Fashion, but Maybe Beside the Point New York Times

New York Times
Fashion Review
Fashion, but Maybe Beside the Point
Marilyn K. Yee/The New York Times
Left, JONATHAN SAUNDERS Layered silk dress in a geometric pattern; center, MARIA
CORNEJO A halter dress with a draped front; right, CAROLINA HERRERA A ruffled silk
evening dress.
Published: September 8, 2008
Now that the runways are a medium for just about everything — celebrity, marketing,
corporations — you can never be sure of the message, if there is one at all. On
Monday, before the Carolina Herrera show, guests entering the Bryant Park tents
were offered samples of Tasti D-Lite ice cream. A moment later the socialite Tinsley
Mortimer stopped to pose in her black lace outfit. Beyond her, some women in pink
evening dresses held out trays of Evian. It was 10:15 a.m.
The self-elected group of insiders and fashionistas troops onward, hour by hour, like
Sherpas toward Everest. Ultimately tens of millions of dollars will be spent on
collections, but since only a small percentage will ever reach stores, you have to
wonder what you’re supposed to understand? Or is it just the action in the broadest
sense: the Tasti D-Lite girls, the Tinsleys, the odd twilight moments of genius you
can’t possibly explain to someone tapping rapidly on an iPod Touch?
So many designers seem strangely displaced, through no fault of their own. Miguel
Adrover, who came to New York on behalf of a German company, Hess Natur, which
produces clothes from organic materials, turned his creative energy to nine pieces of
high conceptual fashion. Maybe a museum will acquire them.
The clothes Isaac Mizrahi showed on Monday wouldn’t spark appreciation or desire
except among connoisseurs or people familiar with his history and love of drama.
There were coats and dresses that closed like a paper wrapper; neon underpinnings
that mixed couture and sport; fuzzy, caterpillar-like skirts, a ball gown with a crackled
pattern in gold. Seeing the clothes, he should have done the costumes for the new
remake of “The Women”— that is, if the film had been given an arch style.
Mrs. Herrera opened her show with a slim persimmon-red shift with transparent
shoulder, an emerging theme of Fashion Week. She effectively combined masculine
tailoring — little swing-back jackets with cigarette pants — and feminine flounces.
Tweed hems splashed with ruffles and some of the long dresses, in deep blues and
silvery black prints, had pastry ruffles — pastry, hah, for girls with the metabolism of
a squirrel. It was a smart collection, though perhaps it needed, along with the
dressiness, a more relaxed look.
Over the weekend, you could tell you were in the vicinity of a fashion show by the
higher quality of footwear. Young fashion followers love chunky stacked-heel shoes,
on wet or dry pavement, and if you wondered who went for Saint Laurent’s patent
leather platform booties — they would look adorable on Minnie Mouse if she carried a
whip — Jennifer Lopez had on a pair at Diane Von Furstenberg’s show.
Women love to exercise their fantasies, and that is why we have designers. Ms. Von
Furstenberg’s message was a simple one, as it always is, dressed up in memories of
the 1960s and Diana Vreeland, who was famous for saying things like “Bluejeans are
the most beautiful things since the gondola.”
Ms. Von Furstenberg’s many dresses looked festive indeed. There were airy chiffons
in blurry prints, a black-and-white mini-caftan flocked with butterflies, a white cotton
lace dress redolent of Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, and gypsy knitwear and such with
pareo or harem pants. There is something beautiful, or clueless, about women with
colorful flower streamers in their hair, their outfits bright and diaphanous. It is the
sort of look that is not so much optimistic as it is at a remove from discussions of bad
health care systems and the volatile stock market. For that reason, the collection
seemed as ornamental as a little gondola on a shelf.
Young designers tend to dress the women around them rather than provide direction
of their own. Alexander Wang’s collection had the moment-to-moment quality of
young urbanites who buy on Friday to wear on Saturday, and so you have the feeling
that the clothes — the bloomers and perforated leather basketball shorts, the oversize
tunic tops, the leggings — had been tweaked rather than wholly designed.
Jonathan Saunders, who is based in London, is an exception among young designers
— or, anyway, he belongs to the school that doesn’t think it hurts to properly make a
seam and actually propose something thoughtful as well as eye-catching. Last season,
he got carried away with architecture and asymmetry. His show on Sunday was a
lovely and sane reversal. It contained two relevant ideas: the small nipped-waist
jacket in a couture silk worn with a soft flaring skirt, and the vigorous palette.
Mr. Saunders has made his reputation as a colorist. The preciseness of the electric
colors — the turquoise and vermilion, the lavender and platinum edged in acid green
or red — made them appealing. And he combined this precision with sharp, almost
military tailoring, or prints that suggested shards of light exploding from a prism.
Sometimes Mr. Saunders doesn’t know when to quit; the handkerchief drapes on
skirts were a bit much. But those TV shades of blue, green and violet, blurring
together on a spare silk dress with fluttery sleeves convince us that he is a talented
Maria Cornejo didn’t reinvent the wheel on Monday — and isn’t that great? She
stayed closed to her geometric shapes, offering spiral-cut tops, curved boleros, sidedraped dresses dipped in silver, and some great-looking draped jodhpurs. An
accomplished designer, Ms. Cornejo seems to flee from the idea of fashion. Or maybe
she just knows where to draw the line between too much and not enough, as she did
with a lovely violet summer dress that was a blend of feminine halter and masculine
Riding uptown, I looked out the window of the cab and saw, passing slowly through
Union Square, a young man with a mohawk on a skateboard. He was pushing himself
along with a long pole, like a gondolier. I swear.
Elizabeth Lippman for The New York Times
DIANE VON FURSTENBERG Printed pants with layered knits.
Evan Sung for The New York Times
ALEXANDER WANG Sweatshirt mini over leather shorts.
Rahav Segev for The New York Times
ISAAC MIZRAHI A graphic coatdress over bike shorts.
Stephanie Colgan for The New York Times
MIGUEL ADROVER A vest of twisted fiber coils.