If there were a venn diagram of the final three shows we saw for Fashion Week, the central overlap would simply read “these are clothes” – because beyond the very basic scale of function, these designers had absolutely nothing in common in terms of aesthetic, quality, or success.
We began our Wednesday at the bedraggled Alexandre Herchcovitch presentation at Lincoln Center. The Brazilian designer attempted an earthier palette than his past collections of voluminous neon satin, though the slate gray pantsets and ruched black coats still offered accent peeks of sherbet green. Much like Marc Jacobs’ eponymous collection this season, Herchcovitch adorned garments with metallic dots and lace; his handiwork, however, felt incomplete on the runway, with ragged slips of lime and black lace flapping off the rapidly strutting models like sad kite strings. This is the pitfall of runway shows: garments of unfinished hems and odd-end scraps might look creative on the street, but they look amateurish under the severe staging of a professional presentation. Herchcovitch’s unspooling ends and sagging asymmetrical cuts looked like the first-round cast-offs of a flailing Project Runway contestant.
But what Herchcovitch lacked in unabashed excess, the Blonds more than exuded later that evening. The extravagant design duo gathered the top tier of outlandish New York nightlife – stylist Pat Field, transsexual icon Amanda Lepore, eternal club kid Kenny Kenny – for an Asian-inspired presentation. Attendees were in their eccentric finery, to say the least; we saw outrageous attire ranging from Lepore’s extra-revealing bikini to a slight man dressed as some sort of fetishistic Boy Scout, down to the medal-adorned cap and tight jodhpurs.
The Blonds opened with two Chinese dragons (as enormous as anything you’ll spot in a boulevard parade) performing their traditional dance down the runway and continued apace with heavily jewel-encrusted sheathes, short robes, and one short frock crafted as a literal dragon head. Ombre silk and sparkles abounded; we saw the requisite “America’s Next Top Model” front row clan get doused in glitter, along with chic rapper/actress Eve and blankly smiling pop singer Aubrey O’Day. A collection this outlandish wouldn’t fit in most editorial pages, but it a true, effusive spectacle. Expect to see a few of these dizzying frocks on our current crop of pop stars; Nicki Minaj, especially, was born for this brand of silly decadence.
Finally, Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B. line closed out Lincoln Center on Thursday night and, as the final major show of the week, it did not disappoint. Stefani and her fellow designers had clearly been working overtime for this season; her massive show was divided into six smaller, disparate collections, each with approximately 15-20 looks apiece; it speaks to how powerfully established Stefani is as a brand that these looks all seemed to fit her vibe.
It was a risk to send out so many looks and so many aesthetics; Stefani more or less succeeded, but could have benefited from more editing, as some of it seemed superfluous. The “Soldier Girls” capsule was a sophisticated opener of war betty tailoring; olive military jackets and pin-up suiting contrasted nicely with transparent camouflage-print blouses. Stefani’s rasta-loving M.O., the original vibe of L.A.M.B., resurfaced in the “Ragga Muffins” group of bold African-inspired prints and warm colors. The “London Girls” set veered Malcolm McLaren punk (not coincidentally, his “Buffalo Girls” boomed from the speakers during it). Less interestingly, “Buffalo Girls” reiterated the trendy Navajo prints of this season and “Mod Girls” was just that, with a few cute swing shapes. The least intriguing capsule was the closing one, “Glamour Girls,” with its floor-length black jersey dresses and wildly swinging gold jewelry; the fairly repetitive shapes and cuts didn’t seem as red carpet-worthy as the name had endeavored. Still, he show was a whirl of ideas, set to predictably excellent music; no other show this season mixed Grandmaster Flash with Neneh Cherry.
Bizarrely, Stefani’s models were grouped largely by race; “Buffalo Girls” was entirely Asian walkers, and the “Ragga Muffins” were African American. It was heartening to see so much emphasized diversity (which has been, as usual, sorely lacking on the season’s runways), but grouping them like fashion statements was inexplicable.
Not that it mattered to the audience, or the designer’s biggest fan: when Stefani emerged for her bow (to her own “What You Waiting For?”), the audience rose in standing ovation. As she walked down the runway, her son Kingston broke from his handler on the sidelines and sprinted down the catwalk after her, tugging at her hem until she turned in alarm, then grinned and scooped him up for a photo. The entire theater cooed. And with that fashionably familial moment, Fashion Week was over.