Grade Point Average: Spring 2006

Part 1

– By Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg

The Bryant Park Shows are a thing of the past and the craziness of The New York Collections has come and gone. But, while we were running around The Tents, we found more than just mere clothes and goodie bags to keep the excitement level high. Here, opening comments, and some really good behind-the-scenes gossip, from few of the top, front-row A-listers. Take a peek at what these industry pros had to say about the good, the bad and the down-and-out ugly; The Celebrity Factor, The Tents and Fashion Week overall. Then, draw your own conclusions.

Sascha Charnin Morrison, Fashion Director, Allure
A: “What’s going on this week? Spring fashion. It’s really beautiful. It’s very dewy; very new very fresh; lots of florals, chiffon, pale chiffon. Everything is looking really pretty, which is nice, because for Fall/Winter, it was very dark; very Goth, very voluminous. Now, it’s diaphanous, which is a nicer word, I think. It just feels like a breath of fresh air.”

“I would love to wear these clothes, but my problem is that I have twin boys, and I’m going to get something like pizza grease or something like that, all over this stuff. So, while there’s so much clothing that’s really beautiful, and so many things that I highly covet, I just don’t have that type of life.”

The C Factor: B+: “Celebrities are just a way of life right now. Celebrities are on our covers and they sell our covers. They’re the things that we obsess on. We kind of know everything there is to know about somebody now, so there’s really no big mystery anymore. But, I think celebrities at the shows add to the excitement of it all. I mean, it is a show.”

“Let’s not forget that in a certain world, this really is Show Business, so the more that the celebrity thing happens during the shows, well, it just goes along with the plan. And, it’s where we are right now in our life. It’s always been a celebrity-driven world. You can’t tell me that there’s any difference with the obsession everybody had with people like Carole Lombard, Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, back then. I think the difference now, though, is just that we know so much more because we want to know more and there are so many ways available to us to give us ‘more’.

Also, back then, the stars were unapproachable on so many levels. Certainly, there was nothing like Fashion Week back then that made them accessible to real people. But, today, it’s evolved, and it’s a cyclical thing. It has turned into something that’s just what’s current and modern, and this is where we are right now and it just adds to the drama of the whole thing. So, even though people hate it, it’s very exciting.”

A: “As for IMG handling the shows, whatever’s going on is pretty much working. It all seems pretty civilized. The tents are great. I know where the restrooms are. I know where to get a cup of coffee. I know where I’m going and I’m very comfortable here.”

Sarah Kuhn, Associate Accessories Editor, Teen Vogue
A: “I think that the attitude at The Tents is really mellow. I feel like people in general are in a really good mood. It’s not stressful at all. People are open to seeing what’s new out there. It’s been a really good week.”

A: “Accessories are everywhere at the shows. The chunky, stacked heel and the wedge. There’s a lot of really cute, almost sixties, loafers. Lots of long necklaces. Some interesting rope necklaces. Alexandre Herskovitch, I think, is amazing, especially for Teen Vogue. He’s so fun and creative and whimsical. His feather hats are to die for.

A+: In terms of emerging designers, especially for ready-to-wear, there’s so much out there.” There’s an incredible amount of new designers this year. For example, I went to GenArt and I was just so impressed with what I saw there, both in terms of clothing and accessories. I loved LuLu Frost; she’s definitely someone to watch. She showed necklaces with numbers from The Plaza Hotel rooms. Beckerman, who showed some really cute tights with pompoms, is also great for our magazine.”

“I think that in general there’s a lot happening with new, young names, and I think we’ve gotten to the point where people, especially the press, are paying a lot of attention to them. I think that’s great.”

Joan Kaner, Fashion Director, Neiman Marcus
A: “It’s been a good week, especially for designers such as Brian Reyes, who’ve shown for the first time. I’m loving the show of ‘hands’; i.e., there’s so much intricate handwork on the clothes. Designers tend to often simplify the silhouette, shape and prints of their collections, but what so many of them have done instead this time around, is to hand-embellish their clothing in some new, eclectic ways; either with appliqué or some kind of needlework or embroidery, etc. And, all of this looks new and fresh.”

“As for all of the ruffles we’ve seen, well, there are options, of course, as there always are. But, we buy the ruffles sparingly. There are those size 0 and size 2 ladies who are going to look divine in ruffles, and then there are those mere mortals like us who are going to stay away from the ruffles. So, therein, lie the choices.”

“I love the season’s color palette, especially the pales. People are talking about a dark season; i.e., a lot of navy, a lot of brown. But, to me, the pales look beautiful; all the shades of ecru, crème, beige, rose, lilac; they look like a soft, pure wash over the fabric. Then, there’s the chiffon, which is everywhere. A hint of metallic, here and there. The fabrics that are wired, so that they crinkle on their own. Frayed edges still very much with us. I thought this particular aspect was beautifully done at J. Mendel.”

The Celebrity Factor: F: “Who the heck cares. This is where I kind of agree with Ron Galella. These are not really people I look up to. We’re here to see clothes. It’s nice that celebrities show up to support particular designers, but if they create a turmoil or they keep us waiting just so they can make a grand entrance, then I’m annoyed.”

D: “As for how the shows are running in general, I think that too many people are taking us off site, and it’s almost impossible to go downtown for one show and then come back to Bryant Park for another show. I guess because there are four shows going on every hour, and they just can’t accommodate more than one show at a time here; that’s unfortunate. And, the other question is, as we say every season: if some of these young people would band together, they would save themselves a lot of money and a lot of time by doing 15-minute presentations, each day, in the morning and at night. You’d then have a one-hour, group presentation of four young people because all you need to see is l5 pieces, to know if they have talent and whether or not you want to go back and see more.”

Ross The Intern, The Tonight Show/Jay Leno
At Michael Kors: A: “I just got into town last night; this is my first show. There’s a big buzz around town about Fashion Week. Everybody I’ve seen so far has been asking me, ‘are you in town for the shows?’ I guess they just assume that’s what I’m here for. I’m doing a special Fashion Week report on the show, and also something about The San Gennaro Festival.”

“I just think that it’s all about being in New York City for the shows; it’s so exciting. Everybody’s thrilled. This is their world and since they only get two of these a year, they just can’t seem to get enough of it.”

A: “I thought Kors was fun. I like color, and even though he didn’t show a lot of it, the show was definitely wonderful. I totally want one of the textured scarves.
The C Factor: A+: Oh my god, no, I definitely don’t think celebrities take away from the shows. I loved seeing Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones at Kors. It’s all about the fashion and the celebrities being here. It’s about all of it. Take away one element, and it’s not Fashion Week anymore. I like it this way. I think it’s fun, and I think it puts an even bigger spotlight on the fashion, which is important. After all, that’s why everybody’s here.”

Kelly Kuan, Editor-in-Chief,
“Regarding the shows this season, I think it’s much better than in past seasons. One season was especially chaotic. I don’t know if it was the transition between Mercedes and Olympus, but it was just a nightmare. Being out in the main hall was a disaster. Seating at the shows was terrible. I had seating at virtually all the shows, but once I got there, I couldn’t even get close because somebody had already pinched my seat. So, that’s no good. But I haven’t really seen much or any of that this season. It’s been really good. I have to say that I haven’t had a bad experience.”

F: “However, Nanette Lepore this season was probably a disaster. One of our editors waited several hours in the lobby of The Tents before queing up for this show to get her seat assignment. She was given a preferred standing seat, which pretty much meant that she was going to get into this show. But, then, she got to the very front of the que, and that was it. They wouldn’t let anybody else in, which meant, no Nanette, or no Nanette in the way we wanted to report on the show, on”

“I think the whole event was poor planning. The PR company definitely had us on the list. They knew who we were. My guys were already in the house. My photographer was front of house and my videographer was backstage. They were ready and live, and all they needed to get going was a reporter. Ultimately, we’ll show the pictures, but I won’t be able to blog it and I won’t be able to add the personal editions that we do with every other designer we see. Because when you’re there, you know as any reporter, that you see nuances of things going on; you see who’s there, you see and feel the vibe and the energy of the show itself, which is a performance. So, if you cannot see that, and you’re only looking at still pictures, you don’t get that.”

The C Factor: D-:“It is very celebrity driven, and I think that IMG focuses on this. Because if they believe in the philosophy, as does most media, that if you bring in the celebrities, you’ll bring attention to that venue, to that event or that entity, then, to a lesser degree, they’re correct.”

“But, the point of 7th on Sixth and the point of having these shows is not for celebrity value. That’s why we have The Oscars. So, I think all of the celebrities at the shows is too much. And, because of this, I think that actually there’s a lot of people who don’t get the kind of recognition they need. The focus is not on that. The clothes are almost an afterthought, which is a shame.

You know, New York has to fight for the creative end in the whole hierarchy of fashion worldwide. We’re going head to head with Paris all the time, and we’re always being called the consumer; everything is about sales for us. American fashion is about dollars and we’re constantly going against that. So, I think it’s about time that we actually get out of that because this is not entirely about what all American fashion is all about. There’s an enormous amount of talent here, and they’re not getting the kind of exposure they deserve. The celebrity thing comes first and foremost because it draws a lot of attention to itself.”

Ruth Finley, Publisher, Fashion Calendar
C: “In my opinion, there are too many fashion shows. Ten years ago, we had one show every hour, and it was a wonderful arrangement. Now, on some days, we have five shows in one hour, which is an impossible situation. Many people are anxious to get to least two of those shows, but they can only get to one, obviously. And, I wish there were some way to solve that problem.”

“Also, it’s very difficult when some shows are located far away from The Tents. If you have to get to a show on 11th or 12th Avenues, with traffic in the city being what it is, especially this week, when the president and so many foreign dignitaries were in town for the Anniversary Celebration of the UN, which we knew about beforehand, it’s just extremely tough. So, when that happens, it then makes the entire day run late. And, that’s with buses taking you there from The Tents. And, when it comes to the question of why these designers choose to show off-site, it’s not because they can’t afford to show at Bryant Park, it’s that some of them simply do not want to show there.”

“Obviously, we could not change the dates of Fashion Week because of the European Shows, which started right after New York, and we couldn’t do anything before Labor Day. So, there was no solution. However, what I did try to do was to arrange to have no shows on the East Side of the city where the UN is, but 42nd Street is so impossible. It takes around 40 minutes to get from Bryant Park just to Fifth Avenue, it’s so jammed.

A: “As for what IMG has done since they’ve taken over Fashion Week in New York, I think we have more shows at Bryant Park now, and that’s a very good thing to have the majority of shows at one central location. Many people don’t even leave Bryant Park. “They don’t even go to the off-site shows, particularly in this very hot weather.”

The C Factor: B: “This is definitely becoming extremely important to many name designers and it helps their PR. I don’t object to celebrities coming to the shows, but some people do. And, I definitely do not think it takes away from the fashion on the runway.”

Barbara Berman, BB’s Backstage:
Best first timer: A+: UPS Hub Tent People’s Revolution at The Altman Building
Best backstage catering: A: Tuleh Altman Building – Le Pain Quotidien
Biggest backstage challenge: C: Celebrity stylists who don’t understand runway shows.
Biggest backstage disappointment: D: The number of people smoking despite fire codes and health risks.
Most annoying sponsor: F: WE Entertainment – lining up for those bags
Biggest backstage peeve: F: Photographers who insist on taking pictures of models changing.



Ernest Schmatolla is publisher of Lookonline since 1994. It is the longest running fashion site on the Internet.

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