Saturday, September 12, 2009

Day 2: It Ebbs, Flows and Sprouts Wings

A digital riptide and silk twill asymmetrical shoulder dress from the Nicole Miller Spring 2010 line. Photo courtesy of Imaxtree.

HEAD'S UP: The plan each day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is to give a roundup of the best (and worse where applicable) and most interesting Yours Truly witnesses, from shows to trends to sightings to the rather unusual/bizarre. Mind, this won’t be a comprehensive list simply because I can’t be everywhere:o( But depend on it, I’ll do my best. Drum roll, please …

"It’s a famine of beauty. It’s a famine of beauty, honey," a distressed Andre Leon Talley (Vogue editor-at-large) says to Vera Wang about the fashions on the catwalks at the Bryant Park tents in a scene from "The September Issue."

This could also be said of the fashions shown on the second day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, where also lacking in too many quarters was any real creativity. Relief, however, did come.

Day 2
The players (tents)
Cynthia Steffe, Yigal Azrouel, Twinkle by Wenlan, Charlotte Ronson, Monarchy Collection, Nicole Miller, Arise: Africa Promise Collection, Erin Wasson x RVCA, Venexiana

The players (elsewhere)
Costello Tagliapietra, R'Chipervers, Rag & Bone, Cynthia Rowley, Miguel Antoinne, Genetic Denim, Luca Luca, Leifdottir, Phillip Lim (men)

Tiffany Amber — Yours truly had to wait until almost 8 p.m., but at last I saw a show that lifted me out of doldrums brought on by the rain. Or was it the result today of seeing too many underwhelming collections. Regardless, after the Tiffany Amber show by Nigerian designer Folake Folarin-Coker, I still had that tinkling sensation that signals that something exciting has just happened. Folake-Coker, who showed as part of the Arise Promise of Africa Collective – which debuted at the tents in February – took as her guiding spirits the great Nigerian painter Kolade Oshinowo and the greatest diva of them all, Diana Ross as “Mahogany.”

She does not lose sight of her vision in a dozen stunning pieces that seamlessly mix Oshinowo’s bright and muted color tableau of blue/brown/ orange/yellow green with the silhouettes (long dresses, gowns, billowing sleeves) that reigned in the 70s. Folarim-Coker maintains their modernity with metallic weaves, abstract prints and reinterpreting touchstones like the sleeve. Here is a happy meeting of East and West. The metallic weave minidress with super-billowy bat wing sleeves and kaleidoscopic jewel piece on the waist reference the bustling scene in, say, a Nigerian marketplace, while in the larger-than-life batwing sleeve is the story of both Mahogany’s ascension toward the stars and crash toward earth. One also doesn’t have to look too hard to see an afro-wearing, revenge-seeking, gun-toting Pam (“Foxy Brown”) Grier. The shift with aquamarine Chantilly lace overlay is a pleasant little surprise, like that gleeful feeling that overcomes us when we find pieces in our closet that we’d never put together, yet when we accidentally do ... ah! Such is the case with this little affair. That’s a lot of lace to be using in such a bright color, but it is well-balanced by the muted print on the bodice. Indeed, it would be perfect for a city night or luxury resort living, as Folake-Coker imagines. And do not leave for the resort without packing the aquamarine and orange silk chiffon halter w/orange cubed-necklace. The model looks like a goddess who’s just stepped out of the Atlantic. This, you can try at home.

Cynthia Rowley — For spring 2010, the designer believes things are falling apart, and so they were in fourth quarter 2008/first quarter 2009 when she was probably sketching and sewing and generally looking for inspiration. She lets the ink stains show on some dresses, which suggest disorder but also lends them a polished tie-dyed quality. The muted prints may speak to depression but also appear to be channeling impressionism. The dresses and few skirts in low-key blues/pinks/reds/greys look rather like walking-around art. Save yourself a trip to the museum and grab the loose-fitting, dropped waist spaghetti strap dress.

Nicole Miller – I could feel terror rise up in me as I imagined being caught up in the turmoil at sea as illustrated in the aqua skyblue/grey/white/seafoam green print on shifts and skirts. It ebbs/flows/cascades/backflips/jack-knifes. Here is massive undertow. Even Michael Phelps would be in trouble. Miller’s experiment with new technology as manifested in the digital riptide print is an evocative success. Ditto for the ocean-blue tidal wave pleated short and pants. Quick, grab your surfboard.

David Tlale — South African designer's recipe for a showstopping outfit: Take one jacket in black and one pair of leather skinny pants in black. Make the jacket short and sleeveless. Bunch up the material on the shoulder of the jacket to create the look of an innertube. Next, give the jacket a standup collar and add enough fringe so that it looks like boa feathers or the feathers of a bishop bird — the kind that would adorn the headdress of a Zulu chief. Now add fringe to the pants, eh voila! … Also add fringe to the open, dropped back of a cream gown that captures the essence of Old Hollywood. And to the cowl neck of a short cream dress. And to a black skirt. And a black pleated top to make it look like “cut fringe” a la cut velvet. Wear them in good health.

Twinkle — Three words: Bouncing and behaving.

Before the start of the Nicole Miller show, the photographers are furiously snapping pictures of a contestant from "America’s Next Top Model” whom I’d met a few months ago at an audition (go-see) for a Target commercial. We chatted about her sandals, which I had admired. Nice girl.

Backstage at the Miller show (exchange between Yours Truly and Girl):
YT: Hello
Girl: You look familiar
YT: I’ll tell you exactly where we met – at a Target audition a couple of months ago. We talked about your sandals, remember?
Girl: No, I haven’t been on a Target audition.
YT: (Pause …) You haven’t (as the seeds of recognition grow)? OK, I know: You’re from Law&Order.” What’s your name?
Girl: Jill (Hennessy aka ADA Claire Kincaid). I’m so flattered (laughing) that you thought I was a model.

JH left “L&O” years ago after her character died in an accident. (That’s so Dick Wolfe.”) Another series (“Crossing Jordan”) has since come and gone. In this chapter of her life, she’s concentrating on her music – at the moment promoting a new album, “Ghost in My Head,” which she describes as folk, alternative rock. “It’s Tracy Chapman meets Sheryl Crow,” she explained.

Yours Truly is still talking to JH when this woman rolls up, interrupts and starts talking to JH. She doesn’t even look in my direction. I say, somewhat in jest, “That’s OK, don’t say anything to me. I’m only standing here.”

Immediately, she apologizes, and I am smirking. Then I realize that she, too, looks familiar. “Are you from TV,” I ask.
“Yeah, ‘American Idol',” she says, helping to sow those old chestnuts – seeds of recognition.

It’s the lovely and talented Kara Doi Guardi. She gives me to know that Paula Abdul left “Idol”; she’ wasn’t pushed. Am I surprised that she would say that? No, but I had to ask. And in the sing-off, she said “Bikini Girl” did not know that KDG would finish her number and reveal that underneath her clothes was a hot body in a bikini. (That was a catfight.)

For most of the day, I am unable to grab a computer at the sleek HauteLook Lounge ( because the rain has driven seemingly every journalist covering the shows to its penthouse suite at the Bryant Park Hotel across the way from the tents. Yesterday, the good people at the HauteLook lounge stayed open after hours so that Yours Truly could write her Day 1 coverage and make it available to you. An instant bond was created with this relaxed atmosphere — created for media covering Fashion Week — where there is an element of pampering: computers, makeup applications, the latest in scents, edifying programs/products, smoothing of ruffled feathers, daily gift giveaway, receptions AND continental breakfast, lunch and complimentary beverages (including spirits).

The Africa Collective afterparty at the Park Plaza is swinging when the bartenders run out of Champagne (Veuve Clicquot). They get more Champagne, then run out of glasses, creating a little island of pandemonium. Close your eyes. Open your ears. Imagine the scene on the trading floor of the stock exchange. That!

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