Quick, what’s your safe word? It will not be a good idea to forget it next spring, what with the veritable crimson tide of S/M-flavored garments clomping down the runways in these first days of New York Fashion Week. Rag & bone, formally associated in the public imagination with Fair Isle sweaters and mitten clips, have bound their ladies’ breasts in a buckled, halter-like contraption; at Cushnie et Ochs, the shoes are literally studded with spikes — if you don’t kill yourself falling off their vertiginous platforms, you can burst a vessel just by crossing your legs. Would the same woman who wants C et O’s fluttery, flowery frocks also favor lethal footwear? Definitely, maybe — the deep throat in the seat next to me reveals that hidden in the floral print are headless torsos.
If you are not bound and gagged like a hog ready for market next spring, you may find yourself swathed in migraine-inducing blocks of color, like a Mondrian painting come to life. The problem with these vibrant tones — at Vena Cava cerulean meets fire-engine red; at Prabal Gurung the turquoises and oranges are admittedly masterfully wrought — is that this Broadway Boogie Woogie never looks quite as good draped on the human form as it does on the wall at MoMA. Think about it — why are the 90-percent-off sale racks so often crowded with unfortunate shades of purple and persimmon, when all you really want, 90 percent of the time, is the same thing in black?
Or maybe, given the staggering temperatures that will no doubt plague us from May through October for the rest of our lives, white. A huge, soft sculpture, opalescent as a jellyfish, hung over the front of the runway at Alexander Wang, and the plethora of ivory dresses that emerge are pretty enough that you might believe someone somewhere will actually want to buy one, which can hardly be taken for granted this season. On the other hand, the show also includes a number of eighties-redux trench coats. I would urge any bright young thing considering this item to discuss it with an older trusted friend who wore it the first time around and can attest to the challenge this particular garment and its arrogant, resolute limpness inevitably poses.
What does it say about the shows thus far that the only collection that makes the blood rush to my head — and I mean this in good way — is intended for men? Maybe it was the TV monitors at the head of the catwalk showing vintage black-and-white footage of demonstrators fighting cops, but by the time Robert Geller's first faux beat-up sanguine-colored leather jacket is out the door, my somewhat dormant transgressive spirit is soaring. Why, even the washed-leather shorts, a garment that is a challenge to anyone, male or female, with a BMI greater than 12, have a sudden raffish appeal. When a tough guy comes out sporting a sweater decorated with two circle pins, like a trannie seven sister, I suddenly remember the magical power of clothes, and why you fall in love with them in the first place.
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