A great to-do is made over Kanye West, the Designer. Yesterday, I was embarrassed to find myself running up Tenth Avenue to his Yeezy show — but I feared panic at the door, security guards twice my size, and a path through the mob just big enough for a rat to squeeze through, all of which turned out to be the case. (Of course, Courtney Love, Riccardo Tisci, Seth Meyers, and the Kardashians, all of whom were guests, had a separate VIP entrance maybe ten feet away.)
Yeezy Season 2 was kind of amusing. Again, West worked with the performance artist Vanessa Beecroft, and again, he showed hoodies, baggy pants, and beige under-things, as if time these past six months had stood still. The presentation was in a white-walled basement in Chelsea, with the audience sitting on either side of a wide floor. As a drill sergeant barked out commands — “First row!” — a line of models appeared, followed by a second and a third, all of them in tights or leggings or stretch shorts and tops that looked a lot like Spanx.
“Left, right! Left, right!” Those models exited and another batch came out, now dressed in woebegone fatigue jackets and pants, and, I might add, looking rather downcast. They made me think of POWs. The military conceit was apt, given the mind-lock that Kanye has managed to put on the fashion world. This second round of drab, broken-down basics proved he can’t be taken seriously as a designer, but nevertheless many people in fashion do seem to take West seriously — they keep showing up expectantly for his performances — and that makes them fools. Because they wouldn’t bother with this stuff if it were offered by an unknown, and if it’s the spectacle they seek, it changes as little as the clothes.
Later, we trooped down to the World Trade Center — actually, into a pedestrian tunnel near the PATH station — for the DKNY debut of designers Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow. In the decades since Donna Karan spun off DKNY from her main label in 1989, many labels have eaten into the trendy, moderate-priced space it opened, not least Zara and Vince. Chow and Osborne focused (too much) on the pinstriped office suit of yore, deconstructing it — and apparently ignoring the fact that the style is a bit threadbare. Piece by piece, there were some good looks in the show, but it was mostly one-note, comparable to ordering a dozen boxes of Girl Scout cookies and winding up, somehow, with only Thin Mints.
One of Fashion Week’s big trends is clothes that appear to be sliding off the body — low-slung, liquid-looking trousers, shirts, and dresses open at the shoulders and suspended by straps, and, as Michael Kors said in his show notes, “slashed skirts that catch the wind.” For Kors, this was a more moody collection than his usual sunshine and pop-music blast. The show opener was a minimalist black canvas coat covered in crushed silk flowers. Poet blouses in black or white georgette were beautiful, as were soft tiered dresses, pleated skirts sliced into strips, and a great-looking black gabardine blazer, stripped of lapels, worn with slouchy black pants (the ultimate pantsuit, if you’re in the market). But I kind of missed sunny Kors.
It fell to Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler to right the day, and bring on some actual fashion. This collection, an evolution of their slashed skirts for fall, also affected a loose attitude, with dresses falling off shoulders and bright-white jackets tied with wide black velvet ribbons. But McCollough and Hernandez did the style with considerably more finesse, or intention, than other designers.
Backstage, the Proenza designers said they didn’t want to use stiff or bonded fabrics, or leather. For a long while, those materials had been a Proenza staple — and a barrier to appreciating their clothes. But recently they went back over every collection, every outfit, mainly as an exercise to understand their own strengths.
It paid off. This collection was more polished than fall’s, the shapes more feminine and enticing and, I suspect, easier to wear.
The standout looks were viscose knit dresses in either white or black that spilled over the body and, at first glance, looked like cotton eyelet. Somewhat similar in shape was a narrow, tiered dress in white crepe piped in black, and a lovely two-piece silk-crepe dress with a draped, asymmetrical skirt, both in a smudgy red flower print on black. The wide hem of the jacket was a black-and-white polka dot. The silhouette looked fresh, and the eye kept alighting on visual treats, like the silver ball heels of the pointy mules and the way the relatively narrow range of materials enhanced the cut of the clothes, and vice-versa.