The Unacknowledged Triumphs of Fashion Week


Even for the sartorially-obsessed, fashion-week broadcasts can be embarrassingly lame, interspersed with those over-boisterous announcements from newscasters (We’re at the tents! Can feel the excitement now!)—and that engaging commentary from celebrity attendees (Oscar just makes me feel like a woman. A real, real woman). And then, the shocking, end-of-the-week conclusion: “Well-funded designer puts out collection that will make corporate investors assloads of money . . . again!” This is how close most of us get to the magic of Olympic Fashion Week. Should you care?

What the tents will always lack is the inimitable energy of the more public fashion-week celebrations like the Lower East Side’s Fashion Flipside, a runway show held smack in the middle of Orchard Street. Featuring the fall attractions of L.E.S. designer/merchants like Marmalade, David Owens, Lost Shoe Productions, La Di Da, and Foley & Corinna Men, the show is simultaneously a street party, a love letter to the ‘hood, and a showcase for downtown’s unflagging creativity. (That includes the young ladies of the Lower East Side Girls Club, showcasing those handmade designs down the runway with remarkable aplomb.) Judging from the L.E.S. denizens hanging precariously out windows to check out the show, and the decked-out little girls with parasols, grappling for front-row access, we imagine the “Lower East Side alternative to Fashion Week” has many years ahead.

There’s a bit of overlapping between this and Gen Art’s “Fresh Faces of Fashion” each year—if only because the latest young stars are often those same up-and-coming designers Williamsburg and downtown boutiques have been stocking for months. So, little surprise that two designers carried by Plum at Flipside were also part of Fresh Faces: Brooklyn collective Octopi and Lynne Larson. Unfortunately, as was clear from her show at Gen Art, Larson is one of those designers H&M has made obsolete; her line is no doubt of better make than the mass retailer, but hardly worth the money for a soporific collection that clings to the edgier side of Zara. Octopi, two RISD grads based out of Brooklyn, have received some press lately for their bubble skirts and jumpers with extremely exaggerated, Comme des Garçons proportions. Their concept, in previous collections and this year at Gen Art, has been to temper the daring designs with a largely neutral palette and next-to-no accessories, but hell, why hold back? You can’t take one dip into kooky cartoon-character land and decide you’ve had enough. It’s the Björk rule.

The clear winner of the night was Beckerman, three sisters who studied under Marc Jacobs and Oscar de la Renta before branching out on their own in 2005. In their Spring 2006 collection, entitled “Diary of a Dali Girl,” the sisters tried to pull from, alternately, the fantasy of flight and travel and the Surrealists’ own practice of combining disparate details—hence chunky-knit bustiers with images of the continents, rainbow pom-poms bouncing from nicely tailored jackets and tights, hand-knit bees hanging from a spring hat. Imagine the sartorial bravery of early Madonna, fueled by a Willy Wonka-esque palette and ebullience—a little like you’ve lingered too long at Dylan’s Candy Bar, but are all the better for it.