New York Fashion Week: Notes & Observations

On Cloud Nine

Marc Jacobs ombre shearling jackets and ribbed knits

Marc Jacobs cleaned up his act from last season, got rid of all the excess and trimmings, and put a fabulous exclamation point on MBFW last night with a pared down, ultra-modern, sports infused collection filled with sleek ribbed knits, fabulously over sized shearling jackets some of which were trimmed in Mongolian lamb, v neck tunics and pants, multi colored sequined dresses, and some of the best flat and low heeled boots around (including one that was particularly fabulous: a pale shearling over the knee boot).

Marc Jacobs tunics and over the knee boots

The clouds hanging over the Lexington Avenue Armory could be considered to be symbolic of many things. Not only did they mimic the pleasingly pale neutral color palette of the clothes (black was not shown at all), but Marc has a right to be on cloud nine, after leaving Louis Vuitton earlier this year to focus his energies on his own label – with an eye to an initial public offering in the near future (guaranteeing he will become fashion’s next billionaire). And now we can all be on “cloud nine”, since MBFW has finally come to a conclusion. I know there are some who would say you have to suffer for fashion, but this past week, that’s been taken to a whole new level.  I don’t think I’ve ever gone through a February Fashion Week under such relentlessly hostile weather conditions; and unfortunately for us, it had to be during a season where shows could not have been LESS centralized. Boy oh boy, where was Bryant Park when we could have most used it?

Marc Jacobs graphic shearling flat over the knee boots

I don’t think it made it above 20 degrees the entire time and by the way, what IS going on with the weather? Is God trying to tell us something? It’s been ridiculously frigid here in New York, yet unseasonably warm in Sochi, where they could really use those conditions, (and reportedly, skiers are wearing tank tops). Maybe we should have switched locations. Actually, I don’t even want to say that jokingly, because some of the brilliant powers in charge of MBFW might actually think it’s a good idea. Putin would certainly love it. And for sure, the exotically out of the way locale might truly appeal to any number of hip and cool young designers who are at the top of their fields right now, and just love to prove they can walk on water. They just know the faithful fashion flock will go wherever they hold a show. Scoring that invite and getting there will be the ultimate status symbol. Then all anyone would need are the street paparazzi to follow, because without them taking your picture, why bother to get dressed and show up? LOL. I think I noticed that a few street blog fixtures changed outfits several times during the course of one day (you know who you are).

Ralph Lauren lilac feather jacket heather grey melange cashmere
turtleneck taupe melange flannel suiting pant

In any event, the icy snow literally stung my face and practically blinded me, as I walked to Washington Street for Ralph Lauren’s 10AM show at St. John’s Center Studios. Ralph changed things up by showing both Collection, and his new Polo line (talk about uptown vs. downtown). Collection, presented to the tune of a French soundtrack, which I suppose, was meant to emphasize the notion of Parisian chic. Not only did it feel like déjà vu all over again (haven’t I seen that before?), but overall, it looked a bit too pretty, ladylike and therefore, a touch old fashioned. Colors were predominantly ivory, cream, off white, shades of grey, mauve, lavender, pink (there was no black, which was used at Polo). Luxurious fabrics included cashmere and double faced cashmere, silk, crepe, suede, Mongolian and Tibetan Lamb, feathers, tropical wool, jersey, lame.

Ralph Lauren Cream cashmere jacket winter white
cashmere sweater winter white cashmere jogging pant

There were many capes and ponchos (too many, as it got redundant). The pieces that looked best were easy and effortlessly luxurious. That includes Karlie Kloss’s fabulously chic cream cashmere trench worn with a winter white cashmere silk boucle turtleneck, cream limo cloth jodhpur, and the fitted cream cashmere jacket, paired with winter white cashmere jogging pants, and a winter white cashmere sweater (both outfits were accessorized with cream kid suede hi tops); the grey mélange cashmere silk turtleneck worn with a leg baring long skirt in grey light jersey; the lilac feather jacket paired with heather grey mélange cashmere turtleneck and taupe mélange flannel suiting pants; a beautiful and simple pale pink lame narrow evening gown; and the grey light jersey evening dress with self-cape which closed the show.

Polo Ralph Lauren brown shearling aviator jacket, beacon linen dress,
beacon wool and leather backpack; calfsuede clog sandal

The new Polo collection, which is obviously younger, cooler, more colorful, more eclectic, is also infused with touches of grunge, which has shown up elsewhere this week (Tommy Hilfiger and even Michael Kors, among others). And it really looks most like Ralph, who walked out dressed all in black with lace up hiking boots. Standouts, include the serape silk blend cardigan, khaki silk jersey dress and tan tumbled leather fringe bag; the brown shearling aviator jacket, worn with a beacon linen long dress, a printed wool and leather backpack, and calfsuede clog sandals; and the perfectly tailored long and lean black wool reefer coat which was shown over an elongated fair isle patterned sweater dress.

Polo Ralph Lauren brown shearling aviator jacket, beacon
linen dress, beacon wool and leather backpack; calfsuede clog sanda

It’s not lost on me that Ralph’s location is not too far from Spring Studios at 55 Varick Street, where Joseph Altuzarra, Diane Von Furstenberg, Michael Kors, and Calvin Klein, held their shows. Maybe in the future, someone in charge of scheduling could at least push for these Tribeca based shows to be clumped together and see that they take place conveniently on the same day, AND perhaps find more suitable spaces in the neighborhood. This would more effectively make the most use of being there and ensure that going back and forth would be kept to a minimum. It could even be fashion’s answer to the Tribeca Film Festival. As you know, downtown (below Tribeca) is definitely on the rebound, so maybe this should be taken into consideration and explored. Just consider this: Conde Nast, which publishes Vogue and The New Yorker, will move over 5000 employees into 1 World Trade Center later this year. Brookfield Place, a 250,000 square foot mall, on the site of the former World Financial Center, will open in March 2015. Among the high end names who have signed on, Hermes, Burberry, Ferragamo, Michael, Kors, Diane Von Furstenberg, Theory, Scoop, and Calypso St. Barth’s.

Getting back to the more painful moments this past week…a group of show goers (including Andre Leon Talley) were stuck in an elevator leaving Oscar de la Renta’s Tuesday night show and as far as I’m concerned, this was an accident waiting to happen (though thankfully nobody got hurt, only rattled). When will organizers understand that showing in venues that necessitate hordes of people cram into small elevators to get in and out, is simply put, inconsiderate, not to mention potentially scary and dangerous. I understand that Oscar’s high floor west 42 street headquarters makes a far more economical show venue than the rather grand and welcoming 583 Park Avenue, (a landmark building that was recently restored and is now being used for private events), that he had been using up until a few years go. But there must be something in between.

Calvin Klein comfy and cozy

But luckily, while one must suffer for fashion when it comes to covering the shows (it’s just part of the job description), based on what I’ve seen on and off the runways this week, it’s obvious one need not make a choice between looking great and feeling great when it comes to one’s fashion choices. It’s been hard not to notice that some of the best collections had a relaxed ease, in terms of the mood and silhouette, and a noticeable level of warm, cozy, comfort, even where footwear was concerned. Thankfully, designers are really embracing flat and low heeled shoes and boots, and they have never looked better.

Time was, dressing FOR the cold weather was looked down on and frowned upon. Resembling Nanook of the north was akin to announcing to the world, that you do not have a car and driver at your disposal, and that you have to rely on public transportation to get around town. There used to be countless women who refused to give up their Manolo Blahnik stiletto pumps regardless of the season or the weather, and many continued to embrace the bare leg look even in the freezing cold.  But desperate times call for desperate measures, and this season, the ones who looked as though they were rushing the seasons (going bare legged in high heels, opting for flimsy jackets, sheer see through tops or chiffon skirts, etc.) not only looked uncomfortably freezing, they looked ridiculous. Just a note: just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

The best dressed women in my opinion, were not only dressed for the weather, but for running around to shows from morning until night. Often times, they were encased in fur (the brighter or more graphic the better), clad in unisex utility parkas (it was hard to tell the boys from the girls at times), or unfussy borrowed from the boys’ reefer coats (a tomboy thread ran through many collections as well). In many cases, show attendees wore head obscuring hoods, neck and face obscuring scarves, leg warmers, and arm warmers. Flat men’s style oxfords, flat riding boots, Hunter boots, and every manner of shoe with practical lug soles were all the better to maneuver the slippery streets. Beanie hats and knitted caps were the order of the day.

It’s not about looking like a pampered princess but a hale and hearty urbanite who not only wants to look good, but needs to efficiently get through the paces of her day.  Interestingly, this is quite a bit at odds with the amazingly rarefied world inhabited by late great couturier Charles James, who is the subject of the upcoming Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute exhibition (to be shown in the new Anna Wintour Costume Center). One of the things he was most known for was his revolutionary sculpted ball gowns, and in case you haven’t noticed, ball gowns have almost disappeared from recent runways. So much so that even Ralph Rucci did not show one Infanta. But of course, there are plenty of other elements to explore, including his “design process and his innovative tailoring”. And in the words of Thomas P. Campbell: “Charles James considered himself an artist, and approached fashion with a sculptor’s eye and a scientist’s logic.  “As such, the Met is the ideal place to explore the rich complexity of his innovative work.”

-Marilyn Kirschner

The J. Mendel Show – A Study in Elegance

Red plaid broad tail coat with red sable bolero
(Photos: Lieba Nesis)

The J. Mendel show was held at the Theater in Lincoln Center on a day where the inclement weather resulted in a sparse turnout. However, the show was orchestrated perfectly with numerous references to the house’s Franco-Russian heritage and the world of the ballet. Gilles Mendel, began his career apprenticing under his father at his fur salon in Paris in 1981, and has expanded his collection from furs to include a ready to wear collection catering to a high society clientele. Michelle Obama, Sandra Bullock, Taylor Swift, and Kate Mara are known to wear Mendel dresses and he has become an increasingly sought-after designer, especially during awards season. While many were not able to attend the event, some regulars such as Glenda Bailey and Hal Rubinstein were there as well as luminaries Anna Kendrick and Kelly Rutherford. The collection was simple and unadorned with fluid silhouettes, jeweled tones, and lush outerwear.

Off white and taupe knitted fox cape with silk straight pant

The show opened with red plaid minks and furs coupled with asymmetrical skirts highlighting the geometrical patterns on the jackets. The effect was sexy biker meets Russian oligarch and when paired with the lace cut out booties it was a knockout. When I was about to tire of the red furs and plaids Mendel quickly switched to lush colored furs, leather skirts and dresses. The black and red macramé gown with a red lace bootie was daring and edgy with a hard femininity that is difficult to achieve. The short black, purple and red dresses were highly intricate with little impact, the shortness of the hem opposed the intricacy of the bodices almost making the garments look incomplete. The white and black mink and shearling were divine; but my favorite look was the one Mendel does best- the lush off-white and taupe knitted fox cape with a silk straight leg pant- the voluminous jacket against the tapered pant was dramatic and delicate. The opulence of the outerwear was astonishing as exhibited by the eel paneled coats and multi-color plaid mink jackets- when belted these looks were structured and effective.

Off white chiffon gown with asymmetrical skirt

The finale of the collection was breathtakingly elegant with girls sashaying down the runway in chiffon gowns of sapphire, peridot, off white and black. The draping on these sheer cutout dresses was perfection with an angelic fluidity that amazed. Mendel said these dresses were supposed to capture the romance of the ballet and specifically the Ballets Russes- an itinerant ballet company that was based in Paris in the early 1900’s. These gowns with little beading and embellishments were innately luminescent, similar to the dancers in a ballet. The collection ranging from lush furs to feminine gowns was executed masterfully. The attention to detail with touches such as the Blahnik booties and leather belts greatly enhanced the impact of the collection. The soothing classical music coupled with the jeweled toned furs and gowns made this show a triumphant success and a fashion week standout.

-Lieba Nesis

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Lieba Nesis

My love of fashion, writing and photography were something that always dominated my lifestyle however it wasn't until I was approached by the editor of Lookonline that I realized I could utilize these three skills in combination.

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