High fashion, high anxiety: Terrorist threats set New York on edge but LindsayLohan & Houstonians add some levity
Is it my imagination or does everyone at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week seem a little bit on edge?
With reports of a "credible" terror plot targeting New York on the anniversary weekend of the Sept. 11 attacks, the city that never sleeps took on a weary "Haven't we been through this before?" attitude as the semi-annual parade of fashion switched into full gear on Friday.
It seemed harder to hail a cab to get to some out-of-the-way venues where designers were showing their spring/summer 2012 collections, the subway system was running much slower and traffic around Times Square and at Lincoln Center, where many of the shows are held this week, seemed much quieter than usual.
We all piled into Lucinda Loya's car and headed to her amazing four-story Gramercy apartment, which was carved out of a convent and rehab facility and whose main room is a chapel that was refurbished following a donation by Eric Clapton. Loya, an interior designer, has filled the large spaces with large modern art pieces and fashion tributes (one wall includes Ruben Toledo fashion drawings that originally appeared in a series of Nordstrom ads).
Firefighters from around the nation, in T-shirts emblazoned with the name of their cities, seemed to be everywhere and more tourists than usual were lined up at the famous LOVE sculpture at the corner of 55th Street and Sixth Avenue to snap a photo — as if to say, indeed, in times like these, that's all we really need.
It almost made me wonder if organizers should have switched dates this go-around?
But, as has often been uttered over the past decade, to change our lives is to give in to the terrorists. And there seemed to be a special symmetry in finding beauty on the runway this weekend. Spring styles are always more upbeat than fall, with a bright promise for the future, so the colorful fashions planned for spring/summer 2012 may prove to be a refreshing antidote to the funk the country seems to be in right now.
Nautica stays true to its roots
My first stop upon arriving in New York and an excruciatingly long cab ride from LaGuardia Airport (traffic moved at a snail's pace because of spot checks of vehicles throughout the area), was the roof-top pool deck at the Empire Hotel, where Nautica was showcasing its menswear collection.
I usually find the company's styles a little bland, but this time around creative director Chris Cox's literal translation of a nautical-theme collection with a Beach Boys vibe made me smile. Hawaiian print board shorts, nylon windbreakers in bright red, green or blue, and polos in bright sailing flag patterns exude an easy summertime attitude. It's not hard to see such clothes as a staple of any wanna-be cool sailor dude on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Rag & Bone's urban surfer vibe
Rag & Bone designers Marcus Wainwright and David Neville also turned to a surfer's theme for their womenswear collection, but their gals aren't likely going to hang out with the Nautica guys. The duo's take on the beach is decidedly edgier, with heavy crocheted tops, leather hooded sweatshirts and maxi skirts made of brightly colored parachute fabric, some with an overlay of plastic that evoked a mod touch of the French designer Corréges in the '60s.
The collection, shown in an obscure SoHo warehouse that was so out-of-the way that even veteran New York fashion writers had a hard time finding it, had more of an urban attitude than a beach vibe — and though overly-styled for the runway, there were a lot of pieces that a twentysomething hipster would crave.
St. John's relaxed attitude
Uptown, in a more genteel world, the venerable knitwear company St. John — a favorite of Houston's society set — showcased its spring collection at its Fifth Avenue store. As guests sipped champagne amid models who posed in the designs in small groups, tourists along the busy street peered inside and snapped photographs.
There's still plenty for the St. John customer who favors its popular knit suits to like in the collection, with chic separates in blush, brown and beige colors. But the spring collection has a much more relaxed style as the company seeks to expand its base.
"It's an evolution of the brand to modernize it and make it more relevant and a little less structured," said creative director George Sharp.
For inspiration, he looked to iconic singer Carly Simon, who "epitomized American glamour" in the 1970s. "There was an ease about the way she dressed," he said. "We've touched up the collection with a bit of slouch. It's still elegant, but relaxed. I don't want women to try too hard."
I told Sharp that the collection's languid attitude reminds me a bit of Halston's heyday. "You're the seventh person who's told me that," he said, with a laugh. "Clearly (there's) a little (influence). Carly was a Halston friend. There's an ease that Halston gave to everything."
Cynthia Rowley gets a boost from Lohan & Houston contingent
Leave it to Lindsay Lohan to add some levity to the somber surroundings of this fashion week. When she slipped into the Cynthia Rowley show at the Lincoln Center tents at the last second Friday night, a photographer jumped onto the runway to snap a photo. The rest of the large photo contingent, perhaps jealous of the scoop, booed loudly, then cheered as security officials ripped the credentials off the photog's neck and escorted him out.
With white blond hair to her shoulders and oversized sunglasses, Lohan looked like a dead ringer for Donatella Versace. DeVille Jewelry founder and owner Liz Glanville, who is in New York for a fashion weekend with fellow Houstonian Paula Fyhr, was two rows behind Lohan and vows the blond locks were a wig. (Glanville was with her daughter, Ali Greenfield, who just joined Diane von Furstenberg in international retail sales.)
Although the trip was for pleasure, Glanville said she gets ideas for styles and colors of her jewelry collection from seeing what's on the runway.
Rowley’s collection had a bit of a rocker chic vibe, with super-skinny jeans (leggings? jeggings?) and jackets in bold floral patterns, flirty dresses, vests in laser-cut patterns and shorts and dresses dripping in metallic gold, as were patchwork bags and gold-foil encrusted shoes. It was a fun collection that ended the evening on a high note.
At the Rowley show, I also caught up with Lucinda Loya, who had jetted to NewYork for a few days to huddle with reps from Versace and Escada before hosting two events in Houston next week featuring both design houses. She got the run of both stores to pick out outfits to wear to the Houston functions.
"I felt like (that classic scene from) Pretty Woman for two days," she said.
Loya said she had noticed a higher level of anxiety in the few days she has been in New York. "But life goes on and we need to do what we need to do," she said. "Fashion is important. What would we do without it? "
Then we all piled into Loya's car and headed to her amazing four-story Gramercy apartment, which was carved out of a convent and rehab facility and whose main room is a chapel that was refurbished following a donation by Eric Clapton. Loya, an interior designer, has filled the large spaces with large modern art pieces and fashion tributes (one wall includes Ruben Toledo fashion drawings that originally appeared in a series of Nordstrom ads).
Suddenly, I didn't much care about the threat of terrorist attacks. Amid such surroundings, with a group of fun-loving Houstonians, I was happy to be in New York.