Sure, there were hurdles this Fashion Week. It took place over a bitterly cold seven days that included Valentine’s Day, and it also fell during one of the worst economic recessions in the country’s history. Picture being a designer about to stage your fall show — traditionally where you unleash furs and python skins — and the papers are reporting that nearly five million people are unemployed. Makes it all feel downright superfluous. So what do you do about your collection?
Well, as it turns out, you design the fuck out of it. The lines this season separated the wheat from the chaff and found a place for imagination and fantasy. To be sure, there were dark shows (Francisco Costa showed nearly 20 black looks), but there was also more playfulness than we’ve seen in a while — particularly among the top names. There seemed to be urges to create beautiful things — to say: Yes, design matters. It matters still. A beautiful dress is still transformative.
To cut costs, many designers opted to hold presentations instead of full-scale runway shows. Invitation lists were also smaller, most notably in the case of Marc Jacobs, who opted for straight-up fashion folks instead of his usual roster of Lil’ Kim, Victoria Beckham, etc. That said, I still ended up seeing Kanye West at Alexandre Herchcovitch. The biggest scandal was Kelly Cutron of People’s Revolution (yeah, and The Hills) getting fired by Yigal Azrouel for letting Ashley Dupre — yes, that Ashley Dupre — sit front row. Nice! And who was that mystery dame seated next to Anna Wintour? Well, that would be Desiree Rogers, the Obamas’ social secretary. Gawker might have accused the Obamas of not being “populist,” but Michelle’s supporting young designers, so shut up.
The big names seemed to be thinking more seriously about the clothes this season. At Marc Jacobs’ show, every look coming down the runway was its own animal, not just a rethinking of the one that had come before, from sweatshirt-like blouses and glittering skirts to a staggering yellow velvet cocktail shape bent into incredibly sculptural waves at the top. Marchesa was suitably fantastical and princess-y, while Alexander Wang was predictably ‘90s slouchy — between the slim-fitting black dresses and pants, he actually made biker shorts work, if you can believe it. Thakoon had a keen eye for shape and color (that midnight blue is so intoxicating), and Rodarte’s ensembles felt wonderfully dark, wrecked, and otherworldly.
There were, of course, those that garnered mixed reviews. Vena Cava shocked some people who were expecting the more conventional romantic looks, but frankly I liked that they took chances with sleek black shapes. Oscar de la Renta appears to have gone back to dressing his grand dames of Madison Avenue as opposed to, say, Carrie Bradshaw, but I suppose many designers are seeking comfort at this point. Finally, some may have thought Michael Kors’ neon-flecked show was playful or exciting, but frankly I think a bright pink fur hat looks ridiculous no matter what the season.