The NY Fall/Winter 2004 Collections: “All the world’s a stage”... (And other ‘fit’ting clichés)

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Please note: numbers in ( ) in the text below are links to photos. All photos by Randy Brooke except for Ralph Rucci by Ernest Schmatolla. This article is best viewed with browser set to "full screen".

Somewhere into Olympus Fashion Week, after what seemed like the ‘umpteenth’ retro inspired fur shrug, fur stole, fur muff, capelet, bracelet length- sleeved coat which perfectly exposed a pair of long fitted gloves, shrunken tweed jacket (mixed ‘offhandedly’ with something floral), antique brooch, and pin- on camellia, to hit the runway, I began jotting down phrases like “Seen one, seen ‘em all”, “Been there, done that”, “What comes around goes around”, “Great minds (?) think alike”, “Déjà vu all over again” (and this from a man - Yogi Berra - who probably never even attended a fashion show) in my effort to describe the repetitive and predictable nature of what was transpiring. As usual, ideas that start out looking fresh and novel, quickly fall prey to inundation, complete saturation and overkill (“Anything that’s worth doing is worth overdoing”?), and trends immediately become clichéd. I was taken by the way in which timeworn clichés, age old proverbs, and popular adages could be used so effectively to capture and summarize this scenario.

Of course, in reflecting on the overall mood and tone of the week, no cliché or saying was perhaps more apropos than “Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery” (Forget ‘Imitation of Christ’- we’re talking ‘Imitation of Miuccia’). Not that I was in the least bit surprised to find the runways filled with so many references to the work of Miuccia Prada, arguably staking her claim as the most influential and copied designer today. Even Cathy Horyn observed, “The reality is that no designer exerts more influence on the rest of fashion than Ms. Prada. As the Italian fall 2004 collections ended on Sunday and the fashionistas skipped off to Paris, Milan was looking more and more like Pradaville.”

Well guess what? New York looked like ‘Pradaville’ as well. Sightings of unabashedly conservative, demure, ladylike (and often dowdy), ‘thrift shop chic’ have been turning up all over (though if my radar and the elegantly rough, chic, streetwise designs of designers abroad like Helmut Lang, Nicolas Guesquiere, Karl Lagerfeld, etc. - serve as any barometer- I would say we are in for a big change for the next season). Nonetheless, amongst those who translated the ‘vintage lady’ look quite effectively were Patrick Robinson for Perry Ellis (it’s a look he does very well, and at affordable prices it is a nice bonus) (1)(2) and Behnaz Sarafpour, who infused her gently feminine collection with a subtler dose of the 50’s. She also did a complete turnaround from spring 2004, which was unabashedly sexy, tight, fitted, and very short. This season, her hemlines traveled modestly southward. As they say, “What goes up must come down”(3)(4).