Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week opened with a strut that pointed to a trend worth noticing: namely, that fashion is thinking globally.
The edgy designer Nicholas K started off the morning with a collection of women’s wear and menswear that I labeled “urban nomad.” The colors were mostly dusty neutrals— olive, mustard, khaki, ivory, black. Drapey, asymmetrical silhouettes with tough ultra-high heeled chunky heel shoes and boots.
As I predicted, the military influence was obvious. But more noticeable was the shrouded head, the whispery thin organic fabrics in less-than-perfect lines walking into some kind of endless next. Sitting there, I felt like I was being transported into the desert; into other worlds with people who speak other languages, but somehow the language of fashion connected us all. The models were present, elegant and invisible all at once.
Contrast that to BCBG MAXAZRIA, the diffusion line that the Azrias have created to bring fashion to the layperson’s pocketbook. I typically love this line. It’s got enough edge, once again with asymmetrical lines, but always with a splash of happiness through color. Many of the prints from this collection hailed from indigenous cultures. West Africa textile design translated on silk. Ikat-esque patterns. Native American. Native all over the world, really. That’s what made silhouettes that are very similar to last season fresh. The printed fabrics that promised a respect for people around the world.
I would like to believe that we will continue to see this march of many, this inclusive swath of pattern and texture and reach to communities beyond those that we claim as our own. The week will soon tell.
Inclusion occurred for sure at the end of the day, in honor of Fashion’s Night Out.
Honestly, to see the juxtaposition of joblessness and joviality at least for one night was noteworthy.
It rained fiercely all morning, making the start of Fashion Week difficult, especially for those inappropriately clad in an effort to be cute.
But as the darkness dawned, the rain stopped, and a balmy evening made it possible for thousands of New Yorkers to take to the streets. From upper Madison Avenue to the Meatpacking District and plenty of neighborhoods all around, New York City was on fire.
The major challenge was that it was nearly impossible to get around. Fabulously clad fashionistas cluttered the streets. Traffic moved at no-miles-per-hour. Events that one might want to attend occurred at approximately the same time approximately 90 blocks away from each other. For those of us who attempted the zigzag, we lost.
Gridlock was this evening’s reality.
So, one point of discontent about Fashion’s Night Out is that it needs to last a few more hours or even a few more days. I bet retailers would appreciate a little more time to entice shoppers to come inside and spend. Not so much, for their salespeople. (I know because I talked to a few employees at departments at Lord & Taylor and Macys who were happy for the business but not so happy that they would be at work unable to consume champagne with their clientele until night turns into day.)
That said, I got a few good experiences in before the night ended.
My partners at TheGrio.com helped me out by interviewing Laila Ali at Destination Maternity, because I was stuck in traffic. I’m so glad they talked to her because I remember so clearly that on September 11, 2001 — ten years ago now — the very first fashion show held in the tents at Bryant Park was Liz Lange, a maternity wear designer.
WATCH theGRIO’s INTERVIEW w/ LAILA ALI HERE:
For the first time ever, real pregnant women — not belly-stuffed models (as Beyonce is wrongly accused of being!) — marched the runway at the exact same time that the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were struck. I remember being horrified as the 15-minute fashion presentation ended to learn about the devastation that had just occurred. Another juxtaposition: the promise of life contrasted to the immediacy of sudden death. Somehow Laila Ali’s pregnancy and support of maternity wear helps to soften the blow that will always be an open sore for our nation.
On a much lighter note, I had the experience of being like a frustrated ambulance chaser. Trying to see Ne-Yo at Saks Fifth Avenue; missing him by minutes. Looking for Lafayette 148’s designer Edward Wilkerson, my dear friend, minutes after he had left Lord & Taylor. Missing isn’t fun. It was great to find Jones New York’s style guy Lloyd Boston, whom I have known since he worked at Tommy Hilfiger. Now he is advising “real women” on how to dress for their bodies. Brilliant. Plus, he represents an affordable label which “real women” and others love. I also got to see Questlove from The Roots. Although he had already finished performing he was as gracious as ever. We met earlier this year when I was working with Prince. He is one of those consistent brothers. Consistently a gentleman, an artist, a professional.
I’m pretty sure my colleagues made it downtown as I headed up. They were going to dance with my friend, designer Tracy Reese, who was having a dance contest, and hang with another friend Edris Nicholls who has a fabulous hair salon that draws all kinds of celebrities in the Meatpacking district. Because I cannot yet do the clone thing, I could only send them my love.
The highlight for me happened at Giorgio Armani. Yes, I got there late thanks to traffic. But I got there in time to hear brilliance. Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett are soon starring in a Broadway play about Martin Luther King Jr.’s last night alive, The Mountaintop. They spent a good hour and change talking about the play and about race relations in America. The store was packed with people who clearly respect the actors, their new work and the designer Armani.
For the few minutes that I was able to listen in, I heard two very honest and smart creative talents address issues of race head on followed immediately about a discussion of their style.
The best part was both Jackson and Bassett consider their ability to navigate style as their subtle yet profound birthright. Through the translation of a design master, Giorgio Armani, they both have been able to wear their personalities and be their bold selves in the highest of styles. Now that’s what I call fashion.