Monday, March 22, 2010

Mama goes to New York Fashion Week

Fashion Week Presents Unusual Challenges

NEW YORK -- Despite the snow that blanketed the city at the start of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week last Thursday, attendees arrived at Bryant Park already nostalgic for the 17-year-old venue (the shows will move to Lincoln Center next season). I showed up five-months pregnant, curious about the glamorous sect.

After a long drive from Pittsburgh, I arrived just in time for my first show, Christian Siriano, smelling like my 19th-month-old's baby food and looking like I was going grocery shopping in my sweatpants. I clung to my assigned seat, afraid it would be given away to someone better-looking.

Instead, everyone had gathered on the runway with all sorts of cameras to take photos of Mena Suvari, DJ Leigh Lezark, Amber Rose and CariDee English.

Throughout the next couple of days, many murmured about the passing of innovative British designer Alexander McQueen. Most noticeably, his signature skull print scarf was worn by several attendees. A giant Twitter screen scrolled the messages of bloggers mourning his parting. I was upset, too; he left this world on my birthday.

On Sunday, British designer Rebecca Taylor, whose show I was denied admission to although I had a confirmed ticket, spoke with me at the after-party about how she was so devastated that she forbade her staff from speaking about Mr. McQueen in her presence. She didn't feel it was a topic for gossip. She was, however, happy to talk about her kids and how much they love fashion.

This was a theme throughout the weekend: Children of all ages seemed to be present at every show. The writer that these young people undoubtedly read is 13-year-old blogger Tavi Gevinson. I recognized her dyed bluish-gray hair instantly when I stepped onto the elevator at my hotel. After surveying my red maternity dress (it was Valentine's Day) she told me she liked my gray flowered cloche. I blushed and thanked her. For some reason, getting a compliment from her made me feel a little more confident among the severe, black-dressed fashion sect.

Back at the tents, Pittsburgh fashion blogger Racheallee Lacek was trying to get her thoughts down before her laptop lost power in the crowded media room. She said there were more parties and events for bloggers this year because many companies are taking notice of smaller audiences in markets such as Pittsburgh.

Her friend Julie DiNardo, the creator of Neighborhood Tees and editor of the blog Fashion Pulse Daily, thought that the move to Lincoln Center will make it easier for more media to get into shows. She is not alone. Donna Karan and other designers believe it will legitimize fashion by placing it in the world of the arts. After being ordered to move to make room for Carmen Electra's entrance at one show, I hope that this is true.

Television personalities seemed to be this year's paparazzi targets. I spotted MTV's Whitney Port surrounded by cameras as she tried to find a way into the Bryant Park Hotel while I was waiting outside in line. So many unexpected personalities (like the Real Housewives of New York) came to shows such as Herve Leger, Rebecca Taylor and Diane von Furstenberg that people with reservations were simply bumped.

Of course, nothing really prepares you for being told that because of people pretending to be pregnant to get seats, you will have to stand. At the Luca Luca presentation, a young volunteer was trying hard to get me a seat despite my protest that I didn't need one for a 15-minute show.

A debate about whether I was really pregnant ensued behind my back among members of security until an older manager explained that because people were known to feign pregnant bumps, I would have to stand. I expected people to push me aside or fight over seats, but I never expected to have my belly be a subject of controversy. Really!

Despite the predictable closed doors and disorganization that preceded the presentations for Fall 2010, the shows I saw had tones of purple and raisin with variations of ruffles and masculine suited looks. In many cases, such as Christian Siriano and Charlotte Ronson, the audience wore more avant-garde clothing than what was seen on the runway.

Siriano had a lot of elegant silhouettes with ruffles and drapes of silk or chiffon. Ronson channeled the "Arabian Nights" with turbans and long, pleated skirts. Georges Chakra reversed the tuxedo collar into an evening gown. Luca Luca used eggplant to brighten tall-collared looks with petal skirts. Even the wild style of Custo Barcelona used variations of purple and layered textures.

Billowed shoulders on small feminine forms and bold, big flutter forms were seen in every line. Lace-up oxford angle boots have replaced the peep-toe bootie, and cut-out patterns appear in creative places.

Distressed patterns seem to be making appearances in all the lines, whether as an accent or fabric for a sheath dress. Now this I could relate to. After a few days of Fashion Week (which continues through Thursday), I was feeling much like that distressed fabric myself!

Little Fashionistas: Couture your Children

Couture designers creating clothes for children that mimic their adult collections

One of the biggest trends in designer apparel in the past years has been the shrinking of garments to fit the smallest of consumers -- tots. Couture children's clothes that reflect their adult companions are a trend that has inspired Little Marc

Jacobs, Custo Growing by Custo Barcelona, Little Ella by Ella Moss, Junior Gaultier by Jean Paul Gaultier, and Stella McCartney for BabyGap.

Although Phillip Lim, Chloe, and Antik Batik have come out with lines for kids, you will most likely not find them in local boutiques that have their own chic children designers that imitate more grown-up trends. Shelley Pieklik, owner of Tiny Dot in Shadyside, says the Pittsburgh market is a little more practical than miniaturizing adult clothes. "High-end clothes last and are well-made," she says. "So many people come in here and say, 'Why doesn't this come in my size?' A lot of clothes aren't just cute. People dress their kids in their style."

The need for comfortable and stylish clothing is exactly what inspired brands such as Splendid to launch Splendid Little, which you will find at Picket Fence on Walnut Street. Little Ella is another line that was easy to translate from Ella Moss' creative cotton jersey line. At Lullabye Landing in Mt. Lebanon you will find Diesel for boys and girls, but owner Stefanie Whitworth likes the French lines Jean Bourget and Catimini for a more creative couture look. This season a short charcoal cardigan from Eliane et Lena is a hot number that can be paired with everything from colors to white. A key to shopping couture for children is to look for creative and crafty pieces that are brighter interpretations of grown-up trends such as those by Lola et Moi or Lemon Loves Lime.

Similar to adult styles, this spring there will be a lot of gray or white palettes as well as crafty embellishments such as tiered ruffles, fabric creatures, embroideries, and handmade buttons. Ironically, tulle skirts are in for adults this spring, but they are always in for little girls. Stella McCartney released her own version of the tutu for GapKids this November and is set to launch another line for them in the next season. Her marching band inspired jackets brought the rocker vintage to kids in a fun and sophisticated way.

Many fathers don't want to envision their 3-year-old as a Sports Illustrated model, however, the swimsuit designer Maaji has already appropriated their line for toddlers to match mama. The tailored patchwork designs can be found at Lullabye Landing along with Rachel Weissman hair accessories for an added sophisticated sparkle.

On the more positive side of couture children's fashion is the trend for more eco and chemical-free collections such as the local line Rabbit Skins that uses felt from recycled bottles in playful characters on Ts and hats found at Ona in Mt Lebanon. Lines such as Happy Green Bee make their clothing from organic materials and this season their soft fabrics get the angled hemline treatment that is also familiar to mommies.

It is no surprise that children are getting the creative, couture and eco-conscious treatment from designers that are investing in future consumers. This past month even Bergdorf opened a new department called Little BG, specifically for the finest in infant fashion.

Published on March 17, 2010 in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette