“Is your card green?” asks the chic usher at the Erin Wasson x RVCA show. “Then just take any spot on a rug!” It’s the first day of Fashion Week, and for some reason Wasson has decided to present her collection at ABC Carpet & Home. So we perch atop Persians with $14,399 price tags, heedless that our dirty snow boots and sloshing flutes of tepid champagne are endangering these precious tapestries, and watch as an array of cream-colored après-ski-ish clothes, accompanied by Amelia Earhart caps (the movie may have bombed but the cloche has struck a chord) weave through piles of floor coverings.
The next afternoon, in a vast space once known as the Tunnel, which in its prime saw far wackier ensembles than anyone has put on a runway thus far, Jason Wu offers everything from a polka-dotted balloon dress for which I suspect I am the sole prospective customer to bumptious plaid coats over sparkly skirts, for girls who get sloppy and leave the coatroom with the wrong cloak. But at least Wu’s chesterfield, if no beauty, will keep you warm as you wait for the increasingly sporadic subway. The same cannot be said for the bare frocks at Preen, dresses that mock the notion that these are supposed to be “fall/winter” collections. From the back, their design recalls the fastening straps of brassieres and brings to mind those magazine advertisements that older readers will remember showed an addle-brained female who dreamed she was a toreador or a nuclear physicist or perhaps a runway model in her Maidenform bra.
Rag & bone suggests you bury your underwear deep beneath layers of tweedy ponchos, Fair Isle pullovers, and other wooly creations, perfect for that igloo the family of Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) built in snow-laden Washington and labeled “Al Gore's New Home.” (Who knew global-warming deniers were such wags?) Instead of jewelry, the rag & bone guys hang mittens on dangling cords that swing from the models’ shoulders.
Alexander Wang has something even odder in mind than elongated mitten clips: He thinks a long swath of chiffon should hang out of your backpack. This proposition, uncomfortably suggestive of Isadora Duncan, whose trailing foulard caught in the spokes of her Bugatti and cost her her life, is joined by pinstriped garments in funny lengths (maxi in front; knee-length in back); pleated minis worthy of Patti Boyd in A Hard Day's Night; and crocheted tops that the models, poor things, have to display over their bare bosoms. (Suggestion: Send out at least one person with something under this thing — because you know, like, how we are supposed to know how to wear it?)
Is Stockholm Syndrome setting in already? My initial queasiness at all the ersatz monkey fur flying on the runways, which is in reality goat (if you are wondering, it is thick, black, flat, and shiny, as if it has undergone a Keratin treatment) turns from queasiness when I see it at Doo.Ri (do we really want to bring back the days when people wore clothes made from apes?) to guarded enthusiasm at Joseph Altuzarra, where it lends a raffish charm to coats so sexy they might have been ripped from the pages of Histoire d’O. (Quite a change from his last collection, which seemed inspired by another literary classic, Little House on the Prairie.)
At any rate, the billy goat is frisky, which is especially welcome in view of the mournful mood pervading this particular Fashion Week. I can’t help but notice the skull-patterned sweaters and scarves cropping up in show audiences on Friday — some clearly authentic McQueens, some from Rugby, and other mass manufacturers. We can only hope that even a tiny bit of the master’s spirit, his wild insouciance, his fearlessness will imbue New York runways in the days to come.