Dispatch: The Fall Fashion Week That Was, Volume I

February 22, 2012 | by —Jeffrey Slonim | Style & Beauty

Debbie Phelps and son Michael Phelps at Heart Truth  

Dispatches feels a bit weak after eight straight days of hourly fashion shows, but will now wend back through my notebooks, penned in dark, tented rooms with throbbing music, to recall a few fun moments.  

Heart Truth
Fashion Week began with The Heart Truth Red Dress Collection on Wednesday (February 8) evening at The Hammerstein Ballroom.

“He’s a great son,” Debbie Phelps, told Dispatches backstage before the show. Later, her son, six-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps, stepped up to smooch her as she strutted down the runway. Also backstage were Rebecca Romijn and Aisha Tyler, who practiced her walk with none other than Miss J. Alexander. And I ran into Patti Stanger, Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker, who told me that she had lost 30 pounds by sprinkling some magic powder on her food.  The ladies wore red dresses by all different designers to raise awareness for women’s heart disease. Chaka Khan and Christie Brinkley stole the show. She’s fabulous,” said Tyler of Khan. "We exchanged numbers backstage.”

Day One
Thursday morning began with BCBG Max Azria (10 AM) at the Theatre at Lincoln Center. I had always assumed Azria’s high caliber front row guests to be a result of big bucks spent on advertising. But a friend mentioned that she comes to BCBG because it runs like a playbook for the season’s trends. Color-blocking appears to be big for fall. Max and his designing wife, Lubov, showed tan leather, and maroon (another trend this season). Mixing patterns is also apparently a thing. Key word for this collection: wearable.

At Richard Chai Love (11 AM, Stage) Dispatches noted the multitude of stripes, which later emerged as an overall fall trend, worn by models walking out from behind a stark white backdrop. And Chai did big cargo-style pockets sewed onto the outside of his coats—big gray pockets on one blue coat. Military, not war, is the trend. There were maroon moments here as well.

  Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra

I had never met Tadashi Shoji before his show (2 PM, Stage), but The Help’s Octavia Spencer certainly has—she wore a gown by Shoji at this year’s Golden Globes. Backstage, I was introduced to the designer, who noted that dressing Spencer was easy, because she has inner beauty. True. He also told me about his inspiration for the collection: Shanghai in the 1920s. Indeed, Shoji showed a jewel green gown paired with long gold earrings and a sparkling four-tiered gold dress. And I saw a classic Mainbocher silhouette in one red velvet dress that was set off by shimmering black sparkle. Heaven.
Susan Sarandon and Padma Lakshmi did lunch before taking their places in the front row at Costello Tagliapietra (3 PM, Milk Studios). Tagliapietra often gifts front row guests with an over-the-shoulder bag made from the season’s most prominent print. The show was strong, and Sarandon told me she was pleased that she caught it. I loved the hilarity of the designers, both bearded, burly and lumberjack-esque, taking a bow at the end of their arty, light downtown show.   

That evening (7 PM) Cynthia Rowley showed at the Frank Gehry-designed IAC building, which was made popular as a Fashion Week venue by Prabal Gurung, who also showed at IAC this season. Television screens spanned the long wall facing the bleachers in the lobby of the building, providing a cubist slant to the already spectacular setting. Cynthia showed a fun fingerprint pattern that the TV screens called up in black and white, which made the show look incredibly futuristic and glam. There was an unfinished elegance to her leatherwork. Rowley has hit her stride. She represents that rare, cool girl—who is actually cool.       


Day Two
On Friday, Ali Hilfiger and Nary Manivong’s NAHM line, showed at Milk Studios (11 AM). Affirming their distinct point of view, the designers used a hip vintage print, from Hilfiger's personal fabric archive, of Egyptian gods mixing cocktails. A big vintage floral print covered the wall that served as the backdrop for the show. Hilfiger sobbed as friends came up to congratulate her. Happy tears.

Jason Wu showed in a behemoth industrial space on the West Side Highway (1 PM). From behind a giant red velvet door, models emerged showing looks with a vintage Shanghai feel. Wu presented imperial-style Asian fabrics cut in a sleek modern way, with red piping; fur sleeves; and black beading with a kind of poured, sparkly glamour. And he employed Philip Glass-like repetitive choral music that gave the show, in this long, dark space, with laser-red lighting, even more drama. At show’s close, models filed out through a plume of smoke. Front row guests included Shailene Woodley, of The Descendants, who wore a Wu sweater and introduced herself to Elettra Wiedemann and Alexa Chung. "Hey, I'm Shai,” she said. She's only, like, 20.  

Like lace? At Rebecca Taylor (2 PM, Stage) I noted diaphanous fabrics and strategically placed lace panels paired with dark leather, as well as sparkling overlays, and a gray leopard print that had a genius fading effect. Taylor’s hip art school aesthete seemed to be what many designers strived for this season—but it remains Taylor’s home court.

Theophilus London opened at Rebecca Minkoff (3 PM, Theatre) with a rap show that continued to riff as models worked the catwalk. Minkoff showed python prints, lots of leather, fur sleeves, and a dress with a possibly unintentional soccer ball-shaped print that would make a fab footballer's wife frock. And Minkoff’s signature bags came dressed in fur for fall.   
In the evening, designer Simon Spurr gave an assist to Tommy Hilfiger (5 PM) with his men’s collection, shown at the 69th Street Armory. For both his fall men’s and women’s shows, Hilfiger re-imagined the interior of the Armory as Bryant Park, with a great brick wall opening the shows. He wanted a military school vibe. In the front row, Bradley Cooper sat with Giants player Victor Cruz. Cooper wore a plaid tweed coat and a fresh crop of scruff on his face. The floor of the armory had been covered with crushed gray rock, and Kellan Lutz sat at the table next to Cooper and Cruz. Again, maroon was a big color this season, and it went well with the leather miltary jackets with zip-off sleeves. Cruz mentioned that he and Cooper were loving the long coats.   

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