Dispatch: The Fall Fashion Week That Was, Volume III

February 23, 2012 | by —Jeffrey Slonim | Style & Beauty

Marc Jacobs

Day Five
Dita Von Teese sat front row at the Jenny Packham show on Monday (9 AM, Studio) and it was fab casting. “I guess I picked the two shows that were really me. This and Zac Posen were definitely clothes I wanted,” Von Teese told Dispatches. Packham did demure 1940s style, also a theme this season, with updated silhouettes, slim waists, and big shoulders. A sparkling black number with gold seemingly sprayed on the shoulders was a standout.

Donna Karan (2 PM, Chelsea) showed a sophisticated vintage turn-of-the-century female cross-dressing theme. Just when you think all of Karan’s clothes have a particular look, she flips the switch. The show was about coats cut with peplums, tall, stiff collars, and tiny masculine hats. Every element was beautifully executed. A tardy Rose McGowan and Karan’s insistence on having a Whitney Houston song close the show resulted in a slow start, though.                

Designer Betsey Johnson’s show (6 PM, Theatre) was more put together than usual. The clothes recalled Johnson as a young hipster, with big glasses and low hats. She showed punchy plaids with much color and flowery prints. When Johnson goes back to her roots—groovy and not granny—she’s a force to be reckoned with. Edie Sedgwick was her contemporary, and that came through in this collection.        

The most spectacular setting of the week was Rachel Feinstein’s Gaudí-esque castle for Marc Jacobs (8 PM) at the massive 26th Street Armory. Filing onto an undulating runway, models walked to the beat of a continuous "Who Will Buy?" loop from the musical Oliver. They wore oversize Dickensian clothes with giant scarves and hats by milliner Stephen Jones. Jacobs’ girls could have been waifs plucked from the streets of London during the Industrial Revolution—only, the most elegant waifs one could imagine. It was a gem of imagination. Jacobs made it look easy, but Feinstein told me that she had 170 workmen at her disposal to make her set happen. MoMA should put this set on display.  

  A look by Jenny Packham

Day Six
Tuesday, nearly every last editor and society pal of Tory Burch (9 AM, Alice Tully Hall) woke up early to see her elegant runway show. The catwalk was covered with a pale blue runner that would have looked at home in a Park Avenue foyer. Burch did beautiful camel-colored suits with black and lace accents. Her twist on uptown style is one that would work anywhere from Milan to Hong Kong. A blue sequined plaid skirt paired with a plaid wool jacket was a favorite.  
Joan Rivers swept into the Badgley Mischka (10 AM, Theatre) front row with a full film crew and plunked herself down next to Kelly Osbourne. (Osbourne later told me they talked Oscar dresses throughout the show.) Beyoncé’s stylist, Ty Hunter, was there and said that as many as seven gowns would work for the new mom. It is a season of sparkle, gold, shimmer, and black beading, and that is Badgley Mischka country. But the inspiration of the Badgley Mischka show was the massive teased-out hair. The big, blonde frizz made the big, bold dresses look tame by comparison. By the way, Kate and Rooney Mara have a cousin who works at Badgley Mischka.  

Backstage at Diesel Black Gold (1 PM, Pier 57), designer and founder Renzo Rosso gave me a preview of the collection. “Always sexy and modern and rock-and-roll,” he said. “We hand-painted the denim and then cracked the paint on the denim on purpose. I went by yesterday,” said Chelsea Tyler, who was wearing head-to-toe Diesel and who looks just like her dad, Steven Tyler. “I’ve always thought of Diesel as leather jackets and jeans, and then I saw the fancy dresses," chimed in Emmy Rossum.

The work of Naeem Khan (2 PM, Theatre), too, matches the sparkle of the season. Backstage, Khan talked about the dust of India and regal paisleys. But on the runway, it was big black-and-white patterns, flouncy black skirts, and beaded dresses that looked ethnic and haute. His sheer was clear; the black shimmered like liquid. One glittering silver pantsuit was heaven. Khan does beading and bold like no other. The Help’s Ahna O’Reilly was also wowed and went backstage after the show to meet the designer.

At Dennis Basso (3 PM, Stage) fluorescent furs brought smiles. The front row was peopled with tony gals, such as Joan Rivers, Star Jones, and Susan Lucci. Whether you’re for or against fur, Basso does it beautifully, and he sent out the occasional demure dress to augment. But, as if to add a pinch of drama at the end, one model in a trailing orange dress fell hard on the runway. Then she bravely walked back out a few moments later with the rest of the gals to recap the show, and the crowd cheered. But then she fell hard again near the end of the runway. Double ouch.    

Day Seven
Wednesday morning, Michael Kors (10 AM, Theatre) hosted a spectacular front row: Jessica Alba, Amber Heard, Anjelica Huston. Kors said his vision was more après ski than slope style. Kors showed big furs, roomy sweaters, buffalo check prints, and dresses with lots of sparkle.      

An hour later, Stanley Tucci was standing with Emily Blunt’s sister, Felicity, in the front row of Nanette Lepore (11 AM, Stage). Blunt had on a blinding diamond engagement ring given to her by Tucci. And she sounds exactly like Emily. “I was born first, so she definitely ripped me off," said the Brit literary agent. Kristin Chenoweth presumed that she’d likely get to keep the dress she had on, which had been altered down to her exceedingly petite size. “I mean, who is going to wear it now besides a child?” she asked. On the runway, Lepore did a stellar job of reviving psychedelic ’60s patterns that we’d never seen before but had likely dreamt of while tripping. The inspired designer did sheer with chic beaded overlays. Everything she makes appears so cool and affordable.   

  Emma Stone and Rooney Mara at Calvin Klein

Joe Jonas was perched in the front row at friend Jeremy Scott’s show (1 PM, Milk Studio). Scott did bright Bart Simpson faces on oversize sweaters; some models had on multicolor wigs. After the show, Jonas, who said he loved The Simpsons reference, was not so sure what he could wear, but he believed that Scott might design something custom. The front row, meanwhile, got Scott’s multicolor computer keyboard print on a gifted oversize handbag.     
Over at The Plaza Hotel, Marchesa (5 PM) offered up yet another fairy-tale wedding of a show. I noted cascading tulle, dreamy sprays of sequins, much shimmer, and big satiny skirts. Technically an uninvited guest, I watched from a hallway, through a window, and was still wowed beyond words. The enormous, beautiful dresses threading through the rows of gold ballroom chairs were inspirational. Each looked like a museum piece. Stacey Keibler, in red lace, told me she was Oscar shopping.  

Day Eight
Lastly, on Thursday, Francisco Costa showed his Calvin Klein women’s collection (3 PM) on West 39th Street. Rumors that Occupy Wall Street protesters were going to show up turned out to be false. Backstage, Anna Wintour popped out from behind a curtain and surprised Emma Stone, bussing her on both cheeks. Stone’s jaw literally dropped. Rooney Mara, also backstage, had black netting at her shoulders, and her hair was drawn back in a loose bun. Her black dress matched her jet-black hair.

The inspiration for the collection? “An exhibition called “Under the Big Black Sun.” “California art from 1974 to 1981. The punk spirit is really great. There is an artisan feel to it,” said Costa. The styling of the show, short black hair with bangs, was apparently a nod to Mara. “She looks utterly modern in everything she wears, because she never goes over the top with embellishment,” Mary Alice Stephenson said of Mara after the show. “She never lets it wear her.” From the loud drumbeat soundtrack to the beauties in the front row, including supermodel Lara Stone, the show contained drama and a simple elegance that continues to haunt.

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