The odds of me being at a fashion show when Armageddon arrived on 9/11-the second day of the spring 2002 New York collections-were extremely high. But as fate would have it, it was my potter husband, Jonathan Adler, who was, oblivious to the unfolding catastrophe, happily ensconced in the front row of the 9 a.m. Liz Lange Maternity show, rooting for his college pal.
Filled with the blackest anxiety of my life, I tore out of my office on 47th Street toward Bryant Park to find my bloke. Inside the tent, a security guard mumbled something about another plane. My knuckles got whiter. After what seemed like an eternity of maternity, the show ended and breezy, carefree fashionistas flooded past me, without a clue that thousands of people were perishing. As Jonny and I reached Fifth Avenue, the first tower fell.
Now, five months later, with the fall 2002 shows looming in New York, we modish folk are coming to the haunting realization that the apocalyptic horrors of 9/11 will inextricably and forever be linked to la mode . “Our show was the night before,” recalled a melancholy Marc Jacobs during fittings for his fall 2002 show, scheduled for 9 p.m. on Feb. 11 at the armory on Lexington and 27th Street. “We had the most amazing after-party we’ve ever had. Obviously, we had no idea what was going to happen the next day.”
“The date 9/11 was circled in my calendar for months” ahead of time, said Ms. Lange. “It was the hugest deal-my first show at Bryant Park, the first maternity show ever. Everyone was covering it. I get sick to my stomach when I think of the effort and money which it took to pack 300 people into a tent, but I felt like I had no choice. I walked out at the end and saw the first tower come down. I don’t feel like I was being punished for excess; that was the system then.”
Sept. 11 has torn the knickers off Fashion Week-thank God!
When some of the designers who’d canceled their shows finally held scaled-back, kinder, gentler versions in October-after the European collections-these events were hailed by many as a vast improvement. “We found ourselves back in our showroom. The intimacy was back, and we got our message across without all the usual insanity,” recalls Patti Cohen, executive vice president of global marketing and communications for Donna Karan.
The hideously burdensome mandate to feed the content-thirsty media by turning every runway show into an event comparable to Talk magazine’s Statue of Liberty party had evaporated. The resulting low-key proceedings recalled-for us older fashion slags-the 1980’s, when Fran Lebowitz was the only person approximating a celeb attendee, and Fashion Week was little more than a tarted-up trade show.
The schedule for the upcoming fall 2002 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week contains far fewer shows. A skanky economy has knocked many designers out of business-e.g., Miguel Adrover and Daryl K-and rendered many others barely able to afford the cost of a press kit. This year, Bryant Park has two tents instead of three, and the more boutiquey shows will take place at the Puck Building in Soho.
Sept. 11 has cut the cackle and put the emphasis back on the clothes. But will this less hysterical style last more than a season?
Girls! We must fight to make sure it does. Stiffen those sinews, summon the blood and gird up your loins. Man the ramparts and pour boiling oil on anyone who tells you that Tori Spelling just took your front-row seat. Just say no … to hype!
The media machinery that now surrounds fashion has duped designers-not always the smartest people on earth-into believing that their raison d’être is not to create great clothes, but to stage szhooshy fashion shows. The result? Thousands of superfluous showings of mediocre garments-as opposed to fashion! These runway un-extravaganzas into which emerging designers are pouring their libidinal and creative energy-and last nickel-only serve to provide content for the proliferation of cheesy fashion Internet sites and TV shows.
So listen up! Don’t have a show until you are good and ready and can afford it!
All the szhoosh has also distracted the ordinary woman on the street (the OWOTS). J’adore la publicité , but the excessive media coverage that has, in recent years, accompanied the New York collections is all happening at the wrong time-i.e., it needs to coincide with the arrival of the clothes in the stores, i.e., when the fashion industry needs you, the OWOTS, to be excited enough to buy them. If Fashion Week is more of a trade-only event, then the OWOTS will be at liberty to concentrate-without distraction-on the clothes they can put on their backs right now.
Smaller, chicer showings with less “non-critical fluff” (e.g., attendees from dot-coms) would do some real damage to the knockoff trade. “Before the last look goes out, the entire show is on the Internet,” groans Patti Cohen. “It’s all become so global and excessive.” As it is, what emerging trends there are are so overhyped and over-heralded that by the time the garments reach the consumer, they seem tired and ready for Loehmann’s.
If American Fashion Week occupied a more inaccessible slot on the entertainment calendar, it would acquire a new mystery and cachet. Wholesale showrooms, for instance, in contrast to runway shows, are relaxed and genteel. They offer a chicly civilized opportunity for buyers to scrutinize the clothes (to make sure they are good enough for you, the OWOTS) and for journalists to confront the designer in person (and ask, e.g., “What were you smoking when you designed this little number?”).
Ms. Lange was able to launch her new line, Liz Lange for Nike, with post-9/11 restraint. “We did a lunch at Michael’s-40 editors and two fit models,” she said. “The press will come out in April, when all the product hits the stores. It’s a simple approach, but it totally works.”
If Fashion Week were to revert to being more of a pimple on the bum of the national consciousness, this would not preclude designers from making front-page news. If a designer creates life-changing product, press will follow. Fashion Week is never going to turn into a quilting bee.
Don’t get me wrong: Fern Mallis, executive director of 7th on Sixth and IMG vice president, has labored tirelessly to get American Fashion Week organized and to keep it on the international map of grooviness. Thanks to Fern, New York is a playa. (This season, Balenciaga’s Nicolas Ghesquière and Matthew Williamson will both bring their wares to New York.) Putting the brakes on the Day of the Locust frenzy will not undo Fern’s good work; it will simply put the emphasis where it belongs-on the fashion.
Let’s be honest, the marriage between fashion and celebrity is TOTALLY LAST YEAR! Kim Cattrall … Kim Cattrall … Kim Cattrall … front row … Kim Cattrall … Blahniks … Kim Cattrall … Kim Cattrall … Aaaaaaaahhhhh!!!!
Now that we have real heroes, we no longer need to project all this garbage onto actors. Right?
P.S.: Somewhat hypocritically, I will be back next week with a modest dollop of fall 2002 Fashion Week coverage. I promise to keep it insanely chic and unbelievably low-key.