Fashion Week Was a Total Joy-Occasionally Even on the Runway

A close friend recently succeeded in pushing her psychotherapist over the edge. Despite years of exhaustive therapy, my adorably neurotic chum was never quite able to exit her particular psychological cul-de-sac. Suddenly last summer, the drained and frustrated shrink finally snapped. In an unapologetically unethical outburst, the frenzied therapist operatically denounced her longtime patient as “a non-contributing member of society.”

As I joined the hordes of dynamic fashion professionals pouring into Bryant Park for the start of Fashion Week, where designers are parading their spring/summer 2001 clothes, I wondered how that therapist would have fared when confronted with so many non-contributing members of society, or NCMOS’s. It would be fun to install that shrink in her own little nook, nestled among the promotional kiosks advertising cars, breast cancer and bottled water, and watch her lose her marbles as she went to bat with the ids and superegos of the largest gathering of NCMOS’s on the Eastern seaboard.

The New York fashion shows, which come to town twice a year, have proliferated to a hitherto unimaginable number. A morass of inconsistent, press-release-driven schmattes are thrown against the wall with more verve than ever-but how many of them will stick? Identifying useful trends for you, my readers, is almost impossible. Sorting the wheat from the chaff requires nerves of microfiber, and one often leaves the shows with a melancholy crise de coeur .

But why focus on the utter pointlessness of Fashion Week? It’s a cheap trick, and fashion folk aren’t really so bad. Many of them are quite philanthropic, and some of them can actually design beautiful clothes. Honesty compels me to admit that there are moments of unadulterated joy-though not always supplied by the runway.

Here then are my 10 most life-enhancing moments from the first half of Fashion Week:

1. Fashion Week started early for me because I was one of the NCMOS’s who was smart enough to RSVP for the Lane Bryant Fashion Show. For some reason (discrimination? shame?), this show took place on Sept. 6, more than a week prior to Fashion Week proper. In my opinion, it should be moved to the very epicenter. It eclipsed the great Galliano and Gaultier shows of yore. Watching the massive, tarty viragos (including Queen Latifah) pouting and posing had all the demented joie de vivre of a Russ Meyer movie: It was Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens gone berserk.

The only other person more appreciative than me was my neighbor at the show, Isaac Hayes. The great soul chanteur purred with appreciation throughout: “These laaaadies are delicioussssssly and llllavvvishly endooooowwwwwwwddd.” Mr. Hayes also gave me a hot fashion tip: mango-colored tribal ensemble was custom-made by Brooklyn-based Nigerian couturier Moshood. (Call 718-243-9433 for more details.)

2. The three days of men’s shows that preceded the women’s shows were, as usual, lacking in sensation of any kind. The exception being the Polo Ralph Lauren presentation at the Pool Room of the Four Seasons restaurant on Sept. 14, which, quite frankly, caused me to plotz.

Poppa showed a brand new suit! It’s actually not new at all; it’s Mr. Lauren’s take on a farty mid-century business look. It’s Georgetown circa 1962, and I, for one, am mad about it. This is exactly what a man’s suit should look like at this point in time: three-button, soft shoulders, narrow lapel, narrow flat-front pant. Call the Ralph Lauren store now (606-2100) and tell them to ring you as soon as the “Congressman” suits arrive (end of September, approximately). Prices range from $895 to $1,095. Wear with heavy-soled wing tips or Oxfords and no break in the pant whatsoever.

The strenuous efforts to make the men’s shows “exciting” provided me with much entertainment. The low-key jauntiness of Nautica was perked up by showing it on very hetero soap stars (e.g., Cameron Mathison of All My Children and Bruce Hall of Passions ). The goofy actors did dorky straight-guy things on the runway and waved to their fans, reminding me of the innate superiority of homosexual humor. It was sweet.

In the absence of celebrities, the menswear designers rely on stylists to pull out all the stops, deploying improbable conventions and conceits. These only-to-be-found-on-the-runway flourishes are an endless source of amusement. John Varvatos’ gorgeously Italianate linen suits were accessorized with Topanga Canyon woven hippie belts and Jesus sandals. I’d love to see some regular Joe sporting this look putting the moves on sassy office girls in a midtown sports bar. And, busting a gut to give his rather chic collection runway gravitas, Gene Meyer adorned the throats of his models with insouciantly knotted, The Boys in the Band -style kerchiefs, guaranteed to get you queer-bashed if you ventured outside a Christopher Street show-tunes bar. He also out-naffed all the other menswear designers by showing 80’s sleazeballs with ponytails and Miami Vice –ish pushed-up jacket sleeves.

3. Seated on a metal chair, waiting for yet another men’s show to begin and wondering how many NCMOS’s suffer from hemorrhoids, I flipped open the fall fashion issue of Flaunt magazine and discovered what must surely be the cheekiest men’s fashion editorial in history. Andres Serrano (remember Piss Christ ?) has photographed the men’s fall Gucci collection as modeled by a swarthy, surly-looking dwarf. According to the magazine’s editorial director of fashion, Long Nguyen, the little chap’s name is Tony and he did it for $175-exactly the amount he would have been paid for the freak show he missed at Coney Island, where he is a performer. Despite the massive, and predictable, bunching on the trousers and sleeves, Mr. Serrano’s concept actually works. I particularly like the shot of Tony with the shoulder bag and the Ali MacGraw–style printed silk head-wrap. Flaunt is $5.95 on most newsstands-and worth every penny.

4. The brief lull between the men’s and women’s shows is an opportunity to take in some of the extra-mural activities which proliferate around Fashion Week. The following exhibits are available to both contributing and non-contributing members of society:

The punk exhibit entitled 1%-Vivienne Westwood, Malcolm McLaren and the Birth of Punk: Clothing from 1971-1979 at the Visionaire Gallery, 11 Mercer Street, is a chilling reminder that while you Americans were wearing Wallabies and polyester flares, your creative and adventurous brothers and sisters across the Atlantic were wearing postmodern plaid bondage outfits and rubber drainage underwear. Don’t miss the Oliver Twist shirt, and make sure you read the punky exhortations printed thereupon regarding “setting fire to buildings,” “beating up old people with gold chains” and “fucking the rich up the arse.”

As you leave Visionaire, walk to 76 Grand Street. The store is not a store but a Deitch Projects installation entitled The Human Furrier -now through Oct. 7. Inside are the designs of Argentinian artist Nicola Costantino-an entire simulated-skin collection out of flesh-colored rubber, complete with nipples and buttholes. Hauntingly real-looking aureolae and orifices add texture to each item, reminding one of ostrich skin-very last season. There is an elaborate explanation as to what it all means which is available to you at the gallery; don’t bother reading it. Your time is much better spent listening to the comments of the assorted visitors to the gallery: “I draw the line at assholes”; “If you’ve had rectal surgery-like me-then this doesn’t seem so funny.” Everything is for sale; prices range from $2,000 to $6,500.

5. If you are a fashion designer teetering on the brink of suicide and all you need is an extra little push, then go to see Bonnie Cashin, Practical Dreamer at F.I.T. There is no way you can ever be as diverse, prolific and utterly brilliant as she was. Isn’t it better to face the truth sooner than later?

Bonnie Cashin believed, as do I, that every woman should have part of her living space set up like a store-her very own boutique. Bonnie’s residential boutique is faithfully reconstructed at this exhibit. Curated by Dorothy Twining Globus and Stephanie Day Iverson, and sponsored by Coach, this exhibit runs through Jan. 6, 2001.

P.S. In 1964, Coach Leatherware was launched with Bonnie Cashin designs. Coach is reviving some of these original bags and retailing them now at the store at Madison Avenue and 57th Street. My recommendation is the spookily monikered “body bag.” The small size is quite adequate; it costs $198 and comes in classic Cashin colors; orange, wheat, black, magenta and acid green.

6. Imitation of Christ is the name of a recycled thrift-shop collection “designed” by two raving exhibitionists who have perked up the fashion scene with their provocative p.o.v.

Their coy press release says that Tara Lynn Subkoff is a raving lunatic on day passes from the Holbrook Sanitarium in Westport, Conn. and her partner is currently a homeless person living in L.A. In fact, Tara is an aspiring actress (she was the girl in the pit in The Cell ).

These two best-friends-of-Chlöe Sevigny, who is the label’s creative director, garnered oodles of press by publicly accusing Tom Ford of having ruined Gucci and scrawling “Bring Me the Head of Tom Ford” across the front of an old Yves St. Laurent blouse. Do these highly strung artistes remember what Gucci was like before Tom made it groovy again? Isn’t chopping up thrift-shop clothes just as feeble as copying things from thrift shops? Is their anti-Ford invective merely a case of the pot calling the kettle beige, or even cerise?

The humor-impaired yet fabulously entertaining show took place in a funeral parlor, where a stream of mourners (models attempting to give thespian realness) paid their respects to a closed, lily-covered coffin. Each person was wearing a deconstructed and reconstructed thrift-shop creation. Some of the black evening wear (chopped up Victor Costa dresses?) looked quite wearable and the silhouettes were gorgeous, but their technique of salvage and deconstruction is depressingly lacking in skill and novelty-cutting up garments from thrift shops is quite common among the habitués of the East Village, where the show took place.

The big kapow! is supposed to be that these deconstructed garments are instantly available-stores can buy the one-of-a-kind runway pieces and flog them immediately, thus speeding up the fashion cycle. Why is this considered to be such a great thing? Isn’t it nice to long for things and anticipate the pleasure of wearing them? Spring delivery would also allow time for professional fumigation.

7. I’m mad about sleeves. Diane Von Furstenberg did flirty knee-grazing frocks with sleeves and they looked totally fab. Carolina Herrera, the Latina with the WASP-y clientele (Pat Buckley and C.Z. Guest were both in attendance at her show-are they contributing or non-contributing members of society?), gave us luscious satin dolman sleeves. Fashion has been sleeveless for so long; no wonder all the groovy girls line up to buy vintage Biba and Ossie Clark. And why has fashion been sleeveless for so long? I’ll tell you why. Because cutting and inserting a sleeve requires skill, and fashion-like art-is sliding into the post-skill era.

8. Miguel Ad-rover moved the goal posts and achieved the impossible. For the second season in a row, he grabbed the attention of the crème de la crème of NCMOS’s, and riveted them to their seats. Last season he did it with avant-garde deconstruction; this time he reached to the outer limits of perversity and flummoxed the fashion cognoscenti by designing a collection of unimaginable ultra-conservatism.

In a stunning volte-face, the guy who last season made a coatdress out of Quentin Crisp’s pee-stained mattress this season delivered a collection of beautifullyconstructedretro-80’s bridgewear: navy blue suits with skirts, culottes or pants, accessorized with preppy belts, sensible blouses and discreet jewelry. The huge collection was dotted with the occasional deconstructed item-some military-themed dyke-y ensembles and a shirt hand-painted with a giant box of Marlboros-but these looked normal compared to the perversely quotidian tailored separates.

Given how many women are still doing this conventional work-attire look, it has enormous commercial potential; the hard part for the stores is going to be deciding which floor to put it on.

9. Pamela Dennis gave her flawless models a great directional look that anyone in his or her right mind is going to copy immediately. Huge Harry Winston rocks-and no makeup (i.e., a faceful of matte foundation). It works, and you don’t need real diamonds-cubic zirconia, who cares? As long as they look classic and very lumpy.

10. Marc Jacobs brought tears to my eyes with his stunning evocation of early 1980’s Encino-as in “Oh… mah… gahhd”; as in “Valley girls.” A totally awesome NCMOS turnout waited till almost 10 p.m. on Monday night in a tent in the Passannante Ballfield on Houston Street and Sixth Avenue to watch Mr. Jacobs take the gag-me-with-a-spoon taste level of the Glendale Galleria and legitimize it into high fashion. With his ballsy, abrasive montage of turquoise bustiers, tulle, taffeta, ditsy cocktail hats and shell motifs, Mr. Jacobs took us back to the era of Kelly LeBrock and Dorothy Stratten.

While Mr. Jacobs’ chicks might well have been headed for Flippers Rollerdisco, his men looked like they were on their way to a Dead Kennedys concert at the Whisky-a-Go-Go. My favorite outfit on the printed line-up: “No. 42. Chris: wool jacket–stinky rat T-shirt.”

A close friend recently succeeded in pushing her psychotherapist over the edge. Despite years of exhaustive therapy, my adorably neurotic chum was never quite able to exit her particular psychological cul-de-sac. Suddenly last summer, the drained and frustrated shrink finally snapped. In an unapologetically unethical outburst, the frenzied therapist operatically denounced her longtime patient as “a non-contributing member of society.”

As I joined the hordes of dynamic fashion professionals pouring into Bryant Park for the start of Fashion Week, where designers are parading their spring/summer 2001 clothes, I wondered how that therapist would have fared when confronted with so many non-contributing members of society, or NCMOS’s. It would be fun to install that shrink in her own little nook, nestled among the promotional kiosks advertising cars, breast cancer and bottled water, and watch her lose her marbles as she went to bat with the ids and superegos of the largest gathering of NCMOS’s on the Eastern seaboard.

The New York fashion shows, which come to town twice a year, have proliferated to a hitherto unimaginable number. A morass of inconsistent, press-release-driven schmattes are thrown against the wall with more verve than ever-but how many of them will stick? Identifying useful trends for you, my readers, is almost impossible. Sorting the wheat from the chaff requires nerves of microfiber, and one often leaves the shows with a melancholy crise de coeur .

But why focus on the utter pointlessness of Fashion Week? It’s a cheap trick, and fashion folk aren’t really so bad. Many of them are quite philanthropic, and some of them can actually design beautiful clothes. Honesty compels me to admit that there are moments of unadulterated joy-though not always supplied by the runway.

Here then are my 10 most life-enhancing moments from the first half of Fashion Week:

1. Fashion Week started early for me because I was one of the NCMOS’s who was smart enough to RSVP for the Lane Bryant Fashion Show. For some reason (discrimination? shame?), this show took place on Sept. 6, more than a week prior to Fashion Week proper. In my opinion, it should be moved to the very epicenter. It eclipsed the great Galliano and Gaultier shows of yore. Watching the massive, tarty viragos (including Queen Latifah) pouting and posing had all the demented joie de vivre of a Russ Meyer movie: It was Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens gone berserk.

The only other person more appreciative than me was my neighbor at the show, Isaac Hayes. The great soul chanteur purred with appreciation throughout: “These laaaadies are delicioussssssly and llllavvvishly endooooowwwwwwwddd.” Mr. Hayes also gave me a hot fashion tip: mango-colored tribal ensemble was custom-made by Brooklyn-based Nigerian couturier Moshood. (Call 718-243-9433 for more details.)

2. The three days of men’s shows that preceded the women’s shows were, as usual, lacking in sensation of any kind. The exception being the Polo Ralph Lauren presentation at the Pool Room of the Four Seasons restaurant on Sept. 14, which, quite frankly, caused me to plotz.

Poppa showed a brand new suit! It’s actually not new at all; it’s Mr. Lauren’s take on a farty mid-century business look. It’s Georgetown circa 1962, and I, for one, am mad about it. This is exactly what a man’s suit should look like at this point in time: three-button, soft shoulders, narrow lapel, narrow flat-front pant. Call the Ralph Lauren store now (606-2100) and tell them to ring you as soon as the “Congressman” suits arrive (end of September, approximately). Prices range from $895 to $1,095. Wear with heavy-soled wing tips or Oxfords and no break in the pant whatsoever.

The strenuous efforts to make the men’s shows “exciting” provided me with much entertainment. The low-key jauntiness of Nautica was perked up by showing it on very hetero soap stars (e.g., Cameron Mathison of All My Children and Bruce Hall of Passions ). The goofy actors did dorky straight-guy things on the runway and waved to their fans, reminding me of the innate superiority of homosexual humor. It was sweet.

In the absence of celebrities, the menswear designers rely on stylists to pull out all the stops, deploying improbable conventions and conceits. These only-to-be-found-on-the-runway flourishes are an endless source of amusement. John Varvatos’ gorgeously Italianate linen suits were accessorized with Topanga Canyon woven hippie belts and Jesus sandals. I’d love to see some regular Joe sporting this look putting the moves on sassy office girls in a midtown sports bar. And, busting a gut to give his rather chic collection runway gravitas, Gene Meyer adorned the throats of his models with insouciantly knotted, The Boys in the Band -style kerchiefs, guaranteed to get you queer-bashed if you ventured outside a Christopher Street show-tunes bar. He also out-naffed all the other menswear designers by showing 80’s sleazeballs with ponytails and Miami Vice –ish pushed-up jacket sleeves.

3. Seated on a metal chair, waiting for yet another men’s show to begin and wondering how many NCMOS’s suffer from hemorrhoids, I flipped open the fall fashion issue of Flaunt magazine and discovered what must surely be the cheekiest men’s fashion editorial in history. Andres Serrano (remember Piss Christ ?) has photographed the men’s fall Gucci collection as modeled by a swarthy, surly-looking dwarf. According to the magazine’s editorial director of fashion, Long Nguyen, the little chap’s name is Tony and he did it for $175-exactly the amount he would have been paid for the freak show he missed at Coney Island, where he is a performer. Despite the massive, and predictable, bunching on the trousers and sleeves, Mr. Serrano’s concept actually works. I particularly like the shot of Tony with the shoulder bag and the Ali MacGraw–style printed silk head-wrap. Flaunt is $5.95 on most newsstands-and worth every penny.

4. The brief lull between the men’s and women’s shows is an opportunity to take in some of the extra-mural activities which proliferate around Fashion Week. The following exhibits are available to both contributing and non-contributing members of society:

The punk exhibit entitled 1%-Vivienne Westwood, Malcolm McLaren and the Birth of Punk: Clothing from 1971-1979 at the Visionaire Gallery, 11 Mercer Street, is a chilling reminder that while you Americans were wearing Wallabies and polyester flares, your creative and adventurous brothers and sisters across the Atlantic were wearing postmodern plaid bondage outfits and rubber drainage underwear. Don’t miss the Oliver Twist shirt, and make sure you read the punky exhortations printed thereupon regarding “setting fire to buildings,” “beating up old people with gold chains” and “fucking the rich up the arse.”

As you leave Visionaire, walk to 76 Grand Street. The store is not a store but a Deitch Projects installation entitled The Human Furrier -now through Oct. 7. Inside are the designs of Argentinian artist Nicola Costantino-an entire simulated-skin collection out of flesh-colored rubber, complete with nipples and buttholes. Hauntingly real-looking aureolae and orifices add texture to each item, reminding one of ostrich skin-very last season. There is an elaborate explanation as to what it all means which is available to you at the gallery; don’t bother reading it. Your time is much better spent listening to the comments of the assorted visitors to the gallery: “I draw the line at assholes”; “If you’ve had rectal surgery-like me-then this doesn’t seem so funny.” Everything is for sale; prices range from $2,000 to $6,500.

5. If you are a fashion designer teetering on the brink of suicide and all you need is an extra little push, then go to see Bonnie Cashin, Practical Dreamer at F.I.T. There is no way you can ever be as diverse, prolific and utterly brilliant as she was. Isn’t it better to face the truth sooner than later?

Bonnie Cashin believed, as do I, that every woman should have part of her living space set up like a store-her very own boutique. Bonnie’s residential boutique is faithfully reconstructed at this exhibit. Curated by Dorothy Twining Globus and Stephanie Day Iverson, and sponsored by Coach, this exhibit runs through Jan. 6, 2001.

P.S. In 1964, Coach Leatherware was launched with Bonnie Cashin designs. Coach is reviving some of these original bags and retailing them now at the store at Madison Avenue and 57th Street. My recommendation is the spookily monikered “body bag.” The small size is quite adequate; it costs $198 and comes in classic Cashin colors; orange, wheat, black, magenta and acid green.

6. Imitation of Christ is the name of a recycled thrift-shop collection “designed” by two raving exhibitionists who have perked up the fashion scene with their provocative p.o.v.

Their coy press release says that Tara Lynn Subkoff is a raving lunatic on day passes from the Holbrook Sanitarium in Westport, Conn. and her partner is currently a homeless person living in L.A. In fact, Tara is an aspiring actress (she was the girl in the pit in The Cell ).

These two best-friends-of-Chlöe Sevigny, who is the label’s creative director, garnered oodles of press by publicly accusing Tom Ford of having ruined Gucci and scrawling “Bring Me the Head of Tom Ford” across the front of an old Yves St. Laurent blouse. Do these highly strung artistes remember what Gucci was like before Tom made it groovy again? Isn’t chopping up thrift-shop clothes just as feeble as copying things from thrift shops? Is their anti-Ford invective merely a case of the pot calling the kettle beige, or even cerise?

The humor-impaired yet fabulously entertaining show took place in a funeral parlor, where a stream of mourners (models attempting to give thespian realness) paid their respects to a closed, lily-covered coffin. Each person was wearing a deconstructed and reconstructed thrift-shop creation. Some of the black evening wear (chopped up Victor Costa dresses?) looked quite wearable and the silhouettes were gorgeous, but their technique of salvage and deconstruction is depressingly lacking in skill and novelty-cutting up garments from thrift shops is quite common among the habitués of the East Village, where the show took place.

The big kapow! is supposed to be that these deconstructed garments are instantly available-stores can buy the one-of-a-kind runway pieces and flog them immediately, thus speeding up the fashion cycle. Why is this considered to be such a great thing? Isn’t it nice to long for things and anticipate the pleasure of wearing them? Spring delivery would also allow time for professional fumigation.

7. I’m mad about sleeves. Diane Von Furstenberg did flirty knee-grazing frocks with sleeves and they looked totally fab. Carolina Herrera, the Latina with the WASP-y clientele (Pat Buckley and C.Z. Guest were both in attendance at her show-are they contributing or non-contributing members of society?), gave us luscious satin dolman sleeves. Fashion has been sleeveless for so long; no wonder all the groovy girls line up to buy vintage Biba and Ossie Clark. And why has fashion been sleeveless for so long? I’ll tell you why. Because cutting and inserting a sleeve requires skill, and fashion-like art-is sliding into the post-skill era.

8. Miguel Ad-rover moved the goal posts and achieved the impossible. For the second season in a row, he grabbed the attention of the crème de la crème of NCMOS’s, and riveted them to their seats. Last season he did it with avant-garde deconstruction; this time he reached to the outer limits of perversity and flummoxed the fashion cognoscenti by designing a collection of unimaginable ultra-conservatism.

In a stunning volte-face, the guy who last season made a coatdress out of Quentin Crisp’s pee-stained mattress this season delivered a collection of beautifullyconstructedretro-80’s bridgewear: navy blue suits with skirts, culottes or pants, accessorized with preppy belts, sensible blouses and discreet jewelry. The huge collection was dotted with the occasional deconstructed item-some military-themed dyke-y ensembles and a shirt hand-painted with a giant box of Marlboros-but these looked normal compared to the perversely quotidian tailored separates.

Given how many women are still doing this conventional work-attire look, it has enormous commercial potential; the hard part for the stores is going to be deciding which floor to put it on.

9. Pamela Dennis gave her flawless models a great directional look that anyone in his or her right mind is going to copy immediately. Huge Harry Winston rocks-and no makeup (i.e., a faceful of matte foundation). It works, and you don’t need real diamonds-cubic zirconia, who cares? As long as they look classic and very lumpy.

10. Marc Jacobs brought tears to my eyes with his stunning evocation of early 1980’s Encino-as in “Oh… mah… gahhd”; as in “Valley girls.” A totally awesome NCMOS turnout waited till almost 10 p.m. on Monday night in a tent in the Passannante Ballfield on Houston Street and Sixth Avenue to watch Mr. Jacobs take the gag-me-with-a-spoon taste level of the Glendale Galleria and legitimize it into high fashion. With his ballsy, abrasive montage of turquoise bustiers, tulle, taffeta, ditsy cocktail hats and shell motifs, Mr. Jacobs took us back to the era of Kelly LeBrock and Dorothy Stratten.

While Mr. Jacobs’ chicks might well have been headed for Flippers Rollerdisco, his men looked like they were on their way to a Dead Kennedys concert at the Whisky-a-Go-Go. My favorite outfit on the printed line-up: “No. 42. Chris: wool jacket–stinky rat T-shirt.”

A close friend recently succeeded in pushing her psychotherapist over the edge. Despite years of exhaustive therapy, my adorably neurotic chum was never quite able to exit her particular psychological cul-de-sac. Suddenly last summer, the drained and frustrated shrink finally snapped. In an unapologetically unethical outburst, the frenzied therapist operatically denounced her longtime patient as “a non-contributing member of society.”

As I joined the hordes of dynamic fashion professionals pouring into Bryant Park for the start of Fashion Week, where designers are parading their spring/summer 2001 clothes, I wondered how that therapist would have fared when confronted with so many non-contributing members of society, or NCMOS’s. It would be fun to install that shrink in her own little nook, nestled among the promotional kiosks advertising cars, breast cancer and bottled water, and watch her lose her marbles as she went to bat with the ids and superegos of the largest gathering of NCMOS’s on the Eastern seaboard.

The New York fashion shows, which come to town twice a year, have proliferated to a hitherto unimaginable number. A morass of inconsistent, press-release-driven schmattes are thrown against the wall with more verve than ever-but how many of them will stick? Identifying useful trends for you, my readers, is almost impossible. Sorting the wheat from the chaff requires nerves of microfiber, and one often leaves the shows with a melancholy crise de coeur .

But why focus on the utter pointlessness of Fashion Week? It’s a cheap trick, and fashion folk aren’t really so bad. Many of them are quite philanthropic, and some of them can actually design beautiful clothes. Honesty compels me to admit that there are moments of unadulterated joy-though not always supplied by the runway.

Here then are my 10 most life-enhancing moments from the first half of Fashion Week:

1. Fashion Week started early for me because I was one of the NCMOS’s who was smart enough to RSVP for the Lane Bryant Fashion Show. For some reason (discrimination? shame?), this show took place on Sept. 6, more than a week prior to Fashion Week proper. In my opinion, it should be moved to the very epicenter. It eclipsed the great Galliano and Gaultier shows of yore. Watching the massive, tarty viragos (including Queen Latifah) pouting and posing had all the demented joie de vivre of a Russ Meyer movie: It was Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens gone berserk.

The only other person more appreciative than me was my neighbor at the show, Isaac Hayes. The great soul chanteur purred with appreciation throughout: “These laaaadies are delicioussssssly and llllavvvishly endooooowwwwwwwddd.” Mr. Hayes also gave me a hot fashion tip: mango-colored tribal ensemble was custom-made by Brooklyn-based Nigerian couturier Moshood. (Call 718-243-9433 for more details.)

2. The three days of men’s shows that preceded the women’s shows were, as usual, lacking in sensation of any kind. The exception being the Polo Ralph Lauren presentation at the Pool Room of the Four Seasons restaurant on Sept. 14, which, quite frankly, caused me to plotz.

Poppa showed a brand new suit! It’s actually not new at all; it’s Mr. Lauren’s take on a farty mid-century business look. It’s Georgetown circa 1962, and I, for one, am mad about it. This is exactly what a man’s suit should look like at this point in time: three-button, soft shoulders, narrow lapel, narrow flat-front pant. Call the Ralph Lauren store now (606-2100) and tell them to ring you as soon as the “Congressman” suits arrive (end of September, approximately). Prices range from $895 to $1,095. Wear with heavy-soled wing tips or Oxfords and no break in the pant whatsoever.

The strenuous efforts to make the men’s shows “exciting” provided me with much entertainment. The low-key jauntiness of Nautica was perked up by showing it on very hetero soap stars (e.g., Cameron Mathison of All My Children and Bruce Hall of Passions ). The goofy actors did dorky straight-guy things on the runway and waved to their fans, reminding me of the innate superiority of homosexual humor. It was sweet.

In the absence of celebrities, the menswear designers rely on stylists to pull out all the stops, deploying improbable conventions and conceits. These only-to-be-found-on-the-runway flourishes are an endless source of amusement. John Varvatos’ gorgeously Italianate linen suits were accessorized with Topanga Canyon woven hippie belts and Jesus sandals. I’d love to see some regular Joe sporting this look putting the moves on sassy office girls in a midtown sports bar. And, busting a gut to give his rather chic collection runway gravitas, Gene Meyer adorned the throats of his models with insouciantly knotted, The Boys in the Band -style kerchiefs, guaranteed to get you queer-bashed if you ventured outside a Christopher Street show-tunes bar. He also out-naffed all the other menswear designers by showing 80’s sleazeballs with ponytails and Miami Vice –ish pushed-up jacket sleeves.

3. Seated on a metal chair, waiting for yet another men’s show to begin and wondering how many NCMOS’s suffer from hemorrhoids, I flipped open the fall fashion issue of Flaunt magazine and discovered what must surely be the cheekiest men’s fashion editorial in history. Andres Serrano (remember Piss Christ ?) has photographed the men’s fall Gucci collection as modeled by a swarthy, surly-looking dwarf. According to the magazine’s editorial director of fashion, Long Nguyen, the little chap’s name is Tony and he did it for $175-exactly the amount he would have been paid for the freak show he missed at Coney Island, where he is a performer. Despite the massive, and predictable, bunching on the trousers and sleeves, Mr. Serrano’s concept actually works. I particularly like the shot of Tony with the shoulder bag and the Ali MacGraw–style printed silk head-wrap. Flaunt is $5.95 on most newsstands-and worth every penny.

4. The brief lull between the men’s and women’s shows is an opportunity to take in some of the extra-mural activities which proliferate around Fashion Week. The following exhibits are available to both contributing and non-contributing members of society:

The punk exhibit entitled 1%-Vivienne Westwood, Malcolm McLaren and the Birth of Punk: Clothing from 1971-1979 at the Visionaire Gallery, 11 Mercer Street, is a chilling reminder that while you Americans were wearing Wallabies and polyester flares, your creative and adventurous brothers and sisters across the Atlantic were wearing postmodern plaid bondage outfits and rubber drainage underwear. Don’t miss the Oliver Twist shirt, and make sure you read the punky exhortations printed thereupon regarding “setting fire to buildings,” “beating up old people with gold chains” and “fucking the rich up the arse.”

As you leave Visionaire, walk to 76 Grand Street. The store is not a store but a Deitch Projects installation entitled The Human Furrier -now through Oct. 7. Inside are the designs of Argentinian artist Nicola Costantino-an entire simulated-skin collection out of flesh-colored rubber, complete with nipples and buttholes. Hauntingly real-looking aureolae and orifices add texture to each item, reminding one of ostrich skin-very last season. There is an elaborate explanation as to what it all means which is available to you at the gallery; don’t bother reading it. Your time is much better spent listening to the comments of the assorted visitors to the gallery: “I draw the line at assholes”; “If you’ve had rectal surgery-like me-then this doesn’t seem so funny.” Everything is for sale; prices range from $2,000 to $6,500.

5. If you are a fashion designer teetering on the brink of suicide and all you need is an extra little push, then go to see Bonnie Cashin, Practical Dreamer at F.I.T. There is no way you can ever be as diverse, prolific and utterly brilliant as she was. Isn’t it better to face the truth sooner than later?

Bonnie Cashin believed, as do I, that every woman should have part of her living space set up like a store-her very own boutique. Bonnie’s residential boutique is faithfully reconstructed at this exhibit. Curated by Dorothy Twining Globus and Stephanie Day Iverson, and sponsored by Coach, this exhibit runs through Jan. 6, 2001.

P.S. In 1964, Coach Leatherware was launched with Bonnie Cashin designs. Coach is reviving some of these original bags and retailing them now at the store at Madison Avenue and 57th Street. My recommendation is the spookily monikered “body bag.” The small size is quite adequate; it costs $198 and comes in classic Cashin colors; orange, wheat, black, magenta and acid green.

6. Imitation of Christ is the name of a recycled thrift-shop collection “designed” by two raving exhibitionists who have perked up the fashion scene with their provocative p.o.v.

Their coy press release says that Tara Lynn Subkoff is a raving lunatic on day passes from the Holbrook Sanitarium in Westport, Conn. and her partner is currently a homeless person living in L.A. In fact, Tara is an aspiring actress (she was the girl in the pit in The Cell ).

These two best-friends-of-Chlöe Sevigny, who is the label’s creative director, garnered oodles of press by publicly accusing Tom Ford of having ruined Gucci and scrawling “Bring Me the Head of Tom Ford” across the front of an old Yves St. Laurent blouse. Do these highly strung artistes remember what Gucci was like before Tom made it groovy again? Isn’t chopping up thrift-shop clothes just as feeble as copying things from thrift shops? Is their anti-Ford invective merely a case of the pot calling the kettle beige, or even cerise?

The humor-impaired yet fabulously entertaining show took place in a funeral parlor, where a stream of mourners (models attempting to give thespian realness) paid their respects to a closed, lily-covered coffin. Each person was wearing a deconstructed and reconstructed thrift-shop creation. Some of the black evening wear (chopped up Victor Costa dresses?) looked quite wearable and the silhouettes were gorgeous, but their technique of salvage and deconstruction is depressingly lacking in skill and novelty-cutting up garments from thrift shops is quite common among the habitués of the East Village, where the show took place.

The big kapow! is supposed to be that these deconstructed garments are instantly available-stores can buy the one-of-a-kind runway pieces and flog them immediately, thus speeding up the fashion cycle. Why is this considered to be such a great thing? Isn’t it nice to long for things and anticipate the pleasure of wearing them? Spring delivery would also allow time for professional fumigation.

7. I’m mad about sleeves. Diane Von Furstenberg did flirty knee-grazing frocks with sleeves and they looked totally fab. Carolina Herrera, the Latina with the WASP-y clientele (Pat Buckley and C.Z. Guest were both in attendance at her show-are they contributing or non-contributing members of society?), gave us luscious satin dolman sleeves. Fashion has been sleeveless for so long; no wonder all the groovy girls line up to buy vintage Biba and Ossie Clark. And why has fashion been sleeveless for so long? I’ll tell you why. Because cutting and inserting a sleeve requires skill, and fashion-like art-is sliding into the post-skill era.

8. Miguel Ad-rover moved the goal posts and achieved the impossible. For the second season in a row, he grabbed the attention of the crème de la crème of NCMOS’s, and riveted them to their seats. Last season he did it with avant-garde deconstruction; this time he reached to the outer limits of perversity and flummoxed the fashion cognoscenti by designing a collection of unimaginable ultra-conservatism.

In a stunning volte-face, the guy who last season made a coatdress out of Quentin Crisp’s pee-stained mattress this season delivered a collection of beautifullyconstructedretro-80’s bridgewear: navy blue suits with skirts, culottes or pants, accessorized with preppy belts, sensible blouses and discreet jewelry. The huge collection was dotted with the occasional deconstructed item-some military-themed dyke-y ensembles and a shirt hand-painted with a giant box of Marlboros-but these looked normal compared to the perversely quotidian tailored separates.

Given how many women are still doing this conventional work-attire look, it has enormous commercial potential; the hard part for the stores is going to be deciding which floor to put it on.

9. Pamela Dennis gave her flawless models a great directional look that anyone in his or her right mind is going to copy immediately. Huge Harry Winston rocks-and no makeup (i.e., a faceful of matte foundation). It works, and you don’t need real diamonds-cubic zirconia, who cares? As long as they look classic and very lumpy.

10. Marc Jacobs brought tears to my eyes with his stunning evocation of early 1980’s Encino-as in “Oh… mah… gahhd”; as in “Valley girls.” A totally awesome NCMOS turnout waited till almost 10 p.m. on Monday night in a tent in the Passannante Ballfield on Houston Street and Sixth Avenue to watch Mr. Jacobs take the gag-me-with-a-spoon taste level of the Glendale Galleria and legitimize it into high fashion. With his ballsy, abrasive montage of turquoise bustiers, tulle, taffeta, ditsy cocktail hats and shell motifs, Mr. Jacobs took us back to the era of Kelly LeBrock and Dorothy Stratten.

While Mr. Jacobs’ chicks might well have been headed for Flippers Rollerdisco, his men looked like they were on their way to a Dead Kennedys concert at the Whisky-a-Go-Go. My favorite outfit on the printed line-up: “No. 42. Chris: wool jacket–stinky rat T-shirt.”