Ready To Wear: My Fashion Week Rundown

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What follows is a recap of my modest Mercedes Benz Fashion Week experience. Far from a fashionista, I tend to dip my toes into this frenzied eight-day-or-so scene, rather than diving in and drowning. I respect quality designs and am confident my personal style is in step, but this subject doesn’t occupy my mind 24/7. Indulging in the art of clothing is a guilty pleasure, a hobby of the highest order, but there’s only so much strutting I can manage (even on the observing side). I made it to six shows (fewer than usual due to an absence of ambition), the highlights of which you’ll be briefed on below.

Bright and early Saturday morning at Lincoln Center’s Studio was Ruffian, which didn’t disappoint. To begin, models rocked Converse high tops, lending the looks a carefree flair, some sporty to complement the oft twee toile prints in (independently) pink, blue, and yellow on white. Pants, skirts, dresses, blouses, and blazers all received the delicate treatment, intricate imagery that, as it happens, was influenced by Brooklyn. In the program, the designers explain that they sought “to explore our love of couture within the context of Williamsburg,” the neighborhood they live in. How very hip (hipster?) Victorian, no?

A foil to girlie girls, tomboys also showed off overalls, a welcome contrast to ruffles, lace and other über-feminine details, which undeniably dominated. Cotton ticking stripes and silk iridescent brocade also made memorable impressions, applied in various forms, sometimes from head-to-toe. I was especially taken by a tailored metallic boucle crop jacket. At times precious, the collection proves not only eye-catching, but also super wearable. The entire line left me with a sense of sophisticated-meets-street. The tees and lingerie, too, were fun and flirty, respectively.

Speaking of lingerie, Victoria Bartlett unveiled her VPL (Visible Panty Line) SS13 styles at Pier 59 Studios in Chelsea later the same day. Loosely based on the theme of exertion, her vision was a bit more meta. Bartlett is adept at thinking outside the box, refusing to be pigeonholed, and her latest iteration is no exception. The look and feel this season was one of subdued elegance. Models breezed by in attire that achieved the effect of graceful athleticism, the ladies like Olympic nymphs, unsmiling but absolutely alluring.

From voluminous free-flowing floor-length skirts billowing with every stride, to midriff-bearing knits; from opaque anoraks to sheer onesies; from parachute harem pants to angular and often boxy tops and dresses, Bartlett introduced a number of nuanced silhouettes. Her aesthetic straddled masculine and feminine sensibilities with an evident tilt towards the latter, despite the sharp geometric cuts. Fabrics clung in all the right places when necessary, but deliberately draped and obscured definition at times, too, igniting our imaginations.

Something standard photos of the runway won’t adequately reveal is the movement of the garments, as well as the peek-a-boo backs a lot of the articles possess. Cutouts were all the rage, hinting at (or explicitly exposing) the human canvas beneath the cloth covering. The color scheme stuck to a specific palette, highlighting bright oranges and yellows, mint and lime greens, and powder pink in addition to more monochromatic black, tan, gray and white. Bartlett also got girlie with sequins, distressed and otherwise, offering still more evidence that the woman within wins out. In sum, Bartlett’s forthcoming collection is remarkably strong.

Classic beauties sashayed along Reem Acra’s Lincoln Center Stage runway Monday afternoon, tresses swept into sleek ponytails, lips cherry red. It’s been ages since I last attended one of her shows and I forgot how magical they can be. Embellished and beautiful, this season she pared down her great big gowns, opting instead to introduce a few fairytale looks at the very end. I was pleased as I was partial to the edgy daywear, though I’ve no doubt I’m in the minority. (However, I caught up with stylist to the stars Robert Verdi at the end and he agreed, referencing the pervasive “Glenda the good witch trend” he’d been encountering all over NYFW.) Not to say those eveningwear wonders weren’t magnetic!

Acra’s openers were winning, featuring several sharp looks that could easily enable ladies to slip seamlessly from day to night without missing a beat. The motifs that stood out to me were sexy suiting, a tire-tread laser-cut pattern, an appreciation for varied necklines (bowed, peter pan, plunging, strapless, etc.), cutouts running from armpit to ankle (or knee), and navy, ivory, vermillion, and green. Despite taking cues from “Aaron Young’s famous series of motorcycle inspired works,” per the program, everything was fiercely feminine with an emphasis on fierce. Drenched in attitude, the everywoman could conquer the world in these spectacular pieces. Beyond silk, she did indeed hark back to testosterone with the incorporation of leather. Best in show? I fell for the two fil coupe dresses, as well as the midnight navy silk satin bomber jacket. Overall, it was a show worthy of the goddesses. A sheer success in my book.

On the topic of sheer, Milly by Michelle Smith didn’t shy away from mesh when she presented Wednesday afternoon also at the Stage. A departure from past presentations, SS13 sees her Upper East Side prep aesthetic receive a seductive-meets-sportswear overhaul. Cool (in both personality and tonality) the palette consists of black, optic white, silver and neon-meets-pastel coral, mentino, lapis and citron. Reflective tape accents add to the icy but mesmerizing modernity. Far from stark, however, the futuristic-looking line has heart.

According to Smith, with whom I spoke post-show, “I started off thinking about surrealism. I took a trip to Brussels and went to the Magritte Museum. Then, I spent time in Spain and the friends I was staying with had drawings by Dali. [Surrealism] was stewing in the back of my mind and I thought about what [the Surrealists] would be like today.” She added, “The use of reflection and a lot of the prints were reminiscent of dreams.” For instance, the digital smoke print, which she employs in two of her 42 looks.

So, there you have it, she re-imagined an art movement and applied it to her wares. Akin to VPL, she also showcased opaque anoraks (and transparent ponchos). This see-through idea sprang up amid the ample mesh she incorporated, as sleeves mainly, but also as tops to shirts and dresses. Bows were nowhere to be found this go around, ladylike qualities paid homage via heavy contour hugging. Belts were big, because bringing it in at the waist never goes out of style, even for the hypothetical Surrealists of 2012 (2013?). Maybe most fabulous, though it’s tough to pinpoint, were the black laser-cut chiffon on mesh racerback dress (with an eye-catching pop of neon green) and the silver reflective tech nylon cascade corset dress paired with the white power mesh elbow sleeve tee. As P’Trique would say, #TotesAmaze!

While Smith focused on the future, Anna Sui glanced at the past. The foremost eras rearing their heads at Lincoln Center’s Theater early Wednesday evening were, to my mind, punk and grunge. Leopard print partnered with black fishnets (often heavily holed), clashing patterns like floral and flannel/plaid, floral gone noir with black background worn with black lace cutoff tights, pants beneath dresses and so on. Sitting in my seat, my memory would whoosh back to the nineties TV show My So-Called Life, my eyes searching the front row for Jordan Catalano.

Here we witness sheer again, but black rather than white (hello, it’s Anna, the dark angel), as well as jumpsuits and jacquard and jarty parties (oh my!). Karlie Kloss herself strolled down the aisle in a full on Indigo Denim Dress with Baroque Pearl Beading. Needless to say, I wasn’t a fan. Several ensembles shined, like her Black Neoprene Motorcycle Jacket, Black Arabesque Lace Dress with Stripe Lining, Black Tulle Petticoat, and Black Neoprene Leggings. Though it isn’t something I would wear, it’s visually compelling. It works. On the whole, I wasn’t terribly moved by the collection. I want to fawn over it like many a critic did but I found it revisited fashion statements that should never have been made in the first place. Sui is owed a round of applause, however, for her use of faux leather as opposed to genuine animal hides. That’s always admirable in my book.

Of them all, I’m most apt to be seen sporting Milly, but I fantasize about Ruffian and Acra. VPL was something special, too, though less suitable to a frame like mine. Mad props to Bartlett for giving guests a great gift bag, which, in addition to containing nail polish from my favorite beauty brand, Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, included a heart-shaped anti-fur pin courtesy of the Humane Society. Kudos to VPL and co. for drawing attention to this significant but often overlooked issue.

A Night of Fashion & Charity: The 33rd Annual American Image Awards

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Last night, the 33rd Annual American Image Awards honored the marketing geniuses who help build companies like UGG and William Rast into the global brands they are today. All of the proceeds from the event went to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, a total that was said to reach around $1.1 million. The show was hosted by TV personality Robert Verdi, who I had a chance to chat with on the red carpet. Verdi, who was decked out in seriously shiny patent leather Sergio Rossi shoes and a Piaget diamond encrusted watch, bragged, “I’m really, really rich. I can afford sex and diamonds!”

But mention of his McQueen sunglasses caused the flamboyant style to get serious. “I wear them everyday to honor him,” Verdi said. “He was such a brilliant talent and it was such a devastating loss.”

Next, I spoke with Colin Dyne of William Rast, winner of Brand of the Year. William Rast is Justin Timberlake’s clothing company, and has become a major label since its birth six years ago. Dyne was sporting William Rast jeans and a shirt and jacket from J. Lindeberg, partner company to William Rast. He said he was “honored” to be awarded with Brand of the Year after such a short time. He also said he and Justin Timberlake hang out all the time and that he’s an “amazing partner” in the company. Great jeans and hanging out with Justin Timberlake all the time? Duh, winning!

After a couple near-misses I finally found Donna Karan, easily the busiest woman of the evening. (Her company’s CEO & Chairman, Mark Weber, was being awarded Man of the Year.) I gushed about how she’s my favorite designer, and she gushed about how I was her favorite reporter. Well, sort of. What she actually said was “I wish my daughter felt that way! She wore Donna Karan, so I started DKNY for her. But before that, she had to wear Donna Karan. She used to rob my closet!” Then she went on to say, “I just opened my spring collection from Urban Zen. It’s buy now, so it’s not ahead of season, it’s in season. And that’s something I feel really strongly about. For the customer to be able to buy in the current season.”

Presenters included Whoop Goldberg, Susan Plagemann of Vogue, and Mike Milken. Other Winners included Neiman Marcus for Retailer of the Year, UGG Australia for Footwear of the Year, and Ruben & Isabel Toledo for Fashion Maverick. See full details about the annual American Image Awards and The Apparel and Footwear Association here.

Where Celebs Go Out: Wes Anderson, Emmy Rossum, Charlotte Ronson, & More

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At Lucky magazine’s Lucky Shops:

● KATRINA BOWDEN – “I love Café Mogador in the East Village. It’s Moroccan, and they have these great fish and chicken kebabs and really cool dishes and olives and bread. It’s really good. And they have this fish soup that’s amazing, on special sometimes.”

● ANA ORTIZ – “I’m a very local person right now because I don’t have a lot of time away. So there’s this really groovy little place across the street from me called the Speak Low bar and it’s in Dumbo in Brooklyn, and it’s just underneath Rice. It’s a really funky, hip little bar. And they have the most delicious cocktails. As soon as I was able to drink after giving birth, I went down there. They have the best martini I ever had!”

At The Fantastic Mr. Fox press day:

● WES ANDERSON – “There’s a place in Los Angeles called Nishimura that’s a sushi place. That’s a great place. I would recommend that one.”

At launch party for Yoga Wii by Dreamcatcher Interactive Inc.:

● ANJA RUBIK – “Right now — it changes, of course — right now, I’m addicted to Matsuri. It’s a Japanese restaurant in the Maritime Hotel. I just love the food there. It’s incredible and the atmosphere they create there is so beautiful. I love it there. I love the Cipriani’s uptown. I love it. The food is so great. And it also has an incredible atmosphere. Da Silvano is great. Bar Pitti is amazing. It has Italian food, which is fantastic. I love Gobo. It’s all this organic food, vegetarian. It’s on Sixth Avenue near Eighth Street or Seventh Street.”

At Fashion Group International’s Night of Stars:

● SIMON DOONAN – “I love Il Cantinori. It’s around the corner from my house. The risotto primavera is killer!”

● EMMY ROSSUM – “I really like David Burke Townhouse. I love that lollypop tree that comes out at the end. There’s like a cheesecake lollypop tree. It looks like a lollypop, but it’s a ball of cheesecake on the end of stick and it’s in this holder that makes it look like a tree. I really like eating sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, at like 4am.”

● TOMMY HILFIGER – “Rebecca’s in Greenwich, Connecticut. Incredibly delicious. It’s simple, but it’s really, really high-quality food and always well done — consistent. It’s prepared very well.”

● MARK RONSON – “My favorite restaurant in New York is, probably, Gino’s uptown on 60th and Lex. The angel hair with the secret sauce. They call it that. ‘Cause when you’re a kid, and anyone tells you something’s secret, of course, you like think it’s amazing. In the whole word, I don’t know. I wish — I’m really good at answering these questions, but not on the spot.”

● DITA VON TEESE – “I love going to London to eat. I love China Tang at the Dorchester because I love the Art Deco Chinese interior. I love the Wolseley in London. And I’m not familiar with New York restaurants. It seems like they’re ever changing, so …”

At Purgatorio pop-up club:

● JOSH LUCAS – “Oh, the old school — Raoul’s is one of my all-time favorites. And there’s a place right down in my neighborhood, called Broadway East, which is a really interesting new kind of organic, sexy restaurant I like a lot. Also, down by my place, Les Enfants Terribles, you know that place? A good, little fun one. Those are my three that come to mind immediately.”

● SIMON HAMMERSTEIN – “That’s a hard question. I kind of like the 18th floor of the Standard — the bar on the 18th floor. I think he’s done a really good job with that.”

● CHRISTIAN SIRIANO – “In New York, I love the Cooper Square Hotel. We have dinner there a lot, hang out there — really, really fun. But, like hang out, hang out spots — where do we go? Oh, Bagatelle, very fabulous. I’m pretty low key, so I feel like — my couch, that’s where we go to hang out and have a party.”

At Motorola’s party for Droid phone with Verizon service:

● PATRICK HEUSINGER – “I just went to Delicatessen for the first time. I really enjoyed that. We watch Sunday and Monday football at Brother Jimmy’s on the Upper West Side. Yeah, it’s great. We’ve been going there since I was in college because I went to college here in New York, too. And then, I go to the bar, Niagara, on the Lower East Side a lot. That’s one of my haunts. I probably go there once a week. One of my best friends works there, so — it’s on 7th and Avenue A.

● JUDAH FRIEDLANDER – “I don’t drink or anything. I’m a role model for children. But I do eat. The place I really crave is called Sarajevo. It’s in Astoria — Bosnian owners. It’s basically Yugoslavian food. Awesome. That’s the place I crave more than any place. Cevapcici is the main thing. It’s kind of like ground beef and lamb on skewers, and you serve it in this fresh, homemade bread. And there’s this spread called Kajmak. It’s kind of like a sour-cream spread, except a million times better. And then you put ajvar on it, also, which is a like a tomato, red pepper, eggplant spread. And then you put raw onions on it, and you’re in heaven, baby! And you got power! And you’re ready to kick ass! It’s good stuff. The other thing they have is stuffed cabbage with tomato sauce, which they call sarma. It’s in Astoria. It’s on 34th Avenue and 38th Street. It’s so good. That’s my favorite food. I like all the ethnic, little take-out type places. Those are my favorite places.”

At launch of fashion game Style Savvy for the Nintendo DS and DSi:

● CHARLOTTE RONSON – “I love Bar Pitti on 6th Avenue. It’s nice and easy. You can sit outside when the weather is nice. You always run into someone you know. For movies, the Anjelika is nice. It’s clean. I’m drawn to movies that play there. In London, I love Holland Park, Kensington High Street — great area with lots of good shops and walking distance from my parents’ home. La Famiglia is a great restaurant.”

At launch party for Scupltz shapewear and legwear:

● ROBERT VERDI –Le Singe Vert on 7th Avenue. It means the Green Monkey. I was born in ’68, the year of the monkey. I love it. Novita, on 22nd Street, off of Park Avenue. It feels very insider; the food is fabulous. There’s a scene, but it’s not sceney. Da Silvano, because I feel like a big schmaltz when I go there ’cause I’m treated better than I really am. He’s really sweet. I’m very good friends with his wife, Marisa, who treats me like family. Since I grew up in a restaurant family, it’s a feeling I like to have when I go out to eat.

BlackBook & Basil Hayden @ Kobe Beach Club

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imageThis past Saturday, BlackBook and New York’s denizens of chic migrated to the Hamptons for a fashionable fete. Fashion expert Robert Verdi hosted Basil Hayden’s celebration of our latest issue, held at the Kobe Beach Club in East Hampton. The Hamptons provided the perfect locale for our summer soiree, with its picturesque surroundings and bevy of VIP guests and socialites (see our gallery of the evening). Imbibers, including restaurateur Jeffery Chodorow and his wife Linda, Zach Chodorow, Annabel Vartanian, Annabelle Dexter-Jones, Miguel Forbes, BlackBook editor-in-chief Ray Rogers, and author of How the Other Half Hamptons, Jasmin Rosemberg, mingled while enjoying savory hors d’oeuvres (made with Kobe beef, of course) and delectable Basil Hayden cocktails. Music provided by DJ Jesse Marco complemented the perfect summer night weather.