Thursday, September 16, 2010

No Holds Barred

by Blair Sabol

I am all for celebrity "meet and greets" and am all for pushing business and New York City. But I have been confused about last Friday's Fashion's Night Out. I started getting emails weeks ago from my local Neiman’s and Michael Kors and Diane Von Furstenberg shops requesting my presence at their own September 10th night of champagne and "Shopping Fandango."

Now ... why would I go? Sipping cheap champagne while talking to well meaning but dimwitted salesgirls amidst clothes (not on sale) that I have no business wearing or buying is not my idea of a celebratory evening.

I totally understand Anna Wintour's need to make New York Fashion Week the new Super Bowl. But Super Bowl is over in four hours after less than a week of network and media hot air.

I guess turning FNO into a deluxe global buying spree was well intended if not delusional. A great kick-off and a terrific escape. Kind of like a wild New Years Eve that ends up with nothing to show for it except an empty shopping bag.

I watched part of it "live" on the QVC network. Three hyperventilating "reporters" were stationed in Soho, the Meatpacking district, and Fifth Avenue. Their seemingly drunk and screaming delivery made Kim Kardashian (who was simultaneously hyping her own clothing line on QVC) sound like Christiane Amanpour. The QVC gang covered the crowds like this was a major world news event. (Let's not forget ... this is about SHOPPING).

Strangely it reminded me of the early morning TV coverage of the actual 9/11 disaster. Interestingly, FNO was held on the eve of that disaster. I understand the need to generate Fall excitement (for Spring collections?) in a time of serious and impending doom. But it all appeared desperate and over-amped.
Fashion Week is for and about THE FASHION BUSINESS and all the groupies, stylists and stalkers that follow it religiously. Terrific. Most of the public don't know or care about any of this runway madness (until it gets to Target) or the latest bold typed Asian headliner designer.

There has always been a serious disconnect (and it's getting bigger) from what the public does care about and what the fashion business wants to stand on their heads about.

Funnily enough in my town we have FNO every night since most of our stores are open till 9pm, champagne or not. But from what was reported in NYC (Vegas must have been hilarious, although business as usual) it became a giant circle jerk of fashion celebrities; Anna Wintour autographing Tavi Gevinson's tote bags at Barneys, Tavi Gevinson autographing Daphne Guinness' own perfume bottle, Karl Lagerfeld looking bored and disgusted with everyone, Sarah Jessica fleeing the crowds at the Chanel store and Jennifer Lopez charging $135 to pose with her at Macy's.
Clockwise from top: Tavi Gevinson "silently freaking out" upon meeting Anna; Jennifer Lopez posing with Jennifer Lopez at Macy's; Karl Lagerfeld looking bored; Taxi!
Only in New York does any of this fly. Although mysteriously Madonna didnt show up anywhere. Maybe she was too busy riding the subways looking like a bag lady. Heh, at least she has an honest fashion statement! Imagine sweating through the crowds at Tory Burch or Stella McCartney's to eat a hot dog, or a burger and to cell phone photograph the back of Kimora Lee's head. Then again Business is Business and New York City is New York City. But did any of this actually jumpstart the fashion season? No doubt for Bill Cunningham and Patrick McMullan it is all a win. But what about the consumer? Show us the money!

Madonna, riding the subway.
There comes a time in one's life where fashion magazines are only read in the doctor’s office (I judge a doctor by his waiting room mag selection) ...
My friend and New York Times T magazine columnist and super shopper Susin Fair ("Samurai Shopper") hid out on Friday night. "Not for me. But it was great for the city and it was more than a PR event ... it was meant to include the public and take it away from 'swagbagged' VIP nightmares."

Perhaps; but one thing is clear: the whole Fashion Week is not only for THE fashion industry but for the very young (and in most cases very rich). Once you reach 50 it is no longer about fashion but about personal style and mortality (sorry to be so depressing!) Those of us "on the back nine" of life have bigger runways to watch having to do with medical care and the economy.

But don't get me wrong, fashion has always been the great escape and who doesn’t want to "look" current in some way. But at some point comfort and a basic "uniforms" start to take over and rule. There comes a time in one's life where fashion magazines are only read in the doctor’s office (I judge a doctor by his waiting room mag selection) and even the tons of reports on the new hot designers simply don’t seem to be resonating anything truly interesting. Magazines hype about some look as "gazing at a new invention" while all we are really looking at are vintage rehashings under the heading of "Mad Men." I prefer the power of vintage in its own time slot. Even many of the bloggers are now drowning in their own narcissism and corporate sponsorship.
The New York Times reported FNO as reminiscent of the 1970's Madison Avenue Monday night gallery openings. What drug are they on? Gallery openings in 1970 were small (but packed), incredibly unique "happenings" (remember those?) with totally different cross section of people. FNO was a public gang bang. Different era. Different genre. No comparison. I

gather the new locale of Lincoln Center was meant to turn fashion into high art. But high art isn’t even high art anymore. It all has become "high finance." Even artist Christo is having a hard time finding acceptance for his draping of Colorado's Arkansas River. Maybe he should have worked FNO ... or maybe the whole event should move to the Stock Exchange.
Magazines hype about some look as "gazing at a new invention" while all we are really looking at are vintage rehashings under the heading of "Mad Men."
As for the actual week of runway shows ... isn’t that form seriously exhausted? Who could ever consider runway modeling actual "performance art?" (Now that Lady Gaga has taken Alexander McQueen into mainstream). And how about some new audience "front rowers?" All we keep seeing are the same selection of Bravo “Housewives” and the usual array of celebrity rehabbed refugees with fresh facial injections.

The actual opening show from TV's "Project Runway" was a bit disturbing. Heidi Klum managed to look like a real matronly housewife in a red suit while Harvey Weinstein (the show's producer) looked like Shrek awkwardly sitting in the front row with his white shirt slovenly unbuttoned. Like Madonna, at least he was making his own fashion statement.

And by the way ... other than Christian Siriano, where are all the other winners and runner-ups of the many past seasons of "Project Runway"? Where are their "American Idol" versions Clay Aiken or Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson or Jennifer Holliday? Does this say anything about the fashion industry? Once you make it ... you still can’t make it?
I truly wish the fashion industry luck with all this prefab hoopla. I couldn’t help but notice that Fashion Week was scheduled at the end of Ramadan and during the Jewish high holidays' "days of awe."

In fact FNO was staged on the most important and holiest Sabbath of the year. Maybe Fashion knows God best. And certainly God bless the whole industry!!!! In the meantime (and for what it's worth) I found Fashion Nite Out ... really "out."
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