Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Haves and Have Nots

rt and artists admittedly served as inspiration for more than just a few designers who showed this past week and how ‘fit’ting (pardon the pun), since this was one of the more ‘surrealistic’ fashion weeks I can remember. With the shows beginning soon after Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster in the history of our country, leaving thousands dead, injured, having lost their loved ones, their homes, their jobs, and their way of life, it served as a rather ‘interesting’ frame of reference with which to reflect on the blown out of proportion pomp and circumstance, the posing, the large egos, and the high drama that goes along with the fashion business and specifically, the collections. It was a week that really magnified the great division between those who have and those who have not and it, as well as which designers have talent, and which ‘have not’. But I’m not going there now.

With thousands of dollars worth of goodie bags which are left for attendees on seats of shows (containing enough make up to last a lifetime) which go to waste because many of them are unclaimed – especially at the less populated shows, one can only surmise how that money could have better been spent on those who have nothing – rather than those who may not have the newest shade of lipstick or hair thickener.

And talk about surrealistic; the center of the lobby of the Tents is the central meeting place where the circus like action takes place, and all the paparazzi claim their spots from which to stake out their subjects and capture the goings on. Right there in the middle reception area, where free bottled water, free cappuccino, free wine and drinks, free chocolate, and countless free newspapers and magazines, they were selling a $25 “Fashion Bridges the Gulf” limited edition t-shirt designed by New Orleans artist Hunt Slonem with all the proceeds benefiting Hurricane Katrina relief organizations (for more information contact: zeichman@imgworld.com). Here we are, consumed with the truly superficial: obsessing over what we’re going to wear, what we’re going to buy, who looks good, and who doesn’t look good. It was impossible not to put this into some sort of perspective and think about our fellow Americans, who could probably start a new life with the money some of us spend on one item.

And how surrealistic was the scene right before Ralph Rucci’s 7 p.m. show. (Ralph had originally planned to show in his brand new Soho space, but unfortunately, it was not ready). The show before was the unapologetically funky and irreverent Heatherette, and many who apparently did not get in (including the usual assortment of what appears to be cross dressers, transvestites, and other eccentrically dressed young fans,) were milling around rubbing elbows with the chicly dressed and incredibly bejeweled attendees arriving for Ralph Rucci. It was quite a moment.


Ralph Rucci's Geometric Velvet Coat

Getting back to Ralph, he showed not only his spring 2006 ready to wear, but treated us to his breathtaking haute couture fall/winter 2005/2006, filled with pieces of such excruciatingly precise detail, craftsmanship, and workmanship that is almost hard to describe. Plus, I don’t have that much space. But I will tell you that interestingly, it was the more simplified pieces that I really loved, and the one item that I would kill for (not literally of course) and a true crowd pleaser from the couture portion, other than the Barguzin sable jacket (oh, so that’s why Ralph turned up the air conditioning!), was the decidedly ‘mod’ looking bold ivory and black bold, geometric patterned belted velvet coat and matching boots.

What came to mind when I watched the elegant models (they were so elegant, even Bill Cunningham posed the question afterwards, “where did Ralph get such elegant models?”)walk the runway in their perfectly cut and executed tunics and pants, heavily constructed a line coats and dresses, molded to the body double face suits with organza insets, graceful covered up black jersey gowns with front panels and beautiful backs, long floor sweeping heavily constructed satin skirts with chiffon shirts, etc.,etc., was how a whole new generation of designers (particularly the young ones) is now embracing true design techniques, giving attention to the lost art of dressmaking, experimenting with architectural details, cut, fabrication, construction, seaming, volume and covering up, and focusing on empire waists, a-line, trapeze, and tent shapes. In fact, this was even the subject of Bill Cunningham’s ‘On the Street’ portfolio last Sunday, September 11, (“Shape Sense”). Guess what? All of these elements have long defined the work of both Ralph Rucci and the house of Geoffrey Beene (which coincidentally, also happens to show on Friday). Both Ralph Rucci and Einar Holiloekk, who is now head of design at Beene, have been quietly working in this manner for years and now everyone is finally catching up to them.


Geoffrey Beene Spring 2006 Collection

By the way, it was such a pleasure to leave the tents and travel uptown to the west 57th Geoffrey Beene atelier, to see the still life presentation of spring 2006. I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that this is now almost one year ago that Geoffrey Beene died, and in Einar’s second showroom presentation, it’s obvious that he is staying true to the aesthetic behind the legendary label yet putting his own stamp on it as well. All the signatures that one has come to identify with the house were there…but there are signs that Einar is taking “couture in another direction” by making the collection “a little more flexible”. This was exemplified by the jet beaded or Austrian crystal collars and belts. Another example were the abbreviated shrugs (long a Beene signature), in black glove leather, olive or fuchsia heavy double face satin, both with bow detailing in back. leather, and olive or fuchsia double face satin with back bow detail. Any of these versatile pieces can be bought separately and used in a number of different ways, with clothing a woman may already have in her closet.

Coincidentally, Geoffrey Beene’s enviable collection of home furnishings, sculpture, and paintings, will be going up for auction at Sotheby’s, Friday and Saturday, September 23 and 24th. And there will be a major fashion retrospective of the designer’s work running through September 22. I have a feeling this may well be the ‘highlight’ of fashion week.

‘Clueless’

First I chuckled and was amused, then was so offended by something I read in a column in Friday’s WWD that I just had to get it off my chest. (Well, you know how it is, it’s the last day of shows and what can I say? I’m hot, tired, my feet hurt, and I’ve been lugging my big heavy bags around for 7 full days now). Under the heading, “Chic of the Show” there is a picture of a smiling Jamee Gregory (the well known socialite, author, mother of Samantha, who does pr for Hogan) who was selected as Chic of the Show because of the way she was put together for Thursday’s Douglas Hannant. The oft photographed tall, attractive blonde with admitted fashion savvy and presence was wearing a white tuxedo ruffled button down Alexander McQueen blouse, gray Theory pants, Manolo Blahnik sandals, and carrying a small fringed Hogan bag.

They quoted her as saying, “All these women carry around these huge bags on their arms and I just can’t. I love that this bag is small and fun and I can still fit my umbrella in it. And I won’t end up walking around lopsided.” Well, EXCUSE ME! I’m sure Ms. Gregory is a busy woman and is involved in many different things, but I don’t believe she covers the shows professionally but rather, far more leisurely and at her own pace as a customer and an interested consumer. She goes to a handful of sporadic presentations so she probably does not (like most of us fashion writers, editors, retailers) leave her house early in the morning and arrive home late at night without the ability to go home, change perhaps, and drop all those heavy things that accumulate during the day. Most of us who cover shows professionally do not have a limo or town car at our disposal either, as I assume she does.

I can’t speak for everyone else, but though I love large satchels sometimes and think they look great, (they also make you look as though you are not a lady of leisure with a limo but someone with many things to do), believe me, I would love NOT to have to carry around a 10 foot long, 100 pound bag on a regular basis. I do it because I have to. When I leave my home in the morning, I have to have everything I may need to get me through the day with me.

I’m happy Jamee can fit her tiny umbrella into her little bag. I need a bag that can accommodate half of my apartment: notebook, multiple newspapers and magazines, umbrella, raincoat, sweater, if necessary, make up, etc. etc. etc. Hey, something just occurred to me. In Thursday's ‘Fashion’ section of The New York Times, Cathy Horyn (“Frayed Nerves and Visions As Two Worlds Collide”)made the observation after looking around J. Mendel’s front row, “what you notice most about socialites is that they have better posture than editors. Apparently years of looking at clothes makes you shorter.” I just figured it out; it’s the big bags that are moving us downward and making us “lopsided” as Ms. Gregory put it. Perhaps that is why Jamee is smiling. She knows she will stay nice and tall thanks to her little Hogan!

-Marilyn Kirschner

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