Eric Wilson's Front-Row Diary

Sometimes, NYFW Can Feel a Lot Like High School

Sometimes, NYFW Can Feel a Lot Like High School
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Eric Wilson is InStyle's fashion news director. For more real-time insights during Fashion Month, follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Anthony Lane’s punch line from his New Yorker review of Zoolander 2 was ringing in my ears as I took my seat at Tory Burch’s show on Tuesday morning, as a drama was unfolding all around me. Referring to real fashion designers who jockeyed to make cameos in the film, he wrote, “How much of a creative risk is it to show that you can take a joke, when the joke is no more wounding than a back rub?”

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The real problem with satirizing the fashion industry has always been its inability to see the humor in its own absurdity. Here, at 9 a.m., were two stars, Jaime King and Kate Bosworth, who turned up wearing two versions of the same color-blocked lace dress, which was evidently a bit of a faux pas. Tensions were surprisingly high, anyway, as publicists were consulted, apologies were made, and finally, the show began.

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The Chromatics cover of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” played as Burch’s girls just wanted to be preppy, in a virtual array of bright collegiate colors and zesty renditions of argyle sweaters – I’m talking about a crew-neck in particular with diamonds of sequins, super-cute polo shirts, and adorable track pants with racing stripes along the sides (top). The second half of the show was more traditionally Tory, with horse-print dresses and flashes of Ali MacGraw retro, overall one of the designer’s more comprehensive offerings, with enough to go around for everyone.

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At Vera Wang’s show, an odd-looking woman wearing a gold-foil vest-coat and a pink cotton candy wig gave a broad smile as I negotiated the six available inches of runway space between her, the paparazzi, and my seat.

“Real housewife?” I asked a publicist.

Kylie Jenner,” publicist answered.

RELATED: Kylie Jenner Is a Golden Girl While Sitting Front Row at Vera Wang

Wang’s show was also, in a way, about disguising the obvious, in this case, her inspiration. It was fencing jackets, as seen in the opening looks that started with padded, form-fitting vests, but wound up looking more like versions of tuxedos. Her collection then veered like a yo-yo diet, from ethereal chiffon gowns no more substantial than a box of tissues, to chunky furs tinged with zaps of pastels (below). Her shoes were sphinxes, too, platforms with tiny heels that were topped with sandal straps and gaiters.

Catwalking/Getty Images; Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Was it a clue to a potential Oscars sighting that Jennifer Jason Leigh was front row at Rodarte? If this collection by sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy was any indication, then yes, since there were so many more dresses here that, despite the traditional layering of accessories and kooky fairy-tale styling, looked so right for the red carpet. Tessa Thompson was there too, sitting next to Kirsten Dunst, and even from 100 feet, you could hear Thompson saying, “That’s so pretty.”

RELATED: Watch Our 1-Minute Review of Rodarte's Show

Sometimes Fashion Week feels like being back in high school, and I'm pretty sure it was Stuart Vevers's intention to remind us of being in a gymnasium at latest show for Coach. The walls and floors looked like a cubist rendering of a basketball court, and invitations were decorated with cute little stickers. That same sense of cheery optimism was conveyed in oversize letterman jackets and patches affixed to handbags that made you want to chant rah, rah, rah, right there (below).

Fernando Leon/Getty Images (2); Antonio de Moraes Barros Filho/FilmMagic;

Oscar de la Renta’s creative director, Peter Copping, pushed forward his cleverly focused vision of ready-to-wear for the house with day suits, high-waist skirts and corseted dresses with a lightly molded hourglass shape (below). The crystal details on his high heels suggested a certain type of high-class elegance that never ages, and there were dresses here with a light candescence and Copping’s signature velvet ribbon trims that flowed nicely along from the previous season.

Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images; Catwalking/Getty Images (2)

Narciso Rodriguez, I don’t need to remind you, knows fit. He knows color. He knows construction. And he knows how to put on a show, this season instructing his models to pick up the pace as they walked his runway, which lent a needed jolt of energy to his presentations. While the looks zipped by, fast and furious, I caught glimpses of a tuxedo jacket, a fascinating coat with a checkerboard motif of what appeared to be frayed threads, a mossy citron pleated coat with a strongly structured collar (below), all of which left an indelible impression of strength.

Edward James/WireImage

RELATED: Frigid Temperatures Put the Focus Back on Clothes During NYFW

Finally, Ralph Rucci is back, with a new label called RR331, which looks just as extravagantly crafted, exquisitely rendered, and probably shockingly expensive, as his past couture-level creations. Martha Stewart, a longtime client, was coaxed to pose alongside his dresses, installed in a gallery on mannequins that demonstrated Rucci’s marvelous slashing techniques, and his sometimes unconventional takes on evening, like a sharp black sweatshirt top over elephant-wide trousers. Stewart posed gamely.

Max Lakner/REX/Shutterstock

“I’m not very stylish,” she demurred to the photographers. But, then, no one else was wearing her outfit.

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