Seriously, Thursday morning was more than a little crazy, trekking downtown to Ralph Lauren’s 10 a.m. presentation at the height of #Snowpocalypse. What’s interesting about the passion that’s required to work in fashion, however, is that no one debated whether the show, as they say, must go on — of course it was going to happen — nor did anyone grouse about a notion that they would rather be safely ensconced at home. Instead, St. John Center Studios was filled with cold-tinged pink cheeks, snow boots as de rigueur footwear and, “Can you believe what it’s like out there?” Everyone you normally see in the front row made it: David Lauren and Lauren Bush Lauren with Ricky Lauren, of course, as well as Bruce Weber, Stefano Tonchi, Grace Coddington, Hamish Bowles, etc., and sitting next to Weber, Kim Basinger, looking dewy and gorgeous with hair pulled back simply and wearing a sleek black suit. The security guard fending off paparazzi let me have a few minutes to mention to Basinger that I’d worked with daughter Ireland Baldwin on a shoot in Jamaica recently—both mom and daughter are repped by IMG, so it was no accident that Ivan Bart, senior VP and managing director of IMG Models, was standing nearby. I assured Basinger that Ireland was nothing less than a delight: hard-working, zero attitude, totally sweet, and Basinger had done a great job and should be really proud of her. “Oh, you just couldn’t have told me anything to make me happier,” she said with a big smile. Basinger still had that smile on her face as Lauren’s pair of collections rolled out—yes, two, as the designer used the occasion to send his just-launched Polo Ralph Lauren women’s collection down the runway, a sort of savory appetizer (lots of caramel suede, Navajo prints, plaids and a great moto jacket) to precede the decidedly more glamorous Ralph Lauren Collection that followed. The menswear-inspired collection hit all the notes in the Lauren DNA: great tailored suits, sleek bias-cut gowns in satin or silk charmeuse, and terrific knits (including one stunner of a pearl grey floor-length turtleneck gown, paired with a jacket of pink ostrich feathers), all in a muted palette of greys, rose pink, lilac and ivory. With crystal chandeliers overhead and Sting crooning in French on the soundtrack, all you could think was, snow? What snow?
Ah, but then to do the battle uptown to Lincoln Center for J. Mendel: IMG, producer of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, had sent out an email Thursday morning, noting that all shows would go on as scheduled (only one, Hernan Lander, would be delayed by an hour). Indeed, we arrived to find the tents not open yet, only because the NYFD was inspecting the venue to ensure the storm hadn’t done any structural damage. Safety confirmed, we were in for Gilles Mendel’s luxe 1 p.m. presentation, which regrettably was only about 75-percent full, likely due both to the storm and because people wanted to be sure they would make it on time for Calvin Klein, back downtown at Spring Studios, at 2 p.m. I chanced it and was glad to have done so to check out Mendel’s take for Fall: Like Diane von Furstenberg just a few days before, Mendel was inspired by the Ballets Russes this season, and it was in the evening gowns you most clearly saw the dance-centric reference. Confections of pleated chiffon in sapphire or peridot wrapped around the body and then floated away in layers (the color names, which also included emerald, turquoise and pearl elsewhere in the collection, were a nod to George Balanchine, who created the Jewels ballet in 1967 and was a ballet master for the Ballets Russes in the 1920s). A couple of gowns played up the jewels reference a step further, with tulle insets that sparkled with crystal embellishments. Mendel, of Franco-Russian descent, loved the romance implicit in such an inspiration, but he also wanted to push some technical boundaries, thus you saw the intricate seaming on a long-sleeve dress in red and black lurex striped jacquard, or an emerald dress that upon first glance appeared to be a heavy satin, but which actually was crafted of leather. Masterful, indeed.
By the time J. Mendel let out, the snow had turned to an icy rain, and we fought our way back downtown for Calvin Klein, making it mere seconds before the show started at exactly 2:21 p.m. Francisco Costa recently marked his first decade as creative director of the label’s women’s line, and you see him growing ever-more confident and self-assured about stretching his creative wings, pushing the boundaries of what Calvin Klein means today. Here was a profusion of chunky, oversized knits and deconstructed seaming and edges; it all felt very warm and enveloping, also because of its spicy palette of olive and saffron, mixed with ivory and black, or maybe it’s because we all were just snowed out by that point and seeking the ultimate in comfort clothes. But then, like a true breath of spring, there they were looking utterly chic and cool in the front row: Everyone’s current red-carpet darling, Lupita Nyong’o, in a pink long-sleeved minidress, and Naomi Watts in an icy blue sleeveless sheath. Both next to Anna, of course. With the Academy Awards set for Sunday, March 2, the biggest fashion question out there at the moment is: What will Lupita wear? Was her appearance at Calvin Klein a hint? Nyong’o’s choices (and work with her stylist, Micaela Erlanger) thus far have been flawless, so Calvin Klein or otherwise, fashion’s most-watched style star is sure to not disappoint.
And finally, 15 minutes from start to finish: That’s actually long for a Marc Jacobs show these days. Since he enacted his policy several seasons ago of starting precisely at 8 p.m., very often you could count on being back out the door no more than 11 minutes later. Likely the loooooong runway, which ran up and down multiple times inside the 69th Regiment Armory, was the key reason for the extra minutes. Jessica Lange recorded a haunting version of speaking, rather than singing, “Happy Days Are Here Again,” as the skies above in the armory were filled with clouds that looked like something Terry Gilliam might conjure for Monty Python. Much might be made in the coming days about the meaning—is this Jacobs’ statement of a newfound sense of freedom, now that the pressures of Louis Vuitton are no longer an issue? This was indeed a collection that seemed rooted in optimism, with an undeniable 70s, Halston-esque vibe, lean, long and languid, and all of it highly wearable. Wait, make that most of it: Toward the end of the show a few dresses and, because you just can’t call them anything else, pantsuits were festooned with organza ruffles that seemed unfortunately placed, or there were just too many of them, though it remains to be seen how those looks might translate from runway to retail (ditto for the sheer V-neck top Kendall Jenner wore with riding pants). Ultimately, the snowstorm once again raged outside–#thundersnow would quickly trend on Twitter minutes later—but inside the armory, Jacobs was counting on only sunny days ahead.