At the end of Fashion Week, editors scurry to their respective corners and start turning out a furious barrage of rants on what the Fall collections mean. Armies of gawky women and men with long bangs and red-rimmed eyes peer into coffee cups, using the grinds as a divining tool, trend-forecasters ultimately no more powerful than Punxsutawney Phil.
Fashion Week closed with more of a whimper than a bang this season and the clickety-clack of fingers on keyboards seemed louder than the shows. Why such fervor over an event so flashbulb- and gloss-heavy that most folks declare a moratorium on fashion for at least a month afterwards? Well, to put it plainly, it was the most dour, depressing series of runway shows I’ve ever seen. I thought it was 1992 all over again. As baggy layers, gray dresses and slack coats paraded by, everyone was looking at each other thinking, “what the fuck is this?”Watching the shows was like watching shades marching down a path to Hades in illustrated books of Greek mythology. Vera Wang even showed some wispy Grecian frocks in blacks and smoky grays. Alice Roi and Jill Stuart hit similar marks with their “little goth girl does tea time and has her first communion” collections — all high-necked dresses with round collars and knee-length skirts. Inspiration from the flapper era made itself present in Carolina Herrera, Zac Posen and Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein, though nothing offered the allure of the flapper, or the tease. Donna Karan returned to her late 80s roots with new “Robert Palmer girls,” models with slicked hair and neon purple lips stomping down the runway in rounded shapes with cinched waists. Lagerfeld played with shape, too, creating looks that all seemed to pull downward — extra-long sleeves and drooping hems. I kept thinking of his Fall 2005 couture show, where models wore long black capes that then dropped to reveal waves and folds of colorful fabrics. Now, it seems, all we’re left with are shadows.
But what does it all mean? Well, opinions vary. Some folks (and by “folks” I mean The Times’ Guy Trebay) saw the new trend as a symbol of rebellion and sexuality; a return to women as figures of strength. As for Marc Jacobs’ “grunge” show, style.com called the collection “paradoxically chic,” which I disagree with because it sounds like something I’d say in a college seminar when I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. I resent the implication that for a woman to look more powerful she has to dress in loose layers, covered up to her neck in black. I saw the women more as dour, petulant children than empowered goddesses, reflections of a fashion community bored with women and drunk on “Fashion.” I hope that what we’re seeing now is through a mirror darkly, and that these looks will wear lighter — that long black sweaters will be paired with jeans, and overcoats with a bright red belt.