Suzy Menkes: ‘American Fashion Seems Oblivious to Anything Happening Beyond the Runway and the Minor Front-Row Celebrities’

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Spring 2011 looks by Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, and Alexander Wang. Photo: Imaxtree

Have the clothes merely become an aside to New York Fashion Week? After all, the spring 2011 season, which closed here Thursday, boasted a new venue (Lincoln Center), a new old venue (Milk Studios), celebrities who either appear regularly or have appeared on the CW or the Twilight movie series (Jessica Szohr, Julia Jones), and the usual cramped schedule of a few established designers mixed with dozens of younger unknown labels trying to get attention any which way they can. The result, for industry folk and critics covering the shows, is battling one giant clusterfuck after the other, caused largely in part by photographers who take pictures of anyone any of their colleagues seem to care about at shows, even if they don't know who the purported celebrities are. If you're pretty and well-groomed, and in heels, chances are you'll be stopped by — and indulge in — a barrage of flashbulbs. Going backstage to talk to designers becomes — and surely for some people more than others — an exercise in waiting for someone to find a person important enough to pay attention to. Naturally, veteran fashion journalists are growing weary of it, most of all because, well, what about the entire point of this whole thing in the first place: the clothes?

Suzy Menkes writes:


American fashion seems oblivious to anything happening beyond the runway and the minor front-row celebrities stirring up a paparazzi storm.

... With a calendar so crowded that often a time slot was triple booked, and with attention divided between the new Lincoln Center venue and Milk Studios, the home of younger talent, there is now no room in New York’s schedule for oddball creativity.

So designers just did their thing.

... But wherever the inspiration came from, like so much in the New York season, the collection did not seem to have any urgent statement to make — just a bunch of nice clothes to wear.

She might be slightly off — Alexander Wang seemed to have a pretty urgent statement to make with his over-the-top carnival-themed after-party. Although the statement was probably something along the lines of "No skirt is too short for a bouncy castle or carousel," or perhaps "Serving pulled pork is cool even if only five people eat it" — but again, maybe that's nothing unexpected.

American Style Is No Tea Party [NYT]