Categories
NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES Style THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Fashion Week Recap: Toilet Paper Huge at Sean John



Photo courtesy MAO

If you’ve ever attended the shows at Fashion Week, you know that reading Lynn Yaeger’s diary about that experience is a lot more fun that partaking in it first-hand. This time around, Yaeger gets distracted by Forever 21, dissed by Diane Von Furstenberg, sees a boob at Betsey Johnson’s show, and witnesses the unbelievable at the Sean John show: a model makes it all the way down the runway with toilet paper trailing from her shoe! Oh, the horror. It’s too good. (This reminds me of when my sister would pray for the baton-twirlers to drop their stick during the Macy’s parade.)

But the best part might be this:

]

At Betsey Johnson (denim cat suits; wallpaper prints), the theme is Beat Girl, and Betsey—ever the meticulous curator—has decked out round tables at the edge of the runway with Chianti bottles, candles, and packs of candy cigarettes. Miles Davis blares over the sound system, but my suspicion that this Kerouac-ian fantasy of MacDougal Street circa 1955 is lost on many of the viewers is confirmed when I ask the fresh-faced Web editor sporting a Chanel purse (real? fake?) next to me what she thinks it’s all about, and she replies uncertainly: “Um, we’re in a café where we can smoke?”

Categories
Living Neighborhoods NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Time Is Money

Buried among the cheery headlines in The New York Times on the first day of 2008—Bhutto assassinated, riots in Kenya, collapsing stocks—was a tidbit you may have overlooked: an advertisement from the jewelry firm Harry Winston for a diamond-studded 18-karat gold wristwatch with the caption, “Light up the Avenue. The Avenue C Midsize from $37,300.”

OK, I admit that I haven’t been over to Avenue C lately, and it may have really perked up since the last time I popped by, but $37,300? (Think they’d take an even $37,000 for it?) Has this new gilded age, where the wealthiest 1 percent of the population now owns more than the bottom 95 percent, finally arrived on the Lower East Side?

Well, maybe Harry knows something I don’t know. (Actually, pretty much all I know about him is that he was immortalized by Marilyn Monroe when she murmured, “Talk to me, Harry Winston” in the middle of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”) The Times ad mentions Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, and Bal Harbour as places where Mr. Winston has hung out his shingle, but no Loisada Avenue, as Avenue C is sometimes called, is on the list.

Could it be that Harry opened downtown and he’s just too embarrassed to admit it? I decide to walk over to C to take a look, but though I find Bite Me Best Pizza, a pair of psychics offering crystal, palm, and tarot readings, an Associated supermarket, a place called Recycle Bicycle, Manny’s Auto Repair, and a Papaya Express, not only is there no Harry Winston but there doesn’t seem to be any jewelry store at all. In fact, there’s only one place even selling clothes: It’s called Olivo’s Fashions, on the corner of Fourth Street, and upon closer inspection more than half of its storefront is given over to Olivo’s Games Depot. The fashion, as it were, is confined to polyester blazers, cotton-knit bras, and little girls’ blouses with Peter Pan collars from a company called Queensbury (“For Little Queens,” the tags say) that are on sale for $3.99.

OK, maybe Harry thinks you will light up the avenue by purchasing an Avenue C in, say, Bal Harbour and merely wearing it in the far East Village. In that case, you could sport your new timepiece next summer at La Plaza Cultural, a green-thumb public garden and frisky performance space on the corner of 9th Street that barely survived being bulldozed.

Had enough? Let’s face it: The Avenue C watch, sick as it is, is only one manifestation of the deeply disconcerting retail season we’ve just been through. “It was a perfect storm of not buying,” a deep throat who has worked for decades at a designer boutique in Soho recently told me. “The weather was too hot, the clothes were ridiculously expensive, and anyone who had any money wanted to buy real estate.”

(Unfortunately, I cannot tell you who this guy is or give you any further clues as to his identity. Apparently, working in a stylish shop is the fashionista equivalent of Valerie Plame: Reveal your identity to a member of the press, speak on the record, and you will be canned forthwith.)

“Everything is on sale, and every size is left,” mourned a magazine editor in chief I sat next to at a black-tie dinner a few weeks ago. But Madame Editor did not go on to say what I believe is the patently obvious reason that so much stuff is dying on the racks at uptown department stores: These items, for all their high-toned labels, are frequently not substantially different from their younger, freakier, fun cousins for sale at Zara, H&M, or even the rock-bottom Forever 21 for hundreds of dollars less.

A bit of fashion history for the new year: Once upon a time, buying a designer ensemble meant you got a jacket that sported little gold chains (to weight it, so it hung perfectly), silk satin linings, and exquisitely milled fabrics. The cheaper stuff looked—well, cheap. Now the expensive merchandise is, more often than not, a pathetic shadow of its former self: The material may be slightly more interesting than the cut-price alternative, but all those dressmakers’ flourishes have long vanished. (Ironically, the only place to see this superior tailoring now is at a vintage dealer, and, FYI, the next edition of the wonderful Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show, where 80 dealers will offer spectacular old clothes, is coming up on February 8 and 9.)

But hey, all these extreme markdowns, all this wonderful inexpensive stuff is, when you think about it, extremely good news. In fact, 2008 may just turn out to be the beginning of the golden age of fashion. So what if you won’t be able to buy any new clothes until next July, when the skimpy overpriced fashions flowing into stores right now (and please, how stupid is this business of selling summer clothes in the dead of winter?) reach their final markdown stage. What’s the hurry? By the time you buy it, it’ll be warm enough to wear it.

One final note: Did you by any chance get a gift card this holiday season? Businesses are just gleeful that so many recipients forget to cash these in, resulting in a ridiculous windfall for the stores. So go out and purchase something with that thing immediately! Remember, if you don’t use your gift card, the bad guys win.

What? Can’t think of anything you want? How about a watch?

Categories
Neighborhoods NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

A Fashion Week for Plus Sized Women

“OK, so they had regular Fashion Week a few weeks ago, right? So I decided this week is Fashion Week for plus sizes!” the owner of Lee Lee’s Valise tells me. “We have two designers here tonight—it’s actually a trunk show. We’re showing spring! Think about it: When do you get to see spring in advance as a plus-size consumer?”

Lee Lee, who is wearing a black-and-white leopard-print wraparound dress enhanced with glitter flowers and a big L in diamonds around her neck, is hosting this open house at her five-month old boutique on Court Street in Brooklyn, where the slogan is “12 to 24 and so much more.”

I have ridden the F train to Lee Lee’s (“You left Manhattan? Did you take car service?” incredulous friends sneer) because the end of traditional New York Fashion Week has left me hungry—hungry for clothes that will fit the legion of American women bigger than size 14, hungry for things people can actually afford, hungry for the kind of rapidly disappearing neighborhood hangout that Lee Lee’s represents.

In fact, I’m hungry right now. But though many of the visitors look like they really enjoy digging into a good meal, there’s nothing to snack on, just liberal doses of champagne. (A bowl of what I think are candies turn out to be multicolored glass earrings.)

Lee Lee’s storefront, a former longshoreman’s clubhouse, now sports chic white walls and chandeliers painted black. The bonhomie this evening—maybe it’s the champagne—reminds me of Mr. Pinky’s Hefty Hideaway, where Tracy Turnblad and her mom, Edna, go for new wardrobes. In any case, everyone is having a very good time, pre-ordering items like the gown Lee Lee calls the Barbie dress, a long expanse of ombred silk. “When do you see anything like the Barbie dress?” she asks me. “The shading usually goes from top to bottom on dresses, but on this one it goes from left to right—it’s more slimming!”

I talk to Jessica Svoboda, who designs plus-size jeans and is a ringer for Mariel Hemingway, if that actress would just put on a few pounds. “We do all of the things that are happening in the rest of the jeans world— the dark dyes, the waxing,” she says. We chat about the state of things on the other side of the fashion universe, where a 12-year-old girl was recently named the official ambassador of Gold Coast Fashion Week in Australia, and about how cheering it is to watch old ’60s beach-party movies and see normal-ish women cavorting in bathing suits.

Then I go home, where I am happy to see that the new diet books I ordered have arrived. Because, much as I embrace the notion that we’re all beautiful no matter how big or small, I am still an American woman, which apparently entitles me to be at least a little neurotic about my weight. (Full disclosure: I am twice over a lifetime member of Weight Watchers! I got the gold stars! I pay $16.95 a month so I can log on to their website!)

I fall avidly upon my advance copy of Skinny Bitch in the Kitch: Kick-Ass Recipes for Hungry Girls Who Want to Stop Cooking Crap (and Start Looking Hot!) and the original Skinny Bitch, the book that really took off when Victoria Beckham—not exactly known as a reader—was seen carrying a copy.

Though I have purchased many diet books in my life, I am a novice when it comes to the Skinny Bitch oeuvre. I know that the authors Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin are notoriously sassy—”Junk food has a shelf life of 22 years and will probably outlive your fat sorry ass,” they bark—but I didn’t realize that not only do they enforce a strict vegan diet, but they also impose such Draconian directives as “Don’t eat lunch until you’re close to ravenous” and, believe it or not, “Donate blood. You can save a life and lose weight at the same time.” They also instruct you to employ daily affirmations and offer the following as a sample: “Every day in every way my thighs are getting thinner.”

What kind of diet secrets are these? Near starvation, blood-letting, inane mantras? At least Weight Watchers lets you have a slice of cake on your birthday and the occasional lick of Mister Softee.

Such subversive thoughts lead me to respond positively when the publicist for Burlington Coat Factory asks if I’d like to meet with a person she calls their “Coat Coach.” Sure, I reason, still in a plus-size state of mind—let’s see what they recommend for the big girls. So I go over to Burlington’s Chelsea branch, which is just as depressing as I remember it: glaring overhead lights, rack upon rack of undifferentiated merchandise, horrible blaring music. The Coat Coach, who also goes by the name the “Savvy Mommy” (a sobriquet only slightly less annoying than the currently popular “yummy mummy”) is very nice, as the best mommies are, and informs me that Burlington sells a staggering seven-and-a-half-million coats a year, 20 percent of which are plus-size. (And that isn’t counting the size 14s and 16s hanging in the regular department, which are, believe me, plenty roomy.) But then the Coat Coach/Savvy Mommy leads me to a rack of sad wool numbers that, plus size or not, would have you running for the thrift shop in search of something equally affordable and far more amusing.

I do better wandering around in the plus-size department by myself, where I quickly notice a very zippy silver-and-black Rocawear parka with a mysterious fur collar that may or may not be Asiatic raccoon, which is some kind of dog and actually caused a bit of scandal last year when some manufacturers claimed it was faux fur. (Apparently, real dog is less expensive than fake fur.)

But happily, no such doggie drama surrounds my find of the afternoon: a gauzy, black-beaded evening wrap that is a ridiculously reasonable $34.99. It won’t keep you warm, and you’ll have to brave Burlington to find it (hint: It’s on the main floor in the plus-size suit department), but it will have all those skinny bitches eating your dust.

Categories
NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES Style THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Sui Generis?

Did the prisoners at Leavenworth consider suing Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel for ripping off the saggy belt-less trousers they wear in the prison yard? Did hundreds of anonymous graffiti artists sue Stephen Sprouse for printing tags on Louis Vuitton satchels?

OK, you’re not going to believe this—but you know Anthropologie, that place where you just bought that thick, knit, flared sweater exactly like the one Dries Van Noten showed on his runway last year? The store where you purchased all those puffy jolie-laide fake Marni dresses in charmingly hideous prints last spring? The shop that currently stocks those ersatz Marc Jacobs jackets with all the military bells and whistles that you’re trying to make up your mind about? Well, that very venue is currently pursuing a lawsuit against Forever 21 for—get this—knocking off Anthropologie clothes.

It’s the season, it seems, for such litigation. More than 20 other designers are also suing Forever 21, including Diane Von Furstenberg—she of the famous wrap dress—who claims that the 21’ers knocked off not just her styles but the very prints she employs: in one example, a rather overwrought pattern of blue-and-white triangles that she calls “scattered stone,” and which actually looks a lot like an old Marimekko design. And in her capacity as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the glamorous Diane has descended on
Washington, attempting to get federal legislation passed that would make clothes-copying clothes a criminal offence.

Anna Sui, who based an entire career on resuscitating, revamping, and rethinking the vintage fashions of the 1960s and ’70s, the decades when she was young, is also livid about Forever 21 ripping off her designs, and she’s suing as well. So incensed is she that for her spring ’08 show (a collection that style.com described in part as “pure Barbara Hulanicki,” citing the designer of the iconic 1970s label Biba), Sui stuffed each gift bag with a T-shirt depicting the owners of Forever 21 on a Wild West–style poster with the legends “Forever Wanted” and “Thou Shalt Not Steal.”

Asked to comment on her pending litigation, Sui’s spokesperson said, “Anna isn’t doing press on this (we gave one quote to the Times only). . . . The shirt is her statement.” (Actually, nobody is very anxious to get back to me about this—repeated calls to Anthropologie were not returned.) It’s easy to see why Sui is so mad—after all, Forever 21 did replicate her stripes-and-giant-roses print. Still, when it comes to fashion, who can claim to be original?

I took a spin recently around Sui’s Soho store to see if this could be a case of a very chic pot calling a fashion-forward kettle basic black. And here is what I found: many garments that appeared to be line-for-line copies of clothes from the ’70s that were clearly purchased from flea markets; a newspaper print that is startlingly similar to one touted by John Galliano a few seasons back; a ribbon-trimmed badge pinned to a sweater exactly like the ones employed by the Fake London brand on its sweaters.

But let’s be fair: Galliano wasn’t the first guy to do a newspaper print either, and lots of designers spend Sundays at the flea market. (They are, in fact, notorious for sweeping through the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show-—the next one is October 12—and buying like wild animals.)

And just a few weeks ago, Marc Jacobs was furious with Suzy Menkes, the critic for the International Herald Tribune, who took apart his most recent runway collection, accusing Jacobs of borrowing rather too liberally from Comme des Garçons, Martin Margiela, and John Galliano. Jacobs fired back in the September 13 issue of Women’s Wear Daily:

“I’ve never denied how influenced I am by Margiela, by Rei Kawakubo, those are people that inspire my work; I don’t hide that. . . . Of course there are comparisons to other things. I’m a designer living in this world who loves fashion . . . I’m attentive to what’s going on in fashion, I’m influenced by fashion, that’s the way it is. I have never ever hidden it. I have never insisted on my own creativity, as Chanel would say. I have my interpretation of ideas I find very strong. Jil Sander is influenced by Comme des Garçons, Miuccia Prada is influenced by Comme des Garçons, everyone is influenced by Comme des Garçons, Martin Margiela. Anybody who’s aware of what life is in a contemporary world is influenced by those designers.”

Well, all right then! So it’s OK for Marc to rip off Comme, but somehow shady and vaguely reprehensible for Zara to do Prada or Bebe to do Versace or Forever 21 to do practically everybody? It’s telling that Jacobs should invoke the name of Coco Chanel, who had her own personal revelation about copying when she visited the S. Klein department store in Union Square in 1933. According to her biographer, Axel Madsen: “Chanel proclaimed that knockoffs were nothing more than ‘spontaneous publicity.’ It was at Klein’s that she decided that it was hopeless to try and fight it, that piracy was the flattering result of success.”

I hope Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz will be similarly flattered that I am sitting here in my fake Lanvin H&M black smock dress with its jaunty oversized zipper halfway up the back and its $59 price tag. I can assure him that it has generated plenty of spontaneous publicity. Not that owning it will stop me from purchasing an authentic Lanvin full price at Barneys any day now—just as soon as I have an extra $3,500 floating around.

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES MUSIC ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES Style THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Talk to Me, Lou

“Lynn? Who’s Lynn?” I hear Lou Reed say to a gallery employee across the floor at 401 Projects. She’s begging Reed to find a moment to speak with me—”It would be really good to have a write-up of this exhibition,” she implores—but, alas, no dice. According to Steven Kasher, who is designing the exhibit along with Reed, an interruption to answer a few press questions is impossible because “Lou wants to continue with the process because it’s a process, and he’s really concentrating.”

Here’s the setup: Lou is helping to hang “Vision of Rock,” an exhibit of photographs taken by rock musicians who also fancy themselves photographers—some seriously, some just as a lark—which has been curated by Mark Seliger. I have been invited to talk to the legendary Lou, who is wiry and any-age in jeans and tie-dyed tee, and I have rushed over, excited, between fashion shows.

I know Lou likes me on sight because when I first arrive, we chat inanely about my lipstick for a few minutes. Little do I know that this is the longest conversation we will have. He blows me a kiss from across the room, and that’s totally it until he finally gives in to collective pleading and toddles over. Here are his remarks in full:

“I love the photos of Mark Seliger, in the first place. I worked with him before; I wrote the forward to his book. I love all the musicians and their photography. I mean, I like what they sing and what they photograph—these are all overachievers. Don’t miss Lou Reed’s Berlin, coming to the Tribeca Film Festival! Bye-bye.”

And then he’s back staring at the wall, and I’m off to the Baby Phat
show, where the larger-than-life ex-wife of mogul Russell Simmons continues to try her hand not at music but designing.

But I’m not mad at Lou—not really. How can you be mad at a guy like Lou? In fact, I’m so not mad that I decide to stop by at the exhibit’s opening-night party, where a number of rock-star photographers will be in attendance. I am also able to view the works as Lou means them to be seen: “I thought everything would be grouped together by artist, and then Lou came in and made a tornado,” Seliger says admiringly of Reed’s eclectic decisions. “He was hanging till 5 p.m. this evening. Lou did it!”

A lot of the work is mesmerizing: Melissa Auf der Maur‘s raucous rock scene captured in The Sweden Incident; Lenny Kravitz‘s portraits of impoverished residents of Brazil;
Patti Smith‘s heartbreakingly poignant photo of Robert Mapplethorpe’s velvet slippers, embroidered “RM.”

Patti isn’t here tonight (maybe it’s just as well—I love her so much I might be tongue-tied anyway), but here is
Michael Stipe, who’s got a bunch of pics in the show and who says of his fellow artists: “Well, their music is certainly varied, and so is what’s represented here.”
Bryan Adams, of “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” fame—who is, in fact, a serious professional photographer—is responsible for some of the show’s most arresting images: a bare-breasted Pink in a denim mini reaching for the sun; a pensive Brian Wilson; Tony Blair strumming a guitar; and a very congenial Queen Elizabeth. I can’t help but notice what Her Majesty is wearing—it’s Fashion Week, after all—and the queen certainly has a look in her strict suit, pearls and pin, and her patent bag matching her shoes. But the setting is hardly formal; the room she’s in is charmingly run-down, and there’s a line of Wellington boots by the door.

Adams is off in a corner, as voluble as Reed was taciturn. When I ask him about Queenie, he tells me: “It was shot in Buckingham Palace for the Jubilee. It’s the garden entrance—it’s sort of where the corgis go out. I think Her Majesty is a bit of a gardener. She was very nice—I had five minutes to shoot it.” Which is more time than I had with Lou.


And Back in Fashion Land . . .

Adams is a doll, and I would be happy to chat with him for hours, but unfortunately I must rush up to the Warhol Factory X Levis X Damien Hirst show at the Gagosian gallery, where we sit surrounded not by rock-star photos, but by Hirst’s humongous spin-art creations. Which is not to say there’s no rocker connection: The renowned Malcolm McLaren, who was once married to Vivienne Westwood and more or less invented punk, is sitting directly across the runway from me, and the show—models wearing Levis and tees along with a quartet of spin-art-decorated clothes allegedly created by Hirst himself—begins with the strains of an ancient recording of the Velvet Underground (hi, Lou!) live at Max’s Kansas City.

The use of rock music to make fashion cool—the opposite is less frequently the case—is hardly new. Last Tuesday alone, Betsey Johnson, who was in fact once briefly married to Lou’s bandmate John Cale, presented her collection as a personal retrospective of dance styles, beginning in 1958 when Betsey was junior-prom princess (her show invitation had the photo to prove it); at
Heatherette, the rapper Lil Mama kicked off the show with a deafening rendition of her big hit: “My lip gloss be poppin’ . . . and all the boys keep stoppin’.”

There was plenty of stoppin’ but not much poppin’—at least not initially—at
Marc Jacobs‘s show. Though it was scheduled to begin at nine, invitees were informed at the door that the show had been postponed till 11 and they should go have a drink or something. The delay was rumored to be due to the late arrival of the clothes (like Marc didn’t know six months ago this show was coming up?), but I have my own theory: I think Jacobs likes to keep everyone waiting because it makes his show seem like a rock concert.

After all, Marc, who is a recent graduate of rehab and is sporting an impressively lithe physique, has to have a little fun: When you’re not getting high and you have a ton of responsibilities—which include not just running your own business, but also being creative head of the august Louis Vuitton—maybe you’ve got to do something a little irresponsible to feel young and cheer yourself up. And, of course, Jacobs has always studded his front row with rockers; past guests have included Madonna, P. Diddy, Debbie Harry, and Lil Kim enjoying one last bash before she went to jail. This season,
Courtney Love—now so thin she’s a ringer for Ashley Olson—waited with the rest of the crowd, who were, despite their griping, as excited as 14-year-old Beatlemaniacs.

It wasn’t a rock group that finally emerged a little after 11 (early by nightclub standards) but a parade of models in deconstructed dresses, which means a lot of chiffon underpinnings and highly visible bra straps. It was fresh and sexy but also vaguely nostalgic, like the sort of thing an addled trannie might have concocted for a night on the town back in the day when Marc hung out at Jackie 60 in the meatpacking district, long before Stella and Jeffrey colonized the neighborhood.

Marc’s new frocks were, in fact, perfect for Warhol glamour girl
Candy Darling (born James Slattery), who died in 1979, and whom Lou Reed—Lou, you’re everywhere!—once described thusly, capturing the spirit of that lost world:

Candy came from out on the island
In the backroom she was everybody’s darling
But she never lost her head
Even when she was giving head
She says, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
Said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side.

Categories
NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

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?

Categories
Living NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Boys in the Hoodies

It’s exactly seven days before the beginning of Fashion Week, and just inside the door of the Duckie Brown showroom on Mercer Street, a gaggle of maybe 20 young men, uniformly clad in ratty jeans and shredded tees, are sitting around, waiting for their close-ups. At first, they seem like normal, nice college boys—but examine them more closely and you’ll see that each face has something incredible to recommend it: Either it’s dauntingly chiseled with cut-steel cheekbones, or there are piercing aqua eyes and a wicked stubble, or a complexion creamy as milk glass. Though there’s not a stray ounce of body fat to be seen, there are also no obvious examples of manorexia—the skinny guys just seem like skinny guys, not desperately ill fashion victims.

“There’s the show you dream of, and then there’s the show you end up with. You’ve got to be willing to be surprised,” says Daniel Silver, waxing philosophical on the daunting chore of casting the guys who’ll walk in his runway show.

Silver is one half of Duckie Brown, a clothing line (“It’s not menswear, but men’s fashion,” he will remind you) that he owns and runs with his business partner and sweetheart of 15 years, Steven Cox. “We started our business in 2001, a few days after September 11. I thought, ‘It’s not the right time,’ but Steven said, ‘Duckie, it’s never going to be the right time.’ ” The first collection was 17 pieces; by their third season, they were attracting attention as part of the GenArt show, where their runway conceit—underwear with gloves—was a smash. Where’d the cute name come from? “Steven’s English—’Duckie’ is an endearment that his aunt used all the time, and we thought ‘Brown’ sounded like a sturdy old name.”

Are they pleased by the lineup of lean beefcakes that awaits them? “This collection is American fashion—American sportswear—khaki trousers, navy blazers. So we’re looking for classically American boys,” says Silver, who is wearing a much-washed, much-loved Duckie Brown jacket and white Birkenstocks. (In fashion, male models are always “boys,” females are invariably “girls”—which is vaguely degrading, maybe, although, in truth, these people are rarely over 21.)

Cox, who has a beard, a number of imposing aquatic tattoos, and is today favoring an oversize $3.99 undershirt from Conways with pointy vintage Helmut Lang lace-ups, admits that “this is the most hectic time. It can be hard to work out what will look good on who. But you see the boy, you feel the boy, you talk to him, and in one minute you know. It’s intuitive. Some are so good they will fit every single look, but that’s rare.” In the end, Silver and Cox will audition 40 or 50 aspirants for around 27 spots.

Every show, every vision has its specific requirements. This season, Duckie Brown is looking for guys with average hair length, so it can be styled and sprayed until, in Silver’s words, “it looks like when you see a mannequin with the hair included.” It’s tougher than it sounds, since so many models are bald as cue balls. When a prospective candidate walks in with a waist-length mane, a horrified silence ensues; the chagrined model caster, a gorgeous pregnant woman, hurriedly ushers him out.

I am determined to get these model boys to talk to me, but my queries are met with the enthusiasm usually reserved for a high-school teacher’s pop quiz. Finally, an African-American guy with a fat pearl in each ear takes pity on me and shares that he was discovered by a photographer playing beach volleyball in Hawaii, that this is his third season in the business, and that the bigger the designer, the longer the wait. (Duckie Brown is a medium wait.)

The guy next to him, an ultra-thin Texan who has the words “April May June” tattooed in gigantic gothic script across his upper chest (the permanent souvenir of a failed relationship), and who has had a meteoric rise in fashion modeling—he walked for Dior Homme exclusively in Paris last summer—expresses a rueful wonder at his current fate. “I have some issues with being a promotional tool—I mean, I used to be a crusty punk—but I’m pretty good at justifying things to myself. I mean, it’s not underage mutilation or anything.”

Back in the casting area, Silver is vigorously defending an outfit of slick trousers and a matching windbreaker being tried on by a dazzling brunette. “It’s not going to look boring, Duckie! It’s not a boring suit! It’s a modern suit!” “You’ve hit the nail on the fuckin’ head, Duckie!” Cox replies. “He looks like a straight dude on a date.”

Watching the casting is mesmerizing, like staring at a super-sexy lava lamp. One hot guy after another is asked to walk down a long hallway so his gait can be subtly assessed by the Duckie team—if he passes muster (just the right swagger, just the right bump), he moves on to step two, which requires him to drop trou, revealing in most cases a pair of boxer briefs. Then he dons whatever outfit the Duckies deem perfect for him—in one notable case, a symphony of giant mismatched floral prints, so huge and garish it could get you thrown out of a carnival sideshow. “He’s beautiful, and he has a sexy walk, too—he has a swagger in the tush!” Silver says of the model. But there’s some concern about whether putting a black man in a loud floral print is at best a little predictable, at worst promulgating a stereotype. The team decides it’s OK. “I could put an Asian or Latino or white guy in it, too,” Silver says. “But he’s owning it! He pulls it off! Now let’s try him in the gold, Duckie!”

The gold in question is a languid sweatshirt covered with real metal sequins that weighs eight pounds, takes 90 hours to bead in India, and retails for $3,500. How does it feel on? “Like a weight jacket,” the model replies softy. Silver insists that it’s actually comfy because “the weight’s distributed!” Though there are lots of plain, sporty items the models would happily take home—and they will, since the only payment they receive for the show is a pair of sneaks, some Florsheim slip-ons, and one Duckie Brown outfit—it’s the twisted sisters you always remember best: the apple-green knitted cummerbund, the drooping cashmere shorts with a button back-flap like Dennis the Menace’s pajamas.

But you’ve got to have some drama on a runway. “For us, a show is a show!” Silver says. “We want you to react! We want to make your blood boil!” And actually, the temperature in the room does inch up a degree or two when the next guy walks the walk. He’s a surfer type, a particularly exquisite version of Sean Penn’s iconic Spicoli, and his wrist is sexily bandaged from a recent longboard accident. When he doffs the straw hat he’s wearing—it has a huge hole burned out in front—he reveals sun-lightened hair that’s just the right length for the show. The Duckies put him in what they call an ombré silk organza frock coat; its elegant sleeve covers his injury.

Is the shoulder a little off? Cox shrugs. “It’s like Comme des Garcons, Duckie! It’s fabulous! I love him in it! It’s never gonna fit anyone perfectly.”

Last week: Lynn Yaeger yapped about pet fashion week.

Categories
Living NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES Style THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Penthouse Pets

“I mean it, Maxie! If you keep barking, you’re not going to a restaurant anymore!” I actually heard this threat issued at an outdoor café on Second Avenue a few weeks ago, and, as might be expected, the yapping Maxie—a nasty little horror show—was entirely unfazed. He (she? it?) howled merrily away, no doubt planning how to sucker his (her? its?) owner into purchasing a whole new Maxie-worthy wardrobe for fall.

I knew something was up in pet country, some new arrogance informing the behavior of Maxie and her ilk, when a press release for Sexy Beast, a dog fragrance that bills itself as a “distinct and highly-addictive eau de parfum [that] will keep your dog smelling fresh and clean long after the trip to the groomer,” crossed my desk. This was rapidly followed by the information that August 17 marked the beginning of Pet Fashion Week.

So fascinated am I by any fashion week, no matter how ludicrous or far-fetched, that I rush over to the W hotel, where the Luxury Pet Pavilion, “the first traveling trade show for luxury pet products,” is being held. I immediately say the wrong thing to the two very nice women behind the registration desk: “Are there a lot of animals here? Because I hate pets.” They are horror-struck, and rightly so. I mean, would I go to the Gaultier couture show in Paris and say, “Are there clothes here? Because I hate fashion.”

I quickly discover that Pet Fashion Week has plenty in common with human Fashion Week—mainly, all the really cute stuff is for scrawny, undernourished-looking animals. “Baby is my inspiration,” says Marilyn Hikida, stroking a three-pound teacup Maltese. Baby and her owner both boast serious résumés—Baby has been on The Tonight Show and Entertainment Tonight; Hikida used to work at BCBG and Bloomingdale’s. Now she devotes her energies to Barking Baby, which specializes in hats and matching coats—a leopard-print Beatles cap, say, with a matching spotted cloak, or—in what is perhaps an unwitting example of racial profiling—a Chihuahua-size poncho and sombrero.

When Hikida offers me a taste of her spinach-and-Parmesan-cheese- flavored organic dog treats, made in what she assures me is a “human-grade bakery,” I demur. (I don’t know, maybe it’s the bone shape.) On the other hand, General, an equally anorexic pup at the next table, is chomping at the bit for a bite. General is wearing skinny jeans and a black cable-knit sweater over a white polo shirt, which makes him better-dressed than 90 percent of the vendors.

It soon becomes apparent that Baby and General are the canine equivalents of Ukrainian supermodels. I immediately fall into my historic role as champion of the underdog (Ouch! Sorry!) and decide to speak up for all those rotund Rovers who appear to have been overlooked by the pet fashion community. Where are sombreros for their fat heads? Whither the XXXL doggie dungarees? Alas, in common with their voluptuous human counterparts, these fat Fidos have to settle for accessories, like a collar studded with 800 hand-sewn Swarovski crystals offered by a company called Wiggles, Wags, & Whiskers for $400.

There’s so much to see—the dog crate disguised as a Scalamandre-trimmed canopy bed; the hand-knitted sweaters decorated with crabs (the dealer is from Maryland); the life-celebration kit, which contains an aromatherapy candle that burns 24 hours straight (lets face it, this is a yartseit candle for a dog); the skull-and-crossbones doggie barrettes.

You might think that you’d be ready to throw up by this point, and maybe you would have a point—but then I have a sudden epiphany. At the Romy and Jacob display, the owner tells me that her merchandise is “very high-end, the same quality as children’s clothes,” and I suddenly think, “OK, sure, but does a human baby need a cashmere pullover? Do rugrats require recycled fur parkas? If you’re willing to buy this stuff for an infant, then why not a dog?”


photo: Mary Bloom; bottom: Sexy Beast

This new magnanimous feeling is reinforced when I see a dog carrier made of the bunched-up leather so popular for handbags this season. After all, if I can drag around town toting the ridiculous plastic-and-leather Fendi I am carrying this very day, dogless though it may be, why can’t a pooch perch in a puckered Prada?

Still, I have a hard time suppressing a brief internal snicker when I see a plate of revolting-looking mush set out on the Halo, Purely for Pets table. Andi Brown, Halo’s founder, who has a platinum pixie haircut, sobers me right up, recounting a tale I suspect she has told many times before: Years ago, her cat Spot was dying of some unspecified ailment. When it was suggested that Spot stop eating junk food, why,—voilà—she perked right up. Thus was Halo, “the first holistic pet-product company on the planet,” born.

Brown is the author of The Whole Pet Diet, which she is anxious to give me a copy of, asking whom she should dedicate it to. I search my mind for a dog that, if not exactly a friend of mine, is at least an acquaintance. I settle on Molly, a 14-year-old border- collie mix whose chief virtue is that she has the good sense to leave me mostly alone when I visit her owner, K. Actually, K, who has put up with a lot from me over the years, set me straight when I once teased her about a giant vet bill she was footing for Molly. “You spend $500 getting an antique doll restuffed, and you don’t think I should help Molly? At least Molly knows who I am,” she said, and I shut up. Permanently.

If there is an informal mistress of ceremonies at the Luxury Pet Pavilion, it is self-described New York pet socialite and national luxury pet products expert Charlotte Reed, whose height is made even more impressive by her snakeskin sandals, and who is sporting dangling rhinestone dog-bone earrings. “This market has just exploded,” Reed tells me, because “people really love their pets—just like children! They want to dress like them, take them to baseball games, to yappy hours.” (Yappy hours?)

Reed points me toward a display of exquisite armchairs and settees that are lavishly tufted and look like they come from a miniature version of the Shabby Chic store in Soho. “Look how beautiful that furniture is. It’s not like the old blanket, the dog bed you kicked under the couch when company was coming. Look at all the tassels, the bindings!”

Stupid for dogs, I think. But perfect for a doll.

Categories
BOOKS ARCHIVES CULTURE ARCHIVES Neighborhoods NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Off the Road

Hey, Jack! Hey, you old dharma bum! Guess what? A picture of you is hanging in the window of the fancy Hogan store in Soho! Don’t know Hogan? Buy all your clothes at the Army-Navy store? Well, that’s a shame, because Hogan, a chic Italian leather company, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of your
On the Road with what it calls the Jack Kerouac Project: a $1,290 travel bag from which to fish out a few bucks for a Greyhound ticket, a pair of $475 black work boots with taupe snap-down cuffs to keep your feet warm as you contemplate the cream puffs at Hector’s cafeteria, and a $1,590 leather bomber jacket to use as a blanket while you sleep it off in an all-night movie theater.

It’s a big year for you, buddy. In addition to the Hogan stuff, which the company describes in charmingly fractured English as providing “a clear reference to Jack Kerouac’s mood and sensibility to which Hogan strongly relates, captured in the rugged and original preppy nomad appeal,” On the Road’s birthday is being feted with a tome titled Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of “On the Road”
by John Leland; a reissue of On the Road; and even a reproduction of the original scroll you crammed into your typewriter so you wouldn’t have to interrupt what you called your “spontaneous prose.” (Did Truman Capote hurt your feelings when he took one look at your opus and sniffed, “That’s not writing, that’s typing”?)

Ever wonder what happened to that old scroll? It was sold at auction in 2001 for—you won’t believe this—over two million dollars, and now it’s going to be on display at the New York Public Library from November 9 to March 16, the shining star of the exhibit all about you entitled “Beatific Soul: Jack Kerouac on the Road.”

Oh, Jack, Jack—just when I thought we would always be fellow beatific souls, you had to ruin it all by coming out with that rabid, right-wing, bigoted, Jew-hating, America-first stuff. This made me hate you, but actually it has a logical explanation—anyone who lived with his mom decade after decade is bound to go a little nuts.

So maybe, given your late-in-life embrace of capitalism, you’d actually endorse that Hogan merch (especially if you got a cut of the profits). In any case, as so often happens, you’re worth far more dead than alive. Want to really spin in your grave? Check this out: Johnny Depp once paid $15,000 for an old raincoat of yours, and $10,000 for a tweed overcoat.

So you see, it’s all relative—by those standards, the Hogan goods are really, really cheap. And they would certainly make a nice change from the gear you actually took with you when you first went on the road. “My shoes,” you admitted in the book, “damn fool that I am, were Mexican huaraches, plantlike sieves not fit for the rainy night of America and the raw road night.” What else did you bring? We know there was a plaid shirt, since much is made in the book of this being loaned to a fellow hitchhiker named Eddie and, amazingly, returned weeks later in Denver. You also tell us that when you got back to what you claim in the book was your aunt’s house in Paterson, New Jersey (bet it was really your mom’s . . . ), the contents of your knapsack were as follows: two sweaters and two shirts (all of which you were wearing); a pair of cotton-field pants and the “tattered remnants of my huarache shoes.” The typical Hogan customer may not realize this, but it’s actually extremely easy to reproduce that exact wardrobe today. A quick visit to the Internet (how you would have loved the Internet! All those hours of spontaneously Googling!) turns up Huaraches.com and a Moose Creek buffalo plaid shirt from Cabelas.com for $18.95.


And you know what? Fifty years on, bohemian clothing hasn’t changed all that much. You could easily wear your On the Road ensemble to the upcoming Howl festival in Tompkins Square Park (September 8-9) and not look a bit out of place. You heard right—this event is named after the epic poem by your BFF Allen Ginsberg and promises, among other enticements, a Carl Solomon Book Mart in honor of Allen’s buddy Carl, whom the poet first encountered at the Columbia Presbyterian Psychiatric Institute. (Solomon, returning from shock treatment, purportedly took one look at Ginsberg and said, “I’m Kirilov,” referring to the character in Dostoyevsky’s The Possessed. Ginsberg, sitting in the waiting room—he was at the hospital to visit his mother—replied, “I’m Myshkin.” Thus was an enduring friendship formed.)

Does the neighborhood around Tompkins Square look at all familiar? Guess not. To help you get your bearings, here’s a clue: The building at 437 East 12th Street, where Allen lived for over 20 years, now has a business called LMD Floral Events Interiors at street level, and the restaurant on the corner recommends braised veal cheeks for $32.

Unfortunately, you’ll have to hitchhike down to Soho to buy your new Hogan clothes. The company hasn’t announced any plans to set up an outdoor table at the Howl festival, which doesn’t mean there’ll be nothing to buy—a $25 Howl festival T-shirt, decorated with a pic of Allen wearing his Uncle Sam top hat, will be on sale for $25.

It’s just too bad that Neal Cassady, the real hero of On the Road (you named him Dean Moriarty in the book, but everybody knows it was Neal), isn’t around any more. He was the original T-shirt guy, eons before the rest of America took up the style. Remember how you described him as he parked cars at breakneck
speed during one of his brief periods of employment? “As ever he rushed around in his ragged shoes and T-shirt and belly-hanging pants . . .”

Which leads me to think—maybe Allen really meant to write, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry . . . $1,290 travel bag and a $25 Howl festival tee.”

Categories
Living Neighborhoods NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

The Eastern Bloc

I was standing in Red Square last winter, chatting with a young woman who was patiently answering my questions about life in Moscow. When I finally asked her if there was anything she wanted to know about the States, she blurted out, “Can you tell me, please, what are the Hamptons like?”

OK, Natasha, this one’s for you.

Two weekends ago, I paid my $29 fare and climbed aboard the notorious Hamptons Jitney, which was as you might imagine, choked with whippet-thin, pouty-mouthed Paris-Lindsay derivatives who looked like they weighed 50 percent less than the Vuitton duffels they toted; taut matrons in linen shifts who viewed the free jitney muffin as if they’d been offered a dead frog; and bronzed-to-a-deep-orange hedge fund managers hidden behind Tom Ford sunglasses.

It takes three hours to plow through the traffic and arrive in East Hampton. Three hours of listening to the house-sharers behind me compare the size of their hangovers, three hours of no cell phone calls since the camp-counselor-ish Jitney attendant has announced sternly that calls are limited to three minutes and are for emergencies only.

One can only imagine the cacophony of bragging and whining that led to the imposition of this rule. And in theory I’m all for it. But hey, I’m alone and I’m bored—this is an emergency! So I surreptitiously call a friend and spend a half hour bragging and whining in whispered tones into the phone.

And then suddenly, after an eternity, the bus pulls up across from the Manrico cashmere shop—we’re here! I tumble out, ready to begin my Hamptons adventure. The town doesn’t disappoint: In the space of five minutes, I overhear “How was Prague?” asked by a guy in shorts to a girl with flippy hair. “Amazing,” she replies in the flat, dull tone teenagers employ when they mutter “whatever.” Two minutes later, I listen in on the following: “You know, Mykanos is kind of fun. Oh, you like the south of France? Then you are so not going to like Greece.”

Hello, people! Aren’t you on vacation already? Didn’t you work your whole lives to have a place around here? Why are you so worried about going somewhere else?

It turns out there’s an antique show today, set up on the grounds of a colonial restoration, so I decide to stroll over, past oak trees bearing brass plaques dedicated to deceased East Hampton luminaries. At the admissions table, I hand over $8 to a woman whose fine bone structure and wild red hair remind me a bit of Little Edie Beale, former denizen of Grey Gardens and perhaps the most famous dead Hamptonite of all, though as far as I can tell there is no plaque for her—or her mother.

“Don’t buy it before we see it!” jokes a shopper with a clear plastic Prada tote who recognizes me from Manhattan antique shows. (Her companion is sporting a classic $900 Goyard carryall, one of what seems like several thousand Goyard carryalls I will see in my brief sojourn here.) But there’s not much danger, since I’m taking the Jitney home in a few hours and can’t carry anything larger than an art deco bread box. Outside while admiring a booth featuring case after case of ornate sterling silver knives, forks, and spoons, I become fascinated by another anecdote being loudly recounted: the sad tale of an air conditioner owner whose noise is driving his air-conditioning-less neighbors nuts. Every winter the neighbors stuff objects in the air conditioner’s pipes, monkey with the switch, disable the compressor, and otherwise express their displeasure.

I am smiling at the ingenuity of these overheated Hamptonites when another cry distracts me: “Marv! Marv! I found something really cool!” I’m not Marv, but I look anyway—it’s a footrest with tusk legs and a leopard cushion. Perhaps Marv’s companion wishes to emulate the barstools covered with elephant foreskin that reportedly graced Aristotle Onassis’s yacht?

After the swift purchase of a Pinocchio wall hanging for $15 (who says there are no bargains in the Hamptons?), I walk back to Main Street, a boutique-clotted avenue with miniature editions of Tiffany and Gucci and a requisite Starbucks whose contribution to American life—good, no-questions-asked bathrooms—cannot be overstated. But hey, I can visit Gucci and Tiffany and get a Frappuccino anytime. Instead, I seek out a place around the corner called the Monogram Shop, which offers infant-sized personalized cowl-neck sweaters for future captains of industry. The samples on display are inscribed Hugo, Caiden (huh?), Maxwell, and Blake. (Could Blake Carrington be responsible for the currency of this moniker?)

I pass by many more spots that I am overly familiar with from Manhattan—a behemoth Scoop, the ubiquitous Calypso, Catherine Malendrino, Cynthia Rowley. Though this is a summer resort, there’s a mysterious number of cashmere shops—at least four, and this isn’t even counting Ralph Lauren, who displays his soft sweaters in the company of Victorian lace skirts.

Oh, Ralph. Could there be a more perfect Hamptons figurehead than the Bronx-born Lauren? (OK, sure, he changed his name from Lifshitz, but if your name had the word “shit” in it, wouldn’t you change it, too?) His distinctive message—and one that I’ve always embraced—is that you can dress like a WASP, present yourself to the world as a rich twit, and call your kids Hugo and Caiden no matter what your ethnicity or what depressing hole you originally crawled out of.

So I venture in to see biers filled with sand and a mannequin being held aloft by two tiny saleswomen who are trying to yank a pair of shorts off the thing. “They’re vintage,” one says reverently of the patched and frayed Marcia Brady–esque denim. I’m unmoved by this precious garment—I’ve always felt you should patch your own dungarees—but I do like a small gold-colored skirt trimmed with crystals. Just to be sure, I ask the clerk if 7500 is the model number, but no, it’s the price. The good news is that it’s been marked down—to $1,900.

It turns out this garment almost fulfills that old joke, “For that much money, it must be made of real gold.” The clerk explains that in fact its fabric comes from “some mill in France” and has genuine metal woven into it, “which is why it’s so heavy.” (This is a good thing in a skirt?) Then I notice that this item is also in the window (they made more than one $7,500 skirt?) and is being shown with nothing but a man’s undershirt—guess all the money went for the skirt—and posed next to a bottle of Veuve Clicquot soaking in an ice bucket.

Collette Consignment seems promising—it’s stocked with nearly unused Chanel flats and Goyard wallets purchased and then rapidly discarded by Hamptons ladies with shifting tastes, but the prices are nearly as high as it would be to buy this stuff new (turns out the ladies are not just fickle, but greedy, too). So I head over to the Windmill Deli to buy a bag of chips for the trip home, only to discover that this humble shop (they were never very nice, but still) has been replaced by a bloated, glaring Citarella.

Well, at least I have reading material. My arms are heavy with the free magazines peculiar to rich towns: Hamptons; Hampton Life; Hampton Style; East End Living; Social Life. (All those years growing up on Long Island, I never saw a copy of Massapequa Social Life). By the time we pass Watermill, I have contemplated a $26,995 diamond cuff bracelet featured in a column entitled “Beach Buys” and read not one but two separate interviews with Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss, the ex-girlfriend of Jerry Seinfeld who designs a line of fashions for young women with big knockers and tiny hips.

Now if only that jitney guy would come though with an extra muffin.