What the Critics Said About New York Fashion Week, and What They Really Meant

You know what it's like when you're at dinner with a bunch of people who work together and they start talking about that "report" or that "weird new girl" and you have no idea what they're talking about? In fact, they may as well be speaking another language? Well, fashion critics are the same way. Their reviews come out in a special breed of flowery, pretentious prose that — though fun to read because only they could come up with it — makes very little sense to fashion outsiders.

So we've selected some of our favorite New York Fashion Week excerpts from our favorite critics and translated them into language we hope you understand.

Cathy Horyn on Narciso Rodriguez:

Design is a long process for people of Mr. Rodriguez’s age and experience, and to an extent this collection expressed the dangers of that inanely hopeful phrase “staying true to oneself.” He seemed locked in a tug of war between creating shapes that reflected his tailoring and sexy, minimalist aesthetic and his desire to challenge himself with other proportions and moods. The upshot was a collection that felt imaginatively constrained — not isolated exactly, but not as expansive as it should be for a designer of his stature.

What it means: Rodriguez, who is 47 years old and has manned his own label since 1998, needs to step further outside his comfort zone. Otherwise, he's in danger of boring us. Please, Narciso, do something new!


Eric Wilson
on Rag & Bone:

This collection, playing off military dress uniforms remade in immoderate fabrics, proved that Mr. Neville and Mr. Wainwright have the ability to make some seriously daffy ideas in men’s wear look commercially sane. Several models wore rings or necklaces made of what appeared to be gold-plated barbed wire, and their formal suits, in royal blue or gray (the Civil War in cashmere?) were shown with pants that were described as jodhpurs. This was evidently a reference to a slight elongation of the fly and a stylist’s trick of cinching the legs around the models’ ankles with bands of fabric — fairly safe stuff, even for the Citadel.

What it means: If the designers of Rag & Bone verbally described their menswear collection to you, you'd think they were crazy. But the finished pieces were super-wearable and even that proved cashmere can be military chic.


Robin Givhan
on Marc Jacobs:

The juxtaposition of such sober clothes with the grunge rock of Sonic Youth provided a metaphor of sorts for the struggle to blend Jacobs's rebellious past with the present, for how a slacker fits into corporate life. Dissertation topic: How does the fall 2008 Marc Jacobs show represent the shift in popular culture and the corporate structure to reflect a post-boomer world?

What it means: Just so you know, Jacobs's "rebellious past" includes family problems, drug and alcohol abuse, and rehab. But his fall '08 collection was the opposite of punk — certainly not what we'd expect Sonic Youth fans to wear. Yet Sonic Youth still played the background music live for the show, making it … a fascinating cultural statement!

Suzy Menkes on Donna Karan:

It's all about illusion," said Karan to describe the layers of semi-sheer, gauzy fabrics. She then threw out "decadent" and "naughty" to encompass the languorous, iridescent silks and velvets with a hint of Art Nouveau in their saffron and ruby colors. Where a hefty rag-rug coat fitted into the scenario was un-clear. But Karan's "soft wear" looked fresh.

What it means: Many of Karan's pieces were naughty because they were see-through. The yellows and reds Karan used are not uncommon in Art Nouveau floral patterns (the movement was all about curvy, swirly designs and floral-inspired motifs). The giant shaggy, multicolored carpet explosion of a coat made no sense, but we would nonetheless totally love to be those crazy ladies who walk around Soho wearing stuff like that.

Hilary Alexander on Sue Stemp:

Stemp is an accomplished mistress of 3-D surface texture, incorporating pleated, dyeing, ruffles and rosettes on top of the silk-screened prints which have already been re-embroidered for added touch-and-feel effect on the pretty, girly dresses with an urban edge.

What it means: Sue Stemp layers her fabrics like this: She adds ink patterns with silk screens, embroiders that, then pleats and/or dies the fabric and adds ruffles and rosettes. It sounds busy but makes for some damn cute dresses.