Philipp Plein by Tim Teeman
Not that the rumor that fashion folk are a bunch of shameless freeloaders or anything is, ahem, true, but the mood of the assembled at Philipp Plein’s grand New York Fashion Week show at the New York Public Library on Monday night definitely perked up when Plein, in a warm and open-hearted speech before the show began, revealed that he had paid for an open bar.
“The drinks are on me,” Plein said. Short of promising everyone that they were going home with one of his full-length silver puffer jackets, the handsome German designer couldn’t have come up with a more winning sentence. And after the show he stayed true to his word with the whole library converted to a party zone, with multiple bars, dodge ’em cars, hot dog and cotton candy stands, DJs, and a disco.
Plein’s show was a long time starting: a full heroic hour late, but the music and people-watching was so damn good nobody was antsy. The surroundings—the atrium and halls of the NYPL—were dramatically lit with mesh fences with fluorescent tubing, with benches running along its ornate flanks, and guests including Madonna (in a fabulous red and black padded coat and dark glasses), Kylie Jenner, her boyfriend Tyga, Nas (who performed “If I Ruled the World”), Tiffany Trump, and a cast of Fashion Week hundreds decked in finery, including a man in a full length blue, glittering robe… and a very rich-looking older woman who approached this reporter to help her post a picture of her with fellow attendees Paris Hilton and Nicky Rothschild to Instagram.
Names were misspelt, it was a riot of double spaces, and what should she hashtag, she asked? The Daily Beast did its best to help, until the woman joyously posted the picture and was hustled out of her seat. No matter: She giggled, and disappeared behind a pillar where more intrigues may have awaited. It was that kind of evening.
It was also an evening that celebrated New York. “Let’s make NYFW Great Again” read the legend on the evening’s program, with the added question—voiced by the designer himself in his witty speech—“Who the fuck is Philippe Plein?”
“Well, that’s me,” the designer said to us all. It was Plein’s first show in New York City, after years of showing in Milan, and so he was making an entrance. “I'm a dreamer,” he said. “A dream chaser. I believe in my dreams until they come true. This is a dream and I can say this dream came true.”
He said he knew he was defying convention by making his presence known before the show. Not only that: He was saying something. Typically a designer pops their head out from behind a screen and takes a bow, and skedaddles backstage.
But Plein was doing it his way. “Make this night epic,” he ordered us. He thanked people for coming, and then said the evening was “all about having fun.”
He lived up to his intention. Not every designer can command the services of The Kills to perform music for the runway, as a troupe of models—male and female—appeared in a sequence of black bomber jackets, and tight black pants, or fitted skirts. Some carried the banner legend of Plein himself (very Moschino), some “New York,” and some with the legend “Neighborhood Kings.” The male models included Jeremy Weeks, the so-called “Hot Felon,” Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz, and rappers Young Thug, Fetty Wap, and a smiling Desiigner.
There were men’s gray jogging trousers with artful zips in odd places, zip-up tops that went so high on the neck they looked like a Zorro-ish disguise, and some wore kerchiefs to more directly emulate the look itself. There were jackets with luxe fur sleeves, and short dresses, leotards, and short shorts with thigh-high boots. There were sleek, long puffer jackets in black and silver, and leggings with slithering silver studs. One piece featured a glittering Statue of Liberty. Another: “I Love New York.”
A black crop T-shirt with light blue jeans could have been worn by Jennie Garth in 90210 (the first version), while a short brown bomber jacket came with a luxe champagne ballgown with glittering studs on its hem. If the essence of the collection was street, it came with the knowledge that its wearers would be leaving the street pretty sharpish to go to a party like the one at the NYPL.
Plein’s politics were plain to see: This collection was a heartfelt celebration of not just America, but New York, and all it stands for. The back of his program listed: Brooklyn Bronx, Staten Island, Queens, “From the Battery to the Top of Manhattan, Asian, Middle-Eastern and Latin, Black, White, New York, You Make It Happen.”
The brilliant, thunderous rap music hammered a similar point home: This was a celebratory defiance of President Trump—a hailing of difference and the best qualities of urban melting pots.
Confusion descended after the end of the show, which didn’t really end. Suddenly models were mixing with the people who were just watching them. “Anyone want a drink?” my neighbor said, at which point fashion genetics kicked in, and everyone zoomed to the nearest free bar, like pigs in a forest suddenly remembering they are there to find truffles.
Plein must have the magic touch, because the fashion folk actually ate the sliders being proffered by waiters. There were neon signs stuck to rigged-up fences proclaiming “nude” and “lap dancing.” Mostly, people took their cocktails and vodka sodas and danced to Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” and “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough.” It was a playlist straight from Plein’s determined desire for everyone to let go, and enjoy themselves: an insistence on pleasure as its own resistance.
Leaving behind the merriment before glass carriages became pumpkins as they can do, it was clear the fun was not only happening inside the library. This reporter spied the Naked Cowboy on the steps, strumming away to the delight of passersby, the NYPL itself lit with rippling stars and stripes. Plein had done as he intended, and laid a cheering claim to the city.
Any NYPL readers on Tuesday morning finding a slice of lime with their Chaucer will at least know from whence it came.
Zang Toi by Brea Tremblay
Monday night’s Zang Toi show was the type of fashion show that used to appear in quality rom-coms. Sometime in the first act, a Charming Small Town-type would need to go to the big show to land her dream job/impress her new boss/make magic happen with a studly love interest.
The show was in the studio spaces of Chelsea Piers—the nightlights of New Jersey twinkled away through chic warehouse windows as picturesque as any movie backdrop. The runway was classic fashion, long and rectangular, one end for a mass of photographers and the other for the stage entrance and a giant brand logo. Some gothy fashion club kids were dotted here and there but for the most part, this crowd was very well-heeled.
Two women behind me had this exchange about knee high stiletto boots:
Woman 1: Nice Weitzmans.
Woman 2: Thanks.
Woman 1: I have them, too.
Woman 2: Oh?
Woman 1: But in leather. I thought the suede was a little, you know… cozy.
Woman 2: (Seethes in her suede Weitzmans)
At this point, Charming Small Town-type would be horrified by these bratty New Yorkers, but I was delighted by such shameless, pointless bitchery.
The show itself was very elegant—the clothes looked like the wardrobe of a woman who knows she will only fly First Class for the rest of her life. All of it was extremely feminine. The sportswear was draped in cashmere and fur. The suits were cut with narrow and high waists, accessorized with multiple strands of pearls. And the eveningwear featured puffed sleeves and yards of flowing sparkly silk and velvet.
Titled “Brilliant Royal Blue,” the collection stuck to a strict blue, black, and white color scheme—the only deviation was the models’ very glam red lips. They also all wore the same tight chignon—when they paraded down the runway together at the end, the effect was like very Westworld, an army of gorgeous fem-bots with the same killer hair and the same killer lips.
The designer stepped out in a tux to take a playful bow and his adoring audience leapt to their feet to clap. If tonight had been a rom-com, this would have been the moment that Charming Small Town-type would swoon at the thrill of it all and vow that she too will make it here.
Rosie Assoulin by Lizzie Crocker
Moiré and other structured silk dresses or skirts are chic in theory, but they often make the wearer look like a curtain. The fabric tends to be stiff and unruly, so that the garment swallows you whole unless it’s extremely well-tailored—and even then you might still look like a fancy drape.
So it’s exciting when a designer like Rosie Assoulin comes around and does something brilliant and inventive with these fabrics, so that the garments evoke fancy drapes but also look cool and elegant—the kind of clothes Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine, an Assoulin fan, might wear to a wedding or brunch.
That was certainly the case with Assoulin’s Fall 2017 collection, though the designer looked to all kinds of upholstery when dreaming up her clothes and first footwear line, which she presented on Monday in what looked like a 19th-century drawing room.
Assoulin filled Skylight Clarkson Studios with tufted sofas and oriental rugs, assembling the furniture in a circle at the center of the room and the models at the perimeter. That way guests could recline while looking at the clothes, while servers offered them Italian pastries and tea wheeled around two-tiered vintage tea trays.
The clothes echoed the staged setting nicely. For daywear, there was a yellow-green bouclé jacket and matching trousers, or plaid pants and shirts with ruffled touches.
A white, floral-printed dress and down jacket reminded me of classic Laura Ashley interiors. The most standout piece was a dramatic tiered red skirt worn with a delicate nude tank and a floral appliqué draped around the shoulder.
The shoes were inspired by interiors, too: spiraled, wooden heels looked like couch feet.
If you could sum up Assoulin’s designs in a single word, “whimsical” would probably be it. The concept for the show was theatrical, even meta: Assoulin recruited artists to paint watercolors of each design in the collection. There was even a ceramicist who made miniature tea sets in one corner. It doesn’t get more “whimsical” than that.