I remember how exhilarating Fashion Week used to be for me. I would actually get anxious until my favorite shows’ invitations arrived and I was given a seat. Come to think of it, I didn’t even care if I got a seat. I was just so happy to go and watch.
"Watch" was the operative word. I had been doing the music for shows and fashion parties since the early Eighties. I had worked in both New York and Paris for American, French, Italian and British designers. The experiences had MOSTLY been positive and I was lucky to have seen the true genius behind the usually frivolous and superficial impressions most of fashion radiates. The only problem had been that I had never seen a show from the front. If you worked the shows, you could only see what was going on on the runway or in the audience via a video monitor backstage (which everyone crowded around), at the party afterwards (the parties were only for the designer & staff in those days, with, MAYBE, a very few close friends stopping by), or at a cookies & film get-together for the staff the next day.
One of the major surprises was that everything viewed from the front ran so smoothly and seemed so effortless and polished, which was in sharp contrast to the insanity going on behind the scenes. While in the trenches, I had witnessed everything from clothing just barely being finished and torn off of sewing machines… even though the show was already underway…, to the next model in line being completely stripped and redressed in a minute because she was in the wrong ensemble. The hastiness was necessary because it traditionally takes one and a half minutes for a model to walk to the end of the runway, stop for photos, and then return. In addition, I was really tickled to discover that one Parisian designer I worked with only hired Asians to be dressers because their size allowed more to be packed backstage. With so many models, clothes, assistants, hair people, make-up people, seamstresses, plus the music set-up and the designer all stuffed into a room, it was hard to get enough free hands to do the stripping, dressing, hooking, unhooking, zipping, unzipping, tying, untying, etc. And you can just imagine the joys of boots and other pesky accessories.
The Nineties ended the need to schlep all over town from space to space because the tents at Bryant Park consolidated most of the madness. The tents also allowed one to socialize more and have a coffee or cocktail with one’s Fashion Week Friends (who you never saw at any other time of the year). It had become so easy, so civilized.
Well, about as civilized as going 24/7 can be. When I first met the man to whom I am now married, I warned him that he would neither see me nor speak with me for a week. By then, I was writing a social column, so, not only did I have to attend as many shows as possible, I had to seek out the parties and then write about the whole experience for a deadline the day after the week ended. That was because the next magazine ready for the printer had to be delayed for shipping to the printer until the Fashion Week coverage arrived. Therefore, time was of the essence.
My husband and I still share the joke: "It’s Fashion Week…" is all I have to say. "I know, I know." He laughs.
Also by the Nineties, everything about Fashion Week had become HUGE: Supermodels, massive bleacher-lined spaces, major interest by the press and, consequently, celebrities (or was it the other way around?). In the wake of this, owners and promoters of clubs, restaurants and other party-ready venues passionately pursued fashion houses and modeling agencies for tie-ins; in other words, good-bye to tiny, intimate and casual post-show social gatherings for the staff. There was even an attempt to recreate the post-Fashion Week awards show that Paris had each season at Les Bains Douche.
The New York versions never came anywhere NEAR the fabulousness of the Parisian counterpart, except that the voting process was equally political and dishonest. In fact, the Manhattan attempts were uniformly lame. People actually ate dinner rather than disappear with their filled champagne flutes into locked bathroom stalls! Quelle incivilisÈ!
The people here at Patrick McMullan’s studio have to operate all day and night during Fashion Week. It actually begins weeks ahead, with a giant board being created, upon which each show and party is displayed. Shows and parties are notated as either "jobs" (those the studio are hired to shoot) or "coverages" (those we haven’t been hired to shoot, but might garner enough attention from the media to elicit sales). Bookings (Eric Alger and Angie Weaver) plug in the jobs and Research (Alison Moore and Stephen Uhlhorn) determines which designers have enough buzz to generate sales to the media they service. The final stage involves the assignation of photographers: Certain shooters have been requested by the designer or the design house’s P.R.; certain shooters have made their own requests known; or, in the absence of requests from either side, it has to be decided which pairings seem a good fit. Besides the input from the photographers, designers and P.R. houses, the opinions of Executive Consultant Anita Antonini (who has been with Patrick since he was running the company out of his home) and those responsible for getting the photos from the cameras to the site (Candi McCarthy, Nick Papananias, Jonathan Grassi, Autumn Hand, Eddie Cruz and Perrie Wardell)… known collectively as Post Production… rule. It’s exactly like creating a battle plan.
The photographers are everywhere from around 7:30 AM until nearly that time the following mornings. Post Production and Research have to help them ID the film, edit and upload the images, then service to the media outlets. This is done in tag teams, so people are always there and sleep can be factored in. Of course, everything is always in flux, with shows and parties being added or scratched and photographers doing the same. As editor of the site, I have to go over all the jobs after they’re posted, help out with the IDs before they’re posted, and keep the archives straight for servicing purposes. It’s a ball-buster for all of us, even if one doesn’t have them. Maybe that makes it also a clit-buster?
(And yes, I am truly sorry for the above question/suggestion)
I try to go to as many shows as I can, but I have a tendency to peter out around halfway though the week. Since the demise of Isaac & Todd, as long as I have my dose of Marc, Anna and Betsey, I’m happy. If I get others, I try to go to as many as I can, but these are my priorities. I’ve known them all forever and it thrills me to see the brilliance they have all maintained.
Which brings us to this year.
As usual, Marc, Anna and Betsey were a joy.
Betsey will always be Betsey, except that now she’s a cartwheeling grandmother-to-be. What a lucky little grandbaby (It’s a girl!), having such an energetic, unique, accomplished goddess for a granny. And to think that Patrick and I danced at Lulu and Arthur’s wedding. Makes one moist in the eyes…
The clothes were, as usual, wearable, dead-on sexy and exactly what one wishes to look like if they’re under 30 and feeling all hubba-hubba. . It takes self-confidence and sass to work Betsey’s clothes. I’m happy to say that I was a fervent Betsey customer wa-a-ay back (oh shut up!). Betsey always knows her customer and provides clothing that looks best on the young and is priced accordingly. It’s ignoring that last point that has caused so many others to crash and burn.
Anna continued to reinvent the best of the Rich Hippie-/Dollybird Sixties. I still treasure all my clothes I’ve bought from her over the years. They are so well made and, though seemingly trendy, actually are completely timeless. Even the styles, though unabashedly youthful, don’t make one look like… that great English expression… "mutton dressed like lamb". The exceptions to this are her fabulous babydoll dresses. It broke my heart to see the great new ones, because I am well past effectively working that look without innocent on-lookers screaming in anguish and running for the hills (sob). In addition, the latest crop of Anna acolytes should rejoice that she’s doing the Indian material dresses again. I’ve always LOVED the one I own in turquoise silk that was heavily embroidered in silver thread; I wore it to death. And a special shout-out for the footwear. The boots and babydoll shoes were absolute perfection. And the goody bag held another fragrance to add to her other wondrous ones. Brava Diva!
As I was departing, the newest fashion accessory, pre-teen girls, were crowding around a photographer who was trying his damnedest to get through the crowd as quickly as possible. They stuck to him like glue.
"Did you take a picture of Lindsay Lohan?"
"Did she say anything to you?"
"How did she look?"
"Do you KNOW her?"
"Have you ever met her before?"
"Is she nice?"
Page Six reporters in the making…
Marc’s collection was the big glam event it always is. I thought the clothes were smashing, despite the critics grousing about the lack of color and shape. Oh sure, it had a certain Heidi-coming-down-the-mountain look (and lucky for her that Peter was a Goatherd and not a Shepherd, nudge nudge), but to ignore the Olson Twins’ HUGE effect on the way young women want to look is to be really ignorant of their importance to Pop Culture. Surprise! Not every girl dreams of sashaying around flashing barely covered giant boobs and bubble ass cracks, despite the fervent dreams and wishes of Lad Mag readers (as well as Plastic Surgeons) everywhere. And it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out that the looks on the runways can be taken apart and worn separately: Remember, Heidi was wearing her ENTIRE wardrobe!
Speaking of the Olsons…I originally thought I saw Ashley Olson in the audience, but I guess it was actually the ubiquitous Lindsay Lohan. Whoever she was, she was really schmoozing Sofia Coppola, seated two seats away from her in the front row.
It was so smart of Marc and Robert to advise everyone that the show would be delayed one and a half hours. With this info upfront, people could grab a bite to eat, have cocktails, or get some work done, rather than wait the eternity his shows normally take to start.
I really had to laugh that year that everyone finally had enough. It was funny because it had ALWAYS been that way. There was one time when I came in, socialized ad nauseum, then heard that the clothes hadn’t even arrived yet. I couldn’t wait because my husband and I were going to Roseland to see a concert. So, I left, we saw the entire concert, grabbed something to eat, then arrived back JUST when the show ended and the party began. Yet, no one complained THAT time! Hilarious.
As I was leaving Marc’s current show, I heard two girls having meltdowns on their cells with the same message: "Ohmygod! I saw Summer from the "O.C."!"
Makes one wonder why these are called FASHION shows because I’ve yet to hear anyone speaking about the clothes as excitably as they speak about the celebrities watching the clothes.
Then, I heard an impending drama work itself out behind me. It was between a well-dressed man and a well-dressed woman.
"Just be honest." Said the woman earnestly.
"I’ll be honest." The man replied flatly.
"Good." Said the first, trying not to sound anxious. She was badly failing. "And remember, if KCD (the top fashion P.R. firm) doesn’t like it…"
"Well…I’ll be HONEST." The man repeated firmly.
"You know, they can affect worldwide…"
Hm-m-m…so THAT’S why their name is actually KCD Worldwide? Gee…
Another show I went to was James Coviello’s. I had been a fan of his from the knitwear, hats, fabric flowers and other items he’s done for Anna over the years… which I’ve happily collected. "He still works with me!" Anna said, when I used their association in the past tense. She was already perched in her seat by the time I got there. That shows such dedication and loyalty since his presentation began at the ungodly hour of 9 AM.
DJ Scott Ewalt, who was doing the music for the show, was asking Anna about Anya Phillips an early patron of Mudd Club. Mudd Club was the hot club after Studio 54 and the two couldn’t have been more dissimilar. Instead of all the upmarket glitz that was Studio, Mudd was a rundown artist’s bar on an alley located in, what was then, Industrial Chinatown (now Tribeca). It held all of 400 people on its two floors. It was Punk, black leather, Smack and overflowing uni-toilets.
Anna was a patron and I was one of the deejays.
Anna laughed about the question and said that Phillips scared her. I agreed. "She never spoke to me and I never felt comfortable speaking to her." I recalled. Beyond knowing that she was James Chance’s girlfriend or manager or both, I never knew Phillips personally. She was a major force and muse of the thriving Downtown scene at that time, but she wasn’t around much after I arrived, which was about six months after Mudd’s 1979 opening on Halloween (naturally). "She didn’t like women." Anna added dryly, accompanied with a giggle.
The conversation then moved on to a famous dominatrix/writer we all knew, the hilarity of all the earnest hipsters caught out by the JT Leroy scandal, Marc Almond’s writings, and Anna’s current pre-show state ("I’m brain-dead!"). Somehow, Lindsay Lohan’s name never came up. And, somehow, I don’t think these conversations were going on at Oscar’s and Ralph’s. Then again…
Coviello’s show was very Bloomsbury, nostalgic, feminine and wearable. It made me happy that I had kept all those pin-on flowers from Anna’s shop because they certainly have a way of jazzing up everything. And a big shout-out to Scott for his wonderful soundtrack.
Another show I attended was Tracy Reese, which was another pretty, femmie and wearable collection. I only wish I could have seen more clearly all those twinkly pieces hidden under heavier layers. You could just glimpse flashes as the models flounced past. Oh Heidi… you have SO much to answer for!
And then there was the Three As Four show.
It was actually the first one I attended. It was on the 2nd day of Fashion Week. It was a miserable rainy chilly Saturday afternoon and it was held at Deitch Projects, a gallery space on the most southern tip of Soho. Thankfully, I was let in immediately, because the line was very long for anyone who wasn’t Press. However, once inside, there was not only any seating, but also, when I went over to the bar I spied, I was stopped and told I wasn’t allowed to enter that area.
That did it. I am long past the point where I want to stand up to look at shows and the idea of a friggin’ VIP area at a friggin’ FASHION SHOW was too much. How insecure can you ("you" meaning both the designers and the audience) be? This reeked of Imitation of Christ and whoever is stupid enough to put themselves at their mercy and on the receiving end of their blatant disrespect.
(THAT felt good!)
Just as I was stomping towards the door, Michael Musto came in and admonished me for having a hissy fit. He had no intention of following me because he had ridden his bike all the way over in the rain, he was meeting Lynn Yaeger, and he needed material for his next column. Lynn entered at just about the time a harpist began playing . "At least it’s not Soybomb." Musto remarked, referring to the great… except for the aforementioned Soybomb… show As Four had last presented for their incredible denim line. Then, the clothing started to appear. Well, "appear" might be a bit too subjective a term for what most of the clothing was doing. If you were one of the few in the front of a semi-circle of photographers or one of the chosen at the elevated bar, you actually did see most of the presentation.
Jeffrey Deitch was stalking about and really pissed about something. "Take care of it!" He growled at a quivering woman clutching a clipboard. "It’s a PROBLEM!"
Whatever it was, I can’t imagine it was any worse a problem then that huge mass of people standing in the rain were having. The show was going on and they were still not allowed inside.
Alongside where we were standing were white disks on the floor, which we had been warned not to tread on. Models dressed in tan and brown Eighties-looking clothing (Leather pants and animal prints?) came drifting over and stepped on each circle. The disks began to revolve. Unfortunately, the models were in heels, which caused quite a bit of panicked wobbling. One girl frantically clutched at the wall.
"My God!" I exclaimed to Musto, "Whatever was difficult about modeling has now been solved! The hardest part was having to walk on those damned heels…" "…and now they don’t even have to walk!" Musto agreed brightly.
The wobbly model luckily figured out that if her head and body faced the same direction, equilibrium could be established. The look of fright gave way to one of intense boredom, but, at least, she remained upright.
Suddenly, there was a lot of hootin’ and hollerin’ emanating from the photographers. I craned my neck to see what all the commotion was about, but all I saw was someone in something magenta. The reaction seemed a bit extreme, even for such a shocking departure from all the tans and browns. Actually, the only time they carry on like that is if some naughty bit suddenly comes unleashed. I still have no idea what happened.
The show ended and I ran for the door. Just then, the garage door wall (funny… Mudd’s stage was fronted by a garage door, which we called the Iron Curtain) of the gallery came up so that the people outside could see what they were (finally) being allowed to enter. Talk about Fashion Victims…
If you want to look au courant in Fall 2006, there are two important elements you must pay attention to:
1. Look into adoption opportunities or become a Foster Parent because babies and tiny dogs are OVER. Oh sure, adolescents and teens are costly and huge pains in the butt, but you’ll be collecting such great dividends from the Karma you’ve accrued because you’ve not only given a home to some poor kid who was past his or her adoption prime, but you will also be giving the holy terrors the gift of fashion.
2. Start collecting everything you can in such dour shades as puce, putty, greige, clay, cement and mud(d). Then, pile it all on top of each other. Sounds like a construction site, doesn’t it?
If both of these suggestions are more than you can bear, you can always move to Iowa. They really could care less there, I’m sure. And they’re better people for it.