I think we can all agree that New York Fashion Week doesn’t hold a candle in absurdity to the American presidential race, but yesterday had its moments. It began uptown at the Frick mansion, where Carolina Herrera’s couture silks swept the marble, and she told a succession of guests, “I’m in my rose period.” An hour later, at a pier on the Lower East Side, Tommy Hilfiger re-created a Caribbean island paradise, although in the dark space the murky wading pool and crust of sand looked more like a sad atoll. I didn’t blame the models, bikini-clad and led by Big Sis Gigi Hadid, for showing temperance in their frolicsome splashing period.
Much, much later — after feeling trapped in the boob tube of Jeremy Scott’s dumb-as-dirt show, with Gigi and the girls now refreshed with bouncy '60s curls — I found myself surrounded by truly Beautiful People at Edward Enninful’s dance party on the 64th floor of the Freedom Tower. Edward is the fashion and style director at W, and a just plain wonderful guy. There were so many good-looking men and women in the place that their beauty sort of neutralized each other. Anyway, my escort and I were wandering through this tawny mess when I bumped into the jewelry designer Wilfredo Rosado, late these many years of Giorgio Armani in Milan. My head was a swarm of distractions as Wilfredo turned to introduce the woman with him. Almost immediately she placed a small, delicate paw in my hand as Wilfredo said, “This is Mariah.”
I kid you not.
My escort said, “You just met Mariah Carey.”
Oh shut up.
Well, that was Monday, more or less. It was not a stellar day for American fashion, but there were some good moments. My main impression of Herrera’s pretty collection was that she probably has a new designer on her team. She has chased away the hidebound lady aspects of her clothes, as well as the arty abstractions, and in their place were simplified lines, fewer but clearer colors, and a youthful femininity that looked believable. In the past, I doubt you would have seen a loose tank top sparkling in navy paillettes with a miniskirt in crinkly pleated navy iridescent silk. Or a sweet mini shift in bright white pleated crepe. Herrera also embraced the trend for transparency, with a black patent-leather shell hemmed below the bust in sheer black silk, and breezy wool-crepe dresses and skirts vented with tiny channels of tulle (a technique often identified with Ralph Rucci). She still had some fussy embellishments, but the newer attitude stiff-armed them to the curb.
Among the models walking in the Eckhaus Latta show was the designer Susan Cianciolo, who is the godmother, you might say, of the craft-based, anti-fashion look expanded upon by so many other designers, including Shayne Oliver of Hood by Air, and, of course, Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta. If you like irregular things that are made well and with a solid sense of proportion, you should check out their label. The designs look more refined this season, without surrendering their integrity: There were cropped and bare-shoulder knits that hover between the sweet and the urban sexy, oversize scrub pants in rose pink or black with a nylon sheen, and a wonderful gauze dress that twisted and draped over the body just so. The designers also amped up their denim, now in deep tinted blue. The standout look — almost classically chic — was a slightly barrel-shaped coat.
Thom Browne’s obsession this season was intarsia, the method of piecing together fabrics or knits so that they appear as a solid, flat ground, and might seem, at a distance, to be a print. His fabrics were Browne classics like seersucker, Oxford cloth, and wool suiting, while the new motifs were Japanese, as if from a screen or fan. But the redundant schoolgirl uniform hobbled the collection. Its many layers added weight to the clothes, spoiling the delicacy of all those tiny assembled pieces. Last season, Browne’s clothes soared. They might have done so again if he had skipped school and turned the fancy technique to a lighter purpose.
Lots of clear trends are lining up for spring. The white or pencil-striped cotton shirt (and shirtdress) is supremo: Phillip Lim showed them in a collection loaded with terrific separates, and so did Kris Brock and Laura Vassar of the new label Brock. Another trend is slashing and cutouts. Another: Cuffs are exaggerated (think of the variations at Derek Lam). And lots of people are showing wide-leg pants, some as soupy as a skirt, though I’m beginning to wonder if they will be DOA by Paris.