HEY KIDS, LET’S PUT ON A SHOW!
Byline: Bridget Foley, with contributions from Joanna Bober, Agnes Cammock, Allegra Holch and Kathleen Nicholson
NEW YORK — Sure, you’d heard of Christian Blanken, even before he showed Sunday night. He was the one who was supposed to have George Michael in his audience. But what about Ronnie & Irit? Todd Thomas? Rodney Patterson? Or that cat girl — Kitty Boots?
A look at the New York collection schedule suggests that just about everybody in town wants to get into show business, and most are taking a stab at it this week. Low- and no-profile names are sauntering out of Alphabet City, the meat-packing district and Times Square in search of fame on a runway.
And as early as Friday evening, there were already indications that there are too many stops on the fashion train and too little concern for making that train run on time, regardless of the implications for the next guy on the list. As for a sense of organization — that’s just not a talent that counts for much among fledgling designers. As a result, there were numerous late-week schedule or location changes, and more than a few last-minute invitation deliveries. The hopefuls started showing last week, some as part of “alternative fashion week,” based at the East Village dance club Webster Hall. That ended Friday afternoon, with the group effort by Cesar Galindo, Dom Casual and Miss Boots, a lucky trio among the newcomers in that each is represented by one of the hottest showrooms around, Showroom Seven. Dom Casual designers Walter Cessna and Simone Colina took tablecloths, beach towels, and hot — as in felonious — hotel towels and made them look like more than a design-school project. They added marijuana-leaf headdresses and, for all of those who long for a Dom Casual but just can’t afford it, they also launched a cheaper line, Bush.
Boots did what any girl named Kitty who’s also a partner in a club like Jackie 60 would do — a sex-kitten show. “They’re my persona,” she said of the clothes, shown on the likes of Gloria Domination and Jenny Genocide. While there was the occasional chic diversion — a red vinyl jacket over a yellow knee-length skirt, for example — Kitty usually purred to a raunchier beat — taxicab-yellow vinyl briefs or a tight T studded with a word that’s a synonym for kitten.
Galindo, in his fourth season, had obtained all of his fabrics dirt-cheap from jobbers, and they looked it. Nevertheless, his eveningwear, which ranged from slinky knits to Fifties-style evening gowns, had a certain 14th Street chic.
Each of the three showed a fairly large collection, which made for a too-long show. This, in turn, contributed to Lola Faturoti’s hour-late start, which meant that almost no one got to Todd Thomas’s show, a late addition to the day’s lineup. Instead of waiting for the fashion flock to meander uptown from Faturoti’s Indian excursion at ABC Carpet & Home, Thomas started at 6:20, with three press people in place.
The flock did make it to Rodney Patterson’s later on Friday. He showed his clothes on live models and on mannequins in a space so jammed it was impossible to see much of anything. But maybe Rodney will work the kinks out by next season. “No matter what happens this time with the show,” he said last week, “I’ll have another show for fall.”
Many retailers and members of the press, however, are starting to ask, “Why bother?”
Why, for example, dress 12 girls in 007 catsuits and call it a show? That’s what Patricia Guillouard and Clark Sabbat did with their Loisaida collection. (Sabbat also showed a signature collection of not-bad space-age suits and evening gowns.)
“The bottom line is, we need editorial,” says Colin Baer, a 1989 graduate of FIT who recently closed his store on Seventh Street to move to Seventh Avenue. “Department stores tell us things like, ‘When your name is better known, we’ll buy you.”‘ Baer will show his collection at 8 p.m. on Thursday at Casa La Femme.
“I’m hungry for press,” says Anni Kuan, part of the DuPont Micromattique show. Blanken’s hunger led him to sign on with a pr person who tried to lure guests with promises that George Michael would be in the audience and one of the hippest, hottest magazine editors in New York would style the show. Neither hook proved accurate, and in the end, Blanken sent out a so-so collection in which his experience showed. He had worked for Zoran, Michael Kors and as an intern for John Galliano, and the clothes suggested Zorans worn with obis.
Most of the unknowns on this season’s schedule are on their own financially. But they run the gamut in terms of point-of-view, fashion education and experience.
The Vidal Sassoon lineup on Thursday is a quartet of local contest winners from across the country, some showing clothes with all the polish of seamed shower curtains. On the other hand, Donna Maione, part of Cover Girl’s Navy show on Wednesday, already counts Barneys New York, Henri Bendel, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom among her accounts. Somewhere in between, John Robert Miller has designed for the Miss World pageant and done some clothes for television’s “Dallas,” where the witchy April was murdered in one of his peplums. Miller will be part of the Next Generation show today.
Many of the designers studied at FIT or Parsons. Kanae & Onyx, who in their show last week played a disco beat over and over and over, own a store on East 7th Street; Boots and Baer have each owned stores. Patterson worked in visual display at Marshall Field and Bendel’s. In addition to Blanken, others have apprenticed with well-known designers — Galindo with Carmelo Pomodoro; Gabalis with Arnold Scaasi and Bob Mackie; Sonja Rubin of C’est Une Robe with Vivienne Westwood.
Not all have formal design educations. “I have no background,” says Todd Thomas, who for spring found inspiration in a gal not usually regarded as a fashion icon — Anita Bryant. Anita herself probably wouldn’t approve of the theme of Michelle Bergeron’s collection, part of Cover Girl’s Navy show. The designer calls it “a glorification of white trash.”
New designers hit the scene with attention-grabbing quirks and rhetoric, and this group is no exception. There are cutsey names — Little Foxes, Little Girls With Big Ideas (a four-woman show) — and typical young-designer pretense and proselytising.
Little Foxes is designed by “Jysp Johnson,” a workshop of designers founded by John Yang and Voltaire Gutienez. With a show slated for Wednesday, the two designed this season’s collection and hope to attract other designers in the future.
“Little Girl” Claire Blaydon, who shows on Thursday, wants “to make a statement to the industry,” while Kip Chappell notes that he and his C’est Une Robe partner Rubin are “minimalistic but progressive.” But at the top of this list is Sabbat, who in his invitation, dedicated his collection “to the essence of women…I’m in awe of your unlimited power and selfless love.”
Then there’s Baer, who’s already over the lofty stuff. “Now,” he says, “I see myself reaching more of the masses.”