Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No Holds Barred on Fashion Week

I say bring Joan and her gang to Fashion Week's front row seats. They deserve it.
by Blair Sabol

When I heard that some Lincoln Center residents complained that the Fashion Week generators were polluting their neighborhood with a terrible noise and an awful stench I knew this might not be a great Fall showing.

Then last Friday, New York Times fashion editor Cathy Horyn admitted that the week's fashion collections turned out to be "less than inspiring."  

Personally I feel for the fashion press in general. Fashion Weeks are tough marathons to run and to come up with "what it all means" and "where is it all going" seems senseless. After all "what it all means" is debatable and "where is it all going" (if these clothes are actually bought and worn) is inevitably in a Hefty Bag to Goodwill or onto a Flea Market.
Pollution of New York Fashion Week 2011 at Lincoln Center
For the "great unwashed" public (like me) who live outside of New York Paris, London and Milan (I'm in Arizona), style reporting becomes a tedious daily grind to follow. The disconnect is vast. Yes, we have our own neighborhood Saks and Neimans and upscale boutiques. We also have H&M, Target, Forever 21, and online shopping sites. Not to mention QVC and Home Shopping Network which bring "trunk shows" into our living rooms.  

So FASHION as a "special edition" is getting hard to take seriously.  And does any of this "high end" stuff really trickle down to mass merchandising? I always thought it trickled up from the street.

As for the actual fashion coverage, I'm at a loss. We all know that fashion magazines are struggling and now the fashion blogs are becoming boringly overwhelming. Perhaps the sign of the most recent times was a picture of Anna Wintour sitting next to Tavi Gevinson (last year's 15-year-old blogette sensation) at the Burberry Prorsum show. Oddly they looked exactly alike. What does this say?  Forget the blogs; this year it seemed all Twitter accounts ruled most of the fashion coverage.
Anna Wintour, Tavi Gevinson, and Carolina Herrera at the Burberry Prorsum show.
But how can you get a feeling about anything from someone's "twits" (or is it "twats" — ed. note: it’s “tweets”) when they read like: "old school New York is such romance" or "high waisted wide pants can be quite the special weapon." I'm all for summing up a scene in 140 characters or less, but most of these "twitheads" write like hyperfueled narcissists. And enough with everything being "ammmmaaaazzing!!!!!!!!!!!"  

Obviously fashion Twittering is far from being Zen Haiku.
Some of my favorite fashion writers are in the weekend Financial Times. Style editor Vanessa Friedman often tries putting fashion in a worldly landscape: "How much, in other words, due to unrest in the Middle east and cost cutting in Washington, matter on the runways of New York?"

The answers weren't forth coming but at least she's in there pitching. The Wall Street Journal also does a terrific job and last week they published two important pieces. The first being "The Master Chart of Fashion Influence.”
To me it said it all with an actual graph of most designers and what they stood for. Ralph Lauren, Carolina Herrera, and Oscar de la Renta are “Old World glamour." Michael Kors and Derek Lam are "relaxed opulence.” Calvin Klein does "minimalism.” Rodarte is "Party Girls." Tory Burch is "Park Avenue." Diane von Furstenberg and Donna Karan do "practical.” Marc Jacobs is "experimental," and Jason Wu, Alexander Wang, and Wes Gordon are "younger customer leads."  

There were more designer categories but this breakdown was all you will EVER need to know about New York City fashion. Each season it is a variation of these themes. Nothing more/nothing less. There is never any real "news." Although last week there was some noise about "computerized designed fabric."

Unfortunately, the public probably won't care. Even the traditional squabble over hemline length doesn't matter anymore. It never did. At least designer Derek Lam decided to get past the press and placed some of his moderate priced dress designs on Ebay for the buying public to vote and decide.
Ralph Lauren went "Asian" complete with a black lacquer runway floor. Derek Lam on eBay. The Black Tie Dress for
$275 is currently in first place.
Other than that ... it was considered “news" that Ralph Lauren went "Asian" (he knows who his next market is), complete with a black lacquer runway floor. And Issac Mizrahi figured out that The Westminster Dog Show (held the same week at Madison Square Garden) is really THE HOT runway so he showed actual gem colored dyed poodles with his models. The dogs looked so terrific they upstaged his designs. That's the chance you take with show gimmicks.

The other important WSJ article was by Elizabeth Holmes entitled "Who Buys these Clothes? They Do.” This piece answered the age old question asked after every fashion week ... anywhere. Most of the "real customers" for these expensive creations are NOT celebrities or socialites but women who don't really go to the runway shows. They merely buy top dollar at Neimans or Saks and use their "personal shoppers."

It is a small and strange, and of course, wealthy group of gals who don't live in New York or Los Angeles, but in places like Texas and North Carolina. They seem to be in their 30s to 50s (nowhere near Iris Apfel's sophistication) and love the idea of merely owning "an original." God bless them.

Some also hope they can eventually unload their pricey purchases somewhere as an "authentic private collection." Good luck!
The problem with fashion reporters is real fashion shows don't need them. Just put the photos and descriptions of the designs on line and forget it. We hardly need the "interpretation."  

It's kind of like sports fans who love watching the real games on TV but end up turning off the annoying commentating audio. It's already happening as more designers post online "look books" and eventually all shows will be live and webcasted for the public to tune in for themselves.  

As an aside ... New York Social Diary is lucky to have the famed Ellin Saltzman giving us her daily Fashion Week reviews. Ellin was Fashion Director for Saks, Bergdorf's and Macy's and she at least brings her extraordinary retail expertise to every account. She's "been there done that.” And that is rare.  

Most of the fashion reporters are burned out from the amount of shows and advertisers they have to do and please, and the rest have drunk the industry's Kool Aid. Currently CNN is trying to replace the beloved Elsa Klensch with Alina Cho. Last weekend she debuted but she appeared overcoiffed and her material flatlined.  

I really wish The New York Times would mix it up the way the Financial Times does by sending different reporters from different departments. Why not have Tom Friedman or Nicholas Kristof cover a few runways. Talk about a POV.  
By the way. The biggest fashion statement for me came last week not at Fashion Week but at The Grammys with Mick Jagger. He not only stopped the show cold with his musical performance, but with his acqua silk quilted dinner jacket. The way it was cut and the way he moved in it was fashion in action.
The morning after it was his jacket that got all the internet buzz. Now that was worthy of an "Ammmmaaazzzing!!!!" No one could find out who designed it for him but no doubt it was his current girl friend/designer L'Wren Scott. If it was hers, that jacket was better than her entire Fall collection.
In the end the most important fashion reporter today is Joan Rivers on her weekly wrap up E show (8 PM Friday) Fashion Police. She and her cohorts (Kelly Osborne, Giuliana Rancic , and George Kotsiopoulus) are hilarious and consistently "get it" spot on. Her show falls into appropriate categories like; "rack report" (cleavage ratings), "Bitch Stole My look" (accidentally couture look-alikes), “Streetwalker or Celebrity" (differentiating between actual hookers and "star" ... hookers), and "fashole of the week" (everyone's favorite visual disaster).

The sad problem with "Fashion Police" is they are delegated to red carpet Hollywood events. I say bring Joan and her gang to Fashion Week's front row seats. They deserve it. As for the last word for all the glitz and hype around EVERY fashion Week ... a dear friend/New York magazine editor summed it up for me this way: "Enough already .... In the end it is just another f**king trade show." Indeed!
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