Friday, August 15, 2008

"Faster than a speeding bullet"...

Even though New York Fashion Week is just weeks away, it’s impossible to think of anything other than the Beijing Summer Olympics these days. That said, because I am well…admittedly fashion obsessed, I can’t help relating everything I see (while I stay tuned to the television coverage of the Olympic events), back to fashion. And since fashion is a part of everything in life, including the world of sports, (especially when it’s on such a grand scale with lots of money to be made in advertisements, endorsements, etc.), that’s easy to do.

As I watched the glorious Opening Ceremonies last Friday evening, and the massive world stage that was on view, I kept thinking how the world of fashion, much like the sports arena, is one place where different cultures and ethnicities are routinely celebrated, and come together and find a common ground. Dries Van Noten has built a reputation on his ability to successfully tap into an international, ethnic chic; Donna Karan’s traveling wanderlust is always evident in her collections; Ralph Rucci, among others, has long looked to the far East for divine inspiration (and after the Beijing games, you can be sure that China will be a point of reference for spring 2009).

The global equation is something that is always very much apart of fashion design, even when it brings with it, a degree of controversy (as in Jean Paul Gaultier’s 1993 ‘Hasidic’ Collection). And how else can you explain the love affair many fashionistas had or have with a tasseled neck scarf which bore a resemblance to the traditional Palestinian Shemagh, (including those of the Jewish faith: I should know…I’m one of them), other than to say it was ‘proposed’ by Nicolas Guesquiere for his fall 2008 collection. Well, okay, so his version, shown with crested schoolboy blazers, crisp button down shirts, and skinny jodhpurs, was much more couture, and much more costly…but still.

And speaking of the Opening Ceremonies; it was hard NOT to notice Ralph Lauren’s pronounced and over scaled white logo sewn onto the natty navy blue blazers worn by the members of the U.S. Olympic team as they marked into the arena. Worn over crisp white shirts, and white pants, and accessorized with white athletic shoes, a jaunty white jockey cap, and a scarf which bore a red stripe (the only hit of color in the ensemble), the pieces exemplified the idea of classic American sportswear. And since we all know that it’s all about advertisement, branding, and commerce these days, many of the aforementioned pieces are available at www.ralphlauren.com, where the homepage gleefully announces: “An official outfitter of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team”.

Talk about life imitating art. When Andrew Bolton, curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, first toyed with the idea of the “Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy” exhibit, the premise was “extreme sportswear, performance clothes that literally transform you to a superhero”. Well, what could possibly be more illustrative of that concept than the Speedo LZR Racer speed suit (www.speedousa.com), worn by Michael Phelps in his quest for 8 gold medals?

In the days, weeks, and months following the “Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy” exhibit back in May, I have seen kids, adults, even dogs, wearing Batman and Superman t’s and there have been endless openings of Super Hero themed movies. But these are only fictional and none can compare with Michael Phelps, a bona fide, real life Superman and Superhero, if ever there was one. And at a time when the fashion world can’t get seem to get enough of heroes, or anything gold (especially if it’s in the form of massive gold necklaces), isn’t it refreshing to see someone wearing them, who actually deserves a medal (or two, or three, or four, or five, etc.?)

Oh, by the way, remember when I said that China will probably be a huge source of inspiration for spring 2009? Well, I think you can assume that swimwear (and perhaps performance sportswear in general), will be a major theme at the upcoming collections.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Monday, August 04, 2008

'Accessory' after the Fact

I didn't need the email from IMG Fashion, announcing that, "early registration is nearing an end for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York" to remind me that the spring collections are fast approaching. In fact, I was reminded of the shows (specifically one show) just the other day.

As I was going through my closet, one large bag fell out from a top shelf, and with it, little bits of gold, silver, blue and red 'confetti' stars. It instantly brought back memories of one of Marc Jacobs' shows a few years back, which ended with a shower (actually 'avalanche' is more like it) of those little metallic stars falling from the 'sky' of the New York State Armory. They quickly covered the runway, the models, and the audience. For days and even weeks, they were in my hair, my eyes, and seemed to stubbornly cling to almost every part of my body (I kid you not). No matter how many times I turned my bag upside down and tried to clean it out, the stars would not completely disappear. Talk about a 'memorable' show. By the way, I'm sure you know that Marc is going back to his traditional time slot -- Monday evening at 9 p.m. for his upcoming spring 2009 collection, to be held on September 8th. No more of that last show of the week stuff. (I guess one can also assume the show will be back to it's traditional late late start).

And speaking of the show schedule, can it really be 'that time of year again' ? (Yikes, where did the summer go?) With one month to go, all the major fashion websites have begun to report on news of the upcoming spring collections: the schedule, who is showing and who is not, venue updates, and other bits of useful and (or useless) information and gossip. Though nobody knows exactly what the designers will be proposing for next season, the one thing that is for sure is that September and October promise to be jam packed months for members of the fashion community who make their biannual trek from New York to London, to Milan, and then to Paris.

Of course, the hectic back to back and often conflicting schedule is not the only challenge facing the fashion flock. Ever since the shows were moved down from November to the week after Labor Day, it has posed a number of problems with regards to one's wardrobe. What do you wear when summer is technically over (and you're sick of your summer clothes plus they don't pass muster when you want to look pulled together and chic and not as though you've just left the Hamptons), and yet, it's still downright sultry?

Add to that mix the need to be comfortable, to effortlessly make the transition from day to evening, and factor in the desire (or necessity) to look as though you know what's 'going on' vis-a-vis fashion. Whether that means being 'on trend' for fall 2008 which is now hitting the stores, or staying one step ahead of the pack for spring 2009 (which will be shown on the runways during this time period).

Perhaps the easiest way to make a statement, instantly go from drab to divine, and add instant pizzazz and individuality to even the most basic of basics is through accessories. The transformative powers of accessories can never be overstated; plus, they are 'seasonless' (you can even wear a fur bag with your white jeans). These days, it's seemingly 'all about' accessories (forget 'accessory after the fact' - accessories ARE the fact). And as luck would have it, finding great items (at truly every price) is very easily accomplished.

Coincidentally, this evening, the Accessories Council, (their motto is "Where accessories are necessities" and their mission is to "stimulate consumer awareness and demand for fashion accessory products and to serve as the advocate of the $30 billion accessory business in the U.S."), will play host to a veritable 'Who's Who' in the fashion industry as they host a cocktail soiree, "100 Years of Accessories". The red carpet event, which takes place at Espace, 635 West 42nd Street, is in celebration of 100 Years of Accessories Magazine and will feature an exhibition and video montage highlighting memorable accessory moments from past century. Tickets are $150. For more information, call 212, 947- 1135, or e-mail Deborah@accessoriescouncil.org

Marilyn Kirschner