Each week, the Open Thread newsletter will offer a look from across The New York Times at the forces that shape the dress codes we share, with Vanessa Friedman as your personal shopper. The latest newsletter appears here. To receive it in your inbox, register here.
Hello and happy end of fashion month. Thank goodness, right?
Before we go back to thinking about real-world matters like Melania Trump’s Timberland work boots in Puerto Rico (and maybe this is said from the vantage point of one who was in Paris when that social media brouhaha blew up, but it seems to me like we’re a little too in the weeds with her footwear these days, even as someone who did address the pre-hurricane high heels), a few last takeaways from a very uneven season:
1. The Americans in Paris — Joseph Altuzarra and Thom Browne — did just fine (and in Mr. Browne’s case, more than fine). Which suggests they are not going to come running back to New York any time soon, and could even be setting an example for others. Uh-oh. The powers that be in the city really need to start grappling with this exodus of global influencers soon.
2. The biggest trend may not have been any actual trend, though there were plenty of those, and plenty of which were not exactly thrill-inducing. I mean, bike shorts? I’ve said it before, but I will say it again: not a good idea. (Sorry — that was a digression.) Rather, the biggest trend may actually have been the increasingly lackluster celebrity showing. Maybe it was the absence of Kardashians (Kim is off Paris; Kylie Jenner and Khloe are pregnant), but aside from Miu Miu — which is effectively a barometer of rising talent as they are so good at spotting and signing new actors — and the Givenchy/Vuitton LVMH/Hollywood complex, the front rows were pretty low key. I’m not sure who is disenchanted with whom, but this could potentially alter the economics of the movie business once again.
Still, my favorite sighting: Jerry Seinfeld at Stella McCartney.
3. Gossip about designers moving among big houses is rampant again. I’m not going to repeat it, because it’s unclear any of it has any basis in fact — and because in this business it’s not over ’til the chic lady signs — but I do think it’s worth mentioning because it speaks to the still uncertain atmosphere, and the deep insecurity many creative directors and their bosses must feel. Which quite frankly may have contributed to the so-so nature of the clothes. Just sayin’.
4. There’s a new kind of fashion police, and it’s a lot tougher than the old tribe of Joan Rivers-style red carpet dress commentators. These days the toughest sheriffs in town are the social media watchdogs ready to name and shame any designer they think guilty of cultural appropriation. The latest target: Stella McCartney, whose not-so-classical African prints on the runway (they were actually desk fans and microphones) had the Twitterati up in arms.
(I asked the company about the charges, and a spokesman replied, “We designed the prints in collaboration with Vlisco in the Netherlands, the company that has been creating unique Real Dutch Wax fabrics in Holland since 1846 and helps maintains its heritage.” He also pointed out there were models of 16 different nationalities on the runway.)
And now it’s time to move on. To ease our transition back into real life, I recommend a bouquet of fashion/culture cross-over stories, including how Christian Louboutin inspired Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow”; what Carla Bruni-Sarkozy did next after that Versace runway reunion; and an inside peek at how Dwight Howard, center for the Charlotte Hornets, gets dressed. Have a great weekend.
Paris Fashion Week came to a close Tuesday evening. To cover the week, T’s photographers fanned out across the city to capture Saint Laurent’s show at the Eiffel Tower, Thom Browne’s otherworldly and breathtaking spectacle (in the photo above) — and much more. See our best photos.
Q: If (high) fashion is art, what is the difference between an art critic vs. a fashion critic? And why is fashion not covered in the art pages of newspapers like The New York Times? — Marie-Agnès, Montréal
A: While I don’t necessarily agree that fashion, high or not, is art — I think it’s more akin to a decorative art, as it is classified in the museum world, since it involves demands of functionality beyond the aesthetic — I don’t think the difference lies in the forms of criticism, be it art or fashion or film or books, but rather in the subject matter covered.
Fashion has its own specific set of criteria, which goes beyond the pure form or idea to the actual consumer, and its own schedule (shows), which is what sets it apart from art, at least on the most practical level. As to why it isn’t covered in the arts pages, my guess is that is partly a leftover generic division from a time when fashion wasn’t considered quite culturally serious enough to qualify as an “art,” and also a legitimate acknowledgement that clothes are really part of how we live now, and hence belong in the sections that deal with such subjects.
Though honestly, in a digital world, such heritage divisions are increasingly — well, old hat. — VANESSA FRIEDMAN