Mongol & Mark And Estel
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week DGAF

See that car?
It's a new Mercedes coupe. Pretty sweet, right? It's in the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week tents at Lincoln Center where we went this morning for a couple of runway shows.
It was the best thing we saw there.
The car.
Many runway seasons ago, when The Shophound first went to Fashion Week as a blogger, we saw a ton of shows.
It was easy. We were invited to some, and once we were inside the tent at Bryant Park with credentials, many PR reps were happy to let us inside others if there was room —and more often than not, there was. There were plenty of designers we hadn't heard of, but they all had something worthwhile to offer, even if was only a good model lineup. That was even before Mercedes had signed on as the title sponsor for Fashion Week, and now it is their last season. In the intervening years, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week has declined in prestige so much that the fact that a city lawsuit has forced it to find a new home seems almost like a relief.
It's too bad, back in the 90's when the CFDA and 7th on Sixth first erected the tents in Bryant Park, it was a sign of status to show a collection there, and nearly every major New York designer, Calvin, Ralph and Donna included, showed there. Even Prada staged shows there. One season it was the main label, the next it was Miu Miu. By the time when we stared blogging, it still seemed clear that a designer needed to be vetted somehow in order to show at the tents. They weren't just handing out runways and time slots to anybody with a label. There were standards. DVF, Michael Kors, Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Rucci, Isaac Mizrahi, Bill Blass, Jason Wu, Tuleh, J.Mendel, and others kept the prestige up. European labels like Malo and Neil Barrett debuted collections there. While there were always a few oddballs and a couple of duds in the mix, by and large it was a respectable lineup even when it included little known designers from overseas looking to make a splash with the press. We saw a few of them from Korea, Australia, India and even Serbia. Even if they failed to make the impact they had hoped, they still had something to offer creatively.
Cut to this morning, when The Shophound made our first visit to the tents this season to see Mongol by Bayarmaa Bayarkhuu in the big Theater tent at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Described as a combination of traditional Mongolian costumes combined with urban casual as well as entrepreneur lifestyle, it was kind of a mess, and certainly not ready for what is supposed to be one of the most coveted runway venues in New York. Taking into consideration the amount of hard work it takes to get anything on a runway in a major city, we can only say that it looked like on of those dusty downtown Mongolian import stores got cross pollinated with a night at the Limelight sometime around 1992. Theoretically, that could be amusing, but it wasn't. It just wasn't up to snuff, and we had to wonder why anyone thought that this would be a good designer to showcase in what still touts itself as the central hub of New York Fashion Week. Then we just figured that nobody at MBFW cares anymore. They had a runway time that needed to be filled and here was someone who would pay the fee.
That instinct was confirmed by the end of our next show, Mark And Estel, another label we were unfamiliar with. We didn't think things could get much worse, but we were wrong. Apparently the duo is not only a fashion label but a music act, too, which means that once the show was finally over, we had to hear them sing.
We thought the whole thing was a put-on for a minute, but that was the grand finale. The clothes were OK in a tawdry sort of L.A. Rock and Roll way, but they looked a lot cheaper than they actually are. Note to designers: Sheer stretchy dress with visible black bra and panties underneath may be salable club wear, but it is not something that people need to venture forth on a 9˚ winter morning to go see trotting down a runway. The musical performance was just preposterous. If ever the thought "Oh, God, please don't sing" runs through your head at a runway show, then you know you are at the wrong one. Again, we found ourselves wondering how this act got accepted to show at what is actually a desirable 11 AM time slot on what is supposed to be the stage for America's greatest fashion? The answer could only be that it was the best they could get. Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week has long since lost its marquee designers, and now its name sponsor and its location, and it kind of looks like they have just given up until they can figure out what form it is going to take in the future. All we could imagine as Mark and Estel bellowed "We are Rock Stars!" into microphones on their runway was Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy  from "30 Rock" marching in and shouting, "Shut it down! Shut it down!" because it was just too awful to continue. On the plus side, the pair managed to pull together a decent gift bag including some nice Paul Mitchell products and a Mark And Estel commemorative  T-shirt. it reminded us of the pre-2008 days at Bryant park when we would end the day with armfuls of swag, but, of course it was only placed on the seats for the first two rows. No matter, the attendance was so poor that it was a cinch to score a seat with a bag. The other pleasant surprise was the free Yoplait yogurt being offered after the show which is the first free snack I have seen at the tents in years that was something I actually wanted to eat.
There are still plenty of respectable designers like Todd Snyder, Carolina Herrera, Anna Sui and Monique Lhuillier still on the MBFW schedule, and at their shows, things generally seem just the way they ought to be, but they are fewer and further between at Lincoln Center. Rather than scrambling to find a replacement site for next season, maybe it is time for the Fashion Week tent concept to take a few seasons off and really figure out a way to rebuild its prestige before it turns into a venue to avoid on principle for both designers and guests.

Have a look at some magic moments below

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In Which A Tall Hat Takes
A Tumble At Josie Natori

The Shophound has never actually been to a Josie Natori show, so we figured it would be a perfectly fine way to kick off the Fall shows with the Queen of Intimate Apparel. Of course, there were no bras and panties on the runway at the DiMenna Center on West 37th Street. Though Natori is an innerwear giant, which brought the major retail execs to her dutiful front row, this show was for the designer's own, much more exclusive ready-to-wear line, and if anything, it was extra covered up in layers of cozy scarves, coats and sweaters. Ms. Natori is a fashion veteran whose signature line is small and more personal, so she makes what she likes which turns out to be some lovely clothes for women who are after a certain sort of luxurious, well-tended look. Her inspiration was a trip to Istanbul which produced lots of rich embroideries and sweeping hems and tall Sufi sikke hats, one of which made a run for it before its model could make it backstage. Oh, the hazards of extreme accessorizing. It certainly wasn't enough to distract too much from what was an otherwise sumptuous if not groundbreaking show, and a pleasant way to ease into Fashion Week.
Have a look at some undisrupted looks below:

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Final Fashion Week Production Notes
Reem Acra, Perry Ellis & Cesar Galindo

So Fashion Week has come and gone, and The Shophound has once again found that it is much easier to take when you don't go to as many shows. Given the benefits of modern technology, there are now many shows that we are perfectly happy to see at home streaming live on our computer rather than running all over town in miserably muggy weather to get a partial view of the runway.
Still, there are some shows that we would hate to give up seeing in person. We would miss being there in person for our favorites like Duckie Brown or Robert Geller to name a few. We always love to see at least one glamorous evening show. it wouldn't seem like Fashion Week without some serious sparkle and shine and REEM ACRA, one of New York's finest practitioners of such arts, has regularly obliged The Shophound very kindly in seeing her collection on the runway. This season, she again showed in Mercedes Benz Fashion Week at Lincoln Center, but we couldn't quite get the full view we are used to at her show. It wasn't Reem's fault at all. In redesigning the venues, the folks at MBFW came up with a winner in the Pavilion tent, which allowed designers to use a multi-runway format without high bleachers and raked seating to great effect and good sightlines, but Reem's usual venue, the Salon, formerly the second biggest "Stage" tent, traded out a highly serviceable stepped bleacher configuration for benches on a lower rake that may have been more customizable, but also made it hard to see below the models' waists from as close as a very respectable third row seat (as in the finale photo above). Thankfully, the folks at Reem Acra just sent us a full video and photo package so we can get a better look at the luminous collection and share it with our readers. Have a clear, unobstructed look at some highlights in the gallery below.

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The folks at PERRY ELLIS have had a rocky road re-establishing its fashion image after a halfhearted attempt at designer collaboration with Duckie Brown (two runway shows, nothing ever produced) the brand is relaunching its main men's line with a new creative director. The show was also at a new venue for the brand, the vast Terminal Building which many still remember as the site of the Tunnel nightclub. An ambitious runway design had wooden slats dividing the runway down the center for an interesting visual effect that mostly kept people sitting on one side of the runway from seeing across to the other side. That way, you could only see the models when they were walking in one direction on your side. What we saw during those brief moments looked like a solid update for the brand, but we had to go back and look at our pictures afterward to figure out exactly what we saw (which included Teva Sandals with dark socks —that's a thing that is apparently happening for real). Next time, let's hope they remember when and where less is more.

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Finally, we saw that the Lincoln Center tents took advantage of the nearby Hudson Hotel to replace its smaller Hub venue for static presentations. Unfortunately, it lacked the super-efficient admission system that has been one of MBFW's most prominent advantages. We had comfortably seen shows there in the past, but when it came time to check out independent designer Cesar Galindo's CZAR collection, we found a crush at the door and another tiresome journey down two levels to the sub-basement. Galindo's line was a clever translation of his signature dramatic gowns into sportier, more accessible pieces. It might have seemed like a cool idea to invite a group of artists to  create drawings and paintings of the presentation in person (seen below), but the practical result was more crowding in a limited space and the fear that you were going to knock over someone's palette and get paint on your shoes. Still, we hope he got some great fashion drawings out of the deal. Anything that promotes fashion illustration, something of a neglected art these days, is ultimately all right with us, even when it gets in our way.



Finishing Fashion Week With Nipples

One thing about New York Fashion Week compared to other cities is that it is still conservative in some ways. While bared breasts might not be so notable in Milan or Paris, in New York, they are still something of an anomaly, at least when they are on purpose, Every now and then, an errant nipple will make a run for it out of a plunging neckline, but when Transylvanian designer Dorin Negrau's model came down the runway earlier today in an open jacket over a leather underbust corset there was no question about where your eyes were meant to be directed. It is a fairly unusual sight on New York's catwalks, especially at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week tents, but, there they were as a fairly nonplussed looking model. snaked her way through the multi-runway configuration of Lincoln Center's new Pavilion tent. Whether the designer's Dracula-inspired New York debut collection will make an impact remains to be seen. It's tough when the top editors and buyers are most likely on their way down to Tribeca to see Calvin Klein Collection, but perhaps the talk of bare breasts will get them to take a look at the show. It's tough to create awareness when there are a couple hundred shows during Fashion Week and you are coming all the way from Romania, but when in doubt, a few boobs will always get at least a little bit of extra attention. Have a look at the collection (including the NSFW version of the shot above) in the gallery after the jump


Finishing Fashion Week With Nipples" »


Timo Weiland's Women
Go Sporty Next Spring

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Last season, The Shophound got stuck on the subway for over an hour on our way down to MADE at Milk to see Timo Weiland's women's collection, so we did have a moment of apprehension getting on the subway again yesterday for another try, but the likelihood of that kind of event repeating itself was fairly slim, so we managed to get in just fine. The trio of designers behind the line, Timo Weiland, Alan Eckstein and Donna Kang, sent out a crisp, charming collection with fresh takes on the graphic motifs that have become the label's signature. Like most runway shows during New York Fashion Week, it wasn't momentous (nor was that its goal) but it was solid with lots of commercial potential. At this point of Fashion Week, however, a lot of industry professionals start to get antsy. Still, it was a little disconcerting to see a pair of second tier but well known editors across the runway in the front row having a very intense conversation and pretty much ignoring the models walking in front of them. We wondered why they even bothered to come? Perhaps they were assigned to represent their publications and had no choice, but if they were really so disinterested, we would have been happy to take one of their seats. Have a look at a few of the things they missed in the gallery above.


Shipley & Halmos Blow The Dust Off
Of Haspel For Next Spring

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It was over a year ago when we heard that Sam Shipley and Jeff Halmos of Shipley & Halmos would be behind a relaunch of the famous men's suit brand Haspel. Since then, we haven't really heard much about it, until Friday, when The Shophound made our way down to Parlor in SoHo to finally see what the duo had done with label most known for boxy wash-and-wear business suits in seersucker and poplin. If you recall, Friday was miserably muggy, so it was already a pleasure to walk into the Fashion Week lounge that Esquire magazine had set up in the members only club for a few days and immediately be offered a choice of cold beverages. Can we have that at all fashion shows now please? And the bar snacks, too, while you are at it. Basically, clothes be damned, we could have happily set up shop with a cocktail in the posh little club and listened to the jazz combo for the afternoon, but as we made our way to the back, we did finally find the models, and saw that Shipley & Halmos have adopted a less is more approach to reviving the Haspel label. At this point in the menswear timeline, the concept of reviving an American heritage brand like Haspel might be more likely met with groans after a glut of such relaunches and the cresting of the preppy/traditional craze. You can add that to the list of challenges the designers faced when trying to figure out how to inject life into a brand known for rumply cotton summer suits. It turned out, however, the pair found perfect way to relaunch a line of lightly constructed suiting. Instead of pitching the line to beleaguered businessmen in need of some way to dress appropriately for work in the dog days of Summer, Haspel has been remade for a modern guy looking to dress up a more casual look. It's a simple switch of perspective that makes all the difference. The signature seersucker is still there, but now it is softened and presented in lighter, solid tones for those averse to the barbershop quartet look. There were no stuffy neckties, just easy, casual sportswear pieces to round out the tight, ten-look presentation, and of course, the models were shod in what is possibly the canniest relaunch of 2014, the Adidas Stan Smith sneaker. For nostalgia's sake, Haspel also offered a gift bag that hearkened back to the pre-2008 glory of such things which included a sturdy (read: butch) canvas tote from Blue Claw Co. filled with some recent Esquire publications, Mitch by Paul Mitchell men's Reformer texturizer for our hair and four pairs of underpants from co-sponsor Jockey. It is, in fact, the first time we have recieved boxer briefs in a gift bag which is amusing, but ultimately useful, although we are not sure that we will ever make use of the Jockey key ring attached to tiny orange briefs —not a complaint, just an observation. Have a look at the whole presentation in the gallery above.

Heritage Brand Revival: Haspel Label To Return Next Spring With Help From Shipley & Halmos


Robert Geller Takes A Romantic Runway Turn For Spring 2015

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The Shophound took in only one runway show on Saturday because, you know, crushing heat and humidity, but we were sure to make it down to Pier 59 Studios to see the latest from ROBERT GELLER. We had missed Geller's show for the past few seasons, and to give you a greater understanding of why, we would have to note that including Geller, there were seven shows or presentations scheduled for 6 PM on Saturday evening.
SEVEN shows.
So, Fashion Week remains ridiculous. It seems clearer than ever that the menswear designers who haven't already ditched it to show at a more appropriate time for their market definitely should join with those who have to form their own Men's Fashion Week like there is Milan, Paris and London —basically every other major fashion capital city. But we digress...
Anyway, back to the show. The last Robert Geller show we saw was also at Pier 59, but in a smaller, narrower room which made for a lengthy runway, but also sometimes difficult sight-lines and somewhat cramped seating. We were happy to see that he has since upgraded to a much bigger room with a more innovative X-shaped runway that comfortably fit all the guests and also allowed for a better view of the collection for everybody. it was a pretty cool set-up both visually and temperature-wise, which is to be commended when the first three days of an insufferably muggy Fashion Week has seen more than a few attendees who have ditched decorum and gone from show to show in shorts and t-shirts. As for the collection, Geller stepped away from his typically specific narrative references and focused on the clothes, simplifying shapes, adding bolder prints and broadening his typically gray based color palette. The result was a more lush, vaguely exotic collection still rooted in classic, accessible pieces.
We won't miss another.
Have a look at some highlights in the gallery above, and a double-time Hyperlapse video of the finale below.



Desigual Parades A Supermodel
+ A Touch Of Lacroix

That's Supermodel Adriana Lima above who used her star power on Thursday to open and close the Spring 2015 collection from Desigual, the Barcelona based chain store known for its cavalcade of boldly printed clothing. Some would complain that this is the sort of midrange brand that that has degraded the entire Fashion Week tents enterprise by inserting itself into a week that once reserved its runways for the most accomplished, creative and exclusive designers and sent the top designers running to the edges of Manhattan to get as far away as possible.
They might be right, but they also might change their minds a little bit upon discovering that Desigual has once again collaborated with the beloved haute couturier Christian Lacroix for its Spring runway collection entitled "Say Something Nice", perhaps to preclude any criticism. While we are certain that this wasn't quite the same as seeing an actual Lacroix show, the master of the pouf did add some extra verve and refinement to the prints and patterns on what might otherwise have been a collection of fairly pedestrian separates. Aside from the the batucada beats coming from the speakers and the Brazilian bombshell leading the runway (and Lima, whose curves were accentuated by the other model's conspicuous lack of them, makes an excellent case for feeding models more), the show differentiated itself further by putting all the models in big flower crowns and having them carry inane dialogue bubble signs while smiling and smiling and smiling some more. Vamping and even waving at the audience à la Victoria's Secret were not discouraged, which seemed charming, but by the end of a whopping 52 looks, the merriment began to wear a little thin to a jaded fashion crowd. Still, Lima was the pro here, happy to show how it's done for the other models who usually don't get much more to do other than walking in a straight line without any expression. After a rose petal throwing finale, it turned out that there was no designer available for a take credit, and models came out with more dialogue cards with a thank you message from the designers as the house lights came up, leaving the crowd to figure out that the show was over, and it was time to bound for the exits and be on to the next one.

See Lima and more looks from Desigual's runway in the gallery below

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Starting Off With Timo Weiland Men

It would figure that after an August that felt like May, real Summer weather would make an appearance just as Fashion Week is about to begin. The big plus here is that when the show is the day before Fashion Week officially begins, you can wear shorts, and lots of people did. Things are always a bit more casual before people seriously start criscrossing the city from show to show, so it was the perfect time to stop by Timo Weiland's men's collection which was installed for inspection at the Highline Hotel's Hoffman Hall. The label's bold sportswear was toned down in color, but not so much that the signature stripes were done away with entirely.  It was just enough to get in and out before the room got too hot, which was perfect. Here's a note to keep in mind for next Spring: Dark shoes and socks with shorts are happening and they are real. Proceed accordingly.

See the collection in our slideshow below.

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One Last Dress From Reem Acra

Fashion Week is over now, and it has been challenging at times what with one of the worst winters in New York City's history dumping three snowstorms on top of it. The Shophound didn't go to as many shows as we have been to in the past, partly on purpose, and a couple of times because we had simply hit our daily limit of trudging through snow and slush. Once we were stuck in a subway car for over an hour, so we apologize for missing Timo Weiland's Women's collection but lay full blame at the feet of the MTA for that one.
One show we made sure not to miss was Reem Acra's at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. While she may not be pushing the cutting edge, Acra can be relied upon for some spectacular dresses. Making a glittery red carpet frock that doesn't look like a circus costume is a far more complicated skill to master than most people (and many designers) think it is. As usual, her colelction called out for a red carpet, and our favorite look was the gown pictured above. This confection of sparkling embroidered tendrils and sheer illusion is the one on her runway that may have gone just a bit over the top, and that's why we like it.
Could someone other than Cher pull it off?
Who knows, but we sure hope someone tries and that we are there to see it.