“I lost my job — they replaced me with a twitter blogger,” a guy in the elevator at Milk Studios is saying on the first day of New York Fashion Week. No, it isn’t Hosni Mubarak — he’s holed up in Sharm El Sheikh, not on his way to the Vena Cava show. There, a gift bag containing condoms in different colors will greet front row guests (the rest of the audience can just practice unsafe sex, I guess) as will a runway with the kind of floppy high-waisted pants and glitter-heavy eyelids and berets — sort of Bonny & Clyde meets the New York Dolls — that was promulgated for better or worse by Marc Jacobs last September.
Stuck in traffic with other fashion types on the way to the Rag & Bone show, we play a game that might be called What-Will- Marc-Show-on-Monday? Boardwalk Empire flappers, one rider suggests. Nineties grunge, postulates another. Because whatever you can say about the New York shows — they’re dull as dishwater; they’re all about a dollar bill — they did produce Marc, decades ago, and maybe one of these younger designers, these unknown names that crowd the calendar every six months, will provide a similar dose of Jacobin magic?
To this end, on Saturday afternoon we file into Mandy Coon’s presentation in a space at Lincoln Center so poorly laid out that even I, pushy and obnoxious, cannot hustle my way to a decent viewing spot. So I am reporting on what I am able to see from the models’ waists up, and happily this includes inspired black leather frocks with giant leather bows and furry Goth capes. What I don’t observe is even one purse in the shape of a rabbit, the item that is responsible for whatever slender renown Coon currently possesses. I can understand her desire to move on, but Mandy! Listen up! Has Louis Vuitton altered its formula in 150 years? If I stumbled on a potential gold mine like this I would reproduce it like — if you will pardon the expression — rabbits — in burlap, in ostrich, in organdy, in Ultrasuede, in tin foil. I wouldn’t rest until everyone in America had a hare on his or her arm. Just saying.
With or without a bunny bag, who wouldn’t want to go about her business clad in one of Joseph Altuzarra’s fur-trimmed army-green parkas hanging open over a Jean Harlow-esque bias cut gown? Altuzarra’s show brims with such authority and confidence that it’s easy to be lulled into thinking that this slapdash elegance is easy to pull off. (Try it at home with your own oversized jacket and long dress. and be rapidly disabused of this notion.)
Someday soon Altuzarra may well have a store as imposing as the one the incredibly popular Alexander Wang is opening this week in the former Yohji Yamamoto boutique on Grand Street. If Wang’s catwalk is any indication, the shop will be stocked with ponchos that have long, odd back panels; pea coats with silver quilted patches; reefers with gashes up the front that open to reveal what looks like chartreuse parachute nylon; and ankle-length satin skirts whose unhinged panels are commonly referred to as “carwash” pleats.
Wang’s more outré efforts have always left me, if not completely cold, at least a little confused. (Then again, I have never really understood the wild excitement that attends Balenciaga either.) Still, I can appreciate his biker jackets, his pants with all those zips, his shiny scarlet stilettos, as readily as the next weary woman who squeezed into the third row of the bleachers.
And who knows? Such are the vagaries of fashion, and history, and life, that by this time next year, there could be vast democratic movements in Yemen, in Algeria, in Libya, even in Iran, and I may be waltzing around town in a Chesterfield with chartreuse slits, my ankles struggling beneath a cavalcade of car-wash flaps.