NEW YORK – Even before I return from New York Fashion Week, I can predict the questions from friends and colleagues: “What was your favorite show?” “Did you see any celebrities?” “What was the highlight of the week?”
I’m always ready for them with a stack of rehearsed answers. Favorite? “Marc Jacobs.” Celeb? “Yes I saw (fill in name of a starlet from any vampire-related TV show or movie here).” Highlight? “The highlight was when I finally got a chance to get some sleep.”
None of these answers are true. Reality is more nuanced than cafeteria conversation. Fashion Week is a series of puzzle pieces: an incredible Prabal Gurung sandal, an obnoxious and self-important woman at Milk Studios who stepped on my foot and didn’t say “Excuse me,” followed by a raincloud gray Marchesa mermaid dress floating on a burst of white tulle that made me smile. In the end, the puzzle comes together to look like a disturbing and enchanting Cubist painting.
It’s hard to remember what Michael Kors showed at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning when you’re watching Ralph Lauren at 10 a.m. on Thursday. In that 24-hour span, you’ve watched 10 other shows, written a few stories, and perhaps dulled some of that over-stimulation with a few glasses of champagne handed to you by a male model carrying a silver tray at a party your friend insisted would be the party of the season. Sleep can wait until the train back to Boston.
If you care to know, my favorite moments of Fashion Week are those I least expect. Last week while I was walking to my seat at the Naeem Khan show, I was stuck behind an impossibly slow herd of bloggers, or junior-junior editors, wearing boots that are not made for walking. In a huff, I rushed around them, and nearly tripped over Matt Damon, who was sitting in the front row. I apologized, he smiled, and I blurted out something stupid like “Boston I too from!” Smooth.
At Michael Bastian’s men’s show, I (inadvertently) creeped out actor Cheyenne Jackson by staring a bit too much, and I came very close to proposing to Julianne Moore at Tommy Hilfiger’s women’s show.
After 14 seasons of covering Fashion Week, I tend not to get star struck, and I’m too shy to approach a lot of celebrities. Sometimes, however, I really can’t stop myself. I essentially bowed at the feet of Sofia Coppola when I saw her at Anna Sui.
The show I was going to skip turned out to be the thrill of the week.
And now that we’ve arrived on the designer Anna Sui, I’m going to stop for a moment and relive what was perhaps my greatest joy of fashion week. May I be frank? Sui is not one of my favorite designers, and so I was not planning to attend the show. It was next-to-the-last day of Fashion Week, and I looked like a drooling extra from “The Walking Dead.” I had spent the week in the slush battling cabs and deadlines. Still, I dragged myself to Lincoln Center for her show.
Here is one of those great joys of Fashion Week that can be difficult to express with a one-liner. Sui’s show was absolutely amazing and more fun than a barrelful of kittens. The runway was a Carnaby Street riot of 1960s-influenced youthquake colors. It was Mary Quant filtered through Sui’s kaleidoscopic imagination.
Slack jawed and thinking “Sweet mother of Pierre Cardin,” I was ecstatic as I watched a magenta faux chinchilla fur hood appear. It was all an homage to one of my favorite film directors, Jean-Luc Godard. The soundtrack was 1960s French pop music, the same music I deejay in clubs in Boston. The show I was going to skip turned out to be the thrill of the week.
Sometimes it’s the energy and exuberance of a fashion show that makes you fall in love with a collection, and sometimes it’s the audacity of the designer. Moncler Grenoble, the company that makes puffy outwear, filled Gotham Hall with 370 models who stood perfectly still, shoulder-to-shoulder, for more than two hours in green winter coats. One of the models fainted and needed to be carried out. This primarily happened in the dark. When the strobe lights flashed, you caught glimpses of the coats. Thankfully some of those aforementioned waiters with champagne were on hand to make the whole spectacle appear somewhat more normal.
I also enjoy shows where I feel a sense of pride, as if these designers are children I’ve somehow helped nurture. I continually talk about Marblehead native Sally LaPointe. She is remarkably sweet, talented, and I’ve watched her grow from a designer who sold in a few boutiques to a designer who attracts A-list celebrities.
Diane von Furstenberg’s star-studded show was predictable, but in the best way possible. Like von Furstenberg herself, the clothes are always effervescent and charming.
Jason Wu’s Asian-inspired collection was chic, but the room crackled with energy because Wu had just dressed first lady Michelle Obama for the inaugural ball. Oh, and there was the camaraderie we felt arriving at a random location on the West Side Highway in the middle of an ice storm to see Wu’s clothes.
So to answer those questions a bit more honestly: My favorite shows were Anna Sui, Marchesa, Nautica (don’t judge), Rag & Bone, and Donna Karan. I saw buckets of celebs. And the highlight of my week was the brief moment of tranquility and bliss I felt at the Pierre Hotel as Tory Burch sent out 1920s-inspired looks backed by a soundtrack of the Pet Shop Boys.Christopher Muther can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther