To introduce the Rolling Stones at the VH1 Fashion Awards Oct. 24 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, the comic actor Jim Carrey wore a fig leaf and nothing else on bunny-pink skin.
“This is where fashion began,” said Mr. Carrey, carrying a red apple with a big bite taken out of it, his delivery characteristically mocking and stentorian. “This fig leaf and forbidden-fruit ensemble dares to say: banish me.”
Feigning wickedness, Mick Jagger responded: “I want to eat his fig leaf.”
Mr. Carrey’s appearance seemed to gibe the style-besotted crowd, but his costume was a reminder that there is a difference between clothing and fashion. Fashion, as Mr. Carrey seems to have learned recently, is elaborate and complicated. One doesn’t just throw on any old fig leaf. Far from it. Mr. Carrey himself conceived his costume and, in planning his appearance, he sketched a fig leaf and faxed it to VH1’s offices in New York. His design was sent to a local tailor for construction; the basis of it was a G-string bought on Christopher Street. The final creation was delivered to Mr. Carrey at the St. Regis hotel, where he and/or his people decided the fig leaf was too small. The tailor was called to add an inch all around to Mr. Carrey’s costume moments before show time.
Much ado about a little bit of nothing, but that’s fashion. There’s always much ado. If it were easy, fashion wouldn’t be so consuming. So, of course, the advent of fashion week in New York, beginning Saturday, Nov. 1, when designers present their spring 1998 collections, is loaded already with snags and puckers. This year, the plot turns mostly on the relocation of Seventh on Sixth, the offshoot of the Council of Fashion Designers of America that, since 1993, has organized the shows under tents at Bryant Park and in office building lobbies nearby, to the Pier 59 Studios and Chelsea Piers. In the weeks leading up to fashion week, there seems to be a concentrated anxiety on the part of those who flock to these gatherings over the space at the piers and over the fact that many designers have decided not to show there.
The decision of Seventh on Sixth to relocate was made when the organizers learned last summer they might not be able to rent several of the spaces they used for shows on West 40th Street. The board of Seventh on Sixth met at the piers, a location scouted by Fern Mallis, executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Seventh on Sixth, and Stan Herman, president of the organizations. “We wondered if we should try to find a new place or just stop bothering. Let the designers find their own spaces. But, somehow, continuing with Seventh on Sixth seemed an important mission, the best way to help make certain American designers hold their own in the global fashion economy,” Ms. Mallis explained during a tour of the piers recently.
“Our board signed off on the piers for two years. Calvin Klein, Bill Blass, Joseph Abboud were there when we met. Richard Tyler was on the phone from L.A. Donna Karan was on the phone from God knows where.” But those board members mostly are designers who have of late shown at locations away from the organized event, and Seventh on Sixth was unable to persuade them to change their minds. In fact, during any given fashion week, half of the shows never took place at the Bryant Park tents, including Marc Jacobs’ show, always a favorite ticket. Mr. Jacobs never did the tents and isn’t showing at the piers. “I’m not interested in showing in a place where everyone else shows,” the designer said not long ago.
“I just wish people would write their reviews after they see how it works,” Ms. Mallis said as workmen rushed by.
Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan retreated from the Bryant Park tents in April 1996; Calvin Klein followed the next season. Mr. Lauren and Ms. Karan like to present their collections in their showrooms at 650 Madison Avenue and 550 Seventh Avenue, respectively. Mr. Klein, after two seasons at the Dia Center for the Arts, is showing in a warehouse space he’s leased year-round on West 15th Street. For the designers who maintain such commodious and arguably intimate spaces, it makes sense to use them for shows.
“It’s much easier to look at the clothes and to understand the fabrics. I love it in Ralph and Donna’s showroom when you can really get to see the clothes,” Harper’s Bazaar editor in chief Liz Tilberis said during a recent chat. “We’ve been seeing huge shows for nearly 20 years. Sometimes, small is better. When I see a runway up high, I find it a little too austere.”
So the fashion devotees will find themselves all over town during fashion week. Isaac Mizrahi announced Oct. 24 that he will show at a location near Wall Street on Nov. 6. Carolina Herrera, Ellen Tracy, Todd Oldham, Pamela Dennis, and Randolph Duke for Halston will show in a gallery space on 24th Street near 10th Avenue arranged by their producer, Kevin Krier, who just pulled off a much-admired Gucci show in Milan.
“Your signposts at the piers are bowling alleys and a golf course. It seemed so far away from the chic elements of Manhattan,” Mr. Krier explained. “Our space feels like it is on the right side of the tracks.”
Meanwhile, Oscar de la Renta and his neighbor in northwestern Connecticut, Bill Blass, will present their collections at the New-York Historical Society, where their pal Betsy Gotbaum is president. Good luck. Last season, Randolph Duke’s debut show for the Halston collection was held at the historical society. When the show was late, the crowd got hungry. They pushed and a colleague of mine lost his footing and tripped. A guard, thinking said colleague was trying to pull his seat ahead of the rest, slugged the man in his chest.
There are great expectations for British designer Rifat Ozbek and the return of Stephen Sprouse. Helmut Lang’s SoHo boutique is scheduled to open at 80 Greene Street on Nov. 4. On Nov. 5, Boy George will deejay at the reopening of Bulgari’s Fifth Avenue shop. Last but not least are all the activities surrounding the Whitney Museum’s tribute to Andy Warhol, a 500-piece exhibition called The Warhol Look: Glamour Style Fashion . Wendy Goldberg and Anne Fuchs are co-chairing the opening dinner at the museum on Nov. 6. An extensive “Fashion and Film” series will run concurrent with the Warhol show. Some 50 features, documentaries and short subjects chose by Matthew Yokobosky, an associate curator at the Whitney, will be on view until Jan. 11.
Barneys will get in the act when Simon Doonan, using the photographs of Roxanne Lowitt, creates tableaux in the windows of the Madison Avenue store to celebrate the Warhol show.
“Warhol is very timely,” Mr. Doonan said recently, “particularly as fashion struggles to perfect the uptown-downtown mix that was such an important part of Andy’s message.”