Weird and won­der­ful mo­ments of New York Fash­ion Week

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LIFE - By Jo­ce­lyn Noveck

NEW YORK: What, re­ally, is a fash­ion show? Dis­cuss.

Of course, there’s the well-worn for­mula: Peo­ple wait in line for ages, sit down, wait some more, look at clothes for about 10 min­utes, spend an­other half-hour greet­ing and dou­ble-cheek kiss­ing, then go do the same thing some­where else.

But lately, fash­ion shows have been stretch­ing those bound­aries. It’s not a to­tally new trend, but the New York Fash­ion Week that ended Wed­nes­day saw a fash­ion show as a dance per­for­mance, a fash­ion show as a vin­tage car ex­hibit, a fash­ion show as a rap con­cert/bur­lesque show (to­gether!), a fash­ion show as an ex­cuse for a big party, a fash­ion show as a fe­male em­pow­er­ment group and more.

Some of it was weird, some won­der­ful, some both. Here are some no­table mo­ments of the week:


If there’s any jus­tice, ac­tress Les­lie Jones will now be in­vited to ev­ery de­signer’s front row un­til the end of time. She will also be dressed by ev­ery de­signer. This is be­cause she was the most en­ter­tain­ing and sup­port­ive fan of all time at Chris­tian Siri­ano’s show, whoop­ing and hol­ler­ing her plea­sure at her fa­vorite de­signer’s gar­ments. (Sam­ples: “Work it!!” and “I want that!” and pre­tend-faint­ing.) You’ll re­call, Siri­ano was the de­signer who stepped up to dress Jones when she com­plained on so­cial me­dia that she was hav­ing trou­ble find­ing a de­signer to dress her for the “Ghost­busters” pre­miere. Good move, Mr. Siri­ano.


A cho­co­late wall (as in ooz­ing cho­co­late ), a celebrity beauty page ant, a mar­tial arts dis­play: The Open­ing Cer­e­mony la­bel has done all that, in the name of cre­ative fash­ion shows. This time, the la­bel pre­sented a 40minute dance piece, di­rected by film­maker Spike Jonze and star­ring film and TV ac­tors Mia Wasikowska and Lakeith Stan­field. The show was a touch­ing ex­plo­ration of re­la­tion­ships and monogamy. But where were the clothes? It was hard to get any sense of a co­her­ent col­lec­tion. And no­body was too fussed about that.


It’s an un­writ­ten rule: If you’re go­ing to make the fash­ion crowd travel far – as in, out of Man­hat­tan – it had bet­ter be worth it. A few years ago, Alexan­der Wang brought crowds to the Brook­lyn Navy Yard on a frigid Satur­day night. All was fine un­til the post­show traf­fic jam, but the show was good. This sea­son, Wang brought masses of peo­ple to a dead-end street in Bush­wick, Brook­lyn. They stood be­hind metal bar­ri­ers for more than an hour, and some re­sorted to sit­ting on garbage dump­sters to get a view. When the mod­els fi­nally ar­rived, on a bus, they were gone in a flash – the show lasted for less than five min­utes be­fore de­volv­ing into a chaotic after-party.


Then there was the si­mul­ta­ne­ous show from Ger­man-born de­signer (and show­man) Philipp Plein, who at the same time was keep­ing a cou­ple of thou­sand peo­ple out­side his Man­hat­tan venue. It was over­crowded both out­side and in­side, where the rap­per Fu­ture per­formed while an eclec­tic group of mod­els – in­clud­ing Snoop Dogg’s fa­ther – mod­eled the strappy leather de­signs. Dita von Teese did a bur­lesque rou­tine that in­cluded writhing in­side a gi­ant mar­tini glass. “I think fash­ion is chang­ing, es­pe­cially in this mo­ment, yeah?” Plein said. Maybe not THIS much.


THEN there was Ralph Lau­ren, who brought peo­ple out to sub­ur­ban Westch­ester County. But wait. First, he fer­ried his guests in a fleet of cars play­ing calm­ing, Lau­ren-pro­vided jazz mu­sic. When they got to the des­ti­na­tion – Lau­ren’s own garage, where he keeps his enor­mous vin­tage car col­lec­tion – they were of­fered Cham­pagne and pigs in a blan­ket and fried olives (and later, din­ner). In be­tween there was a fash­ion show, a real one. The theme was James Bond – and of course, the cars. The clothes were clev­erly synced with the aes­thet­ics of both. In all, the lux­ury on dis­play was stun­ning – one car alone, a Bu­gatti 57SC, is es­ti­mated at $40 mil­lion. What­ever you felt about the whole vibe and what it sig­ni­fied, it can be said that the mood was much hap­pier than at Wang or Plein.


All the week’s show­man­ship – and at­tempted show­man­ship – made it es­pe­cially sad to see the de­par­ture, for Paris Fash­ion Week, of Thom Browne’s women’s show. The de­signer was known for end­lessly cre­ative run­way shows in a Chelsea gallery, of­ten based on oth­er­worldly themes, but al­ways grounded in the high­estqual­ity crafts­man­ship. He didn’t show this time, but at the start of the week was awarded with the Cou­ture Coun­cil award from the Mu­seum at the Fash­ion In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy. Whoopi Gold­berg, dressed in a fan­ci­ful Browne en­sem­ble from his “bathing beauty” show, gave a heart­felt speech about how he’d made peo­ple like her, who dressed “dif­fer­ent,” feel good about it.


Speak­ing of Gold­berg, she was also on hand for a pre­sen­ta­tion by de­signer Tracy Reese that sought to give voice – in a lit­eral way – to her mod­els. Reese’s mod­els did some­thing mod­els never do on a run­way: Speak. “I am strength, I am grace, I am a woman,” one was say­ing softly. “A woman is strong, a woman is love, a woman is beauty,” an­other said. An­other spoke of how she ad­mired her mother. “Of­ten when you come to th­ese, peo­ple don’t look at the women, they’re look­ing at the clothes, and that’s why we’re do­ing this,” Reese said. “I wanted peo­ple to see the woman in the cloth­ing, and hear some­thing about who she is.”


There wouldn’t seem to be much that Gloria Steinem, the fem­i­nist ac­tivist and au­thor, has yet to ac­com­plish. But un­til this week, Steinem, 83, had never been to a fash­ion show. That changed when she sat in the front row at Pra­bal Gu­rung. “There is a first time for ev­ery­thing, even at 83!” Steinem posted on Instagram. She called Gu­rung “a kind man do­ing great work in fash­ion and be­yond.” It seemed like a dream come true for Gu­rung, who had made fem­i­nism a theme of re­cent sea­sons, and at his Fe­bru­ary show – soon after the women’s marches – came out in a T-shirt say­ing: “This Is What a Fem­i­nist Looks Like.”


Though there was gen­er­ally less po­lit­i­cal talk this sea­son, the Pub­lic School de­sign­ers, Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Os­borne, made sure im­mi­gra­tion was on everyone’s mind. Their de­signs were meant to evoke ev­ery­day items of­ten tossed aside – like plas­tic bags – be­cause, Chow said, “When you think about im­mi­grants and their con­tri­bu­tion, they’re over­looked.” And Chow wore a cap that read “DACA Dream­ers,” ex­press­ing sol­i­dar­ity with the young im­mi­grants who came to the U.S. as chil­dren and are liv­ing in the coun­try il­le­gally. Fi­nally, they held their streetwear show in what was once the 19th-cen­tury Five Points neigh­bor­hood, home to waves of im­mi­grants. “It was sym­bolic that we meet here to cel­e­brate the im­mi­grant ex­pe­ri­ence in New York,” Chow said, “and their con­tri­bu­tions, what they bring to New York and to the world.”

Jackie Cruz, Danielle Brooks, Brad Walsh, Les­lie Jones and Gina Ger­shon at­tend the Chris­tian Siri­ano fash­ion show dur­ing New York Fash­ion Week.

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