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Snap Look at Prabal Gurung

How Instagram is ruining New York fashion week: Shows are meant to be savored, not shot

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Prabal Gurung, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, September 2013
OK, I admit I posted this photo on Instagram. But the Prabal Gurung show was too pretty to watch entirely through a smartphone. Photo by Clifford Pugh

NEW YORK — There are times during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week that I wish Instagram had never been invented.

The photosharing tool has become indispensable because it has two features that just about every fashion blogger loves: You can post a photo instantly — even if it's not very good — and you don't have to write very much.

But is that the best way to experience a designer's work?

 Instead of looking at the collection through a smartphone, I decided to experience the moment without distraction. 

I thought of that as I watched Prabal Gurung present his spring 2014 collection Saturday. The runway show was a near-perfect spectacle, blending the commercial aspects that New York is known for with the dazzling presentation of a Paris show.

Like everyone around me, I rushed to raise my smartphone towards my face to capture the images as soon as the show started. But then I stopped. Instead of looking at the collection through a two-inch screen, I decided to experience the moment without distraction.

A fashion show should elicit emotions. You can love it or hate it, think it's silly or consider it groundbreaking, but you want to feel something. That's just about impossible to do when you're clicking every image without thinking about what you're watching.

Gurung, among a new guard of American fashion designers who are attracting a lot of attention, opened his show with all 38 models enclosed in a clear plastic curtain about the size of a couple of semi-trailers. Standing on a white floor in the harsh fluorescent light in an otherwise dark room, their lips painted a neon orange shade, they looked like a bouquet of sorts in a bright array of soft spring colors — shiny blues, greens, pinks and yellows, along with graphic rose prints, red tweeds and white Swarovski crystals.

Then, one by one, the models walked the perimeter, so that the details of each look could be seen much better. Below-the-knee, body-hugging silk "wiggle" dresses and pencil skirts had a 1950s feel (Gurung said he was inspired by Marilyn Monroe's last sitting with photographer Bert Stern), but much of the collection had a futuristic attitude, as Gurung experimented with laminated fabrics, nubby plastic tweeds and translucent PVC materials.

The collection was a little overworked — it's awfully hard for a woman to sit down on a ruffle than runs vertically down the backside — but it certainly had attitude and pizzazz. There was a lot to marvel about.

For the show's finale, all the models stood in position on the stage, ensuring that the Gurung collection would get some nice Instagram photos from the crowd. It's a whole lot easier to shoot a model who doesn't move — and I'm wondering if the designer considered that when putting together his show.

True confessions: At it ended, I took a photo of the runway scene and posted it on my Instagram page, where it got a number of likes.

But, after the smartphone was powered off, images of the show remain in my mind. That's better than any photo.

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