On the Runway

New York Fashion Week: Glamour at Ralph Lauren; Cure-all Fringe at Norma Kamali

As hectic a week as it has been, I’m a bit disheartened to wake up knowing that today is the last day of shows at New York Fashion Week. So many fantastic, inspiring collections, so many fabulous fashion moments on show-goers. When I settle into my seat at Ralph Lauren, and survey the crowd, I realize how important it is to soak up information from this core group of people. What the editors and buyers are wearing (I spot Proenza tweed blazers and a leopard-print scarf worn as arm sling!) demonstrates how the collections are interpreted. Their reactions to the looks that parade down the runway note what will be an editorial hit, or retail gold. There really is no amount of live-tweeting or streaming video that can accurately communicate all that there is to experience here, and I’m incredibly fortunate to have experienced it first-hand. Ralph Lauren gets many approving nods for his classy Fall 2011 show, with its mix of menswear suiting and glam red carpet gowns. Weighty fabrications in velvet and leather, and embroidered vests and jackets don’t feel bogged down, as they are executed in the chicest of pieces. There’s been a smattering of jumpsuits throughout the week, but this time Lauren shows them for evening, in a body-lengthening low-cut black number. Timeless looks that still feel modern—no easy feat, but a masterful designer like Lauren turns them out one after the next.

Next I head way uptown for the Norma Kamali presentation, held at her flagship store. The iconic designer hosts the walk-through herself and I’m floored to have the chance to hear Kamali describe her approach to feel-good clothing. She shows a tremendous range—knowing her variety of customer groups is something she reinforces throughout—and every division of her line is featured on larger-than-life model snapshots on cardboard cutouts. The idea to do so came to her just last week, so all mannequins were packed up and put away, and a photoshoot was quickly produced to great effect. Kamali explains that she wants to replicate the emotional effect of a runway show in her store, so that every shopper can appreciate her clothes on a monumental level. The little pick-me-up we all experience from a special item is key in her design. She encourages the editors in attendance to abandon their shrinks and get themselves a piece of fun fringed clothing, for instant boost. The standout division is undoubtedly her parachute dresses. They aren’t parachute silk but rather actual sourced parachutes, complete with authentic cords to ruche and shape the looks, that are washed, dyed, and then re-constructed. The presentation is a reminder of the potential that retail spaces have to inspire customers, whether or not you make a purchase with each visit, or simply soak up the experience of Norma Kamali.

See a gallery of looks from Day 8 of New York Fashion Week: Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Isaac Mizrahi