Among Fashion Week Ruins There’s Still Oscar, Betsey

Fall Fashion Week was a grim and violent affair. Betsey Johnson’s Technicolor pixies, Anna Sui’s mod slags, Michael Kors’ Hermès-y snots–these were but brief amuses-bouches in a long and Lord of the Flies kind of a week.

On Valentine’s Day, at approximately 9:30 p.m. at the Ukrainian National Home on Second Avenue, white-trash models toting axes and crossbows crept warily through a dirt-filled, rustic setting as Pierre Carrilero, designing under the name Pierrot, proclaimed his right to bare sweaters. His Ruby Ridge- and Waco-themed knitwear collection (I’m not making this up; I couldn’t if I tried) had all the upbeat wholesomeness of the “squeal like a pig” scene from Deliverance . Re pigs: The following day, a cute little porker was stabbed to death on Survivor: The Australian Outback . Then, on Friday, Feb. 16, the last gory day of Fashion Week, at precisely 3 p.m., Donna Karan ravaged an elk–in a manner of speaking.

To a thrumming, ominous, Survivor -tribal-council-ish soundtrack, Donna Karan sent out a pissed-off, flat-booted army of post-apocalyptic warrior girls. They appeared to be returning to their encampment (possibly a cave) after repelling an army of horny Huns (possibly by modeling at them). Fortunately, the casualties were limited to Donna’s fabrics: “ravaged felted shearling,” “stained vicuña,” “savaged chiffon” and–my personal fave–”ravaged elk.” Though much of the clothing was gorge and wearable, elk-ravaging Donna left me wondering: Why the violence? Why now?

In my un-humble opinion, it’s a warning message from the great fashion goddess in the sky. And she’s angry at everyone–especially you! She’s had it with you and your closet full of sensible, stylish basics–and she’s trying to jolt you out of your complacent obsession with practicality.

Stop whimpering! You know she’s right!

And P.S.: You’re not the only one. Just look at the lovely Christy Turlington–front row at Katayone Adeli. Could she dress more Quakerishly? Yes, we all remember the pre-Prada days when there was a real dearth of basic groovy wardrobe components. (Donna was in the vanguard of fixing this problem.) But now, 10 years later, Banana, Club Monaco and Gap solids, basics and essentials have taken over your closet and, like a squadron of horrid little moths, chomped the personality and savoir faire out of your fashion repertoire. The solution? Save your shekels and, this coming fall, splurge on some wildly impractical, improbable, extrovert fashion.

Here is my list of fall 2001 items without which you could go on living (though I might get violent if you try) from the 92 shows that comprised Fashion Week:

1. Oscar de la Renta’s ruffled blouses. The only ruffles you’ve purchased in the last few years have 16 grams of fat per serving, but that’s all gonna change this fall. Trust me. Miguel Adrover managed to work ruffled frocks into his Middle Eastern-themed show (it was very “The Waltons Go to Cairo”), but the best ruffles came from non-ironic Latin charmer Oscar de la Renta. Choose from white chiffon halters or brown taffeta long-sleeved blouses. P.S.: Oscar also did the best un-basic boot of the season–it’s a knee-length, high-heeled, porno-Pilgrim style, complete with sassy brass buckle.

2. Betsey Johnson’s multicolored knickers. Pair them with your boring basic knits, especially those old short-sleeved turtlenecks, and start looking like a human being again. F.Y.I.: Cart-wheeling kook Betsey was the only person smart enough to allow her runway models to behave the way they behave backstage, i.e., naughty and excitable. The ubiquitous, charmless, high-stepping, robotic runway choreography so wisely eschewed by Betsey has been with us for the last four years. It’s all so utterly retarded that, if the girls try it again next season, I promise I’m going to start throwing handfuls of marbles onto the runway (I can be violent, too). If the young lovelies would only express their individuality–as they used to–the whole show experience might actually stand a chance of becoming fun once more. I know there are bigger issues in the world about which to get steamed up, but I’m tired of being given the épaule froide . Models should be coquettish, alluring and wicked.

3. Michael Kors’ cashmere jockey pullovers. While I waited backstage to congratulate Mr. Kors on his stellar offering–specifically those gorgeous, graphic jockey turtlenecks–I spied the large instruction board upon which was magic-markered, in bold letters, the modeling motivations for the girls who walked the Kors show. Along with the more obvious mandates like “Follow the U-shape of the runway” (sounds obvious, but bear in mind the large quota of blondes in the modeling community), there were some kicky creative directions: “You are the chicest, sexiest bunch of equestrians in history. You don’t need to hunt, you are the fox.” I was flabbergasted: Despite these clever directions, Michael’s girls had walked with exactly the same wretched, unalluring stomp as at every other show. Then I realized the problem: E.S.L.! These Latvian, Brazilian and Czech lovelies barely speak English, never mind read it.

4. Anna Sui’s black and multicolored patchwork floral silk blouse. Ms. Sui, who is living proof that it’s possible to be cool and groovy without resorting to copying Helmut Lang and Prada, showed a jillion Marianne Faithfull prints. In her pop daisies and dotted paisleys you will feel as happening as Marianne in her heyday, but without the complications of a class-A drug dependency.

5. Pierrot’s orange-and-green cheerleader sweater with twin revolvers knitted into the chest area. Perfect for those occasions when you want to give an impression of laissez-faire, e.g., your annual performance review or mammogram.

6. Daryl K’s red Unabomber shirt. Après show, I asked Daryl Kerrigan to explain her fascination with the Unabomber and the famous police sketch thereof. Miss K. propounded an interesting theory that made me wonder if this Irish designer had not calmed her pre-show nerves with more than just a drop of the hard stuff. She insists that the famous sketch is not Ted Kaczynski at all. Mr. Kaczynski, claims Ms. Kerrigan, might be the bomber, but he looked “terrible. Nothing like that hot, sexy guy in the sketch. Anyone can see that. This guy in the hooded sweatshirt is still at large, and I wanna meet him.”

7. Helmut Lang’s white chiffon empire dress with satin saucers on the breasts. This space-age baby doll is perfect for your wedding day or a daisy-gathering romp in a summer meadow.

8. Bob Mackie. If you are a Jo Anne Worley, Linda Dano or Reba McEntire type (they were all screeching from the front row), this collection is perfect for you. And if you’re not, before you mock, you ought to know that Bob’s theatrical montage of secret agents, cabaret chanteuses and high-class tarts got the only 100 percent hooting standing ovation (at Ralph Lauren’s show, it’s only the employees who stand) of Fashion Week. The costumey, uninhibited flair of these beautifully constructed garments (he inherited many of the skilled workers from Nancy Reagan fave James Galanos when he closed his doors), combined with the sweet, Christopher Guest-ish unpretentiousness of his presentation, was a timely reminder of how humorless and up-its-own-butt fashion has become. And this is precisely what has happened, albeit on a microlevel, to your turgid little closet. So call up the Metro Channel and beg them to rerun Bob’s show: 324-8500. You might learn something.

P.S.: Don’t you think Puffy’s onetime chauffeur, Wardell Fenderson, looks very Miguel Adrover (this season) in his nifty peaked cap?