Pop quiz! We’re more than halfway through Fashion Week; it’s time to see who’s been paying attention! Question one: Which of the following does Marc Jacobs reference in his show Monday night: Missoni chevron knits, Chanel quilted purses, one-shouldered satiny Lanvin dresses; Yves Saint Laurent billowy cotton peasant blouses; frizzy-haired, wide-eyed, big-hatted damsels in floppy pants and halter tops straight out of Biba? Answer: all of the above. Jacobs has always borrowed and cribbed and outright pillaged from collections of the past, his saving grace being that unlike other designers who disavow their thievery, when MJ’s fingers are pried from the sartorial cookie jar, he cheerfully acknowledges his larceny.
The models emerge from slots in a vast contraption in the center of a circular runway that I think looks like a golden spaceship but the guy next to me makes a better suggestion — he says it’s supposed to be the top of a perfume bottle, and since a lot of fashion companies’ profits gush from this source, that seems more likely. (In fact, a bottle of Jacobs’s latest fragrance, Bang, and a T-shirt with a pic of the designer naked with a flacon obscuring his crotch, grace each seat.) In any case, no one can deny that Jacobs throws a lot of ideas at the wall and no doubt some of them will stick, which means that six months from now you may find yourself wanting a pair of rose-gold metallic hot pants and some see-through purple hostess pants. Or maybe not.
Okay, question two! What exactly matches the color of the crumpled clothes on the runway at Donna Karan? Answer: the models’ faces! In all but two cases (one black woman, and one Asian) the visages are as pallid as the garments, which range from butterscotch to buttermilk to buttercream, without a lot of stops in between. Some of the dresses are reminiscent of those rayon Ghost clothes you loved in the nineties, and others recall the tea gowns your antecedents, assuming they were more prosperous than mine, might have worn to some swanky affair in the thirties. The good news is that these limp summery affairs, so prevalent here and elsewhere this season, are easy to knock off — and if it’s okay for Jacobs to do it, why not Zara?
Last question! Ready? Which designer, whose obsession with what makes women look “sexy” plagued us all through the nineties, has returned to womenswear and decided to show his clothes in a bizarrely retrograde manner? You got it — Tom Ford! His semi-secret presentation — it isn’t on any fashion calendar or schedule — revives a tradition that disappeared a half-century ago: All photography is forbidden. While the whole rest of the fashion world is barreling in the other direction — giving access to shows to everyone instantly on the Internet — Ford purportedly studs his runway with super-huge names — Beyonc—! Lou Doillon! Julianne Moore! Daphne Guinness! — and dresses them in the kind of tight, repressive, deeply uncomfortable, objectifying ensembles he was notorious for in his heyday at Gucci. But without pictures, who can say exactly what these garments look like? Hey, Tom! We are your customers! Why wouldn’t you want to invite us to the party?