Tuesday, September 13, 2011

No Holds Barred

by Blair Sabol

Our economy has tanked. We are currently considered to be a fifth-rate nation (not even third?). The US debt has left us bereft. Our employment is sky high. Terrorist alerts still gets everyone's fears up and traffic jams going. But who cares!!! It's Fashion Week. And Fashion's Night Out was celebrated cross country last Thursday night which in my neck of the woods (Phoenix) means live deafening latin music in the middle of mini malls and insignificant shops serving cheap champagne and discounted price tags on limited inventory.

An insane time was had by one and all. I suppose.

Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons.
With consumer confidence in the toilet and stimulus spending a failure, I can't wait to see how all the splash of Fashion Week can give us any kind of cheap high.

Recently designer Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons said it best: "I don't feel too excited about Fashion today. I am more fearful that people don't necessarily want or need strong new clothes ... that there is a kind of burnout that people just want cheap fast clothes and are happy to look like everyone else. The flame of creation has gone a bit cold. That enthusiasm and passionate anger for change and rattling status quo is weakening."

No kidding!!! As my friend and New York Times columnist ("Samurai Shopper") Susin Fair says: "There are no new ideas. Everyone has 'jumped the shark'.

There are only old ideas not done very well, and since we all saw them the first time around ... our generation (those of us in our late 50s and later 60s) needs a new pond to swim in." One preferably without sharks.
Speaking of "shark jumping," I'm beginning to think Daphne Guinness has reached her 16th visual minute. Maybe it still flies in New York but enough already with the skunk head and the dolphin platform shoes. We get it!!! Even Lady Gaga has moved onto dressing in men's attire. Soon she will change her name back to Stephanie and we will all be happier.
Also all those 12-year-old bloggers may have run their "Good Ship Lollypop" course. Unfortunately infamous munchkin Tavi Gevinson got so quickly overexposed with last year's New Yorker, Time, Glamour, New York magazine profiles that I am not sure even she knows who she is "talking to" anymore.

It was fun while it lasted but even I am back to reading the tried and true Guy Trebay in The New York Times. His fashion coverage is "coverage" ... straight up with a twist of lemon. And of course there is our own NYSD's Ellin Saltzman who knows from whence she speaks. I want a wizened eye to give me news from the fashion front, not necessarily MTV.
Guy Trebay with Katherine Ross and Kristen Davis. Tavi Gevinson.
The only "fresh" fashion event that caught my eye is the J.Crew "formal showing." I'm a huge fan (who isn't) of Jenna Lyons ("fashion CEO" of J.Crew) and feel anything she sends down any runway will at least educate my eye and give me hope? Other than that I feel I can turn the page on the entire week. But what would I know.

Currently my favorite "retailer" is Amazon. Jeff Bezos may be my favorite "fashion editor." Yet Fashion Night Out is still about America's favorite past time: Shopping. And I like to think we still can do THAT. Even if most of us are merely cruising with no gas in our tanks. It still is an important diversion no matter what the era.

Cathy Horyn of the The New York Times recently reported the 4 most important items one can purchase this year are: a turtleneck (sounds depressing), cordoroy pants (even more depressing), a Burberry coat (why?), and some kind of knee-length easy-fit long-sleeve dress. Now we are talking!!!
Lyons, Bezos, and Horyn.
Recently at a Santa Monica shop called Margaret OLeary I stumbled on one of these great vintage inspired looking shirtwaists by designer Samantha Sung. I have no idea who she is other than she used to work for Ralph Lauren. She now has gone out on her own and apparently has a growing fan base of women who swear by these dresses in a great fabric (cotton with a hint of stretch or winter versions in knits) in unique splashy prints. They are so comfortable you can do yoga in them. Not to mention the right length ... below the knee. Sung dresses are not so Mildred Pierce or Donna Reed.

On second thought maybe they are with just the right edge. Those of us who loved and adored Diane Von Furstenberg have had to jump ship as she now leans to the youthful "boho"ness of the Olson Twin's market. Who doesn't? Mid-thigh dresses are no longer an option for anyone over 30 unless you have a reality show on Bravo. Samantha Sung gets it and yet nobody has ever heard of her. Rebecca Caplan, manageress of Mararet Oleary, insists she can't keep Sung in stock (women buy three at a time at $450 a pop) but has never actually "met" her.

Research on her turns up scarce. How refreshing ... a designer that knows "silence is golden." Her SamathaSung.com does show a complete collection with sweaters, skirts and dresses in a few choice stores. Let's watch and see what happens to her.
Me in a selection of Sungs's shirtwaists. Bottom right: "You can do yoga in this!!!
Meanwhile I am baffled by people's current shopping habits. Two weeks ago I was in Los Angeles and noticed the Saudi Royal Family had taken over the town. They were "vacationing" (from May to September) in all the five star hotels. They tend to take every presidential suite or entire top floors. I was fascinated to find out that they get up late in the afternoon and go out late at night and hit every store from 9pm to midnight. Rodeo Drive and Costco stayed open for them exclusively and were thrilled that they bought them out. Good for them!!!

I even heard that at one time they paid close to a million (in cash) to have Disneyland closed down for them alone one weekday night. And they have "wallet carriers." They don't handle actual money but have "people" who follow them and do the actual final transactions. Not to mention their private jets which ferry all their bounty home on a daily or weekly schedule. Now THAT is true "power shopping."
As for "our crowd" ... the wealthy are still going to "discount" outlets and upscale vintage and online stores. The rest of us depend on seasonal slash-and-burn markdowns ... Zaras, Forever 21 and don't forget the boom of thrift shops and second hand boutiques. The Salvation Army reports the biggest volume ever!!!

And then there is actual stealing as a current shopping trend. Which brings me to what may have been my most significant and personal "fashion Night Out."

This past Labor Day my home was burglarized. Apparently this is nothing new now that our culture has morphed into "Mad Max" and "Clockwork Orange."

Luckily I am not into closets full of costly clothes, shoes and handbags. Neither were the thieves. Tech and computers, yes. But I do love jewelry and so did the invaders. They managed to scoff up every bit of irreplaceable pearls and gemstones designs, a great Kenneth Jay Lane vintage collection, some choice J.Crew and antique crystal baubles and even threw in a few old QVC Joan Rivers "back-up" earrings. They got it all. And they had great taste.

Actually the only thing they left (spotlighted in the middle of the floor) was my rip off Chanel white enamel oversized watch. As if to say "Who doesn't have one of these already." I felt supremely judged. And by the finest fashion eyes — meth addicts on a tear who have seen it all. I am currently letting these thieves become my new stylists. They have dictated that my new look be "Less is more." Or "less is less." Minus the ski mask!!!
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