You Are Reading
What a Tender New York Fashion Week!

What a Tender New York Fashion Week!

Fendi, Collina Strada, and Proenza Schouler bring a dose of humanity to this behemoth business of clothes.

I’m no cynic, but when I heard that the Fendi show taking place on Friday evening at Manhattan’s Hammerstein Ballroom was a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the brand’s famous Baguette, I thought: a whole fashion show? For…a bag? Kim Jones is one of fashion’s most brilliant commercialists—how else to run the biggest menswear brand in the world, plus design womenswear for the powerhouse Fendi and a couture collection for them, too?—but the slick, efficient, professional nature of his Fendi has sometimes left me cold.

Boy, was I wrong. The floors of the Hammerstein were carpeted in plush beige, and the walls lined with silvery curtains flounced into enormous campy pleats. Just after the lights went down, someone yanked down the curtain at the front of the runway to reveal a huge mirror—which made me think of the old doorman trick, where the big guy in a suit holds up a mirror and says, “Would you let you in?”—and a raucous mix of house and techno music, by Simon Parris, started rattling the silver expanse before us with nightclub havoc.

Jones’s clothes, in the meantime, were some of his warmest and most fun to date. The last chunk of the show was a collaboration with Marc Jacobs, featuring his big signature block logo interlocking with Fendi’s on a number of oversized robes and coats and pants. But I couldn’t help but wonder—and not just because Baguette cheerleader Sarah Jessica Parker was sitting in the front row, next to Kim Kardashian!—whether Jacobs’s sensibility influenced Jones’s stuff, too. (Jacobs was the one who hired Jones to design Vuitton’s menswear back in the day.)

The core of the collection seemed to take the treasures and pleasures of the basic girl, like polka dots, and stripes, and rhinestones, and ballet dancer-ish takes on baseball caps and beanies, and remix them with the charged zaniness of the most wide-eyed girl in line for the club. I could really see these characters, stalking through the club neighborhood of the moment in cargo skirts and see-through blouses (with their it-bags, of course), thinking to themselves, If I just walk like I belong here…. (Even funnier, occasionally a woman’s voice broke into the soundtrack to say: “EXCUSE ME, I’M ON THE LIST!” LVMH Fashion Group CEO Sidney Toledano was grinning and tapping his feet madly.) She’s just putting together the wildest, wackiest outfit for the club and pulling it off.

The Marc Jacobs woman has always been someone who wears an outfit that shouldn’t work but does, and I think that’s because there is a real tenderness to the Jacobs woman, and to Jacobs himself, especially of late (#gratefulnothateful, as he often reminds on his enviably sick Instagram outfit photos). The human quality of these clothes gave Jones’s finesse a fresh sweetness.

Christy Turlington, Amber Valetta, Kate Moss, and Shalom Harlow in the front row at Fendi.

Plus the party atmosphere was fantastic and frankly feel-good: who can resist Christy Turlington, Amber Valetta, Kate Moss, and Shalom Harlow hamming it up together in the front row, and Linda Evangelista as the encore look?! It could have felt like a collaboration madhouse—the bags were made with the terrific Japanese bag brand Porter, which you must immediately check out if you haven’t heard of; and Tiffany & Co. also provided some bling; and one of the Baguettes was designed by SJP–but instead it felt like a big ole kiss to the cool but eager New York striver from LVMH. You’re rooting for this girl!

The feeling that you’re rooting for the girl is a particularly New York thing. Every season at Collina Strada, you can see designer Hillary Taymour’s metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly, and it’s clear that she is patiently reaching her emerging monarch stage, if not quite her adult butterfly one. (The show was held at a monarch butterfly waystation in Brooklyn—go with me here, people!)

Taymour is a fascinating woman, the kind of person who moved to New York and really found herself among other deeply feeling misfits eager to change the world no matter how impossible that may seem. Mostly that sense of environmental purpose has been expressed through loose and comfortable trousers, wildly colorful sweatshirts, and funky oversized blouses, but in this collection, Taymour was thinking about how she might expand her red carpet opportunities—which is savvy, because the landscape of celebrities has changed a lot in the past five or even two years. Many famous young people expect the clothes they wear on press junkets to say something, and, frankly, to look like nothing else. Her peplum shapes (essentially, as she put it, upside-down wine glass), empire waist translucent gown tops, and floral bras with satiny trousers are all exactly the sort of madcap updates to stodgy eveningwear that an uncompromising Zoomer demands for a big night out. The slipdress that the lovely Hari Nef wore in the opening look over plaid pants would also look lovely with a pair of secondhand Manolo Blahniks and earrings from Frank Ocean’s Homer jewelry line (lab-grown diamonds! Get hip to it!).

She’s just putting together the wildest, wackiest outfit for the club and pulling it off.

You can see her attempting to rise above the art school mood she’s often lumped in with. The question I was left with after the show was whether her bread and butter will always be those great cozy pants and sweatshirts—essentially hiker-rave-chic—or if she wants to become the sexy environmentalist’s Oscar de la Renta. Regardless, what keeps me interested in Taymour’s work is that she has guts. She really believes in what she’s doing, and her work, in the messaging and the emphatically lovely clothes themselves, leads with sincerity.

Knowing that the designer is feeling it makes a big difference. Backstage at the Proenza Schouler show, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez talked about how the latter’s Latinx background had inspired the zest and sensuality of the show. I loved the sexy feeling of the opening looks, like a fringe top slinking over an expanse of belly paired with a puffy mini ball skirt, or a gold fringe top swishing on top of a crotched gold skirt. The skin of the models glowed under crotchet and lace (and the casting was killer—Shalom Harlow and Bella and Kendall. Yeesh!) Surprisingly, for such a summery collection, the skinny boucle coats in shocking lime and bitchy-angel white were the kind of thing a woman sees and immediately files away as a must-have (or preorders days later on Moda Operandi, the site owned by Proenza bestie Lauren Santo Domingo).

But there were a bit too many Bottega-isms in this outing, particularly in the big leather layered skirts, and a chunky downer of a shoe. Along with some totally enormous bell bottoms, they felt like attempts at it-items instead of what a New York woman wants from Proenza, which is the perfect slightly odd dress—like the black turtleneck with the big white skirt from the Fall 2022 collection that’s already sold out practically everywhere—or just the right coat, or the skirt that looks sophisticated without being a snooze. McCollough and Hernandez have the ability to make something that’s fabulous rather than trendy, and I wish they’d dial in on that skill even more.