Spring Fashion Week sponsored by Mercedes-Benz has come to a close. The palpable excitement I was hoping for was not there. The near brush with celebrity and the sense of discovery -- almost gone. The industry, at times, seemed to clash with its future while dusting off its Victorian past.
Some ateliers wanted to dress us for 2030, a time when everyone's hoping we'll finally be out of this funk. Yet through this desire they clad their models in reverse accordion dresses, achieving an armadillo effect -- a major miss. Or sent hot air balloons down the runway. Those who got it stayed true to their vision, stuck by their concept and just made good clothing without pushing the envelope into unnecessary extravagance, and did not offer us a fractured vision.
Who Got It
Oscar de la Renta leads the pack. His clothing was stunning and the pictures you see don't do the work justice, the immaculate craftsmanship and the cohesive feel are integral to his ability to design timely and chic dresses in any climate.
Isaac Mizrahi is a second, along with Tommy Hilfiger, both creating great collections. Mizrahi lost a touch of his whimsy and was more staid, but this did not affect the cohesiveness of his offering. Tommy is opening a new store and wanted a clean look; he stayed true to form.
Adam Lippies and Mara Hoffman win by making great clothing that are simple, wearable and a joy to watch on the runway. Anna Sui created fun top hats for Vaudeville, one of a few who used the era for inspiration and the only one to get it right. Donna Karan also stood out with her flowing dresses that balanced the neutral trend with an uplifting concept. She did it in both her lines.
The menswear designers out-performed their womenswear counterparts. None fell into the murky waters of Victorian post-modern chic. Philip Lim (menswear) did great work. James Dean inspired Duckie Brown. Robert Geller made yummy clothes and Thom Browne stayed true to his theatrics. SPURR is competing for the Vogue fashion fund and gave us a stunning and focused array of color. Y-3 crafted athletic clothing that could be worn on or off the court.
Cristian Siriano has finally moved away from Project Runway and if he keeps showing with such finesse and maturity he'll leave the reality show that gave him his start in the dust.
I'm not naming names. Only because some major houses fell far away from their mark and seem to be sliding down a slippery design slope, creating a hodgepodge of patterns, I finally realized. They drastically changed their design ethos because they rose to prominence quickly and feverishly during the last bubble. Now they can't seem to pare down and adapt their visions to anything but extravagance.
Some went as far as digging through their childhood attic and emerging with prints inspired by carpetbaggers and the antebellum years. Choosing to craft almost insular inkblot dresses, inspired by a first generation ink-jet printer spewing its ink from a broken print cartage. Then there's beige, beige and more beige. Earth tones of all sorts. Why? We need to be uplifted.
Zippers appeared on dresses and hung from the back, deconstructed and looking as though a woman might not need a man to tuck them into couture for the gala. Maybe this is for the newly divorced women who dumped her once rich husband and got a nice settlement. Shear and translucence came as a predominant take away. I'm not sure if this actually works. In the wrong hands, mesh can be a dangerous thing. Some designed leather for summer, which just doesn't make sense. [Check out more spring trends here]
Ultra-modern. From box dresses and large shoulders worn as armor plating - from Mad Max to Gattaca. The designers who pushed us into the future missed it collectively, so horribly, that once or twice I groaned and felt like running away during the middle of a show.
Sense and Sensibility
The soundtrack to fashion was palpable. So was the mood - odd on both counts, with a sprinkle of rock and Gaga. The performer influenced many a look. In fall there was the sense of anxiety and wonderment. This time, freelancers all over the tents asked each other if there was work, anywhere. Everyone seemed to be looking for jobs. I mentioned this before, but the McDonald's-sponsored cafe rationed milk.
I wanted to be lifted from my own reality of pitching blind and feeling like I'm not being heard. I desperately needed Fashion Week to yank me out of my economy-induced malaise. At Lacoste the music asked us to "believe", Badgley Mischka wanted us to "save our souls," at Malandrino a singer is wailing, actually mournfully wailing. I begin to wonder if I've stepped into a parody of my life. Ralph Lauren wanted us to prepare for the dust bowl. I hope we don't reach that point.
The normally clogged arteries around Bryant Park, packed with Towncars waiting for editors and celebrities to get out of shows. The streets are noticeably free of traffic, or much emptier than in seasons past. Media itself seems to be staying away from the tents. I stood or sat next to the unemployed. At Donna Karan a buyer was talking about being recently laid off, two days before the show.
Madonna and Lady Gaga were the big names this season, at Marc Jacobs of course. Charlize Theron made Rag & Bone. Rosario Dawson, Mary Louise Parker and Penn Badgley went to Tommy Hilfiger the final show of the week. Everyone but Paris Hilton made Fashion's Night Out then all but a few skipped the tents. The ubiquitous housewives of New York filled the void. So ubiquitous the photogs of the press gaggle actually decided to shrug at one point and never snapped hungrily for their pictures. Are the new celebrities reality stars? Since Hollywood glitz can't seem to sell product anymore. This might be why Ashton Kutcher is broadcasting himself feverishly on twitter, meeting the constant demand of a hungry fan base that turns away all to quickly.
In Tuesday's Daily a fragrance ad quotes Andy Warhol "think rich, look poor". Later in the issue the thirteen-year-old blogging sensation Tavi is asked at the Y-3 show, what her Yohji mantra was, she responds "let's get ready to die." Sure there are the well dressed and perfectly quaffed specimens of fashion still around. It's just that there's so few of them now.