Last night, Sadie and I hiked through Manhattan in unseasonable wind and rain to attend Fashion's Night Out. As the stores opened to the boozehound hordes, we had many experiences that were challenging and puzzling. And some that were fun.
At downtown boutique Opening Ceremony, the line stretched down the block. The promised customized cars, out of which designers like Rodarte (a low rider convertible) and Alex Wang (a black van) were to sell their wares were just a row of cars parked cheek by jowl on the side of the narrow street; the real action was in the store, and the entire population of Williamsburg appeared ready to wait upwards of an hour to see it. I texted a friend who works at the store — no response — then screwed up my courage to go talk to the burly security guard at the door. "I'm a reporter," I said, plaintively. "I'm here to write about this!" He looked at me skeptically. I repeated this claim to a small woman in a large fascinator and a complicated dress, who eventually waved me in.
New Fashion Rule: If you cannot spell "Azzedine Alaïa", you should not be permitted to sell his shorts for $60.
I'd had a weird day at the tents — at one point I was standing next to four people deadpanning conversation, all wearing sunglasses inside — so I called that affable Marxist/skewerer of frivolity/drinker, former Jezebel editor Moe Tkacik. My partner in crime for the night eventually made it into the store, and we were served big cans of Asahi by a smiling bartender in a skintight waistcoat. We looked at the people. We looked at the wares — knits covered in rickrack, jewelry that looked like animal claws — and watched as people lined up to buy Fashion's Night Out t-shirts. We drank our beers and watched the crowd. Later, we made our way to Rag & Bone, the pricey vintage store What Goes Around Comes Around, and a multi-designer sample sale at the TriBeCa Grand hotel. Sadie, on the whole a more dedicated shopper, checked out Opening Ceremony, Prada, Intermix, Banana Republic, Oak, Club Monaco, Madewell (she likes their boots!) and a couple of boutiques.
Jenna: So! I was just writing about the scene at Opening Ceremony. What did you think of Opening Ceremony? How long was the line when you got there?
Sadie: The line was nuts - all the way down the block, and it didn't seem to be progressing at all.
Jenna: I shamelessly blagged my way in as press.
Sadie: The whole vibe was unpleasantly "hot club" — down to the letdown of getting in.
Jenna: Yes! All it needed was a velvet rope. The bouncers, the clipboard dragons. The boomboom music. It was just like a club, except inside it was brightly lit. And, you know, except that the Beatrice never tolerated anything so unseemly as an actual line outside.
Sadie: Well, Banana Republic actually had a 3" velvet rope!
Jenna: Wow. Tell me about that — I didn't go there.
Sadie: Ha, that was the best: they had the rope, and this poor woman in an evening gown wielding a fan — but then inside it was...Banana Republic. Open late, it's true! Did you get to Intermix?
Jenna: No, I missed it. I went to Rag & Bone to see my friend who works there, except the FNO iPhone app sent me to the Christopher St. store. And my friend works at SoHo. Thanks, Style.com!
Sadie: Oh, dear. How was R&B otherwise? Hipstered out?
Jenna: Actually, it had a very pleasant down-home kind of feel. I rendez-vous'd there with some friends who had just come from the gallery openings in Chelsea, and one of them lives in Japan. He kept on comparing the store's aesthetic to Japanese clothing, which I can actually totally see.
Sadie: Oh, definitely. Were folks shopping?
Jenna: You know, that classic pieces reworked and finessed, done with an eye for design, but subtle, kinda thing. But it was strange at the same time, because the store was made over as an Irish pub.
No, I saw very few shoppers.
But they had a fiddle band! And honeyed whiskey. And Guinness, from an actual keggerator. (I think.)
Sadie: Ooh, nice!
Jenna: Moe and I got to talking about keggerators, because she used to live in a house that had one.
Sadie: I got insufficient drinks, considering.
Jenna: (Dude room-mates, of course.) Rag & Bone also had this neat gravity-fed whiskey autodispenser. Very technological.
Sadie: Ha! Now: what did you wear?!
Jenna: Important question, which I spent a long time thinking about before leaving the house. I wore: a green 1940s bouclé jacket with balloon sleeves and a nipped waist. It has a totally shattered lining — which meant I got it cheap — but the greatest part is it's got an awesome collar. It's self fabric on one side, and rabbit fur (I think?) on the other. And you can either let the collar fall open across your shoulders, and it looks like these awesome, structured, furry shoulderpads on the outside of your jacket. Or you can tie the collar up tighter and it forms a big muffler around your face. It came in handy because it was so cold last night! I wore it with jeans and comfortable shoes. What did YOU wear? :P
Sadie: Well, I changed from my actual work clothes into a fake business costume, trying to convey that "coming-from-a-cool-office" vibe. I wore this swell pair of very high-waisted pleated plaid trousers, apparently the former possession of an elderly society matron, now in a nursing home. They are about 40% ridiculous. With them, a plain blouse and some very high vintage heels. Oh, and I cut myself a possibly ill-judged ragged bang just before running out the door.
Jenna: Oooh, last-minute haircut. I like that. I trimmed my own hair myself the other day because it was getting shaggy in back — I'm trying to turn my pixie into a messy bob, Karen Elson c.a. 1997 kind of thing. Naturally, I thought of your post and all kinds of disastrous self-inflicted haircuts of years past.
Sadie: Yes, but the temptation always proves irresistible! Did you see any really noteworthy looks? (Besides those dudes voguing wildly in the window of Opening Ceremony.)
Jenna: I saw two great looks, actually: I dragged Moe, Japan-man, this German guy, and everyone else I was with to What Goes Around Comes Around, where they were almost out of booze but had amazing black and white cookies. And this shopgirl had on the perfect pair of jean shorts, not cut-offs but actual high-waisted vintage shorts, and a really simple silk printed blouse. And cowboy boots. It was very straightforward but the pieces looked fantastic together, and she looked comfortable, especially for someone who was standing around in 40 degree weather in shorts. Then, at the sample sale at the TriBeCa Grand, there was a beautiful woman wearing a teal suede vintage mini-dress. It had shoulder pads and a scoop neck, and it fit her perfectly. She said she'd bought it at a thrift store in Palm Beach for $4.
Sadie: I saw one girl whose look was so hip as to verge on dowdy, and I loved it: she had sort of Cameron-Diaz-in-Being-John-Malkovich hair, big glasses, and this maxi dress. She also looked furious.
I spied Lynn Yaeger, in what looked like vintage lace but might have been partly Prada.
Most folks were too self-consciously fashion-y in cage heels and leggings etc.
Jenna: Oh, man, a Lynn Yaeger sighting. I am so jealous. That Cameron Diaz in Being John Malkovich look is so hard to pull off, I always mentally nod in respect when I see it even attempted. I agree, though, in general the crowd was very skinny-destroyed-jeans, studs-on-things, chunky-heels, blouson-top, "I-totally-just-threw-this-on," either all-black or whoa-random-colors. Kind of a boring look.
Sadie: I complimented her, which was maybe breaking the fourth wall, because she was clearly put out by my importuning. My blouse got ripped in the crush. But hopefully everyone thought it was a deliberate twist on buttoned-up menswear. Punk edge, you know.
Jenna: me: Absolutely. So where else did you go?
Sadie: Saw a little of the Rapture's "set" at Prada...glimpsed the Miller sisters...
Jenna: Spy Grace Coddington?
Sadie: No! Sadly. I bet she left; I don't blame her — having to strand around these stores for 6 hours seems very tedious.
Jenna: Absolutely. Not least because nobody was buying much.
Sadie: I grabbed drinks at Madewell and Club Monaco, as they were en route to the hot dog truck.
Jenna: I guess they are hoping heavily for a sort of follow-through, now the seal has been broken.
I did not have any food all night! Aside from those black and white cookies.
Sadie: One assumes. Tell me how much actual shopping you saw, because I witnessed very little!
Jenna: Plenty o' booze, though. Moe and I did well on that score. Very little shopping. Some people were trying things on at the TriBeCa Grand. But most of the stores I went to were mobbed because of the entertainment/gawking/novelty factor.
Sadie: The atmosphere was really not conducive to shopping. And some places served red wine!
Jenna: Not because of actual sales opportunities.
Sadie: How would you characterize the atmosphere, overall? And the crowd? (Relative to the hype.)
me: It was really cool, actually, I enjoyed myself more than I thought I would. It was definitely fun — if occasionally ridiculous. I saw a woman in a leopard print dress and a (different) leopard print scarf at What Goes Around Comes Around. She tried on a blue sequined jumpsuit I had just browsed on the rack. It cost something like $2,500.
And the Opening Ceremony scene was just — nuts. The camera set-up in the store window, the prices of things, the mayhem.
Sadie: I mean, that was frankly kind of my idea of hell. That's why I don't go to "clubs."
Jenna: did you see that cardigan by Rodarte at Opening Ceremony, folded up, with two tags? One was printed and said $2,800. The other was written by hand in highlighted sharpie, and said DO NOT PICK UP RODARTE. It was the most heartbreaking thing ever. I took a picture.
Sadie: YES! But overall: yeah, kind of fun. There was definitely a carnival atmosphere on the streets.
Jenna: So Moe and I went over to the mannequins and TOUCHED THE RODARTE. Rodarte is soft, it turns out.
Jenna: Yup, we did.
Sadie: Did officious publicists scream at you? Did the guys in the window stop voguing? DID YOU HURT THE ECONOMY?
Jenna: No! We just pawed at the pretty gothic-Stevie Nicks dresses until we were satisfied. Then drank more Asahi. Did you buy anything?
Sadie: Nope! (Well, except the hot dog.)
Jenna: I bought a gorgeous Marios Schwab dress from a vintage seller at the TriBeCa Grand. me: it's black, billowy chiffon, with polarfleece sleeves, and a strange technofabric-and-elastic boned harness that comes over the shoulders and clicks in front with a — one of those closures they use on backpacks or fanny packs, generally with poly webbing. You know? Or on bicycle helmets. It was really cool, in a sort of techno-gothic way. I'm wearing it right now! It's warm. Best of all, it was only $50. But I only had $20, so I had to get my Opening Ceremony worker friend to spot me $30 from his hidden stash of emergency money. As he said, it was clearly a Fashion Emergency. (Yuk, yuk, yuk!)
Sadie: That is the perfect thing to buy at a fashion event. (Besides a hot dog.) Wear it next year — maybe we can skip the lines at O.C. Assuming this hasn't fixed the economy, that is.