Friday, September 7, 2012

MBFW Day 1: Quiet, Then All Hell Breaks Loose

Models on the runway toward the end of the Ozwald Boateng show. Photo from Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Website.

HEAD’S UP: Continuing the approach we adopted commencing with the Fall 2012 edition of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week New York, VEVLYN'S PEN will put emphasis on the truly inspirational on the runway, rather than a sort of “best of the lot, even if it’s not that good.” Why the change? Simply put, we have grown weary of watching far too many collections that lack imagination because too much attention has been paid to the bottomline. If nothing inspires, we will tell you so and tell you why. We still endeavor, however, to provide a roundup of the best, worst and most interesting Yours Truly (and others) witnesses, from trends to sightings to the rather unusual/bizarre.

Day 1
(SOME of the players at the tents and elsewhere): Nicholas K, BCBGMaxAzria, Kaelen, Richard Chai, Siki Im, Chadwick Bell, Tadashi Shoji, Monika Chiang, Duckie Brown, Arise Magazine Presents: African Icons, Supima, The Art Institute of New York City, Katie Gallagher, Honor, Costello Tagliapietra, Kimberly Ovitz, Jenni Kayne, Steven Alan, Veronica Beard, Creatures of the Wind, Lisa Perry, Erin Fetherston

was around siesta time when the joint at the first day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week was shaken out of its slumber. The ruckus was caused by the man himself – or rather his presentation – Ozwald Boateng.

BEST SPECTACLE and BEST PRESENTATION – Showing for the first time at New York and under the rubric of Arise Magazine Presents: African Icons, OB injected a motherlode of energy into what heretofore had been a rather tame affair. That applies not only to the day, but also to others showing under the Arise umbrella.

Rather than send the models out one by one, the Ghanian jettisoned them in a group that stood abreast of each other. This was a force and it may have had arms underneath some of those snazzy suit jackets. The force would not be moved; it stood at the mouth of the runway stoically looking straight ahead, daring anyone who dared. It was a formidable sight.

When the force deigned to move itself, each individual member made his way down the runway, oozing out of every pore in his finely honed body virility and self-possession. His presence is so huge that this kind of man – dressed as he is, radiating the type of energy  he is – sucks all of the air out of the room. This is a man with the plan and he is dressed to kill or whatever else you got.

In a word, the show was a spectacle – and that’s a good thing. “That’s how they do it in London,” one wag exclaimed of the city where OB resides. Alas, there is not yet any video. Inexplicably, none appears on the MBFW Web site either. Is this a total diss?

When you on occasion combine blindingly bright West African prints and by-the-book Savile Row tailoring, producing garments that are – hot dog! – out of sight, by golly, put on a spectacle. And yes, end it with a sergeant type inspecting the troops, for they will pass muster because you have ruthlessly and effortless applied the training you received in style bootcamp.

IT’S ALL COPASETIC – Elsewhere around Day 1, opener Nicholas K was totally chill. The aviator-framed eyeglasses and cloche-shaped beanie worn by some of the female models could cause one to wonder whether designer Nicholas Kunz had air travel on her mind. Of course, it could be the way the anoraks and other jackets, as well as some of the dresses are held aloft behind the models making their way insouciantly down the runway. Whatever it was, it was easy on the eye and wearer-friendly. While NK doesn’t go for the razzmatazz of an OB, she makes an impression in a lowkey way. The Spring-Summer 13 collection is laidback, heavy on layers as it the norm at Nicholas K. (See video above). Nothing wows, but that series of silks/satins in burnt/orange for women provides a nice visual among the other more subdued colors and fabrics. Ditto for the trio of seafoam green (Nicholas K calls it soy) ensembles toward the end.

A look from The Art Institute of New York City show that very few likely saw. Photo by Fernanda Calfat for Getty Images

TRIED&TRUE AND S&M – Meanwhile, BCBGMaxAzria is successful because the husband-wife team of Max and Lubov Azria puts a premium on quality materials. Often that makes all the difference, especially if one is not stoked on innovation and doesn't possess mad sewing skills. SS13 takes inspiration from femme fatale muses and the b&w photography of Helmut Newton. Bands, belts and straps lend to the proceedings an S&M quality. After a while they also prove rather monotonous; just about every look is trussed thusly. The vision is best captured by the black lace dress with little embellishment from bands and such. A series of dresses bearing prints that are reminiscent of grandma’s quilt are quite fetching. Perhaps, they represent the femme fatale before so heartlessly her bloom of innocence was plucked. (See video below).

THEY GOT ROBBED! – What is it about design schools and their shows being scheduled smack-dab in the middle of Fashion’s Night Out. It happened in 2009, the first year of FNO, to the Academy of Art University. Did IMG (the outfit that puts on MBFW) not get the memo. Once it understandable, but twice is – come on now! Last night, who was showing way too late in the Studio tent but The Art Institute of New York City. At 7 p.m. An hour into FNO, which officially was from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. No one knows anybody who made that AAU show in 2009. Everybody was out partying and ostensibly doing a little shopping. Yours Truly dropped in first at BCBG where New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly was getting his boogie on. The fact that the San Francisco-based AAU sent out links to the video of its show, apologizing to those who missed it, suggests there were lots of empty seats in the Theatre tent. Will TAINYC follow suit? Stay tuned.

WE GOT ROBBED! – Fashion’s Night Out is so over, at least on the Upper East Side. Last night, the Madison Avenue corridor between 59th and 72nd streets resembled a ghost town shortly after nightfall. A few stores – J Mendel, Michael Kors and DKNY, for instance – had a party going but most of them had shuttered or were shuttering. Security guards were stationed at the door to keep revelers out, only opening it for those who were exiting the joint. Some stores may quit, owing to trifling traffic. ESCADA at one point was empty. Empty! My FNO companion and I concluded that, in part, the intimidation factor may be in play.

As Companion remarked, the stores are no longer getting any benefit from this exercise in commerce that isn't, so won’t be bothered. She was speaking specifically of the Valentino, Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein and Armanis of the world. Armani couldn’t even be bothered with having a party at its store in the high ‘60s.

Last year, Armani hosted Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett who were in New York to star in a Broadway play about Martin Luther King, Jr. The year before, Armani hosted a Q&A with Lauren Hutton. Beverly Johnson was there! In 2009-2011, the joint at Valentino was jumpin’, man. The atmosphere was electric. One year there was celebrity poker; last year, Tracy Morgan was one of the celebrities who stepped up for karaoke. These parties went until at least around 10 p.m. The last two years, I ended my night at CH Carolina Herrera around 11 p.m.ish. Though the FNO Web site indicated that this year’s party would end at 11 p.m., the boutique was darkened before 9 p.m.; ditto for Calvin Klein. So many shops followed Armani’s example and had nothing. Bummer!!!!

On Deck today, Day 2: Fashion Law Institute, Czar by Cesar Galindo, Harlem's Fashion Row, Project Runway, Concept Korea, W118 by Walter Baker, Rebecca Minkoff, Pamella Roland, Tommy Hilfiger, Nicole Miller, Todd Snyder, Charlotte Ronson, ELLE Fashion/NEXT, Academy of Art University, Parkchoonmoo, Kara Ross, Project Runway, Concept Korea, Noon by Noor, Erin Barr,Rafael Cennamo, Rubin & Chapelle, Sherri Hill, Elena Vasilevsky

Visit to learn more about Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, including show information and videos.

Day 1 Pictorial
Tiffany Amber and Ozwald Boateng. Photos by Michael Loccisano for Getty Images.

Tadashi Shoji
Photos by Mike Coppola for Getty Images.

Monika Chiang
Photos by Cindy Ord for Getty Images.

Richard Chai
Photos by Frazer Harrison for Getty Images.

Photos by Fernanda Calfat for Getty Images.

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