Among the designers showing at Fashion Week were the latest contestants from Project Runway, all ready to strut their stuff to keep secret that not all of them were finalists.
Is it my imagination, or does this season have the most unappetizing cast ever? They seem to have especially turned against the show’s oldest competitor, Bert Keeter, age 57, with a truly survival-of-the-fittest, metaphorical teeth-baring action. In particular, the bullying Josh has dug his claws into poor Bert on several occasions. True, Bert mumbles under his breath, curses, and is a bit grumpy, but I have news for you, Josh: at his age you can get away with acting in such a way because you’ve earned your right to be a curmudgeon. Being a whiny bully when you’re young simply makes you a jerk.
The judges are just as guilty of age discrimination. They crow over designs that are “youthful,” “fresh,” and “modern,” and rip apart anything resembling something one’s “grandmother might wear,” that you could wear to play “bingo” or visit the “old folks’ home” in, or that simply make the model look older.
Now, I’m no fan of mutton dressed as lamb, but I’ve found older women have a fun and flair for fashion that blows the youngsters out of the pond. That’s because women d’un certain age tend to dress for themselves, not for men, employers, the public, or other women. Witness this photo I took of two gals at recent vintage clothing fair.
For more proof, visit Advanced Style, Ari Seth Cohen’s awesome blog that style just gets better with a few more years under your belt.
We all remember where we were on September 11, 2001. And most likely, we have bittersweet remembrances of the day before, the last day of innocence and serenity before everything came crashing down.
On September 10, 2001, I had the opportunity to attend a runway show at Bryant Park’s Fashion Week. I’d been covering apparel for trade publications at the time and had somehow snagged an invite to a lingerie show presented by the Intimate Apparel Council.
Truth be told, I don’t remember much about the lingerie. The day was more about the overall experience of Fashion Week at Bryant Park: getting into the tent, being told that people were trying to sneak under the tent and into the runway shows, which must have been next to impossible with security checking our IDs every five feet, then being herded with the other not-too-important attendees behind a velvet rope so the beau monde could be seated first. Not that this bothered me in the least, as all I could think was, Wow, I’m stuck in this herd of annoyed people at Fashion Week because I’m a nobody. Cool!
After the show I walked out to a perfect, sunny, and relatively quiet late-summer September Sunday in Manhattan. Not wanting to go home, I strolled under the azure sky and met my sister for a late lunch al fresco.
And one day ended and the next began. There’s no use in describing my experience of 9/11, as it wasn’t much different from that of other New Yorkers. Throughout the day, I felt a sense of disbelief: how could this be happening when yesterday was such a perfect mixture of excitement, adventure, and well-being?
The two days seem like the two faces of a coin, attached but on opposite ends of each other, and remain forever linked in my mind.
Those who can’t make it to Fashion Week are no doubt glued to the computer or TV to catch the coverage. Not so style-conscious bookworms, who’d prefer to peruse some fashion tomes instead.
I’ve had the privilege to work on a few of my favorites. Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making It Work, is not just about apparel; it’s also a memoir of Tim’s childhood as a bullied outcast, a dish on well-known fashion divas’ outrageous antics, an insider’s view of Project Runway and a jibe at our society’s descent into narcissism and loutish behavior. But perhaps there’s hope if so many of us can appreciate and embrace such an intelligent, kindhearted, and genteel person as Tim.
I had the pleasure of seeing Tim (or perhaps I should say Mr. Gunn) at the 92nd Street Y for “An Evening with Tim Gunn” and meeting him afterward as he graciously autographed copies of his book.*
I don’t like using the term “ROFL,” but I found it difficult to focus on Simon Doonan’s books for doing just that. Eccentric Glamour: Creating an Insanely More Fabulous You has a wonderful bit where he explains his technique of “talking through the hamster,” and Nasty: My Family and Other Glamorous Varmints is one of the most amusing, heartwarming, and just flat out best memoirs I’ve ever read.
Dreaming of Dior: Every Dress Tells a Story, by Charlotte Smith, is an enchanting treasure trove featuring some of the over three hundred outfits bequeathed to Charlotte by her godmother. The lovely illustrations by Grant Cowan are accompanied by text about the previous owner and the adventures, soirees, and such that woman and outfit experienced. I am now awaiting the sequel, Dreaming of Chanel.
For a deeper look at apparel’s role in history both fashionable and personal, check out It’s All About the Dress: What I Learned in 40 Years About Men, Women, Sex, and Fashion by Vicky Tiel; Ilene Beckerman’s Love, Loss and What I Wore, which also happens to now be an off-Broadway show written by Delia and Nora Ephron; The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter by Linda Grant; I Want Those Shoes! by Paola Jacobbi; and Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel photographed by Eric Boman.
*Addendum: Kudos to Tim for giving his coauthor Ada Calhoun credit on the book cover and in the acknowledgments. Honestly, guys, in this day and age everyone knows that experts and so-called authors often work with writers and your readers won’t think any the less of you for doing so.
We are on the verge of a huge literary leap: the transition from printed bound book to e-book. No, the printed book, aka the codex, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But as the New York Times reports, e-book sales are up 160 percent. Book sales are down 9 percent.
We think of Gutenberg’s printing press as revolutionizing reading. And so it did, but as Lev Grossman writes in the Times’ book review, we need to contemplate how the change from scroll to page-turner, and now from book to e-book will impact the way we read, sending us from the previous nonlinear method back to linear. It’s not for nothing that we refer to e-readers as “tablets” we “scroll” through.
His thought-provoking piece reminded me of this wonderful bit of Norwegian comedy in which a medieval monk calls upon tech support to help him navigate the complex codex.
Tonight marks the third annual Fashion’s Night Out. It’s an evening of fashion fun and frolicking that takes place across New York from the meatpacking district to the upper East and West Sides (as well as Milan, Atlanta, and the wilds of Williamsburg).
Fashion’s Night Out vs. Savage Beauty
Of course, there’s no way this event will dethrone the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibit at the Met’s Costume Institute as the hipster happening of the season. Some say McQueen is a genius; others that he’s sick, citing his penchant for covering the models’ mouths or entire faces with fabric, chain mail, or other bits of hardware and forcing them to hobble down the runway in sadistic-looking footwear. As one attendee summed up the exhibit: “Nightmare clothes and nightmare presentation. The exhibit space was so crowded I couldn’t run out of it as I wanted to. If that was what was going on in his head, no wonder he killed himself.”
Yes, plenty of his designs are disturbing. But others are enchanting, exquisite, charming, and beautifully constructed and tailored.
Creativity vs. social CRM
The New York Times laments that when the McQueen exhibit “finally closed in August, a curtain quietly came down on contemporary fashion’s great decade of experiment and expansion,” and that Fashion Week and Fashion’s Night Out are more about appealing to the “Maxxinistas” rather than pushing the creative envelope. But the masses aren’t even bargain hunting at FNO. Mashable reports that Simon Doonan says sales in 2009 were disappointing. The event may be less about pushing product and more about building brand awareness and loyalty and creating a “strategic marketing initiative” by engaging customers via mobile apps and social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr et al.
I’m not quite ready to mourn the demise of couture. My takeaway from the McQueen exhibit was that he was a master of marketing more so than even the usual top designers. It’s highly unlikely anyone bought a dress with sleeves that wrapped around your torso like a straightjacket or a skirt made out of wood. But by grabbing our attention by creating groundbreaking runway shows and scandalous garb, he had customers lined up to buy the understated, less ridiculous, but quite lovely gowns to wear to red-carpet parties so they could say they were wearing a McQueen.
Here’s to creativity, in whatever form it takes.