I stayed out until 2 a.m. on Saturday night, huddled around a coffee table ringed with faint circles of condensation from once-cold glasses of vodka soda, talking with some friends. It was one of the more memorably fun evenings I’ve had in a long time, and it occurred almost exactly nine hours after I had somewhat mournfully declared to Haley: “I’ve finally accepted the fact that I don’t enjoy socializing after sundown.”
We were walking back to my apartment after the Tibi presentation, and I was apprehensive about following a day of fashion show-schlepping with a rare slate of back-to-back parties that I wanted to attend in theory but immediately assumed would drain the last bits of my already-ebbing reserves of energy. The irony that I returned home feeling invigorated instead was a delightful revelation. Not only because I appreciate the opportunity to reckon with evidence that runs contrary to a story I’ve been telling myself about who I am, but also because when I woke up the next morning–despite a slight hangover and an impulse to snooze my alarm–I felt genuinely excited to attend my second day of New York Fashion Week.
It was like being jolted out of a stupor, a perspective born from another story I’ve been telling myself for multiple seasons now: that traditional runway shows are no longer a compelling way to consume fashion. That I would much rather lie in bed and look at photos of the clothes I was seeing on Instagram or Vogue Runway. That doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity, so why do we keep recycling the same tired model? It’s not that these thoughts were suddenly rendered invalid; on the contrary, I still think many collection debuts would be absorbed far more powerfully via an eye-catching wheatpaste campaign or clever social media marketing play instead of a runway show. But just because the runway model isn’t always a thrill doesn’t mean the clothes themselves are stripped of the ability to conjure one.
The same is true, I think, of socializing at night. In general, I might be less peppy than I would be during the day, and I might find it exhausting to make small talk with acquaintances I don’t know very well, and I might think most bars are too noisy, but when the ingredients are right–a second wind, a group of people who make conversation feel easy, a quiet apartment with a soft rug to sit on–I’m reminded of exactly what I love most about spending time out in the world.
Clothes, too, can be a vehicle for this kind of reminder, connecting us to other people while simultaneously prompting us to look inward and examine what we know–or think we know–about ourselves. Runway shows make it easy to overlook this potential that is inherent to fashion. The format is rote, and therefore breeds impatience and cynicism. We sit, huddled, waiting for a spectacle that will be over in less than five minutes, and then on to the next, until it all blends together into something that is ultimately–tragically!–forgettable. Like a meal scarfed too quickly while standing at the kitchen counter.
Today, I tried reflecting on this season’s collections by focusing on the ingredients themselves instead of how and when they were consumed. In many cases, the actual clothes have been excellent. Take the Christopher John Rogers show, for example, wherein all 41 looks made me think to myself, If you’re going to do maximalism in an age of relative austerity, do it like THIS! Rogers makes the kind of garments that don’t just elicit a double-take–they necessitate it. How else would you be able to fully take in the way they move and breathe in space like living organisms? With a thoughtful mix of ostentatious ballgowns and dazzling suits, this collection made it clear that the brand is destined for even greater red carpet acclaim.
Tory Burch, on the other hand, continues to ground New York’s contribution to fashion in strategically rendered wearability. When reviewing the new collection, it’s clear which pieces are likely to become “it” items in the fall, and the fact that there are multiple of them is a testament to the brand’s savvy: leather boots peppered with flowers, knubby knits in colors reminiscent of sugar cookie frosting, and a robe coat with elaborate striped cuffs. In congress, the textures complemented each other in a way that can only be described as “sumptuous.” If I were making a case that clothes can flirt–runway format aside–well then, here is ample testimony.
Then there was Brock, which introduced me to a coat so enchanting I still see it, like a splotch of harsh sunlight, when I close my eyes. It was ankle length on the model so it would probably be nearly floor-length on me (not that I’ve spent multiple minutes imagining myself wearing it…), with a hood and velvet ribbon ties. I also snapped photos of an empire-waist floral dress with layered puff sleeves and a confectionery gown that made me wish I could wear two outfits to my wedding, both of which I’ve revisited since in my camera roll. I find Brock’s consistent commitment to somewhat over-the-top romanticism enormously comforting; it’s a brand that knows exactly what kind of woman it’s making clothes for, which is why even if I’m not that woman right now, I’m still able to effortlessly imagine what it would be like to be her. An effective blueprint for customer acquisition if there ever was one.
I don’t think one affirming experience is going to turn me into a devoted evening extrovert overnight, nor do I think that the quality of certain collections can completely transcend New York Fashion Week’s archaic format, but I’m struck by the power of context, and how easily it can shape perspective. It’s proof of how precarious it is to cement an opinion, especially a cynical one, based on something that can and should evolve. I’d rather keep an open mind–about myself, and about fashion week. All the more chance of being surprised.
Photos via Vogue Runway.