“We want fabulosity! We like it!” Simon Doonan exclaims from the podium at FIT’s Couture Council luncheon honoring Valentino, a plush affair dominated by the kind of Birkin-toting women Tom Wolfe once described as social X-rays, many of whom are clad today in tiny tomato-red sheaths in honor of the designer.
But there is little fabulosity in evidence when I next spot Mr. Valentino, in the otherwise celebrity-impoverished audience at DVF on Sunday afternoon. Still, what it lacks in grandeur, it makes up for with a wide range of perfectly serviceable, sometimes even faintly charming department-store clothes. At the end of the show, Von Furstenberg appears, fistfuls of little American flags in her hand, and walks the length of the runway, handing out the stars-and-stripes to various front-row luminaries, including Signor V. (This is either sweet and touching, or it is in the worst possible taste, and as of this writing, with the September 11 anniversary commemorations just behind us, I myself am not sure.)
Whatever one thinks of DVF’s catwalk, at least you can tell what color the clothes are. This is not the case, at least not for me, at Rag & Bone, where the prestige of my row-one seat is mitigated by the fact that I am not on the side of the room illuminated by a bright platform that rises dramatically from the floor, but rather in an area lit improbably by colored strobes. This gives an ensemble composed of a flyaway chartreuse coat over a bluish plastic skirt a distinctly yellowish cast, and also adds an unwelcome case of jaundice to the model’s bare legs.
At Altuzarra, the hues are thankfully quite discernible, especially the pair of neon-hued sweaters that appear, for better or worse, to be harbingers of the colorful intensity in store for spring. Happily, the designer also presents slick, stark black jackets, worn by models who sport Carine Roitfield hair, serious Liz Taylor Cleopatra brows, and exude a dirty, Juliette Greco-esque diffidence.
Some fashion pundits think we will opt to face an uncertain future in shorts, tees, and boots, but there is another school of thought that argues that we’ll want to traipse around in glittery golden garments, as if we’re starring in a remake of a thirties Depression-era Warner Brothers musical. Thakoon stakes out a firm position in this latter category, staging his show in an opulent ballroom at the Plaza and employing dazzling if borderline unwearable electric-blue, along with a surfeit of appliqué lace and a veritable mountain of gold — an unconscious desire, perhaps, to retreat to that metal, whose value continues to rise even as the rest of the indexes sink?
But even if you are not planning on donning a gilded frock, there are other paths to fabulosity. Duro Olowu, who is known for his bright mélange of prints, softens his palette this season with a group of exuberant dresses, among them a chic floral tea gown with a vintage spirit that is trimmed with printed African fabric — a garment that powerfully upends traditional notions of colonial power relations with a force that would have had Franz Fanon’s head spinning.