Tag Archives: new york fashion week

Bags, Tags and Automobiles

This is my favorite purse. It’s by Jerome Dreyfuss. I got it in Paris four years ago, and to replace it at the designer’s new store in SoHo today would probably cost close to $800. Although it cost a little less then, it is still the most expensive accessory I’ve ever owned. (It was a different place and time, when I traveled to France for fabric shows, and designers subsidized my purchases so they could examine my choices.)

If you’re gasping at the price-tag, consider this: Most women in New York City do not drive cars. Sure, we ride the subway, but in many ways, our purses are our vehicles. They carry our valuables, they are with us everywhere we go and might be one of the first things someone notices about us (depressing, as it is with cars, however true).

image from Chicago Classic Cars

Therefore, like a car, bags must be reliable, comfortable, functional, and ideally, beautiful. But reliability is of utmost importance, lest you end up like Malika Ritchie, who I met during Fashion Week. Malika had traveled from Seattle to work dressing models backstage, and this was after the Karen Walker show, midway through her week:

I’ve had better luck with my Jerome Dreyfuss. I would estimate I carried it every day for the first two years I owned it, and then for the following two, gave it temporary breaks until occasions like Fashion Week or travel required the convenience and convertibility offered by the bag’s design details: the genius key-leash (long enough that you don’t need to detach them), the outer and inner pockets for passports and pens and the inner straps that let you gather it up small when it’s empty-ish, and expand it to hold a notebook when necessary.


That’s not a bad record, when you calculate the price per wear. But then just yesterday, as pictured above, a strap gave way. The bag didn’t come crashing down, no cell phones skipped down stairs. It happened quietly, the strap held strong by reinforcements and buckles until I could knot the end in a temporary fix.

I brought the bag to Sweden last week, where all my cameras, recorders, notebooks and cosmetics likely did it in. That’s also where I met Mike Schragger, at Stockholm’s Sustainable Fashion Academy. There, he proposed an interesting solution: leasing, rather than purchasing clothing. That way companies would be compelled to make their products more durable, since they would be responsible for the maintenance. He compared it to leasing a washing machine from Electrolux–a concept as foreign to a New York City girl as automobile ownership, but compelling nonetheless.

You might be thinking you already heard this idea, from Jennifer Hudson’s character in the Sex and the City movie.

But Schragger’s proposal sounds different–more like making a purchase from a company reliable for repairs and returns like Patagonia, rather than renting a patchwork Louis Vuitton until the trend passes. The benefit, of course, would be that rather than dropping $800 on a new bag (or $1800 in the Vuitton case), you could make smaller payments over the long-term, either working towards ownership, or returning it for a new ride when the time is right.

For the moment I’ll have to take of my own bag maintenance–although there is an updated model at Jerome Dreyfuss’ new downtown dealership I’d love to take for a test-drive.

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Access, Art and Engineering

A positive experience at New York Fashion Week is all about access.

41st Street, as seen from the entrance to the Bryant Park Tents

Ariel Kaminer, The New York Times’ City Critic, wrote a column (and made a video) about trying to talk her way into the Bryant Park tents. She posed as an earnest fan and didn’t invoke the name of her newspaper, but I would surmise that her stiletto heels and personal swagger certainly helped her successful attempts at entry. (Tory Burch: no; Nanette Lepore: yes) Thankfully, I have my post at Dossier to get me in the door at the shows I cover each season, so I didn’t have to do any fancy talking.

Well, almost any.

This season, I covered (these link to my reviews) John Patrick Organic, Rachel Comey, Cynthia Rowley, Karen Walker, Lorick, Simon Spurr, A Détacher, Bibhu Mohapatra, Sophie Theallet, 3.1 Philip Lim, and Alexandre Herchovitch, all in the name of Dossier. There was one more show, on a tentative spot at the end of my schedule, but my editor noted it was “pending confirmation,” meaning, we hadn’t received our official invitation: J Mendel. Sorry, she told me. She knew how much I wanted to see it.

I spent my final semester of journalism school reporting a story that took place largely behind the doors of Mr. Mendel’s Seventh Avenue atelier, primarily with one of his designers, and I was dying to see the fruits of her labor on the runway. I haven’t gotten permission to publish all I saw during my visits, but I think this little snippet from Mr. Mendel’s sample room should be okay:

The workers continued—pushing dresses delicately through sewing machines like giant wilted flowers, leaning over paper, rulers and pencils, and circumnavigating dress-forms, considering each angle of the dress they worked on. The dresses, even in this unforgiving blast of florescent lighting, hanging like skeletons in a science lab, made me forget all about my notebook, my class, my story, my graduation.

They were just beautiful.

A short-sleeved one the color of sand, covered in tiny silver beads that made the whole length shimmer, was suspended from hanger on a high rack, overseeing the scene like a glamorous ghost from the 1920s. A dress-form planted firmly on the ground wore a column—or two columns, rather, that met at the waist to become one, of feathery spice-colored silk chiffon, with pink ribbon fastening its layers at the shoulders.

And the blue one. I looked at it, stunned, then remembered my notebook. Storm cloud, I scribbled. And it was like a storm cloud, this deep marine gray gown standing in the stark white corner, enveloping the dress-form in swirls and layers so simultaneously wild and organic, it seemed they should only have occurred in nature. It was diaphanous and strong, fragile and commanding. It was absolutely beautiful.

“That,” said the designer, “was my baby for this collection.”

Just a half an hour before the show was scheduled to begin, I sat working at a computer at CUNY, telling myself I could always find the collection on Style.com later; that I didn’t really need to see that stormy blue gown in person. I kicked myself for not calling the designers directly. I tried to work on another review. I looked at the clock. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore, pulled on my coat, and walked the two blocks to the tents. No invitation. No credential. No nothing.

It was crowded, very crowded. And there were two lines to enter the salon where J Mendel would show his collection. In the first, invitations were being checked against a list, and  small cards with invitees names were issued. In the second, said cards were collected as the crowd entered. No one would be admitted, I learned, without a little card.

“Just make it easy,” a barrel-chested fellow in a black tee shirt told me. “If you don’t have a ticket, leave.”

I did not.

I smiled, turned on my heel, and went to the first line. I told a man behind a table my name and affiliation. He told me I wasn’t on the list. (I already knew that.) I told him I didn’t have my invitation (true) but I believed we were meant to cover the collection (true) and that there was no other editor from Dossier present (true.) He spoke into his little earphone for backup. I was imagining holding my elbows stiff to make a forced removal as dignified as possible when an authoritative woman–maybe she had a clipboard–arrived. I told her my name, my plight, and spelled D-O-S-S-I-E-R. She left. I waited. She came back, scrawled my name onto a little card, and sent me into the second line, where I waited again. This time, my barrel-chested friend waved me through.

I was in. The girls all stood still on the runway, allowing editors, buyers and very special customers to get a closer look.

In the crowd, I found the designers who helped with my reporting in the Fall. While socialites shopped and models mugged for the cameras, Mendel’s fur designer opened up one of their vests to show me the strips of fur sewn inside with gold thread.

I loved my behind-the-seams look at the showpiece, but it was nothing compared to finding the blue dress I had met months before, when it was pinned on a dress form in Mr. Mendel’s sample room.

I don’t know whether to call this a work of art or engineering.

Sometimes, like in the Wizard of Oz, a look behind the curtain can dissolve all the amazement. Lately, I’m finding just the opposite. It’s a little overwhelming, thinking about how all these materials, people and designs piece together, and how best to present it to you readers.

But rest assured, I’ve got loads of reporting, and I’m working on it.

If all goes well, with some fancy feats of access, art and engineering, I’ll be able to share it all with you in such a way that you, like me, can find the “wonder” in wondering what to wear.

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