Only during Fashion Week do you see industry folk bright-eyed and dressed to the nines on sub-zero, it’s-so-early-it’s-still-dark-out weekend mornings — all in spite of hard-partying the night before. You can catch them dashing like trained athletes between shows at Lincoln Center, Milk Studios, and various other obscure venues for hours on end, fueled by copious amounts of caffeinated beverages (sometimes spiked – I mean, who’s really that chipper in the am?).
It’s all for good reason, though, since some of the most hotly anticipated FW11 collections showed on Saturday and Sunday, like Alex Wang (see the show recap here) and Thakoon. But in case you couldn’t bear to give up your sacred R&R for 48 hours of fashionable mayhem, me and my fleece-lined tights (they’re lifesavers, trust me) were there to brave all the shows, parties, and eerie doll encounters for you.
Rachel Antonoff Stages the High School Dance We Always Wanted When someone invites you to a party that’s meant to remind you of being a teenager, your first instinct might be to cringe. Admittedly, I winced a few times before RSVPing, but only because I was jealous of the girls that have Rachel Antonoff in their lives to make them look way cooler in high school than I ever did. But unlike the lunch table-isolating mean girls from yesteryear, the designer filled her presentation in the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School gym with happy, cool kids that just really like to dance. And she covered every last detail to make it as authentic as possible, from puppy love slow dancers (inspired by a still from Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides), to shy students observing from the bleachers, to a live chick band – all dressed in Antonoff’s whimsy-prep collection. This has to be one of my favorite themes for a presentation yet.
Alexa Chung (who’s good friends with the designer) and two adorable looks from the collection.
The band couldn’t have been a better fit for Antonoff’s retro theme: The Like. The ’60s-inspired pop band, who performed playful tunes that got even the most straight-faced editors tapping their feet, includes the designer’s friend and the face of her recent footwear collab with Bass, Tennessee Williams. Here’s a moment I really liked:
Mandy Coon Dresses the Futuristic Globetrotter Next up was Mandy Coon at Lincoln Center. It was a looping presentation like last year, so new guests were able to see the complete collection at various times. And each time, French singer and composer Émilie Simon was behind the piano, performing the same beautifully haunting song, causing me to stick around for a few encores. Just as captivating were Coon’s highly-structural designs, which reminded me of some kind of nouveau crusader, complete with outerwear for the sequel to Blade Runner that I really wish was happening.
A corseted leather tank, a jacket for the hard-edged Eskimo, and a tie-dye-to-die-for maxi dress.
As proven by last season’s vivid splashes of print, Coon has an eye for introducing color in creative ways. Here, she adds a burst of unexpected hot pink to an otherwise muted color palette – a major theme for FW11.
Charlotte Ronson Throws it Back Again No one does recent retro like Charlotte Ronson. Last season was straight out of an episode of My So-Called Life, and this season edges into the same ’90s territory, but with a dash of inspiration from the ’60s. In addition to flowers, plaid, and holey tights (sometimes found all in one look), the designer introduced a collection of oversized angora knits that would blend right in at any vintage store. Another throwback I was delighted to see was Irina Lazareanu’s return to the runway for two looks, even linking arms with Ronson’s half-sister and nightlife fixture, Annabelle Dexter-Jones, during the end parade. The designer again commissioned her twin sister, Samantha, to direct the music for the show, which started with a tune by Adele.
Irina’s finale look—and I spy a Man Repeller!
Belve and Baubles with Bijules Although I was spent by the end of Saturday, I couldn’t miss BlackBook friend and fierce jewelry designer Jules Kim’s presentation at Gramercy Park Hotel. Her latest line of fine jewelry pieces, called “The Seize Kind,” were circulated throughout the event (more party atmosphere than presentation) on silver platters held by suited men. From single ear pieces to edgy-elegant pendants, designer Jules Kim delivered another collection of covetable accessories. Combined with an open Belvedere Vodka bar and a packed after-after-party at Rose Bar downstairs, I couldn’t think of a better way to unwind after a marathon day of shows.
Kim and some of her designs.
Art Imitating Life at VPL Sunday morning started with a trip to Chelsea Piers to see the always innovative Victoria Bartlett’s latest effort. The collection was inspired both by progressive artists Piero Manzoni and Joseph Beuys, and by the human form, evident in her stretch-and-constrict designs that shift with the body’s motion. For fall, the VPL girl is wearing layers upon layers, wrapped in a plethora of textures in a range of neutrals and well-chosen hues like vivid orange and bordeaux. As each look came down the runway, myself and everyone around me was quite and focused—as if we really were at a sculpture exhibit. We all started to clap as the music faded and the lights dimmed out, until suddenly the loud beat returned, the room went bright, and out walked an army of latex-clad models in classic VPL cutout bathing suits, culminating with a primitive finale piece that was a nod to her interest in evolution.
Layers, suspension, latex, and a furry close to VPL.
Timeless Thakoon at the Historic Plaza Although Sunday night was jam-packed with NYFW events all over the city, there’s no doubt that Thakoon was not to be missed. As I entered The Plaza Hotel for the show, I felt the history within those walls. After all, it’s one of two hotels considered a National Historic Landmark (the other is Waldorf-Astoria), and it’s where The Beatles stayed during their first visit to the U.S. As a designer with a deep respect for the past, it makes sense that Thakoon Panichgul would select such a venue for his show, which drew an equally historic crowd of fashion influencers, there to witness Panichgul’s designs.
This collection felt very Baroque for its more regal details, but also had a cultural feel, especially with this yellow bustle skirt in an eye-popping floral batik print.
There was also some heavy pattern-clashing, mixing stripes with plaid or paisley printed separates—or even more stripes. Cigarette pants were also a big focus for him, which just might be the next pant style designers will start experimenting with.
And then there were Thakoon’s signature ultra-feminine dresses, like this delicately innovative silk taffeta tie-waist style.
Katie Gallagher Designs Life-Sized Voodoo Dolls Katie Gallagher has been a designer to watch for quite some time, due to her limitless creativity and no-boundaries design approach. Held at Milk Studios, her latest collection is called “Gris-Gris,” after the tiny doll charms meant to ward off evil in Voodoo culture. And her models definitely looked the part. In haunting eye makeup and witch-like hair, the mood was dark and a little scary, though the actual designs were beautiful. Gallagher’s signature leggings were back, sliced and diced in various styles in shades of grey, black, and nude, with an expected pop of color—another example of the season’s trend. I can only describe the collection, with its capes, cloaks, and tunics in moveable fabrics, as sporty witchwear.
The voodoo dolls in action, which most guests were too afraid to look in the eyes.
Ken Doll’s Great Dream Date Debate My second encounter with life-sized dolls occurred at Christie’s auction house, which was quite a contrast from the doll situation earlier. In an event hosted by Mattel, Ken’s “Dream Date” party was part of the big PR push the brand’s been focused on as of late, themed around Ken’s desperate attempt to win Barbie back by reviving his wardrobe. All I can say is: It’s about freakin’ time, Ken! I mean, have you even seen the range of looks Barbie attempts while you’ve been wearing those same damn Hawaiian print board shorts? Believe it or not, the event drew a massive crowd of supporters thoroughly concerned with Ken’s heartfelt dilemma—or they just really liked the idea of Christie’s, free drinks, cupcakes, and music by Paul Sevigny. Either way, it was a perfect ending to my fantastic two-day NYFW bender.
Designers like Billy Reid, Nicholas K, and Simon Spurr were commissioned to dress the new Ken doll for his big night.
Ken can learn a thing or two from the always-dapper DJ Paul Sevigny. When in doubt, just throw on a suit and dance.