“Is Ellen Tracy worth going to?” said a woman wearing a hat that looked like a beefeater’s helmet to Robert Verdi, the style commentator, who at that moment was preparing to interview Hal Rubenstein, another style commentator, about the Max Azria show, which had just let out.
Mr. Verdi was frank with her: “It’s real clothes for real people who shop in real malls,” he said. The woman slunk away towards the check-in line.
While working on this season’s collection for Heatherette, designer Travis Rains said he listened non-stop to the Dreamgirls soundtrack. “I had [it] on constant rotation to get me through the late nights at the studio,” he said. Too bad Beyonce’s current chart topper, “Irreplaceable,” is not on that album, since it sounds like a veritable paean to Fashion Week: “To the left, to the left, everything you own in a box to the left!”
On Sunday, Feb. 4, the Italian menswear label Z Zegna showed a clever collection, demonstrating what great looks could come out of a box of leftover hand-me-downs. The models looked like sorry wretches, in pageboy hats, untucked sweaters that extended below the hem of their suit blazers, and nondescript knit caps worn in tandem with the exquisitely tailored wool suits for which the house is known. A couple of looks drew on a caveman appeal: scrappy fur lining peeked out from beneath burly Cossack overcoats and draped itself about the models’ necks and shoulders. They clomped down a runway of black pebbles. The look was strong, manly, and strangely Socialist in its lumpen, proletariat aesthetic.
At Marc Bouwer the day before, there were no animal skins, but several anti-fur slogans projected onto the walls. Rue McClanahan showed up in front row. The former Golden Girl is an animal lover and a couturier herself – her clothing line “A Touch of Rue” caters to women of a certain age.
“I think all of us are animal lovers, but most of us don’t think about what it means to be wearing their pelts on our backs,” she said. “I love you too, but I don’t want to skin ‘ya!”
Blanche Devereaux, Ms. McClanahan’s character on the long-running sitcom, was known for her flowing billowy blouses and clickety-clack heels. The show has been in syndication for over a decade, but when Ms. McClanahan and a couple of her cast mates recently made an appearance at a Barnes and Noble book signing, “there were hordes of twentysomething and teenage girls screaming like they were rock stars,” said Jim Colucci, author of the book The Q Guide to The Golden Girls. “It was hysterical.”
Ms. McClanahan doesn’t get the whole stoic horse walk of girls on the runways these days. “I could never be a model,” she said. “Because I could not be that bland and personality-less. I’d respond to the crowd: ‘hiya, how ya doin’!!’”
At Matthew Williamson the next night, one such creature took a bold step. Unable to make it down the runway in her rhinstoned stilletoes, she took them off midway and continued on in stocking feet.
One lone watcher put hands together to applaud the rebellion. Everyone else glared venomously. The poor thing intensified her own stare and quickened her pace down and up the catwalk.
Clothes are not inherently perishable, but fashion is and in the rag trade, could there be such thing as “too much?” This was the question on many people’s minds on Saturday night at Cipriani, where the L.A.-based company Rock and Republic showed its collection – after a lavish spread of bellinis, battered shrimp and tuna tartar. The show was an hour and a half late in getting underway, largely because guests ignored announcements to take their seats and kept on boozing and chomping.
Then came the show: a parade of neo-streetwalker wear. “Sexy, man,” said the designer Michael Ball backstage afterwards. “Every woman has that sexy beast in her and she should bring it out once and a while. When she wears Rock, she’s gonna be sexy.”
And who, exactly, is the woman who will wear those clothes?
“Uhm, let’s see, in terms of what?” he said. “Like on the street?”
At Nicole Miller, a decidedly less sexy brand, an Aztec-inspired collection. The models wore Peruvian mountain women’s hats and those wool caps with the ear flaps that hipsters all across Williamsburg adopted and discarded sometime around 2000. Ms. Miller dresses the sensible, the supposedly career oriented, and her clothes are very wearable. They’re just not, shall we say, irreplaceable.