Decorating the back wall of the vast empty space where Donna Karan holds her DKNY show on Sunday — like so many fashion venues, it’s practically in the Hudson River — are giant neon letters spelling out SOMETHING NEW YORK in orange and pink. This looks pretty, but actually says nothing — which makes it, alas, a fitting appellation for Fashion Week, at least thus far.
One can’t help but wonder, watching DKNY’s plethora of middle-brow clothing — color-block coats, fuzzy angora pullovers — whether the intended demographic, an audience of college students with their parents’ credit cards and young women spending their first paychecks, is not better served by the emergence of wonderful low-end venues like Zara, Urban Outfitter, even H&M — where the clothes cost a third, or less, of what DKNY will set you back, and where the turnover is so fast and the copying so brazen there’s no need of a fashion show, ever.
Then again, some things can’t be faked — and isn’t that what the few of us who are still crazy enough to shell out big bucks for clothes are searching for high and low? At Preen, a series of cashmere sweaters printed with flowers and tumbling blocks would prove a real challenge to a forger, employing as they do appliqué, embroidery, and intarsia, all to great effect, especially paired with mid-calf pencil skirts that in this incarnation finally dispel even the faintest whiff of dowdy-librarian.
Diane Von Furstenberg’s runway is decorated with skinny mirrored columns that unfortunately do not turn out to be stripper poles, though Valentine’s Day is imminent and some steamy fun would brighten our flagging spirits. Instead, we get gauchos — well, gaucho hats; a few pairs of gaucho pants; jackets sporting enough fringe to choke Ralph Lauren — along with a satisfying helping of those wrap dresses in a palette that, like the old joke, is black and white and red all over. (You know, like that bulky bundle your parents used to have delivered every morning before you — and they — started to get their news other ways.)
After trooping to fashion events in buildings that fairly shriek fire code violation! it’s refreshing to attend the Thakoon show at the Plaza (though I am happy I don’t have to pick up the tab for the drinks I share with a few friends at the bar before the show begins). We sit on proper gold chairs, not bleachers or benches, in a humongous ballroom dripping with gilt-encrusted mirrors, an atmosphere to rival Stella McCartney’s shows at the Paris Opera House. But if the setting is luxe, Thakoon’s charmingly unpretentious, democratic offerings — quilted lumberjack coats with tight-waisted and flared skirts over dresses over leggings — counter any lingering affection for Marie Antoinettish privilege. “It’s the most flawless of his collections,” whispers Ikram Goldman, the renowned Chicago shop owner sitting next to me, her trademark diamante headband glittering under the chandeliers and turning her into a retail fairy princess.
Pop quiz! Who do you think is older, Barbra or Mick? Immediately after Thakoon takes his bow, I am on the N train heading home to watch the Grammys, where I see looks every bit as exciting as anything you’ll ever observe on a runway — not just Jagger’s black velvet cloak and Babs’s claret gown (admit it, kids, she looks great); not only Gaga’s already overanalyzed egg-and-latex outfit — but those shimmering gowns the Muppets are sporting as they trill backup for Cee Lo. Who says puppets can’t rock sequins?