Every day at Fashion Week brings something new. That is to be expected. This is what it is all about, right? But there is a tenseness and fragility like tightly drawn tissue paper over a birthday gift. With bravery and panache the Spring Shows in September put on the warrior face of defiance and said, “To hell with the economy, we will survive and do it with incredible style.” Now as Spring actually approaches our thinning ranks we look ahead to next Fall, designers one and all seem to hesitate, poised on the brink, like a Himalayan climber of the knife edge that is the future. Some, like Betsy Johnson, charge ahead, seemingly heedless of what might be on the other side of the curtain. Others, like Zac Posen, continue to design quality and style but mix in elements that seem to be reaching, trying to be all to all. And then still others, like Donna Karan, that we look to for stability, just shroud themselves in black, like the dark inky cloak of night where they retreat until somehow life will pulse forth again and we can all go to the Bahamas and forget that this bad, bad economy ever happened.
For each I give you images of who they are, how they seemingly interpret this tenuous time we live in and above all – how we should dress.
Once upon a time in the Old West, was Betsey Johnson. Wait a minute. Last I checked this Crayola Queen designer worked more in tulle than Calico but here it is, Betsey meets Wild Bill Hickok. I didn’t think you would believe me if I didn’t include the bird hat, however, which was in several of her pieces. Either she thinks the economy or we are all for the birds, one of the two. It doesn’t matter if you take her seriously, she is happy and amuses herself incredibly.
Carolina Herrera‘s Fall Collection did not seem to scream anything. Quietly, gently in her way, she sent out a collection that seemed to ask, rather than tell us what we will wear. This deftly sculpted gown of ice water blue was the delicious exception. Like petals from head to toe and moving like flowing water from a fall, she put glamor, design, and hope in a gown so lovely it brings cheers from her followers.
I know that Donna Karan and the DKNY are two distinct brands but they are from one distinct person and while her lighter DKNY side paraded fashionable college girl down the catwalk, Donna Karan’s signature brand was shrouded in deep blackness making us pause. Gone are her usual calming colors and flowing fabrics. Gone are her graceful hemlines and intensely feminine dresses. This collection was all about Zorro and his sharp edged sword. It is curious when a designer so deviates from a predictable style, is it time to sit up and hear what she is saying through her creation. Is it time to cover up in black and find calm in blackness and night as did the Phantom of the Paris Opera? There is calm in night and from night we hope to wake rested and look once again to dawn.
Hervé Léger by Max Azria is usually so wrapped in bandages that they remind me of all my ankle sprains colorfully reinvented into amazing clothing that I could never fit into. Lubov and Max have admitted that it takes extremely fit bodies and lots of lacing to actually wear this collection so they took the theme and ran with it, literally. With athletics and sports in mind and all the fitness it takes as inspiration, the fall collection is decidedly “sporty”. At least it give the illusion of it. This piece has an art deco feel to it with the classic bandages.
Marc Jacobs that designer that nearly always draws a crowd to the Front Row failed to enlist even one A lister. It seems to make more sense to concentrate on the fashion, one guesses, and Marc did not disappoint. Beautifully tailored piece after piece in this enormous collection glided down the runway. The combinations of said pieces were given a good bartenders shake just to make the wonderfully wearable coats, dresses, pants, skirts, all seem more edgy than they actually were. It wasn’t necessary, for instance, to put socks on all those models since no one will be actually wearing them with 4″ stilettos (except SJP and Katy Perry – although neither is going to wear gray). It also had the unnerving ability to render said collection into a slightly mid-west cult family look. Do we really want to remember some of that news? All of it played against the “I am just getting over the flu and didn’t have time to brush my hair” look. Most stars at least know to cover that up with a nice dark pair of shades. But despite the distractions, the collection was solid, beautifully made and expertly tailored, in steely grays, clear sky blues and cool yellows of sumptuous silks, wools, leathers and furs. I would love this coat next fall, but please do not wrap it in brown paper.
Zac Posen is coming into his own as a designer and a person. Now in his 30’s and no longer feeling the need to find his place among the Great Ones, he is struggling, like all fashion houses, large (if they care to admit it) and small in this horrendous economy. Thankfully, he persevered and created a collection of exquisite beauty and substance. From purple furs and chewy caramel colored jackets of butter soft leather, from sleek and steely satin coats to flirty red velvet party dresses with flouncy ruffly hems, Zac and his no-holds-barred collection for fall was a like a full Thanksgiving Dinner with dessert. A little bit of everything. Did he need those net hats with distracting dots across the model’s faces, or the hairy Aspen style apres ski boots that turned out to be stilettos? Sadly, it seems that everyone is trying a little too hard to reach every kind of customer and getting a little diluted in the process. It is as Lubov Azria says, this year, we must create for the customer.