With designers flying around the world to present their pre-fall collections at this time of year, it’s about time someone brought one to New York. And Donatella Versace arrived here just in time on Sunday night with a show that had more big city callouts than a Broadway musical, starting with the set that featured an enormous, gilded rendering of the hand and torch of the Statue of Liberty.
Given the state of the world today, this might have suggested Versace was making a political statement on immigration and border control, but, well, this is fashion. More likely, Versace was referencing Lady Liberty as a proud and fiercely poised woman like herself, as well as those who followed on her runway show wearing a seemingly endless array of champagne satin slip dresses, wild animal prints and faux furs, neon accents that suggested hip-hop, and gold safety pin earrings that were more punk. Bring us your glamour glasses, your logo socks, your wheelie bags, your bouffant hair.
Well, it’s safe to say no one is accusing Versace of cultural appropriation. Her tribe of fabulous glamazons hardly need a passport to declare their country of origin, even when wearing an I N.Y. T-shirt like the one sported by Mica Argañaraz in the show. Whenever Versace comes to town, it’s a big production — think of her H&M collection that included a performance by Prince, or the occasional Versus show that would draw Madonna to the front row. This time, Kim and Kanye were the biggest attractions in a celeb-packed audience that also included Diane Kruger and Faith Hill. I even ran into Christopher Kane and Alexander Wang, the latter of whom had shown his fall collection in Brooklyn the evening before.
While Versace showed an idealized vision of the American dream (Donatella’s energetic collection was a solid gold anthem of Versace signatures, from power babe prints to shellacked burgundy coats and faux furs that gave multiple levels of meaning to street wear), Wang’s was more of a play on American fashion tropes. He showed logos woven onto everything from socks to hair extensions to garment bags, which were offered in animal print and vinyl versions. Come to think of it, it’s weird how many parallels there were between Wang and Versace.
His opening looks combined leather aprons with tweed suiting in what might amount to a campy send up of young arrivistes, but his sportswear read more sincerely cool, particularly in vertically striped rugby shirts and a pair of jackets spray painted with demented smiley faces. As it happens, these are items that have long histories in American fashion, from Bill Blass to Perry Ellis to Marc Jacobs, and I suspect Wang, in his own respectful way, was paying homage. The black tie looks that closed the show, however, were as individualistic in nature as they come. The smoking jackets and tuxedo shirting had a certain generic bravado about them, but nothing says Evening by Alexander Wang more clearly than a black lace catsuit that’s fetishistic enough for the model to wear her nipple rings on the outside.