Fashion Week Follies: Five things I'm looking forward to at the shows
Even though I’m a fashion week veteran, I feel like a newbie here in New York. This year’s edition of the twice-yearly fashion circus seems a little unsettling — and it’s not just because the sluggish economy has put retailers in a panic mode.
The marathon presentation of spring 2011 designer collections has moved from comfy but cramped Bryant Park to the more glamorous but less convenient Lincoln Center. At the same time, the transition from a print to a Web world has left organizers unsure how to handle the revolution. And publicists, having to deal with hordes of bloggers clamoring for seats, are unusually nasty.
Even so, this edition of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week promises to be one of the most interesting encounters in a long time. Here are some things I've noticed after being here only a few hours and some things I'm looking forward to over the next week:
1) A new location
I miss Bryant Park, the fashion week location since 1994, mainly because it was so familiar and it's close to my favorite New York hotel, The Algonquin. (The lobby of the historic hotel is filled every night with tourists who stop in for a nightcap amid the ghosts of Dorothy Parker and the storied Round Table). But fashion week has gotten a little tired and predictable and needed a jolt.
Lincoln Center promises to do that, with its arty pedigree, a lot more space and a 21st-century check-in system. New this season: You go to a kiosk and scan an e-mailed barcode or input a confirmation number. The machine spits out a piece of paper that looks like a lottery ticket. It's all very high tech, although I miss printed invitations, which made it a lot easier to wave around as a diversion to sneak a friend into a show.
2) A new pecking order
The fashion publication world is in turmoil. A number of editors from Vogue, the New York Times, Lucky and W have played a game of musical chair as they have moved to other publications. And Vogue is finally discovering the Internet by launching its own website in competition with its sister website, Style.com. All these changes are giving those making seating arrangements a fit, because New York fashion editors would sooner shop at Walmart than sit next to each other at a fashion show.
3) Zac Posen's return to the tents
I started covering fashion week about the time Zac Posen burst on the scene. His shows were always over-the-top; more like theater than fashion. But for the past couple of years, Posen has switched gears, presenting an early morning — 9 a.m. (that's early by fashion standards) — show at an out-of-the-way location for only a small group of editors. Tonight, he's returning to the tents, and I can't wait to see what he does.
4) Searching for front row celebs
A lot of C-list celebrities occupy front row positions at fashion week shows. But, occasionally, someone with real star power shows up. Rumors are A-listers Scarlett Johansson and Carey Mulligan might be on the front row during the week. Julianna Marguiles usually attends Narciso Rodriguez's show because he's a good friend. If that's the case this time, I'm going to elbow my way through the paparazzi to talk with her because The Good Wife is my favorite TV show.
So far, the biggest star has been Ellen DeGeneres, who walked the runway at the Richie Rich show Thursday night. (He's one of those hip New York designers who has lots of celebrity friends, but whose clothes rarely wind up in stores.)
5) The old reliables
I'm always on the lookout for emerging designers and, as soon as I got into town, I rushed to Lincoln Center to see the Adam spring collection from designer Adam Lippes. It's an eclectic mix of eyelet lace dresses, rust-colored blazers, diaphanous skirts and leather jackets. I call it "wearable with an edge."
Then I stopped by a midtown Manhattan townhome to catch a presentation by a new line called Callula Lillibelle. Designer William Calvert and his partner, Melanie Fraser Hart, have created a mix of party dresses with a bit of a Mad Men attitude and colorful daytime separates priced between $100-$600, which seems reasonable given the quality.
Calvert pointed out a reversible silver and brown sequin party dress that shimmers. "Every time she wiggles, it's a different color," he said with a smile. And he bragged that everything is made in the USA. Good for him.
Spotting a new designer is always one of the pleasures of the job. But the highlight of my Fashion Week always comes near the end at the Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors shows. There's nothing better than watching masters at work.