That bzzz bzzz bzzz you were hearing
last month was the frantic bzzz bzzz bzzzing of designers
and their worker bees in the fashion capitals of the world.
The 2008 Fall Fashion shows are now behind us, and designers
are hoping that the “bzzz” generated enough critical
“buzz” to create some serious “biz,”
as in – will anyone buy what they have so painstakingly
The answer to that question will not be long in coming.
Cathy Horyn of The New York Times weighed in on
two of the heavyweights of Parisian Haute Couture –
Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel. According to Ms. Horyn, Stefano
Pilati, who took over the YSL label four years ago, has finally
found his voice by recapturing the “…swagger and
spirit of the Rive Gauche era…” As to Karl Lagerfeld,
well he has been channeling the great Chanel through his own
voice for almost two decades now and never fails to dazzle
Meanwhile, in New York, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein eschewed
channeling and spirit recapturing and went straight to resurrection.
He breathed life into the long-dead Halston label to mixed
reviews. The clothes were drapey and deconstructed and in
muted colors, which one critic described as muddy. Nevertheless,
for those of us who came of age during the 60s, there is still
magic in the name of Halston.
It is a cold day in January 1961, and a dark-eyed beauty
stands smiling beside her husband as he takes the Oath of
Office to become the 35th President of the United States.
Jacqueline Kennedy is wearing a pill box hat by a young designer
who would shortly become a household name. Within weeks, every
woman I knew was wearing a pill box hat. They were the perfect
accessory for the bouffant hairdos that were becoming so fashionable.
They did not disturb your careful coiffure nor did they obscure
your face. They simply sat casually on the back of your head
adding a dash of insouciant style to your ensemble. I had
one in every color.
Ray Halston Frowick became the darling of the international
jet set and following his licensing agreement with JC Penney,
women of moderate means could afford to own a piece of that
Halston magic, even if they could only afford to buy his signature
perfume, Halston, second only to Chanel No.
5 in worldwide sales.
By the time he died of complications from AIDS in 1990, although
he had long since lost the rights to his own name, he had
earned the right to be considered one of the best designers
America has ever produced. As for me, and for many women my
age, the name of Halston will forever conjure up images of
casual elegance, Jackie Kennedy and Camelot. The question
remains, however, what will the newly reincarnated Halston
name ultimately mean to the woman of today?
Despite the mixed reviews by the critics on the clothes themselves,
the real appeal of the Halston collection may have a great
deal to do with its immediate availability. For more years
than anyone can remember, the fashion industry has shown its
Spring/Summer collections in the Fall and its Fall/Winter
collections in the Spring, because of the amount of time needed
to make the clothes and get them to the consumer. Halston
struck a deal with Net-a-Porter.com to sell key pieces of
its collection on line before the show. Orders
flooded in from around the world.
While fashion outlets like H&M have the flexibility to
turn out clothes in a few weeks like fast food, the idea of
a luxury label taking the risk of manufacturing pieces in
advance of its runway show is risky business indeed –
but is it really? Women have always had an enormous appetite
for fashion and in a global economy where you are only a few
clicks away from getting whatever you want, how quickly a
designer can satisfy a woman’s hunger for the latest
fashions might just be that little extra that will put them
both on the cutting edge.
Women have always known the power of fashion and frequently
used it to their advantage. In 16th century London, Anne Boleyn,
fresh from the French court, caught the eye of Henry VIII,
a very fashion-forward monarch himself. She dazzled him as
much with her elegant style as with her lustrous dark hair
and flashing eyes. Her dropped bodice, long fitted sleeves
and beaded headbands were immediately copied by every lady
at the English court.
By the end of the 17th century, the first fashion magazine,
Le Mercure Galant, was using elaborate engravings
from metal plates to keep Frenchwomen up to date not only
on the latest Parisian fashion trends, but on the lifestyles
of the rich and famous that went with them. From these engravings
would come the expression that a well-dressed woman looked
like a “Fashion Plate.”
In Colonial America, women could actually get their hands
on a small piece of the latest Parisian designs. Articulated
wooden dolls dressed in the latest French fashions from head
to toe and from the inside out, accessories included, would
arrive by boat to great fanfare. Local seamstresses would
charge their clients a fee to look at them, and an even larger
fee to take them home and study them.
Today we can actually stream fashion shows on line in the
privacy of our homes. Is it, therefore, too far fetched to
believe that one day a busy working Mom will be able to sit
in front of her computer, watch a live runway show in real
time after the kids are safely tucked in, see something she
likes, type in her vital statistics and voilà!! it
arrives at her door in record time? And, it’s a perfect
fit! Someone wake me ------- I must be dreaming!!
I can already hear the fashionistas howling in pain, “Oh,
my God --- Soccer Moms --- McMansions ---McFashion --- where
will it all end?!” To the Ladies and Gentlemen of the
fashion world, I offer this small piece of solace. As long
as there are designers to conceive it, artisans to create
it and clientele to purchase it, Haute Couture will remain
blessedly inviolate and untouched by a hyperactive society
demanding instant gratification. After all, I waited almost
two years for my Kelly bag and was happy to do so. Besides,
every woman needs something slightly out of reach to yearn
for, dream about and drool over. It’s good for the soul.
And while we’re on the subject, aren’t change
and innovation the life blood of fashion, or so the fashion
gods keep telling us? And don’t they get downright peevish
when they don’t get it? Maybe it’s time for a
little change and innovation in the way designers actually
deliver the goods. Perhaps Halston and company are perched
on the crest of the next nouvelle vague in fashion. It’s
certainly worth thinking about. And while you are pondering
all this, I have only one question. Do you want that Lagerfeld
for here or to go?