Yesterday in the Lincoln Center plaza, I watched a man dressed as some sort of spelunking Little Lord Fauntleroy pose for a wall of photographers, glowering for all the world like his own personal Lost Generation, before storming out of range and berating his friend for sewing “crooked seams on the pantaloons.” Coincidentally, this is exactly when Fashion Week and I came to an impasse.
The new, more public Lincoln Center digs have done wonders to improve show organization, but they’ve also encouraged a larger crop of over-primped, attention-hungry outliers to loiter in the lobby, waiting for the catnip of random flashbulbs. In a way, it speaks of the larger, troubling inaccessibility of high fashion, that it can be claimed as artistic expression while it courts one strain of conformists and openly excludes so many other people, be it for body size, ethnicity, or just ol’-fashioned haughtiness. Fashion in general should be sensational, sure, but it should reflect that excitement in ways that are not so coldly dismissive to those who evade such rigid, arbitrary standards of beauty.
Few Fashion Week designers do this well; Gwen Stefani is one of them. And that makes sense; musicians-turned-designers are greeted with skepticism nowadays, but perhaps it takes a rock star to make a bold statement that still pleases her fans. The No Doubt glamazon’s L.A.M.B. presentation closed the season on Thursday night, and was a kinetic experience of durable feminine chic; familiar rastafarian influences abounded in ruffled-caplet sleeve dresses, woven-back tanks, variegated grey jumpsuits, and bleached tie-dye linen dresses with asymmetrical necklines and bead detailing. African prints were a new incorporation, and a shrunken bra top paired smartly under a multi-patterned menswear blazer, to which a brightly tribal-patterned sheath was an interesting lateral piece. The harem pants were a bit of a misfire, but this season was more experimental than her past plaids and utilitarian track pants–and, notably, the cuts were flattering enough to be wearable for many body types.
Orange and navy collage suiting closed the show–but the real finale was Stefani’s runway walk, for which the entire Theatre audience rose to cheer and take photographs (a rare unrestrained moment in Fashion Week; they didn’t even rise for Marc Jacobs). Stefani grinned at her No Doubt bandmates in the front row and retrieved her son, Kingston, from the arms of husband Gavin Rossdale, both of whom had been bouncing to the reggae/pop soundtrack and beaming throughout the show. A hella proud moment for California.
Earlier that day, Isaac Mizrahi explored a more austere femininity in Lincoln Center. The Brooklyn boy (who produced our favorite rain-soaked fashion spectacle ever) sent out his models to the instrumental intro of Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode” (wildly bizarre, bizarrely perfect) and decked them in pristine white suiting and dresses of watercolor chiffon overlay, then dove-gray motifs of leaves and petals. Black made quick appearance in a small swath of dresses; Mizrahi, a longtime purveyor of bold sequins, was one of the few designers to embrace them again this season. A leisurely evening gown featured exposed rear zipper and a band of exaggerated flash at the hem, and a noir slip dress sparkled with polka-dotted beading in the sheer overlay sleeves.
This segued to a black strapless floor-lengther with white trompe l’oeil bow and another glitzy cocktail frock in pale tangerine, yet again; come April, your Vitamin C will be in your clothes, if these designers have their way. Then came a decadent series of floor-length gowns with shining floral stations of crystals and a wide floral strapless column. Mizrahi wasn’t breaking any uptown ground here–the collection was called “IM Xerox” with due cause–but Mizrahi knows elegance, and proved again that he can bring wit to it.