Last night at the atypical fashion venue that is the Javits Center — the closest it’s come to New York Fashion Week before is playing host to a cat fashion show I regrettably attended in 2009 — Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen hosted a combination talent pageant, Olympics Opening Ceremonies, and runway show for Opening Ceremony.
Backstage after the show, co-designer Humberto Leon told the Cut that Carrie and Fred’s comments as the models walked the runway were almost entirely improvised, which explains some of the models’ genuine laughter at their quips. “We gave them free rein to make fun of the clothes,” he said. “We’re never going to take ourselves super seriously, and we’re also in on our own jokes. We’re not ashamed to make fun of ourselves.” (See also: spring 2015’s silly, self-referential play.)
The show addressed the looming election and the issues surrounding it, but with a light, not-too-preachy touch. “There were a couple of messages we wanted to get across, and then also, at the end of the day, we wanted it to be fun,” said Leon. Added his partner in crime, Carol Lim, “The individual speakers had specific things they wanted to talk about” — like Natasha Lyonne’s focus on prison reform, or Diane Guerrero’s on immigration rights. “We wanted people who had a point of view on certain things.”
They also went to great lengths to find flag bearers from each of the countries represented. Said Leon, they “were scouring through the entire city for weeks.” Each wore a customized varsity jacket for his nation, and Leon noted that the O.C. team was beading them right up until the last minute.
After the Javits Center, the O.C. crew headed to the equally chic Penn Plaza, located in the jewel of Manhattan, Herald Square. The party was meant to mark the brand’s collaboration with Esprit, the latest in their ever-churning nostalgia machine. Ads featuring cool kids with brightly colored sweatshirts played on big screens, and the crowd alternated between grazing at the venue’s fancy new food court and taking an escalator upstairs to dance in a smoke-filled, deafening loft.
Aziz Ansari, who sat front row and contributed an essay to the show’s program, deadpanned, “Fashion Week is known as some of the best comedy audiences you can ask for … At first I was like, oh, God, these poor guys, why are they making them do comedy there?” he said. “And then they were so funny and everyone laughed and had a good time.”
Ansari, already a fashion aficionado, has been really immersing himself in the scene this week, having also attended Saturday night’s #Wangfest, which he told me was his first-ever Alexander Wang party. “I was always like, there’s probably too many people, and I’m not that crazy into crowds. I just stopped in for a second and left.” He didn’t even get a chance to join the hordes eating McDonald’s. “They had McGriddles, right?” he said wistfully. (They did.)
Tinashe, who was wearing thigh-high crushed velvet boots as casually as though they were bedroom slippers, was tucked into a corner. The show wasn’t her first fashion show, not even her first O.C. show, but she said she thought the comedy angle was a welcome innovation. “I thought it was a fresh vibe. It kept the pace of the show really interesting,” she said. “I thought it was great that they were using their platform to express something they were passionate about.”
She had no recollection of Esprit (she’s 23) and I’d imagine most of the crowd didn’t either, but the ‘90s nostalgia vibes were still strong. As I was leaving, a young guy strode by holding a landline phone with a cord that didn’t attach to anything. His friends were clutching onto its plastic spiral, letting him pull them along. If there were a more on-the-nose metaphor for the past’s extreme pull, I couldn’t conceive of it.