February 18, 2010

2010 New York Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Debrief

I'm looking through slides upon slides of photos shot during the Fall/Winter 2010 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York that wrapped up on Feb 18.

American fashion can be so boring sometimes! If you're thinking about looking through a bunch of slides, I'm going to suggest that you just skip it, and go to the highlights at the New York Times.

I am, however, now fascinated with the menswear of Thom Browne.

My true reason for this 'pictoral/textual' analysis is to look for any stereotypical Indian or primitivist influences in fashion: fringe, fur, feathers, and tribal patterns. And oh boy did I see A LOT of fringe.

FRINGE: Phillip Lim had it on his shoes, the Academy of Art University had it in long grey 'cords' that stretched from the shoulder to the knee in one case, Rodarte had yarny fringe. Cynthia Rowley really REDEFINED fringe (much to my excitement!) - the clumps of thin multi-colored fringe she used to decorate the fronts of shirts or to circle around her dresses rocked that shit out.

THE WILD WEST: Zac Posen had one cowgirl shirt, but Derek Lam 'went wild with Western themes' and had fringed purses and belts, and fringed sash scarves, which all relayed a 'horse rider' aesthetic. Lam escaped looking cliche by adding in a distinctive city edge to his pieces. An orange skirt and grey dress were each fringed and featured Indian-style decorative motifs in black. Two jackets were detailed with black embroidery also in geometric triangle motifs. This 'borrowing' of a generic Indian aesthetic pattern is common in fashion. It is recognizably 'Indian' without being too tribally-specific.

PATTERNS: Proenza Schouler combined tribal designs with street art (and Goth aesthetic) to produce a wild and out-there line. It was electric, and definitely not boring.

ANNA SUI: Man, this chick loves Indians. I can always count on her to bring tribal-boho to the runway. One reporter explained, "Always an adherent of the tribal cause, Sui accessorized the ensembles with fur 'trapper' hats." Which is totally fine, but I would love her more if she would hire an up-and-coming Native designer as part of her team. That would not only be forward-thinking, but would bring a new element to her collections.

FUR: Since prehistoric times, fur has been used not only for warmth and protection, but also for display and adornment. Today, fur continues to announce wealth, luxury, and exclusivity. Many designers incorporated fur this season, but I was looking for any evidence of the use of fur to convey 'primitiveness' as opposed to 'Bourgeoisness.' I spotted fur-clad huntresses at Thakoon and Michael Kors, and Elie Tahari, Zac Posen and Ralph Lauren had some wiiild fur-covered shoes and purses.

ARISE MAGAZINE AFRICAN COLLECTIVE: I bring up this collective because of America's penchant to lump the 'others' into a grouping called 'tribal.' So I'm carefully following Arise's success (and their challenges) in getting into the exclusive tents at Bryant Park. I support the idea to produce a similar collective for Native designers because I think that if it was done correctly, a collective could 1. get Native designers into Bryant Park, and 2. raise awareness about this little-known but talented fashion world and open more doors for Native American fashion designers. While a collective guarantees a slot during fashion week, it also runs the risk of ghettoizing the designers. So, a careful analysis of Arise's shows is important if one wants to build a Native American collective. For Arise's third showing, the fashion and culture magazine once again rallyed 3 of the top African designers to present their lines at Bryant Park. The show was covered in important fashion review publications, and one reporter stated that the Arise show has established itself as 'the show to attend' at New York Fashion Week.

DIVERSE MODELS: I do believe Tracy Reese wins for having the most diverse models. Bravo Tracy, show 'em how it should be done!

URBAN WARRIOR: Nicole Miller presented "A look that is strength personified; ready for the urban jungle." Her usual use of black in her collections was accented with tones in camo, brick, olive, and ash. The fronts of some of her garments were embellished with what reminded me of fused Northwest Coast crest designs. Zac Posen on the other hand presented a short red dress with geometric chevron patterns in contrasting silver and black - this was urban tribal attire. At Vassilios Kostetsos, silver or bronze paint covered parts of the faces of male models. One reporter explained, "Even the gorgeous male models sported Greek warrior masks painted on their faces. The warrior influences continued with wrist-to-elbow metal arm bands."

FEATHERS: Plumage! The power of plumage to signify both vigor and ardor has a long history in fashion. Every once in a while, feather headdresses make an appearance on the runway. This year, there were no such warbonnets. Instead, small delicate feathers were incorporated into female attire, which, if dissected, could be conceived of as portraying subtle sensual exoticism. The bulk of Irina Shabayeva's collection incorporated feathers. She presented a dress with a full skirt of feathers, and coats embellished with massive feathers - she even had Tupperware bird necklaces and earrings rendered to look like feathers. Tons of black feathers were seen at Ralph Rucci, Prabal Gurung, and Altuzarra, but nothing stereotypically 'Indian.' So I'm curious - if the tribal trend is so hot right now, why is it absent from the runways? Where is this trend coming from? The streets? Why is it not reflected in fashion week? Is the Indian on its way out of fashion again?

The lines, overall/in general, seemed very wearable, maybe even 'safe,' with only subtle experimentation with cuts and silhouettes. Perhaps it has something to do with the economy...

Black was a favorite color, and the layering was thin (except for the menswear, which was most often presented with several layers, and high-water pants. Loved it. Show me your socks! Wait - high-water, that's probably not the correct fashion term..).

Anyways, I am excited to see what the next 3 weeks of fashion have in store as we head to London (Feb 19-24), Milan (Feb 24-Mar 3), and Paris (Mar 2-10). Actually, I'm just really pumped for Paris (btw - McQueen is set to show his final collection during Paris Fashion Week on March 9. I wish more designers were as avant-garde, edgy, and experimental as McQueen.).

UPDATE 2/23/10:
Native influences were seen at William Rast: "Native American influences entered the collection, with ponchos, coats and turquoise headbands. A lot of models, male and female, sported fluffy raccoon tails off their hips." Justin Timberlake is a creative director for William Rast.

Rodarte, L.A.’s most celebrated fashion export, abandoned its gothy spider-web aesthetic for Fall 2010 with a more upbeat show inspired by the Southwest, Mexican arts and crafts and Native American culture.