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Trapped in the Closet

DAY ONE

6:11 Fashion Week is finally here! Though the official start isn’t until tomorrow, lots of designers are jumping the gun, including Form, which has set up an installation in the courtyard of the Soho Grand Hotel featuring mannequins wearing floating frocks and shoes made of cracked mirrors. “It’s modular constructivism! The infinite patterns of geometric shapes—limitlessness!” the designer explains with little prompting.

8:12 Receive an e-mail telling me the Mao
Magazine party has been postponed until Saturday. Start to wonder why so many fashion businesses are named after left-wing movements. What twisted notions of irony have given rise not just to Mao PR, but People’s Revolution PR, and the highly trendy Socialista club on West Street, where the launch party for Nina Garcia’s Little Black Book of Style is being held tomorrow night?

8:50 Am fashionably late to the Van Cleef & Arpels party at the Manhattan Center—too fashionably late, it turns out. The whole building is bathed in lavender light, laser renderings of $100,000 brooches are projected over the Quiznos across 34th Street, and the FDNY insists that no one else is getting in. It turns out this isn’t strictly the case: Though there are thousands of us clamoring at the gates—such is the chaos that the two PR girls in charge throw up their hands, throw out their lists, and simply walk away—Mischa Barton, dripping in Van Cleef jewels, is swept in, fire department or no fire department. Why Mischa and not Lynnie? I am livid. I spot a colleague who tells me that even if I do get in, I’ve missed the show—”Dancing girls! Bare titties! Models with dogs!” When I finally gain entrance, I chat with a Van Cleef guy who is wearing a big diamond pin on his lapel and says wistfully that he’s hoping it will start a trend. I stay for the performance of a prepubescent Parisian punk band called the Plasticines and trip over a broken champagne glass. “Ashley Olsen left,” I hear an employee say dolefully into her earpiece.

DAY TWO

1:10 Here is who is sitting at my table for the luncheon honoring Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz at the Rainbow Room: me, Paper magazine editor Kim Hastreiter, Iris Apfel, the octogenarian legend whose wild way of putting clothes together garnered her a one-woman exhibit at the Met’s Costume Institute, and three women who look like they haven’t taken a bite since 1956. Elbaz is clearly in the camp with Kim, Iris, and me—he makes a speech in which he declares that he hates sports, loves eating, and wants to make sure everyone has noticed his funny gold shoes. After his talk, a guest comes up to me and thanks me profusely for all the pleasure my work has given her—turns out she thinks I’m Zandra Rhodes. This is an improvement over last night, where a breathless young girl insisted I was Isabel Blow, which is very flattering except that she is dead.

2:35 A model is sporting wrist restraints at the Alexandre Herchcovitch show.

3:41 A model kicks off an excruciating high heel at the Erin Fetherston show and completes her runway walk with one shoe only.

5:22 The LCD ticker in the Bryant Park tent reads “Plastic skin—it has a little reflection so it’s not dewy but it’s not matte either,” a sentiment offered by the designer for the fashion line Grey Ant.

9:02 Stop by at a party for a magazine held in a private home in the West Village which I have not, strictly speaking, been invited to. There’s a lily pond permanently embedded in the parlor floor.

9:46 Drag up to Tommy Hilfiger’s party at MOMA. Stay five minutes.

DAY THREE

2:58 They’re serving beers on silver trays at the Preen show—Budweiser is a sponsor. When I suggest sourly that the parade of dull beige we’ve seen thus far this week (jumpsuits! drawstrings!) is a reflection of the fact that we’re at war, the editor next to me—a big deal at a big-deal magazine—responds, “Yes, and the planet’s falling apart.”

4:28 At Yeohlee, my seatmate, who is affecting a denim-and-diamonds look, whispers, “Are you a cape person?”

5:31 Jenni Kayne lines her models up tableau vivant style, a revival of a 19th-century technique that allowed our Victorian forefathers to gawk at ladies in flesh-colored leotards in re-creations of paintings like Rape of the Sabine Women. Kayne’s ladies, all of whom sport stick-straight hair, have been standing like animals at the zoo for almost two hours; a few seem about to burst into tears.

9:12 At her after-show dinner, Erin Fetherston confirms my unerring knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. “So how much did that MOMA party suck?” I ask her. “Oh no,” she replies, “right after you left, Debbie Harry did an acoustic set for like an hour.”

DAY FOUR

10:35 The program at the Vera Wang show says her collection continues “to explore the vibrancy and seduction of ancient Rome.” I actually have a Wang skirt, which I rarely wear and which was inspired by the fact that it was on triple markdown. Luckily, Vera Wang has just designed a line for Kohl’s that will necessitate a field trip not to classical Italy, but to the nearest Kohl’s, which is in Secaucus—something to do when Fashion Week is over!

4:17 Crawling down West 37th Street in the taxi after the J Mendel show, I look out the window and see a perfect, lovely-looking red-and-white dress in the window of a place called Ziani Couture for $10.

6:12 “You need to get in line! Nobody’s getting in unless you get in line!” the security guy screams at the Baby Phat show. Nevertheless, I see Ivana Trump and her escort, who is wearing a heavily encrusted diamond watch, sail right in. Then, suddenly, over a sea of bobbing heads, the big guy points at me—and I am swept inside. I feel like Mischa Barton, minus the Van Cleef jewelry.

DAY FIVE

3:22 “This is the only Rodarte I’ll ever own,” says the woman sitting next to me, who works for the museum at FIT, fingering the white shirt the Rodarte sisters made for the Gap last summer. It’s 2,000 degrees in the Chelsea loft where Rodarte is showing, my hair gel is running down my face—so elegant!—and I’m craning my neck to see if I can spot the model I overheard on the 23rd Street crosstown bus on the way over: “I got seven shows,” she lamented to a photographer. “I already walked in five of them—all shitty.”

5:45 I am desperate to take a gander at His Royal Highness Prince Sultan Abdulaziz D’Na, whose lengthy moniker adorns a front-row seat at the ThreeAsFour show, but either he is a no-show or the guy in shorts and none-too-fresh-looking tee, chewing gum and slurping from a water bottle, is a genuine prince.

8:37 At the Warhol Factory X Levi’s X Damien Hirst show at the Gagosian gallery, a journalist asks brightly what I think Hirst should do next. “Diamond dildos!” says the guy next to me, not missing a beat. “Chanel suits made of Play-Doh?” I finally offer weakly. This tribe of reporters and bloggers trolling the crowd asking questions on the order of “Can you rank the upcoming trends on a scale of 1 to 10?” and “What’s your favorite thing so far this week?” makes me feel like Edward R. Murrow.

DAY SIX

5:41 “Big girls, you are beautiful—you take a girl, multiply by four, now a lot of woman needs a whole lot more,” booms Mika while the requisite giraffes and gazelles amble down the runway at Diane Von Furstenberg. Which leads me to wonder: Does DVF make plus-sized garments?

6:52 “The journey that we all partake from moment to moment. From day to day, from person to person, from space to place. With each step, we gradually work our way into an experience,” reads the program notes at the Philip Lim show. Huh? Oh well, maybe these steps will lead me to a better seat at Marc Jacobs tomorrow night. I mean, what with Jane magazine folding, shouldn’t I move up at least one row?

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Prize Patrol—Deconstructing the CFDA Awards

We’d love to share some dishy, skanky gossip from the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers) awards the other night, but guess what? We weren’t invited. This despite the fact that we, along with a lot of other press people, are the ones who actually vote on who should receive these honors, a laborious process of nominations and balloting (OK, it’s not that laborious, just vaguely annoying). We’d like to think that we were tossed off the guest list because in the past we’ve suggested prizes for H&M and the fake-bag dealers of Canal Street, but the truth is we are just one little morsel in the wholesale purging from the CFDA’s invite list of ordinary types, like working journalists.

Back in the day—three or four years ago—we lowly scribes were invited to sip a cocktail and watch the CFDA ceremony. Even though we were dumped on the street just as the swells sat down for dinner, we were on hand to witness stuff like PETA dropping leaflets from a Lincoln Center balcony when Oscar de la Renta got his award. It’s a sad fact that major fashion events have lately become more and more elitist. It’s not just the CFDA party that invites only celebs, magazine moguls, and high-end garmentos who fork over big bucks for tables. The annual extravaganza to benefit the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute—the so-called “party of the year”—used to feature a rather free-wheeling after-party frequented by drag queens, desperate fashion victims, and other fun types who were willing to fork over $200 for a ticket. This year, the after-party was nearly as exclusive as the ridiculously pretentious dinner, and the only person remotely resembling a man in heels was a lost-looking Marilyn Manson, there as the guest of Marc Jacobs. It’s not just our own personal feelings that are hurt here: Fashion itself really suffers when life at the top becomes so sterile. Everyone knows that the occasional weirdo and freak is what makes style really interesting. Even the legendary Diana Vreeland knew that a salting of vulgarity is what keeps things lively.

Marc Jacobs won the CFDA award for accessories this year, which we suspect is primarily in acknowledgement of his metal-buckled handbags so hideously popular these days. Well, Jacobs certainly has the Midas touch. When Catherine Deneuve, who was at the ceremony to give an award to Gilles Bensimon, was asked what American designers she admired, she reportedly thought for a long moment and finally came up with Jacobs’s name. Of all the Americans honored by the CFDA, Jacobs is in fact the only one about whom there is genuine buzz in London—and even Paris. For that we guess he deserves some kind of recognition, though he probably wasn’t all that excited about this particular designer; he wins something from the CFDA practically every year. In other news, we were thrilled that Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz received the International award. Elbaz is finally being recognized for his genius with delightful, lightly deconstructed French classics. (Go see them on the second floor of Barneys—there’s no charge to look.) Plus he seems like such a nice guy, and we love that he looks like a regular person. (We always hated that hairy-chested quasi-model stance of Tom Ford.)

Other awards went to various industry stalwarts like Vera Wang, who made a fortune in bridal and has now branched out to regular clothes, and John Varvatos, who is backed by big bucks from Nautica. But for us the most exciting award is always the morbidly fascinating Perry Ellis prize for upcoming talent, because in so many cases it has proved to be the kiss of death. Just look at this roster of past recipients: Isaac Mizrahi in 1988 (went belly up but resurrected at Target); Christian Francis Roth in 1990 (out of business); Todd Oldham in 1991 (ditto); John Barlett and Richard Tyler in 1993 (both currently tottering); Marie-Anne Oudejans for Tocca in 1995 (long gone from the company); Miguel Adrover in 2000 (vanished in a blaze of glory). We wish this year’s winners—Derek Lam, Anthony Camargo and Nak Armstrong for Anthony Nak, and the wonderful Alexandre Plokhov for Cloak—all the best in their future endeavors. They are all extraordinarily talented.

But it’s a very, very tough, cold business.

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Milan and Paris, From a Distance

Phew!

After not attending the fashion shows in Milan and Paris, we are so not exhausted! No rushing from Malpensa to Charles de Gaulle for us, our little faces buried under a mountain of swag. No desperately searching the luggage carousel, seeking our monogrammed Vuitton satchel in a sea of identical duffels.

We prefer to visit the European catwalks from our own comfy perch, one bejeweled finger happily clicking through the files on style.com. (Which is a good thing, since nobody offered to send us to Europe this season.) This way, we’re always in the front row. Sometimes we sit near the models’ entrance (a fun spot where you can glimpse the last minute preparation backstage—we once watched Donatella dandling Lourdes Ciccone all through the Versace show.) Or we’ll occupy an even more popular spot, nearest the exit, so we can run like bats out of hell the minute the show is over.

Since of course we’re invited to everything, we have to pick and choose. Here is what we never miss when we’re not covering the European collections:

In Italy, we always make sure we are front and center at the Prada show. We are sorry to report that though we dearly loved Miuccia’s granny looks of six months ago—glittery brooches, dowdy cardigans—we are less impressed with this season’s rather stumpy silhouettes decorated in some cases with appliquéd birds. At Dolce & Gabbana, the animal of choice is the python: real snake on their runway, but you can just bet it’ll show up shortly on printed synthetics at places like Tar-jay. (Full disclosure: we almost always think animal prints, fake or real, are a little sleazy.) In any case, we much preferred D&G 10 years ago when they were doing their Italian widow homage.

We are surprised at how much we like the floaty, ruffly chiffon confections at Roberto Cavalli, a man notorious for his rather antiquated views about women. (One sometimes gets the impression he thinks we should all be sex slaves.) Closer to our hearts are the gossamer frocks from Anna Molinari, so sheer your bra and panties—if you elect to wear them—are clearly visible beneath. (We’ll be wearing this stuff over full union suits, but maybe that’s just us.)

We’ve barely recovered from imaginary jet lag and it’s time to move on to Paris! At Comme des Garçons we’re in love with the oversized motorcycle jackets (easy find at your local thrift shop) paired with tutus (equally available at a dance store). The usual tough chic at Alexander McQueen has been tempered with teacup shaped skirts that have scalloped hems, an excursion into the pretty-pretty Candyland currently mesmerizing designers on both sides of the Atlantic.

The slender silhouettes and puffy sleeves at Louis Vuitton are a whole lot harder to wear—for this label, maybe stick to the much-vaunted purses, preferably the excellent fakes sold from blankets uptown on Madison Avenue. (Stop in to the Vuitton flagship at 57th and 5th before buying so you can compare.)

Our last stop in the city of light is the Lanvin show. Lanvin’s current designer, Alber Elbaz, began his tenure without any of the buzz attending other designers who have taken the reigns at other venerated houses. In Elbaz’s case, the acclaim grew quietly, and, wonder of wonders, was not based on the designer’s personal sex appeal but rather on the allure of the clothes, which this season includes Easter egg lavender silk suits with—yes!—poufy sirts. (Beware: a lot of these Lanvin’s clothes appear to be sized for the Japanese market. We tried on some heavily discounted Lanvin at Saks a few seasons ago, and it was a pretty sad spectacle.)

But the most fun we have on our non-visit to the shows is at Dries Van Noten, where a banquet table long enough to accommodate 500 people is set up, and a three-course meal is served to the editors, buyers, and other special guests in attendance. Instead of a runway, the models walk the table between entrée and desert, and of course everyone, including us, thinks the clothes look scrumptious.

So delicious, in fact, that we jump up from the computer, open the fridge, and pop a Lean Cuisine in the oven.