Put the Blame on Mame, Boys
by James Tuttle (@TuttleMode)
After playing some wildly fun chukkers at Bel Air Polo Club followed by a busy day with some of my favorite clients that rivaled the conspicuous consumption of the Nineties, I just wanted to camp out on the couch while watching TV and intermittently gazing at Brad Pitt’s W Magazine cover. I poured a glass of wine and scrolled down the cable guide when I spotted a show called “Fashion Week” on QVC and thought, “Holy shit, that’s awesome! Now I don’t have to search out every obscure collection on YouTube to find out what’s going on at New York Fashion Week!”
I thought I’d scored when NY Fashion Week founder Fern Mallis appeared in a lovely mocha caftan and her signature frizzy hair standing next to a glamazon in a tight pink dress, who looked like that hot chick who turns out to be an android in those sci-fi movies. They were chatting about how the weather is always crappy during Fashion Week, then they turned their attention to some multi-strand bead necklaces that Fern herself has designed and they’re for sale, like, right now by calling 1-800-345-1515!
As these two rambled on and on like they were having a contest for who can say the nicest things about the damn necklaces, the camera panned to a number of models wearing them with different outfits, cheesy poses and nearly Kardashian amounts of makeup. It looked kind of like a J.C. Penney catalog come to life, and that conjured up some childhood memories.
When I was a kid, the end of summer meant dreaded back-to-school shopping and long, dusty drives through hundred-degree-plus heat with my mom, who would rather have her fingernails pulled out than shop for clothes. Our first stop was usually the J.C.P. and, to make the ordeal even less enjoyable, I had to get my clothes from the “Husky” department. Yes, they actually had an entirely separate section set aside for fat kids, but it was still in plain view of the rest of the store so I skulked among the racks in constant dread of being spotted by classmates while trying on my wider-than-normal school clothes. Don’t feel sorry for me, though. Most of those people are now at least mildly obese and I’m at around 8% body fat, so who’s laughing now?
So, anyway, Fern and the QVC android lady were going on about how these necklaces were so beautiful, so light and how they can cure cancer and shit. Meanwhile, I was thinking, “If they’re so fucking amazing, why do they only cost 53 bucks?” When Fern’s segment was done, they left her and the android standing there awkwardly for a really, really long time before they cut to a perky, pixie-ish dark-haired girl pitching Dell computers. Then she sits there awkwardly for a really long time before…
I started sensing a theme here. Was the camera-switching dude texting or sleeping or what? When Isaac Mizrahi came on to sell his floral print trench coat for $116.94 plus $9.47 for shipping and handling, I decided I really couldn’t do this anymore. This was not the Fashion Week I signed on for.
The real New York Fashion Week officially started last Thursday but the schedule was so packed with shows and presentations—I counted a staggering 267 on the schedule—that nearly twenty of them jumped the gun and started the day before. If you’re wondering what the standout trends will be for Fall/Winter 2012, critics had already decided within the first couple of days that “black is the new black,” which is so fucking original that I wanted to gouge my eyes out when I read it, and that military influences are big.
Oh, really? What about the other two hundred New York collections? It appears that I do have to do every goddamn thing myself, so I caught up with a bunch of New York collections and here it is in a nutshell: The demure ladies of spring are making way for fall’s fabulous femmes fatales. After we’re done having tea with the Grace Kellys and Audrey Hepburns, it’ll be time to do body shots with the Veronica Lakes and Rita Hayworths and I, for one, am not opposed. Also, I can’t believe I’m the first one to pick up on this. You should fire all those worthless critics and editors and send me the nice swag instead!
First up is Richard Chai, who started off with menswear staples for both men and women. Classic jackets, coats, trousers, skirts and even backpacks were constructed from a horizontal stripe of black and gray for the first part of the show before dark greens, camels and browns were introduced. Men wore groovy British boxy jackets and skinny trousers while the most memorable women’s looks were fuchsia solids and florals in menswear-inspired tops with wide, flowing chiffon trousers.
Tadashi Shoji later that afternoon showed dresses and gowns inspired by the 1930s Golden Age of Shanghai and, more specifically, by the classic Marlene Dietrich film Shanghai Express from 1932. The Chantilly lace and silks in jewel tones and soft pastels seemed mysterious but opulent and, though not groundbreaking, the collection was still quite striking.
The Shanghai Express gathered steam on Friday morning when Jason Wu’s models walked out of the fog that poured from huge studded red doors. Red and black prevailed and there was some military inspiration but the Art Deco Chinese evening looks were what really worked.
The Tommy Hilfiger men’s collection in the evening was the freshest and most original that I’ve seen from Tommy in years. The military cadet-inspired look that manifested in wonderfully high collars and long contrasting cuffs on the coats and jackets in navy, loden green and burgundy is more wearable than the similar idea at Prada and the military stripe down the trousers reminds me of a pair that I had from the Hilfiger runway years ago. In short, it’s a cool, on-trend collection and Tommy stayed true to his aesthetic.
Charlotte Ronson veered toward clean and ladylike until strips of leather and suede brought a harder edge and a retro-ski-lodge vibe began to surface that made me think of the swinging après ski of fall’s Zegna men.
Saturday morning began with a Ruffian show that was inspired by the “English Countryside,” and though I could see that theme in the tartans and tweedy textures, it still had the Deco shapes, high-waisted trousers and fedoras that a mysterious 1930s bad girl might have worn. I tried to find something interesting to say about Sunday’s shows but couldn’t. Maybe they just weren’t fitting into my femme fatale theory.
I didn’t have to worry about that on Monday morning, though, with Jenny Packham’s lovely, atmospheric collection with shoulder pads that Joan Crawford could love. We also got fabulous jumpsuits and beautiful gowns in bias-cut silk that Gilda costume designer Jean Louis would have killed to get on Rita H.
I’d been looking forward to the Reem Acra show in the afternoon but wasn’t really impressed, especially with the black and gold beaded looks that were reminiscent of spring’s Gucci and Balmain.
The most memorable show of the week was Marc Jacobs’ colorful extravaganza, played out before a beautiful white cutout mythical mountain forest, that left me and many others completely baffled. There were psychedelic prints, bustles, metallic buckled pilgrim shoes, layers upon layers of things all topped off with the crazily huge fur hats in every color. It was Mary Poppins by Dr. Seuss. When you are able to step back and look at the individual pieces, though, I think you’ll find some of them lovely. The graceful bracelet-sleeved jackets and the amazing prints are especially intriguing and, in the end, at least that crazy ass show got everyone talking.
There wasn’t really anything fatale about Tuesday’s midday Rodarte show, I suppose, but it was still very 1940s. The inspiration was said to be Australia, which you see in the shearlings and… um, I’m not sure what else, but there were some chunky cable knit sweaters and cardigans that I loved and a red and black ruffled gown that Carmen Miranda would have traded her fruit basket for.
The Wednesday shows that I was able to catch began to throw my 1930s Art Deco vamp theory a bit more off the rails. Jeremy Scott was all things “Rainbow Brite” but then his stuff is always totally nuts. Michael Kors started out with strong red and black tartans, added fur chapeaux like the ones at Marc Jacobs and more shiny black leather but then pulled the Deco evening looks out at the end. Finally, the wildly theatrical collection by The Blonds capped off the night with their glittering rock-hard corsets and shimmering jumpsuits that you won’t find on a rack at Nordstrom. If these heavy metal chicks aren’t the femmes fatales of the future, I don’t know who are.