/OUI/NON print. Even the model's nails are encrusted in Rainbow Brite crystals, and the women are sporting what could be construed as black tears or a prison tat near their right eyes. "I'm continuing my journey inward," Johnson says after enveloping me in a big bear hug. "I've traveled a lot this year—to India, Marrakech, Peru, France—and it's bringing me closer to my…well, I don't want to say inner spirit, but you know what I mean…" Indeed, I do. "I think of them as Earthly Warriors, protecting us," he adds with a smile while gesturing to the multicolored masses surrounding us. The good vibes continue on the runway, with models in God Save the Queen topcoats, sunny yellow hippie-chic maxis and foil-printed, party-in-the-front, business-in-the-back sweatsuits strutting to a Vanilla Ice remix (Ice, Ice Baby!) and Keef Richards' Happy. Which is exactly how this collection makes me feel.
Unfortunately, it's all business-in-the-front for me, as I head home to file my daily coverage. Thank Jehovah for my new Esquivel wingtips (a gift from the designer—thanks, George!), which allow me to pound the NYFW pavement in style, sans blisters. It's a Fashion Week miracle, people!
photos by Lauren David Peden/The Fashion Informer 2013
Fridays are usually a cause for celebration (TGIF and all that). But during New York Fashion Week, Friday just means you've hit day three in a jam-packed nine-day show schedule. Which is not cause for tears, mind you (oh, poor me, I have to sit through another day of inspiring fashion shows. boo fucking hoo) but no one who covers NYFW is in chillaxing weekend mode when Friday rolls around.
That said, my day gets off to a glorious start at the show of one of my favorite designers, Tess Giberson. I'm running late so decide to splurge on a cab and—after sitting through several traffic jams and banging a uey on 23rd to avoid another (which means we have to backtrack several blocks in the wrong direction before heading back to the West Side)—I find myself at Chelsea Piers, on time but $35 bucks lighter (ouch!). Tess has titled her spring outing "Remix," in which she aims to rework silhouettes, prints and wardrobe staples to create a new perspective on familiar pieces. To this end, she reimagines preppy classics—madras plaids, tennis skirts, collegiate sportswear—by giving them a downtown cool-girl spin. The plaid, for instance, is derived from a watercolor by the designer's artist husband, Jon Widman, and applied to silk chiffon dresses and intarsia knits, while the tennis dress is fashioned from white cotton ponte with sheer eyelet panels in a curved-hem shape. Elsewhere, classic suiting elements are repurposed in unusual ways, with blazer lapels appearing not on jackets but down the leg of pants, while trousers morph into dresses and jumpsuits. Tess also remixes her signature crochet pieces in innovative, new ways—as homespun sleeves on a graphic striped tunic, say—and puts a chic, urbane spin on classic athletic wear, crafting track pants from silk with organza side stripes and using perforated leather on elastic waist jogging shorts. The shoes—black and white criss-cross leather sandals with built-in spats and a high, chunky heel—are another fresh take on an old favorite. Post-show, I spy countless guests taking selfless in front of the crocheted backdrop, which was created for the occasion by set designer Andrew Coslow.
At the Duckie Brown show over at Industria, I'm seated next to my friend, Lauren Ezersky, who is looking resplendent, as always, in black Alaia pedal pushers and a pile of silver goth jewelry (with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, she shall have music wherever she goes). The DB boys (Steven Cox and Daniel Silver) make music of their own with a collection that veers from the monastic (white denim work coats, pleated back polos and tuxedo t-shirts, buttoned to the neck) to the not so (basketball skirts, halter tops, a scallop edged jacket, drop crotch gym shorts). There's a cool passage of variegated striped pieces, and I especially like a navy lace mackintosh and a khaki lace work jacket worn with jute trousers and a printed burlap apron that reminds me (in the best way possible) of the potato sack dresses Lucy and Ethel wore on I Love Lucy. Duu-ckie, you got some 'splaining to do! Backstage, Daniel tells me that the jute apron was, in fact, inspired by the book Farm by Jackie Nickerson, which documents the lives of workers on African plantations. "They use coffee sacks as garments," he says while air kissing well-wishers. As for the other borrowed-from-the-girls looks? "The skirts are just basketball shorts opened up—and the halter is a sweatshirt without the sleeves." Clever, that. Outside, Florsheim (for whom Duckie designed all the patent oxfords worn in the show) has set up a Coolhaus ice cream sandwich truck (yum!), which show goers immediately queue up for, Fashion Week diets be damned.
I have lunch at Pastis, after which I drop my compact in the communal sink outside the bathroom, shattering plastic and powder all over the floor. D'oh! Thankfully, there's a Sephora on my way to the next venue, so I pop in to buy a replacement. The salesman—a very friendly, knowledgable guy named Kevin—insists of redoing all of my makeup to better demonstrate the virtues of Laura Mercier Smooth Finish Foundation Powder, which he promises will not settle into my nooks and crannies. I'm not a big powder person (I use it sparingly, on an as-need basis, to minimize shine) so by the time he finishes layering it on—a process that takes a full five minutes, versus my usual 15-second application—I feel like I'm wearing a second face on my face. The results look good but feel weird and constricting, like wearing a mask. Nonetheless, I leave with the powder, a Clinique Chubby Stick and a tube of Lancome Definicils Masacara (sucker, thy name is Lauren). I run into Duckie Brown publicist Deborah Hughes on Fourteenth Street and ask her whether it looks like I'm wearing an extra face on my face. "No, you look fine—great!—and it's sunny out here," she says. Ok, whew.
I think Deb's being honest (not just kind) but I'm not entirely reassured, so I ask Rachel Felder, who's seated in front of me at Sally LaPointe, the same question. "It looks fine to me but the light in here's not that great," she replies, gesturing to the dimly lit red and back stage set. "But who cares? It's so hot out you'll sweat it off before the day's over anyway." Good point. "I don't know about you, but I'm ready for them to get this party started," she adds with a glance at her watch. "I was hoping to have a Jeffrey moment before Cushnie." (She's referring, of course, to the designer emporium Jeffrey, which is right next door to the Highline Stages on Fourteenth Street.) Sally, who has been getting some great press as of late, unveils a collection inspired by deli flowers. Worn by models with long, center-parted Morticia Addams wigs, the collection features a techno jersey tuxedo dress and lambskin vest in past-its-prime rosebud pink, jackets and sheaths with tulip-inspired draping, petal bustier tops that float seductively around the wearer's torso and a pearlized patent leather vest, the color and texture of which recall both a bouquet of pink roses and the cellophane it came wrapped in. Wisely, the designer doesn't hammer her point home too literally, presenting plenty of other options—a black double-face jumpsuit, long ecru jacket with matching trousers—that nod to her tough luxe leanings while letting the accessories (pointy leather "long stemmed" collars, belts with petal-like waist folds) reflect her seasonal muse. She interjects a burst of color and shine with a passage of canary Lurex pieces before finishing with a series of lovely flower print cellophane organza dresses that feel beautifully melancholy, like a half-forgotten dream or a wistful memory that's just out of reach.
A publicist greets me at the backstage entrance and leads me through the cavernous backstage area, up several flights of stairs and down a long, twisting hallway where the designer awaits. Halfway there, I realize from his deferential demeanor and nervous chatter that he's mistaken me for someone else (read: someone higher up the fashion food chain). I don't bother to correct his assumption since I need to get my interview and hightail it over to the next show. "I wanted to capture an enticing sadness," Sally tells me while models pose for look book photos on the white seamless backdrop that's been set up nearby. "It's a little bit softer and more organic feeling, but it's still my DNA." I ask her about the reaction she's been getting to the terrific New York Times' profile that ran earlier in the week. "It's been amazing to see people connect to [my work] and understand it," she says with a smile. Also amazing is the fact that she included so many women of color in her lineup. This should be a non-issue in this day and age (hel-lo, it's 2013!) but sad to say, that is not the case, as model-turned-activist Bethann Hardison demonstrated in her recent attack on racism in the fashion industry. On my way to Milk Studios, I notice that Jeffrey is closed for Rosh Hashanah, so Rachel wouldn't have been able to have her Jeffrey moment even if she'd had the time (cue sad face).
At Cushnie et Ochs, the front row is full of It boys (Nigel Barker, J. Alexander, Jay Manuel) and It girls (Ashley Madekwe, Harley Viera Newton, Chelsea Leyland). I ride up in the elevator with Carly Cushnie's parents (she co-helms the line with Michelle Ochs). "The show is going to be great!" enthuses the PR who's escorting them. And indeed it is. Megamodel Karlie Kloss leads the parade in a white asymmetrical bandage dress with ruched elastic straps to the sound of Kelis crooning "C'mere copycat, you my puppet. You know I love it." This is followed by sliced white maillots and a neoprene body con dress with sheer organza cutouts covering the model's breasts. A grey buckled sheath and strappy nurse's dress follow, leading some in the audience (ok, me) to revisit their let's-play-doctor fantasies (oh, please, judgypants, like you don't have them, too). A pair of scribble print dresses looks like something a deranged child might have drawn, while a suite of super sexy black dresses with razor cut outs and restraints hew to the duo's more familiar kitten-with-a-whip proclivities. They soften up for evening with a trio of purple silk dresses, the last of which is worn by a nearly unrecognizable Chanel Iman, who's traded in her usual sunny smile for a sultry glower. "We were inspired by straightjackets," Carly tells me backstage after greeting Pamela Love, who designed the show's silver neck brace chokers. Are she and her partner feeling particularly unhinged these days? "Yeah,' she replies with a sly smile. "That's why there are all those straps and crazy scribble prints." I bump into Karlie Kloss on my way out and ask if I can take her picture. "Sure," she replies. "Just let me put my shirt on." Oh, fine, be that way. Carly and Michelle would not approve. PG-13 photo op completed, I walk ten blocks up Tenth Avenue to my next show. On the way, a photo in a gallery window catches my eye so I pop in to check it out. The sales guy and I start chatting about art and fashion and it turns out he's the ex-husband of one of my longtime fashion friends (they split up years ago, before she and I met). NYC is a very small town if you live here long enough—and I always love these Six Degrees of Fashion Week connections.
The VPL by Victoria Bartlett presentation is being held in the gymnasium of Avenues: The World School in Chelsea, a fancy schmancy private school for the offspring of Manhattan's international monied class (at least judging by the lobby and modern, incredibly well-appointed restroom, which has more than one mom in attendance exclaiming "this is the nicest school bathroom I've ever seen!" with obvious awe). Upstairs, in the equally impressive sun-filled gym, beneath signage with such inspirational phrases as "the only difference between a good shot and a bad shot is if it goes in or not" and "you miss 100 percent of the shotes you never take," Bartlett debuts her spring 2014 collection. Called "Onward," it pays homage to her label's origin as a fashion/activewear brand. To better demonstrate the sports cred of her garments' no-rub bonded seaming and seaweed-infused fabrics (which release vitamins A and E, providing a dose of skincare while you get your sweat on), Bartlett's models are put through their paces using resistance bands in routines designed by Bari Studio founder Alexandra Bonetti Perez. The tank tops, exercise bras, two-tone leggings and oversized shorts are sleek, colorful and more than a little sexy, especially when worn with elastic leg straps, which give the looks a Helmut Newton-does-SoulCycle feel. Sunglasses, neon headphones, open-toed sneaker sandals and rolled headbands of the Olivia Newton-John/Let's Get Physical variety complete the sporty chic picture. (And may I suggest you click the link just for a laugh even if you aren't an ONJ fan. Oh, the Eighties….)
A few blocks further up Tenth Ave, Novis designer Jordana Warmflash (yes, that's her real name) found inspiration in mid-century modern architecture and furniture design. This translates into a striking geometric map print that's used on t-shirts, pants, jackets and a vest dress. A larger, similarly themed geometric print appears on intarsia knit column dresses, and many of the silhouettes are long and lean, with lots of interesting textural layering and color combos. The designer's deft way with color is especially winning in a pink and yellow map tee atop a green skirt with a black and white grid under layer and checkerboard hem (which sounds like visual overload but serves to heighten one's senses rather than offend them). Likewise, a black and white drop shoulder sweater is paired, to great effect, with mint green map print pants. The result serves to amp up the volume on each piece, rendering the sum far greater than its parts. The contrasting Walter Steiger shoes only enhance the sharp, spirited interplay between Warmflash's playfully contradictory pieces.
Since I have a late start tomorrow, I finish my day by watching Nicole Holofcener's movie, Please Give, with Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Sarah Steele (Eli Gold's daughter on The Good Wife) and a tanorexic Amanda Peet. It's both poignant and laugh out loud funny (Old Ladies Say the Darnest Things!). If you're into smart movies about realistic human interactions, I recommend it highly. It's the perfect antidote to all things fash-un!
photos by Lauren David Peden, The Fashion Informer, 2013
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