It must be pretty cool to wake up in the morning knowing that that night you'll be ushered into the Hall of Fame. Granted, this isn't the Rock and Roll Hall but the CFDA's Hall of Fame. At the august age of 48 Marc Jacobs will be given his first Lifetime Achievment award at the ceremonies this evening at Linclon Center's Alice Tully Hall. That's no small feat when you consider that he's still kicking and other greats like Christian Lacroix, Azzedine Alaia, John Galliano, Ralph Rucci, Tom Ford, Isabel Toledo, Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo, Miuccia Prada, J.P.Gaultier, Thomas Maier,and did I include Ralph Rucci on that list? Well, these people, most of whom are a little older have yet to take that particular stroll to the podium. This is not to say that Jacobs is undeserving, either. I wouldn't presume to pass such harsh judgement but only to raise a puzzled eyebrow at the prospect. I start to wonder if myopia is a hush-hush affliction that the fashion community is afraid to discuss. At a certain point one starts to question if the pool of talent in this country has sprung a nasty leak or if that pool is really nothing more than a shallow tub that fits a tiny handful of paddlers. The list of nominees over the past 5-10 years has consisted of the same players with a little added spice for the sake of relevance. It's obvious that press, ad pages and industry popularity are all the deciding factors in the decision making but it's also obvious that oversight is rampant. At a certain point the audience will begin to grumble and some indelicate questions will need to be addressed. So the coronation is just moments away and we have the Marc Jacobs Resort2012 collection to take in as an appetizer before the main course. There are a few things that are lovely like a sweet pair of shorts in a bold graphic wall paper print, delicate pastel and neutral shaded daisies under a glaze of pailletes and a navy pleated tennis skirt and short sleeved top. Beyond that, I don't see an effort that translates to an "A" game. Maybe all the excitement of tonight's award and his nomination in another category or 2 has sapped his creative resources. Whatever the reason, I'm sure the show tonight will be stellar.
Am I the only one who's noticed a mini-trend of designers returning to art school? From finger painting (Adam Lippes) to the moody style of the Color Field school (Bottega Veneta) there appears to be a decidedly artistic bent to a few collections this season. As refreshing as this direction is I was fascinated by the methods Oscar de la Renta employed with his 60+ piece Resort collection. The first thing I noticed were a line up of models, all of them stars of the international runways looking almost miserable under headgear that resembled nothing short of YSL castoffs from his Impressionist collection from 20 some odd years ago. Cubist inspired broad brimmed Spanish dancer hats crowned the heads of an army of beauties whom were made unrecognizable. The ghost of Picasso was busy at work on the surface of these dresses. It brought to mind a midnight raid on the galleries of the Met, but one performed in the pitch darkness. There was little rhyme or reason to the work beyond its resemblance to his Cubist period with a generous helping of the sort of hats that filled Westminster Abbey a few weeks ago. It was about 40 exits before the pieces began to fit and an elegant subtlety took the place of awkward, too literal representations of that period in art. At that moment the story line dropped and was traded for one that was so familiar I could have predicted each subsequent look. Here came the faille cocktails with square-cut necklines, fitted bodices and popover skirts, the frothy, flirty, ostrich feathered souffle, the knit cardy over matching sheath which is a tripartite homage to Anna, Adolfo and Coco, and the regulation silk chiffon stunner dripping in a degrade of paillettes, beads and high-ticket thread work. There were some pretty numbers in the endless defile like a smart black coat over maillot with matching drawn white lines, a white on white shift with what appeared to be flakes of the same resting on its surface and a few delicately draped georgette gowns in pale greens and blues, but they were tough to find under the leaden styling and ceaseless variations on a shaky theme. I'd love to see a collection with new and unexpected shapes, a concerted effort to push the boundaries. I used to look forward to this collection more than almost any other. On 9/11 when I had a full book of appointments for my collection and was actually done on time I had an invitation to see Oscar's show that afternoon at 1:00. In the shock and chaos of that morning and the realization that my dreams of that season were a tiny puff of attendant smoke to the much larger cloud 40 blocks south, I sent my team home. Anton called from the U.N. to say he'd meet me and we'd walk home together. In my temporary insanity I argued that we couldn't head north until after Oscar's show. Nothing was going to deter me from seeing his collection even if I would have to go alone. Anton kept trying to convince me that there would be no show but I disagreed. I was holding onto that dream that somehow seeing something transcendent and beautiful would help me make sense of the carnage. Well there was no show, thousands of lives were lost and it was the beginning of a long slow end to a way of life we'd all come to know. I missed that beauty then and I miss it still.
"Adam Lippes had fun with proportions for Resort, showing crisp looks that you'd want to steal straight from the sample rack and start wearing now." That was the opening line of the Style.com review of this tepid line. To call it a collection would be a gross exaggeration. This is a rack of unrelated bits pretending to be something of interest. Considering his presence in major department stores, many who've given him a fair amount of real estate and the fact of his brick and mortar shop downtown, I'd expect a bit of substance. In all fairness I can't point my finger at him directly as he isn't the one wielding the scissors. Like Carolina Herrera, Vera Wang, Ralph Lauren and most of Seventh Ave. he's not a designer, just the humble face of a design house with artistic affectations. The sad combinations of over-sized jackets, sweaters and t-shirts piled over slim Bermudas, oddball leather minis and cropped sweatpants all add up to a wardrobe that's perfect for today's young women whose fashion sense is culled from style visionaries like Rachel Zoe and Blake Lively. In this the new age of fashion and I start to feel as though I'm going deaf and blind. One thing is sure, dumb is not one of my issues. Dumb is this sort of exercise.
Probably the most vexing thing that can happen to a designer in the middle of hisshow is when the audience stops considering the clothes and starts questioning his or her motives. I wasn't there in this case as I was waiting for the phone guy and the rug guy and the deer fence guys to come and create magic at chez Chance. I did stop to"regard" the "looks" on my computer and had this "ahem" moment about 4 images in. Michael Kors , whose Sydney inspired collection translates to Urban Beach, not to be confused with Urban Zen or Urban Sprawl is designed to invoke the sensation of the ocean lapping at the corner of 68th and Park. I'm thinking it's the cross pollination of 10021 with 11937; God's little acres. In these days of reality TV and Lifetime Achievement Awards bestowed on living, breathing 40-somethings the "notion" (I HATE that word) of subtlety is a quaint idea from the distant past. Michael Kors has been for a good long time a very clever, creative and talented designer. His signatures of luxe, unfussy, degage clothes that reek of sophistication and "class" has made him one of the most well-regarded members of the Seventh Ave. Old Guard. No one does double-faced cashmere, crocodile and "don't you f*%$#g look at me" sunnies quite the way he does. He's a showman, a style arbiter and a nice guy to boot. So what gives with this collection? Why scuba dresses, rote cut matron suits with minis, acid green zebra "boyfriend"pants and cardboard stiff-looking car coats that scream vintage Balenciaga? Is it possible to over-flog those dead horse muses, Babe and Jackie to a fare the well? And why would he reference Reed (don't call me a designer) Krakoff's belts which look like pancake-flat, fanny packs? That sort of misstep will only encourage him (RK)... All of these questions and more flood my mind as I look at this collection. These clothes don't look so much like offerings to the hip as they do go-to looks for the likes of Jaimee Gregory and Muffie Potter Aston. There's still an unmistakable richness to many of these pieces from the gold leafed knit sweaters and some odds and ends abbreviated jackets over pants. He knows how to spoon out the goodies without causing indigestion, I just wonder about his choice of menu. It's impossible to be profound every time but one also should think long and hard about the message you're sending. Better to say less than fill the air with a lot of mindless patter.