Fashion Week’s Brave Face

“Fashion people live in a fantasy anyway,” said Ms. Coddington. “A new season is always refreshing so everyone is inherently going to be very optimistic. The shows are the fodder that I will feed off for the next six months. It doesn’t even matter if they’re good or bad. It’s a whole restart, begin, re-look.”

A few days later, on Monday, Feb. 16, A-list editors—Ms. Wintour, Harper’s Bazaar’s Glenda Bailey, Elle’s Robbie Myers and Marie Claire’s Joanna Coles and Nina Garcia—and White House social secretary Desiree Rogers watched hungrily as Carolina Herrera sent out rich fabrics, lace and corset gowns.

“I think fashion this season is an expression of personal vision rather than trying to fit into an idea of what’s going to sell at retail because obviously that model is falling apart,” said Elle’s Anne Slowey from the front row. “And that’s a great place to be in.”

She added: “I can’t help but remember what it was like when I moved here, in the early ’80s, and no one had any money. We were making outfits out of flower pots and garbage bins to go out to Area at night, but you saw some of the most expressive, wonderful things on the streets. They went for it, and I’m a big advocate of that—the crazier, the better.”

On Valentine’s Day, socialite favorite Elise Overland showed a presentation called Shimmer in which the models wore gold Alexander Calder jewelry and crowns. (Despite being the ultimate counter-recession accessory, crowns seemed to be a theme; at Mr. Wu’s show, models wore playful, tiaralike headpieces.)

“Crowns can look very majestic and tribal,” Ms. Overland told the Transom. “It’s more an attitude than a look. It’s badass and that’s how I wanted these girls to be—the sophisticated rock ’n’ roll badass, princesses.” (Now there’s a look for the gloomy days ahead!)

Mr. Overland’s collection also featured lamé-colored lambskin in shades of emerald, turquoise and gold—hardly the understated palette of a somber fall collection.

“I always think, ‘What would be my black that is not black?’ Right now, I think of green as a black,” she said. “I kind of went the other way of everything going on—I have glamour and craziness and that indulgence in fabrics and shimmer and glimmer.”

Ms. Overland’s presentation was more of a party than a formal showing of a collection. The models laughed, posed and danced while standing on an elevated white platform as guests, sipping sugary cocktails, socialized.

“I don’t think anyone here is concerned right now, right at this moment, about job losses,” said habitual partygoer and jewelry designer Waris Ahluwalia, who arrived with girlfriend Chiara Clemente and socialite Arden Wohl.

“I love economic crises,” he continued. “Well, no, wait, that’s not what I mean! I can already see The Observer headline: ‘Waris Loves an Economic Crisis.’ It is horrible, I understand that, of course. But when I say it’s fantastic, I mean for creativity. It’s a fantastic time for art.”

Nearby, socialite Fabiola Beracasa, who had attended Alexander Wang’s much discussed show earlier that day, was chatting with Ms. Overland. (Mr. Wang’s show at Roseland Ballroom on Saturday had pre-show tequila cocktails for the guests and takeout from Hooters backstage; Sarah Jessica Parker sat next to Ms. Wintour in the front row.)

“Alex Wang was amazing. It was a party, but also a show and with tequila!” said Ms. Beracasa. “Fashion is always going to be around, and people will always have to wear clothes. So let’s be honest about it. It’s a viable business and all of us somehow live off of it. It’s more than just fun.”

Fashion Week’s Brave Face