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11/11/09 4:00am
11/11/2009 4:00 AM |

It’s long been the case that fall is for cozy knits and crisp jackets, and spring is for prints. The spring collections are always the most fun to watch, kaleidoscope of brights, florals and graphics cutting through the impending endlessness of winter in the city.

This year, however, you’ll find an increasing number of eye-popping patterns on the racks of boutiques and department stores. Indeed, even as the weather turns chilly, the fashion set are just pairing their floral minidresses from spring with ribbed tights and boots and soldiering on. Perhaps a print captures the sense of uniqueness that people are actually willing to spend for (“investment” and “unique” seem to be the retail buzz words right now), or maybe it’s simply that they convey a sense of optimism we’re all grasping for. Heck, maybe it’s the nation’s fascination with that one floral Thakoon dress the First Lady keeps wearing.

But most likely, the rise in prints dovetails with an increasingly talented pool of designers who’ve made print-making an equally vital part of their collections.

Mociun

Brooklyn-based designer Caitlin Mociun has made a commitment to keeping her line earth-friendly, which makes her prints all the more incredible (dyeing being one of the most damaging things you can do to a garment, environment-wise). The line really started gathering steam over the summer with the growing popularity of the designer’s graphic black-and-white tanks and tie-front dresses. Mociun’s silhouettes are clean and simple, emphasizing the prints over the complexity of the tailoring. For fall 2009, the designer unveiled a series of graphic patterns in blue and orange, as well as simple check, but the highlight is undoubtedly the “space print,” a celestial purple, orange, black and white pattern that evokes memories of 10th grade science books about the cosmos.

Rachel Comey

Consistently unconventional—her collections have been known to include perfectly wearable knit cardigans alongside sparkling short rompers—Comey’s prints have always been surprising and playful. Her fall collection places a huge emphasis on florals: orange pencil skirts with lavish flowers spread across them, silky dresses with tiny roses, moody purple shifts with an almost brocade feel, and then wallpaper-like florals in white-and-baby-blue. All things you’d expect to see coming down a spring runway, yet Comey cheekily pairs them with chunky cardigans and boots as though it were the most natural thing in the world.

Vena Cava

While the ladies behind Vena Cava‘s confident, feminine line were initially noticed for their eye for the curve of a dress or the flip of a skirt, they’ve long been admired for creating their own highly unique prints—sometimes inspired by travel, sometimes by an art book. (In fact, the secret of the designers’ as-yet-unannounced collaboration with Gap was pretty much spoiled once images of their prints on a simple dress were leaked.) For fall, the duo debuted an eye-catching red graphic pattern as well as a mystical, earthy-meets-cosmic green, white and black silk—which the ladies applied to a tank, a minidress and a long glamorous gown.

10/28/09 4:00am
10/28/2009 4:00 AM |

If the top costumes for Halloween are any indication as to the consciousness of the nation, we’re currently obsessed with Wild Things, Lady Gaga, the Gosselins and, most of all, Mad Men.

The cult-like appeal of Mad Men-inspired fashion, however, stretches far beyond the reaches of costume shops. Brooks Brothers has recently launched a $998 Mad Men suit, and the designer behind it (Janie Bryant, the costume designer for the show) has even laid out her plans to extend the collection into Betty Draper-inspired dresses, eveningwear, and office separates.

So how, exactly, did Man Men become the new Sex and the City, with Don and Betty Draper as the new Carrie Bradshaw? What is it about the slick 1960s aesthetic that has suddenly so captured our imagination with its martini glasses, pocket squares, and skinny gray suits? Most intriguing of all is the fact that the delight in the show’s sartorial highlights is not confined to the trend-obsessed women and gay men who so loved SATC. Mad Men has accomplished the unthinkable in making advocates out of reformed hipsters-men formerly uninterested in fashion who suddenly found themselves swooning over a terrifically cut suit, as though they’d just been waiting for the right opportunity. To be sure, the jet-set followers are there, but it is the mix of devotees that gives the show its singular following-a following that retailers all over the country are desperate to cash in on.

I remember going to see Steven Spielberg’s 60s-based caper, Catch Me If You Can, and listening to my father prattle on about how the fashion at the time was just flawless. Even if it seemed dated to us now, the silhouettes were so flattering-there was nary a regrettable faux pas in all the new-wealth exuberance the period had generated. It may well be that our interest in a more classic aesthetic is a pendulum swing away from the fashions we’ve seen in our own society’s most recent economic upswing -namely Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and the Olsen twins (who I’ll defend as stylish, though the luxe boho phase of the early 2000s did seem a bit much).

We now find ourselves in a place that, from a fashion perspective, is complicated: Depression-era oxford lace-ups and throwback grunge are on-trend at the same time that fox fur chubbies and 80s power suits are making a comeback. In the world of style’s increasingly fragmented signals, Mad Men‘s crisp, confident style has appeared as a compass of sorts. This look has clearly defined value and substance.

Finally, the show gives us back what we are already nostalgic for as we peer into an uncertain future: The industries that have long been the most glamorous in the city-editors at glossies, Wall Street tycoons, and the slick ad men of Madison Avenue, all of when seem to have all-too-quickly lost their sheen.

10/14/09 4:00am
10/14/2009 4:00 AM |

It’s finally happened. I’ve arrived at an age where I have almost as many pregnant friends as I have weddings (and I’ve had EIGHT weddings this season, so that’s saying a lot). Thusly, I have a myriad of baby showers to attend, and very small gifts to buy.

Baby showers are in no way like bridal showers or weddings. For starters, you don’t need to be ready for marriage to enjoy a wedding. Any nuptial-related activity involves a bunch of people you like getting together and getting hammered while dancing and making happy fools of themselves. Baby showers, on the other hand, can be rather sobering affairs. They do not involve much drinking, since the person you’re celebrating can’t really get blitzed herself. The organizers often find themselves anxious and at a loss for activity, so you end up playing a few games, but really the focus of the entire affair becomes the presents. That’s right, people-who’ve-not-yet-been-to-a-baby-shower, you must bring a present. Unlike weddings, where you can party your face off and then send something from an online registry four months later, if you show up empty-handed to a baby shower, you are going to look like a fool during the main event of the party, wherein the mother-to-be and friends slowly go through each present the guests have brought, ooh-ing and aahh-ing accordingly. Sitting at one such shower, I had a thought: Men would never do this to each other.

Should you, like me, find yourself needing to buy a close friend a gift for her baby or small child that won’t make you or her feel like part of a saccharine Mad Men episode, here are some spots I’ve found that really (really) make lovely and interesting things. (That is, until said child is old enough to wear Phillip Lim‘s children’s collection; it is beyond adorable.)

Pink Olive
167 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope
I wandered all over Park Slope one afternoon before finally buying everything I needed for a chic pal’s soon-to-arrive baby girl at this one store. They have the charming Trumpette socks that look, alternately, like little sneakers or Mary Janes (genius!), soft-and-sweet stuffed animals that don’t look like FAO Schwartz cast-offs (I loved the pillowy teeth and cushy giraffe rattle), and crisp, soft striped rompers that looked almost Parisian.

Kid O
123 West 10th, West Village
Ideal for babies and toddlers alike, the premise behind this toy store is that every item stimulates creative thinking. And once you start playing, you’ll see why. A deceptively simple plastic bowl is carved in such a way that it can become a hat, a shell, a sand-scoop, anything. Basic building blocks get a few mirrored sides to surprise a child with his or her own reflection. It’s all so wonderfully Dutch, and yet doesn’t feel at all smug.

Flying Squirrel
96 North 6th, Williamsburg
An idea so brilliant I’m a bit amazed it’s in Williamsburg and not one of the heavy-stroller-traffic neighborhoods: a kids’ consignment shop. Buy something for a five-month-old and trade up at nine months. Plus, considering the cool factor of the ‘hood, the selections are seriously hip: from Like-a-Bikes to Harold and the Purple Crayon.

09/30/09 4:00am
09/30/2009 4:00 AM |

It’s one of the fashion community’s little schizophrenic quirks that as soon as one season really starts to flourish, we start gabbing about the next one. That’s because our calendar is bookended by these eternally confusing fashion weeks, wherein hundreds of spring looks debut at the kick-off of fall, and vice versa. And, thusly, I come to you mere weeks after compiling the fall fashion issue to offer a preview into what you’ll be seeing in stores for spring.

Given the economic climate, it was no surprise that few designers took big aesthetic risks with their Spring 2010 collections (spoiler alert: Diane von Furstenberg’s still focusing on prints and dresses). That said, the Rodarte girls embraced their theatrical side, filling the runway with fog and green light before showing a series of warrior-looking models, complete with tribal tattoos and incredible twisted-fabric dresses. Proenza Schouler also turned out a really original series of tropical fish-inspired prints paired with wetsuit turtlenecks. Finally, proving they may become the dueling ones-to-watch each season, Alexander Wang and Marc Jacobs had two of the most creative and talked-about collections of the week. Though Jacobs is undoubtedly more polished in his talent than Wang, the elder designer may have finally met his match when it comes to hosting the best after-party. (Wang staged his in a Mobil gas station with Courtney Love. True.)

There were, as ever, some in-ter-esting moments: Nearing the end of the week, Ralph Lauren revealed a collection full of Depression-era looks—from Dust Bowl overalls and newsboy caps to Prohibition three-piece suits—that to many minds didn’t seem entirely appropriate. (Kitschy, yes. Appropriate, no.) And what inspired Jill Stuart to send a collection of colorful metallic 80s prom dresses (that she herself admitted were inspired by Cher) down the runway at the Public Library is somewhat beyond us. But we digress.

Invest in some seriously great underwear: It’s starting to become a joke (that, sadly, is not a joke) that the “no pants� look is the hottest thing coming off the runway. Regardless of whether you’re brave enough to rock a see-through skirt, the upcoming collections are awash with sheer panels, cutouts, diaphanous fabrics, and mesh.

Fall is to power suits what spring is to jet-set leisure suits: By now hopefully you’ve all invested in a nice pair of slouchy trousers— preferably in a lightweight fabric with a slightly tapered leg. Next season, try pairing it with an almost-but-not-quite matching jacket or trench.

Recession? What recession? Let’s wear feathers!
If embellishments are any indication, designers seem to be betting that by March or April folks will be back to shopping in earnest. There were rainbow-colored feathers at Chris Benz, silver sparkled minidresses at Phillip Lim, lavish prints at Thakoon, and a wonderfully cheery schoolgirl style (involving massive bow-topped headbands) at Marc Jacobs and Peter Som. Maybe we can really dress it till we make it.

09/02/09 4:00am
09/02/2009 4:00 AM |

Whether you think it’s sexy, ridiculous, or just plain inconvenient, you have to admit that Fashion Week in New York is a fascinating cultural phenomenon. Legions of society’s arguably most vain and self-important folk willingly pack themselves into tight, sometimes tented spaces like cattle (by invitation only, mind you) — all for a loud, high-intensity show that often lasts under five minutes. Oh, and then everyone repeats the entire process up to fifteen times a day for a full seven days. Wearing stilettos. It’s utter lunacy, but it’s also the kind of madcap style that’s so often missing from New York in the age of a cleaned-up Times Square and a big chain-driven Soho.

 This September’s Fashion Week might end up being the most interesting in recent memory. For starters, we’re three-quarters into one of the most depressing economic years in most young peoples’ lifetimes, which casts a serious shadow across a week filled with — let’s face it — somewhat frivolous affairs. (Even if, as Anna Wintour so sagely put it, “Frivolity must have its foundations.”) Not only are boutiques shuttering like flies and clothing lines declaring bankruptcy, labels are finally raising their voices in protest over ever-shortening periods between design and manufacturing, as well as ever-increasing “seasons” (pre-fall, holiday, resort, etc.). After a while, the debate came to include Fashion Week itself — the usefulness of a massive gathering of industry people for what often amounts to an expensive parade.

 Tensions came to a head this year at an improvised town hall-style meeting hosted by the CFDA, which gave designers and editors alike a chance to voice their opinions. Shortly thereafter, cosmetics giant MAC announced that it would sponsor a separate Fashion Week from the traditional Bryant Park melee — this one downtown at Milk Studios. That’s right, two Fashion Weeks. At the same time. What’s more, the lineup at Milk looks, well, way cooler than Bryant Park’s (Proenza Schouler, Alexander Wang, Vena Cava, Preen, Band of Outsiders). While the Milk organizers insist they’re not trying to compete with Bryant Park, they’re certainly giving the old-timers at the tents (Oscar de la Renta, Diane von Furstenberg, Carolina Herrera) a run for their money by putting on a slicker and more affordable production. How will all the editors ferry back and forth between 42nd Street and West 15th Street? Well, they’re still figuring it out. Especially since they can’t spend money on taxis anymore.

Oh, that’s right, I forgot to mention: Budgets at the glossies have shrunk dramatically, creating an atmosphere that’s decidedly less jet-set than, say, the September portrayed in R.J. Cutler’s recently released documentary about the erstwhile heights of Vogue (awkward!). Editors will be coping with shrinking budgets, hawk-eyed managers, and a dearth of eager-to-please assistants to take their place at less-interesting shows. The whole thing’s creating an interesting “If a show happens in a tent and no one’s there to see it, does it make a sound” scenario.

 To lighten the mood, Wintour and the CFDA have organized a massive worldwide shopping event on September 10th (the first night of Fashion Week) called “Fashion’s Night Out,” during which 700-plus retailers in New York City alone will stay open late and play host to celebrity- and designer-filled parties. It might be an insider-fueled excuse to party and shop, but this editor, for one, is pretty excited about anything that promises an all-girl block party in Williamsburg hosted by Bird and Vena Cava and Alexander Wang giving catwalk lessons at Barneys.

 Finally, the cherry on top of this year’s Fashion Week bonanza is that the MTV Video Music Awards are bang in the middle of it on September 13th. Does this mean celebrities like Beyonce will be making paparazzi-and-security- fueled visits to the tents? Well, we’re certainly betting on a Kanye appearance, and Lady Gaga is apparently co-hosting the Marc Jacobs after-party, so there’s that. If we all make it out of this alive, it’ll be a miracle.

08/20/09 4:00am
08/20/2009 4:00 AM |

My best friend in New York left the city about a month ago, and we were recently discussing plans for her to come back and visit. I was dead-set on a late September trip: “We can frolic among the leaves, sip coffee in cafes and wear blazers!” I cried. She couldn’t help but laugh. “Laurel,” she said. “You are truly in the right profession. Everything is about fashion.”

Well, it’s true. Vacations are about what to pack, weddings are about what dresses to wear—but mostly it’s fall that has always held fashion’s focus, from back-to-school uniforms to a coveted pair of boots one catches sight of in a boutique in late August and then wears until the following February. And the harbingers of all that wistfulness have always been the September issues—hefty, hopeful playbooks packed with “I can be someone new this year, someone fabulous” sentiment in the form of luxurious layers and rich textiles.

By the time you read this, the majority of the long-awaited September issues for the major fashion magazines — Elle, Bazaar, Vogue, et al — will have arrived on doorsteps across the country, preaching the same hope-filled aspiration they always did… but the bloom is off the rose. The current issues are slimmer than in recent years (Vogue is running 30 percent fewer ads than last year, for example), and quite frankly, the prevailing mood seems to have shifted against something as frivolous as reading about what $1,000 handbags to buy right-now-right-now. Tough news for an industry that has long viewed the September issue as a litmus test for a magazine’s vitality.

Plus, as if to rub salt in an already-stinging wound, filmmaker R.J. Cutler is releasing a much-anticipated documentary about the inner workings of Vogue — specifically, the work that led up to the heftiest Vogue of all time (September 2007, weighing in at four pounds with 725 pages of ads). Almost everyone agrees that watching the film now is like witnessing a bygone era. As Cathy Horyn wrote in The New York Times: “The issue at the center of Mr. Cutler’s film… has all the gaiety of the ‘Titanic’ two miles out to sea, with a spread on Sienna Miller in Rome, pages of models leaping in the new fall clothes, and a reflective piece by Plum Sykes on brooches.” Now, of course, Condé Nast is hiring outside financial consultants to stay afloat as the culture of print media itself slowly (and painfully) reins itself in.
Amid all the lip-smacking schadenfreude of watching the ship sink (or at least take on quite a bit of water), I find myself more mournful than I might have expected. Not because I used to work for the glossies (I did), but because as snooty as they are, they have always been about hope — providing this glimmery counterbalance to the slow fade of summer into the luminous colors and dusty light of fall.

Now it’s all meant to seem frivolous — and maybe it always was, wanting some snappy red pair of heels or some buttery leather satchel. But lately I find myself thinking of Yves Saint Laurent’s funeral — how the event seemed to expand in time and encompass everything we were trying to say about the end of one era of fashion. Similarly, this September will likely serve as a watermark for a bygone glossy era, and one deserving of a moment of respect as it passes.

08/05/09 4:00am
08/05/2009 4:00 AM |


It’s become a yearly tradition in these pages to pay tribute to the most noteworthy openings of the past year every August, but I’ll admit this year I approached the task with some anxiety. Truth be told, the only stores that kept popping into my brain during my Winnie-the-Pooh-esque “think, think” sessions were spots that had closed. The recession-induced rash of shutterings has cast quite a cloud over the shopping scene in the city — indeed, the Times recently reported that the number of empty storefronts in Manhattan has reached early-90s levels. That said (and maybe this is my trademark optimism talking), I feel like things are starting to look brighter. Frankly, people are getting tired of moping. Thusly, I’m happy to dedicate this page to some luminous shops, but I’d also like to use this space to give props to the ones we’ve lost.

TOP OPENINGS

Maryam Nassir Zadeh: A true gem, representative of what every boutique should be, but all too often isn’t. The space has all the charm of an art gallery — gorgeous objets from colorful textiles to old arrowheads are dreamily scattered around the space — and a ridiculous lineup of designers including Isabel Marant, Rachel Comey, and Acne. (123 Norfolk St, LES)

Smith + Butler: This little shop has a rough-and-tumble kind of elegance, all Wrangler, APC, Woolrich, Barbour, moccasin boots and leather accessories. Oh, and did we mention the sexy-as-hell motorcycles on display? Ralph Lauren stores, take note: this is the real deal. (225 Smith St, Cobble Hill)

Topshop: It’s highly improbably that you missed this opening, since it was covered by, oh, every publication and blog in the city. No, it’s not as awesome as the London original, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on. You’ll probably still spend money there, and like it. (478 Broadway, Soho)

The Brooklyn Bridge Flea: You know you’ve made it when Brooklyn locals debate the various merits of the Fort Greene location versus your (newer) Dumbo outpost. (Water St at New Dock St, Dumbo)

Pas De Deux: Female fans of boy’s shop Odin now have a store of their very own next door, stocking the same downtown mix of Alexander Wang, Vena Cava, Karen Walker, and more — all in an elegant, mirrors-and-chandeliers type of joint. (328 E 11th St, East Village)

No. 8b: Stark décor is the perfect vehicle for the equally crisp-and-minimal menswear at Project No. 8 spin-off. Expect ultra-hip international designers like Bless and Martin Margiela. (38 Orchard St, LES)

The Reformation: Founded by Yael Aflalo (as in, “Yaya”) and her partner Chi Bui, the brilliance of this store is its emphasis on simple design: wispy racerback tanks, exposed zippers, and lots of lace. (143 Ludlow St, LES)

Dossier: Proving there may yet be a few genius moves left in the print media set, arty mag Dossier Journal has managed to curate a seriously cool store, with designers like Samantha Pleet, Sunshine & Shadow and jeweler Anna Sheffield alongside art books, music and vintage accessories. (244 DeKalb Ave, Fort Greene)

STELLAR RE-OPENINGS & MOVEMENT
Bird is officially the boutique of Brooklyn, claiming outposts in Cobble Hill, Park Slope and, now, Williamsburg. Its new 203 Grand Street location is massive and stocks the same always-on-trend-yet-somehow-timelessly chic wares from designers from 3.1 Phillip Lim to Bodkin. Also, those who despaired at the closing of the cool and modern Eva in Nolita had a brighter March when they heard the boutique had merely relocated to a bigger space in Noho at 355 Bowery.

NOW CLOSED (R.I.P.)

Girls Love Shoes (LES) • Yoko Devereaux (Williamsburg) • Staerk (Nolita) • Woodley & Bunny (Williamsburg) • I Heart (Nolita) • Coletta (Soho) • Alice Roi (LES) • Dernier Cri (MePA) Dulcinee (LES) • Johnson (LES) • Lisa Levine (Williamsburg) • Mayle (Nolita) • Pear (LES) • Shop (LES)

07/22/09 4:00am
07/22/2009 4:00 AM |

If the awards presented yearly by the Council of Fashion Designers
of America are the Academy Awards for design, then the Fashion Fund is
like the Independent Spirit Awards. The fund is awarded every year on
behalf of the CFDA and Vogue to a rising star in need of some
money and guidance — essentially rewarding his/her/their talent
with a pile of loot and some well-established mentors. Like any good
“best new designers” list, it’s a hotly contested mix of nepotism, real
talent and “who?” selections. Regardless, these are the names you’ll be
reading about in the glossies from here on out.

The Rising Indies Everyone Can Agree On

Wayne (Wayne Lee): Definitely one of the more well-known
names on the list (mostly because you can find Wayne in more than a few
local boutiques), the line’s strength is crisp, clean-cut separates
— seriously wearable, excellent design.

Gary Graham: Feminine, fantastical — Graham is an
insider and high-end boutique favorite, in addition to having been in
the industry for some time (he launched his line in 1999).

Patrick Ervell: An editor’s darling of a menswear designer,
Ervell’s looks are part cool skinny-pants Brit and part ridiculously
dorky librarian from Sweden.

House of Waris (Waris Ahluwalia): Arguably best known as the
Indian actor from a couple of Wes Anderson movies, Ahluwalia also
fronts a fairly successful line of well-crafted silver and gold jewelry
— from charms to finely detailed bird earrings.

The Under-the-Radar Finds

Ohne Titel (Flora Gill and Alexa Adams): Also something of an
editor’s pet, this line flew largely under the radar until the past two
seasons, when the duo’s signature brand of slinky, slightly cut-up sexy
fell into sync with the current mood.

Monique Pean: Her seriously fine jewelry runs the gamut from
scrimshaw-and-gold to a tiny sphere of diamonds. You can’t afford it,
but it’s quite unique.

Sophie Theallet: She’s dressed-up bohemian with a French
edge, but she’s not really Isabel Marant, either. You’ll find more
prints and, sadly, some Ugg-looking boots on the runway.

Labels I’ve Genuinely Never Heard a Peep About

Spurr (Simon Spurr): “Savile Row meets Street” menswear,
which is probably why I know nothing about it. Some suits, some
sleeveless motorcycle vests. I’m perplexed.

Alabama Chanin (Natalie Chanin): Apparently, the emphasis at
this, yes, Alabama-based brand is on sustainability and slow design. It
really seems like a feel-good story, with tons of artisans and smiles.
But (I’ll say it) the clothes aren’t totally great to look at, and
there seems to be a whole lot of denim.

>Esquivel Shoes (George Esquivel): Another highly upscale
offering, this time in the form of a master cobbler and shoemaker.
Amazing craftsmanship, but… we long for some romance.

07/08/09 4:00am
07/08/2009 4:00 AM |

Much as I was the last one on the Harry Potter bandwagon, I
was one of the last to start embracing the nation’s vampire
infatuation. I started reading Twilight on a plane and within a
few weeks had read the whole flippin’ series. (It’s as satisfying as
any teen novel I read in my younger days, with the irritating fact of
Bella’s being the most reliably insecure female heroine I’ve ever
read.) Then, after gaping at that salacious poster in Times Square for
over a month, I got hooked on True Blood as well.

Now, who knows where this cultural fixation on vampires really
originated. Maybe after so many years of the New Conservative, a
movement towards the darkly erotic had started to fester. All I know is
that the more I looked, the more evidence I saw that the American
aesthetic was veering toward the dark side.

Skulls now increasingly dominate the fashion landscape: One moment,
they’re gleaming silver earrings, the next they’re playfully creating a
pattern along a wispy Alexander McQueen scarf. They’re Day of the
Dead-inspired — colorful and playful, these are like a talisman
to ward off bad spirits. (Splinter trends expanded on the Mexican theme
with Guatemalan fabrics, beaded pendants, and girlish cotton blouses
with that iconic floral trim.) Slowly, other remains have appeared:
bird skulls, bones, and even teeth dangle from long gold chains. It’s
playfully carnivorous, or at least more engaged with death than some
might be comfortable with. (And by “some” I’m thinking of my mother,
who’d cringe if I came home wearing one of Pamela Love’s little bird
skulls
around my neck, even though I think they’re brilliant.)

On a deeper level, so much of the popular look is “destroyed”
— from slashed skinny jeans and ripped-up tees to bleached and
acid-washed jeans. Some whole sections of boutiques have started to
look like a bad scene out of a slasher flick. And black! Have you ever
seen so much black in a warm season? Then of course, eerily enough,
there is the death of Michael Jackson, and the subsequent rebirth of
“Thriller.”

All of this isn’t to say the entire fashion set has gone over to the
dark side. Like any good movement, we’ve balanced our sinister-looking
influences with floaty floral dresses, berry-stained lips and childlike
onesies. However, the “Twilight jacket” — namely the one
Bella wore in the most recent movie — will continue to sell out
of stores, and these dark, edgy pieces will continue to hang on
fingers, wrists and scarves. What are we all trying to explore with
these moody, sometimes creepy items? Are we trying to find a way to
channel the demise of a certain kind of youthful optimism? Is this
slow-burning, carefully architected trend a kind of new punk? I’ll
certainly be interested to see how the next seasons’ worth of
collections — the ones designed under the yolk of the recession
as well as the buoying hope of Obama’s election — shakes out.

06/24/09 4:00am
06/24/2009 4:00 AM |

As I’ve said before in these pages, the annual awards ceremony held
by the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) is a little bit
like going to see your favorite indie rock band perform at Radio City.
On one hand, you’re ecstatic they’ve found the kind of success they
always deserved. On the other hand, you miss being part of the small
crowd at Cake Shop cheering them on. Maybe with a free beer even. There
is no free beer at the CFDA Awards. There is champagne, however, which
should provide some consolation for fans like me of the Swarovski Award
winners (aka the indies): Tim Hamilton for menswear, Alexander Wang for
womenswear and Justin Giunta (of Subversive Jewelry) for accessories.
If you could (albeit barely) afford them now, just wait till you see
the prices on their Spring 2010 collections. Oof.

Of course Alexander Wang has become something of a cult designer in
New York and L.A., so his recognition wasn’t wholly a surprise —
though his laid-back attitude about the event rather was (boyfriend
wore shorts and claimed to have forgotten the awards were even that day
when he woke up). It should be said, however, that he beat out Jason Wu
for his prize — Jason Wu of “I dress Michelle Obama” fame.

And speaking of Michelle Obama, she graciously accepted the Board of
Director’s Special Tribute for her outstanding style and support of
under-the-radar designers (like, oh, non-winner Jason Wu, who by that
point was probably chugging champagne somewhere). Granted, she accepted
by video, but everyone felt all warm and fuzzy regardless. Come to
think of it, there seems to be an increasing number of feel-good awards
at the CFDAs of late. There’s already the (slightly vague)
International Award (Marc Jacobs this year) and the Geoffrey Beene
Lifetime Achievement Award (whose career is now officially behind them?
Anna Sui, apparently). Now this year adds another one to the roster:
The “Popular Award” — as opposed to the “People’s Choice,” which
probably sounded too tacky and text-to-win-ish — which went to
the most over-exposed designer in America, Ralph Lauren. Rah-rah
consumerism!

But behind all the puffed-up prizing, too-cool-for-school youngsters
and Jack McCollough’s nose finally being healed after his run-in with
Kiefer Sutherland
(I’m still laughing about that one) was a truly
spectacular win: Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte took home the top
prize for womenswear, beating out serious heavy-hitters like Marc
Jacobs and Narciso Rodriguez. The Mulleavy sisters have been the
darlings of fashion insiders and editors for quite some time, but have
still managed to stay relatively low-key — avoiding super star
mishaps like broken noses, tell-all articles and Twitter wars. For that
we say: Bravo, you two. We’ll keep saving up for those dresses.