Silk is good. Flat champagne is bad. We are learning many rules at Fashion Week, but one seems more ironclad than all the rest: namely, the rage inside the photographer pit is inversely proportional to the playfulness of the clothes on the runway. Style photogs, it appears, are hands-down the most antagonistic people on earth; they lurk in the shadows of the models, bedecked in rumpled white tees and hemp bracelets, and they hiss like chupacabras if you look at them sideways. None of the men, and few of the women, comment on the clothes at all, but they’re so wound up and competitive for optimum angles, it’s like Glengarry Glen Ross with miniskirts.
Reem Acra’s installation, high above Fifth Avenue, pushed simplified silhouettes with built-in bling. Her mauve, gold, and black evening wear mostly fell in Grecian drapes with ethereal gauzy touches, many embellished with elaborate jeweled necklaces that could be removed at will. (Now you can ride the subway after the opera!) Nothing screamed out like the five-alarm-red strapless gown Jill Biden wore to the inaugural balls; the tone was optimistic but somber. Sounds familiar.
Inside the main parlor, One Tree Hill star Sophia Bush cooed over several strapless dresses and informed people that she’d flown in from North Carolina at 5 am for the show. Generally, the crowd skewed far older than in Bryant Park or the less established fringe shows; some of us felt underdressed for the first time all week amid the high-collared Chanel and Prada. “That’s the Fifth Avenue crowd for ya,” someone said.
But if your only promenade is the office, Thuy may beckon instead; she presented a more casual interpretation of elegance in the Bryant Park tents. Her line, in the vein we’ve seen all week, emphasized demure grey and chaste long sleeves and cuts. White shift dresses glittered with muted beading and curved zippers snaked, Monet-like, down watery silk pencil skirts. In the middle of the sophisticated jewel tones and neutrals, a few neon blue and yellow pieces popped up, as if hallucinations, then slyly disappeared.
Sadly, most of this was upended by the lighting and soundtrack. Piercing fragments of TV on the Radio and Arcade Fire played for a few seconds only to transition abruptly into conspicuous silence – silence past all logic, all decorum, broken only by the shutter clicks in the aggro photographers’ den. This happened a few times and the attendees craned their necks in alarm. The show director in the DJ booth grimaced and attempted to hide. Someone better dust off the resumè.
Also in the tents, Erin Fetherston hosted a circus – not the Spears kind, but there was in fact a Brittany in attendance and this caused mass confusion. “I have Baby One More Time in my bag!” shrieked a well-coiffed woman, stampeding in her Christian Louboutins over to the press phalanx. But nyet, it was Brittany Snow in the front row; she is in horror movies sometimes. She perched one seat away from Cory Kennedy, whose weary frown makes us all pine for the innocence of youth, and a few more away from beautiful Zoe Kravitz and her enormous rhinestone headband. Across the great divide of the runway, America’s Next Top Model judge Miss Jay went mostly undetected.
Fetherston’s collection had just a hint of self-deprecating absurdity. As calliope marches pounded in the background (impeccably timed), pale women pranced in rigid, exaggerated balloon skirts – on their pin-thin frames, the effect was eerily like opened umbrellas (albeit ones with two handles). As the attire softened into lovely ballerina-like silk twill dresses and jacquard ruffles, Fetherston popped rhinestone-studded animal masks on the models’ heads.
It was the strangest and most enchanting presentation of the day. Several people from the audience rose for a standing ovation, a beautiful and appreciative moment that transcended the usual impartial stares of most shows. So, of course, one photographer in the pit took the opportunity to shove another one. Sunrise, sunset.