Lady Gaga’s New York Fashion Week Farewell

At NYFW’s end, Lady Gaga led the celebrities at Marc Jacobs’s Park Avenue Armory show. Calvin Klein served up stylish leather and kink, and J. Mendel luxe glamor and fur, fur, fur.

Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Lizzie Crocker on Marc Jacobs

There was no music. Only ear-splitting chimes that rang periodically at first—rising and falling in pitch—then with increasing freneticism, as if designed to send the fashion faithful over the edge at the end of a rather hectic week.

As usual, Marc Jacobs closed out New York Fashion Week with an epic show at an epic venue: the Park Avenue Armory.

Jacobs had transformed the space into a circular runway in an all-white stadium, and his star model was Lady Gaga, modeling for Jacobs just days after he had designed her much-hyped David Bowie costume for the Grammy Awards.

Despite the venue’s grand scale, its design made it feel like a panic room of sorts, filled with the dozens of fantastically dressed but utterly insane-looking characters in Jacobs’s show.

Either that or we were witnessing a very chic satanic ritual, wherein the cult members wear 1920s finger-wave hairstyles, black lipstick, and a goth-meets-steampunk uniform.

My initial interpretation was way off. Jacobs had simply dreamed up an eerie and otherworldly collection inspired by Japanese musician Keiji Haino.

According to the show’s notes, Haino is “known for his use of the concept of Ma, which is typically translated as pause or space. Ma has been described as ‘the haunted spaces between the notes.’” Hence the chimes. Haino, meanwhile, once “described his approach as ‘defying the notion that you can’t create something from nothing.’”

That could easily be Jacobs’s motto, too. Since launching his own label in the late ’80s, Jacobs has consistently delivered masterful collections and built a global fashion brand.

This season was exquisite as ever. In addition to its goth princess aesthetic, it also built on elements from Jacobs's most recent collections, including oversized sweatshirts from Spring 2016.

A billowy silk dress with a rat motif harkened back to one of Jacobs’s secondary collections for young men, Stinky Rat, which launched 10 years ago.

Juliette Lewis, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Natasha Lyonne, Christina Ricci, Kiernan Shipka, Sandra Bernhard, Sofia Coppola, and Zosia Mamet were among the many celebrity fans seated front row. Though Kendall Jenner walked in the show, the rest of the Kardashian-Jenner clan was noticeably absent.

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Speaking to The Daily Beast after the show, Shipka (Sally Draper—Mad Men) gushed that it was “extraordinary” and that Jacobs is “a true creative. His stuff is very cool—there’s always a thought and a story behind it.”

When asked about the screaming chimes, the delightfully mannered Mad Men star said she thought they were “great! Really beautiful and haunting.”

For once, Anna Wintour did not make a mad dash for the door as soon as the show ended. She, too, seemed totally undisturbed by the chimes. In fact, she smiled the whole time.

Tim Teeman on Calvin Klein

New York Fashion Week was not going to go quietly into the night. Before the much-anticipated finale of Marc Jacobs’s show at the Park Avenue Armory came Francisco Costa’s show for Calvin Klein Collection.

If one’s impression of Klein is fresh, zesty, and just the right kind of acceptable-sexy—WASP sexy—then Costa had some surprises for front-row guests that included Kendall Jenner, Anna Wintour, and Margot Robbie.

The soundtrack served as fair warning: heavy breathing, and glottal, sexual sighs, and a thudding industrial bass. How “50 Shades of Calvin Klein” was this going to be?

The leather and kink was polite, implied, rather than out-there. First were gorgeous flared black trouser suits (the top-and-bottom components in wool, silk wool, and duchesse satin combinations), the jackets and trousers overlong and roomy. Attached braces that looked like parachute straps hung loosely from the clothes—bondage-ish rather than bondage-y.

On dresses there were unraveled hems. Along with the shoes—stilettos and Oxfords—Costa intended to contrast the masculine and feminine.

Fake fur was everywhere: as a trim on coats, and as the wide lapels of jackets; there was one particularly stunning print faux pony hair coat. Digital animal prints—coyote, skunk, and lynx—made it onto dresses and coats.

Costa cleverly chopped into shapes and silhouettes, panels were cut into dresses, and beads and shimmer gave the severely cut clothes an additional playfulness.

The dresses that were lightly patterned came with loose-fitting belts. In a break from wool, some of the long-sleeved dresses came in shiny Lurex.

Occasionally Costa’s black dresses came with adornments--embroidery, amulets made of polished stone, and geode that looked like little dreamy mirrors stitched on to garments.

Costa’s sleeved dresses in Prince of Wales plaid broke up the somber color palette, as did a gorgeous, butch dark cognac leather coat with a rust covered fake fur collar, and a dark brown leather coat.

The extremely handsome and suave-looking Costa appeared for a little bow at the end, before the audience rushed to the doors—and confusion. With too few elevators for such a large crowd, the question became stairs or elevator. We were six flights up.

Waiting is something fashion people are wary of—if you are waiting, it is a sign of not moving, and fashion folk always need to be moving or fluttering to the next thing or person.

Yet taking the stairs means visible physical exertion, elicited by inconvenience—another visual no-no. And the stairs here involved—horrors—a misdirection by another security guard, and so everyone who chose the stairs ended up walking a whole bunch of unnecessary strides to reach them.

I know, I know. Awful, tragic.

The indisputably fabulous Grace Coddington was pointed toward the stairs by one security guard, and said under her breath that she would not be taking them.

J. Mendel by Tim Teeman

There were some Russian voices behind this reporter at J. Mendel’s show. They were particularly focused on the front row.

“Eez that Paris ’eelton?” one wondered about a blond, beautiful, young-looking woman.

“No, I think that ees ’er sister,” another surmised, correctly identifying Nicky Hilton, wearing a blue dress and long camel coat.

Maybe it was the visions of a bone-chillingly cold Red Square or wintry St. Petersburg summoned up by these voices—these voices could just as well belong to people who live in New York, of course—but the collection Mendel showed was most memorable for luxurious-looking fur coats, perfect for an oligarch’s wife to step out in on a winter’s day.

If fur was once verboten in fashion, then the rules and consensus have both shifted: In various pieces, Mendel used silver fox fur, mink, sable, and also crocodile.

The label’s designer, Gilles Mendel, said he was inspired by the oeuvres of Art deco painter Tamara de Lempicka and photographer Sheila Metzner.

Like Costa at Klein, Mendel’s daytime-wear included a number of trouser suits.

In the evening, his dresses were thoroughly feminine, with daring slits and geometric cutouts. Unlike Costa, there was nothing fake about his use of fur. The mink coats slinked and shimmied, while metallic dresses in silver and gold were worn long and short, but always tightly molded to the body.

The dresses were stunning show-stoppers, ready for any red carpet, and the perfect centerpieces to such a glamorous collection. The furs themselves were cut at all lengths—both long and short (skimming the base of the rib cage), and came in a panoply of colors and designs. The first was white with thin black lines. A green fur came next with the same design, followed by a short, black, belted one.

Mendel’s first evening dress was strapless, ruched at the waist, and cut on the bias—its drama echoed in subsequent dresses in red, gold, glitter, and black and white, with design embellishments stitched into them.

The contrast with some of the daywear was pronounced, as the latter more soberly embraced convention: for example, a simple dress in separate brown and navy blue panels, a pair of white trousers with oversized anorak.

This convention-interlude was like a lull moment in a fireworks display, the organizers saving the loudest and most extravagant bangers to the end.

For his climax, Mendel deployed metallic dresses, strapless and with ruffles. A short long-sleeved dress was heavily beaded, with three tones of color diffused through it; another beaded dress came with a belted oyster gray evening coat.

It was a parade of sheer glamour, shamlessly luxurious, and at the end the Russians and Nicky Hilton were as one in expressing their appreciation.

Lizzie Crocker on The Blonds

Amanda Lepore was jackknifed at the waist, her silicone ass reflecting camera flashes through gossamer fishnet stockings. It was a phenomenal balancing act: three breast augmentations and cartoonishly large rubber lips weighted against butt implants as big as medicine balls.

The transgender celebrity had just arrived at Milk Studios for The Blonds’ fashion show on Wednesday night, which is always more raucous burlesque party than runway presentation. The audience doesn't observe quietly, holding their applause and cheers for the end. They ooh and ahh and whoop and clap as the models dance down the runway in sexy, costume-y couture.

Just as we know vaguely what to expect from Vera Wang each season (words like “elegant,” “diaphanous,” and “feminine” generally apply), we can rely on The Blonds to be flashy, energetic, and--above all else--riotously fun.

Inspiration for previous collections has ranged from Clockwork Orange to “gangsta genies” and, last season, Egyptology, which designers Phillipe and David Blond inflected with “disco flavor.”

This season looked to Alice in Wonderland and Gentleman Prefer Blondes. As always, Phillipe Blond opened the show in a hot pink leather corset with a giant pink bow pinned to the back and thigh-high stiletto boots. Old Hollywood glamour manifested in long gloves, black birdcage veils, and fur stoles. The models also wore pink and blonde dreadlock wigs, piled high up on their heads in messy beehives.

Other staples at The Blonds: sparkles, sequins, and jewel-encrusted ensembles. This collection delivered shimmering, frosting pink tutu dresses; black velour pants and corset dripping with crystals; corsets embroidered with sequined floral or graphic print (“eat me”) appliqués, fur, pearls, gold chains--the works. The puffer jacket made a few appearances, too. All the shoes were custom-made by Louboutin and featured ballet styles and bows, echoing the giant ones pinned to corsets.

“The seeds of our collections begin with books and films that we’re really inspired by because we want to tell a story,” David Blond told The Daily Beast backstage, his arms wrapped around Philippe’s back (the design duo are also partners).

Along with Lewis Carroll’s Alice, the collection reflected their “90s fascination with films like Doom’s Generation and Nowhere,” said David. “They had all these incredibly glamorous looks but they also had twisted revenge plots and other parallels with the Alice In Wonderland story.”

“We want to inspire our customers and clients to experiment with fashion, experiment with color, and just have fun,” he added.

Not surprisingly, divas love their clothes. The Blonds have designed outfits for Nicki Minaj, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Bette Midler, who attended last season’s show. This season’s front row starred Miss Jay Alexander and Jay Manuel from America’s Next Top Model, Perez Hilton, Ari Emmanuel, and Vicky Jeudy (Janae Watson on Orange is the New Black) in a shiny black catsuit.

“I fell in love with the bright color--the hot pink,” Jeudy said of the collection. She also had her eyes on one of the tutu dresses and the black velour crystal-embellished corset. “I would absolutely wear those outfits,” she said. She’d been to a few other shows, but The Blonds was the highlight. “It’s such a great way to close fashion week.”