fashion week diary

Lynn Yaeger: Rodarte’s Dizzying Patchwork, Narciso’s Gossamer Surprise

Nothing makes me happier than a front-row seat. Even if (1) everyone else has a front-row seat, too, as they do at Marc Jacobs since there is only one row, or (2) the models never actually walk past the particular section of the front row I’m sitting in, as is the case with Rodarte. Still, other Rodarte front-rowers have it even rougher — Jim Gold, the president and CEO of Bergdorf Goodman, is at one point almost entirely engulfed in the green smoke pouring from some mysterious portal to lend the show atmosphere. Not that the cavewoman ensembles need any additional flourishes — the shredded finery already incorporates a dizzying patchwork of lace, tartan, tie-dye, dangling cords, and spangles, frequently in a single raggedy-hemmed outfit. The shoes, hideously high gladiators with the spindliest of heels, cause one model to fall on her not-very-well-padded keister.

Then it is on to Catherine Malandrino, who this year opts for a presentation rather than a traditional runway show, an improvement I heartily wish would catch on even more than it already has. In addition to being easier to view for the audience and cheaper for the designer, presentations save one from the humiliation of not having a decent seat. I am happy to see many models of color at this show, since the New York runways have an abysmal record of full representation, and I assume this is not just because the clothes here — exuberant, lovely, wearable, relatively inexpensive; all very good things — are also African-themed.

The frenzied flashbulbs surrounding various celebrities before the Narciso Rodriguez show — Courtney Love! Jessica Alba! — stand in contrast to the rather quiet, surprisingly gossamer fashions that float down the runway a few minutes later, especially since this designer’s hallmark was formerly a militantly body-conscious slink with saucy cutouts. How different is the humongous airy dress that closes the show from the frock that put Rodriguez on the map thirteen years ago this month — a slithery gown designed for the wedding of the tragic Carolyn Bessette.

Girls in black-and-gold ballerina skirts and bellhop hats greet us at the Plaza Hotel for Betsey’s One Night Stand, a frantic, frenetic concert/party that is Betsey Johnson’s idea of what a presentation should be. We’re in the Palm Court, Ida Maria is singing at an agony-inducing volume level, and there are pink iced cakes proffered on tiered silver trays from Demel, the famous Viennese chocolatier. Johnson herself, dressed in some sort of tight-laced bumblebee black-and-yellow number and a violet tulle hair bow so big it’s almost a wig, is dancing up a storm alongside her similarly rainbow-clad models.

The clothes are typically BJ — I especially like a man in a chiffon flowered tank top — but who needs to reinvent crinolines and corsets? Ida Maria, who has on skintight black sequined pants narrow as leggings (maybe they are leggings?) and wears her hair like Tintin, only taller, is singing “I like you so much better when you’re naked,” which is perhaps not the most appropriate sentiment for what is, after all, a fashion show. We pick up our gift bags (they include a box of Moxie ultra-thin pads with wings, which to my recollection is the first time a feminine-hygiene product has made it into a gift bag) at a table directly across from the hotel’s iconic portrait of Eloise. In her classic pleated skirt, suspenders, and crisp white shirt, she could teach all of us a thing or two about having your own style and sticking to it.

Lynn Yaeger: Rodarte’s Dizzying Patchwork, Narciso’s Gossamer Surprise