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At Last, New York Fashion Week Brings 'Good News For Real People'

Feb 12, 2014
Originally published on February 12, 2014 8:27 am

This year, the models on the runway at New York Fashion Week look downright comfortable — and Deborah Needleman, editor in chief of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, says that's "good news for real people."

In the semi-annual event, fashion editors and store buyers attend elaborate runway shows staged in tents at Lincoln Center and other locations around New York City. Designers present clothes to them that consumers may see in stores in the fall.

"I mean, a lot of what we see is spectacle and never really makes it into the stores or into women's closets," she tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "But there is a trend that I think will filter into people's lives and it's much more about comfort than it has been in the past."


Interview Highlights

On seeing comfy clothes on the runway

You saw it especially in The Row ... a luxury brand designed by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. And they did a giant oversized sweater and then a oversized sweater-skirt that looks like if you were to lay down, you could just wrap it over yourself like a blanket and go to sleep. And we saw this at Derek Lam, Altuzarra — who's a young designer — Prabal Gurung — who's another young designer.

On women styles being inspired by men's styles

It's really interesting because I don't think we've seen this many suits since the sort of power-suiting era of the '80s. But what we're not seeing — which is sort of a relief I think to real women — is very, very tight clothes and high-heeled shoes. Even from designers like Victoria Beckham who are known for dresses that are practically like Spanx in the form of a dress. Everything's loosened up and a bit more comfortable.

... When Coco Chanel pioneered the idea of sort of menswear and trousers in the '20s, it was sort of a reaction to ... the war. Women had to wear trousers more, but she really hastened the trend. But it wasn't about "dress like a man all the time." But it was about a kind of freedom and flexibility in your daywear. And I think that is an enormous relief. So, these are trends I'm quite looking forward to.

On the quality of craftsmanship on display at this show

I think this could be a response to fast fashion. It's so quick now — the time between [when] something is shown on the runway, and that it's knocked off and it ends up at Zara or H&M at a much lower price. So I think if you're dealing with suiting, you're talking about quality men's suiting fabric, great cuts, quality craftsmanship — these things are much harder to knock off than something with a lot of frills and embellishment.

On a new labor law that says models under 18 are considered child performers in the state of New York

It's hard to tell, truthfully, because the older models [still] look fantastic! ... When you see a 24-year-old model, she looks great. So this is one of those laws that you can't believe wasn't passed a long time ago.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Fat-free milk probably still reigns on the runways at New York Fashion Week. That semiannual spectacle is now underway. Fashion editors and store buyers crowd into elaborate runway shows staged in tents at Lincoln Center and other locations around New York City. Designers show clothes that we may see in stores many months from now. One person attending the shows this week is Deborah Needleman. She's the editor-in-chief of "T: The New York Times Style Magazine." Morning.

DEBORAH NEEDLEMAN: Hello, good morning.

MONTAGNE: Well, why don't we begin with the fashion itself, the trends that you are seeing this week on the runways at Fashion Week, under those tents.

NEEDLEMAN: Well, I think it's sort of good news for real people. I mean, a lot of what we see is spectacle and never really makes it into the stores or into women's closets. But there is a sort of trend that I think will filter into people's lives, and it's much more about comfort than it has been in the past. You saw it especially in The Row.

And The Row is an interesting brand. It's a luxury brand designed by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. And they're quite good designers, despite being celebrity actresses. They used a fabric - called cashmere fur - that I've never even heard of; but a giant, oversized sweater and then an oversized sweater-skirt that looks like if you were to lay down, you could just wrap it over yourself like a blanket and go to sleep.

MONTAGNE: Coziness, that's one trend. What else are you seeing?

NEEDLEMAN: Well, there's also a trend towards women aping from menswear; beautiful tailoring, slacks, coats, all a little bit deconstructed. But it's really interesting because I don't think we've seen this many suits since the sort of power-suiting era of the '80s. But what we're not seeing is very, very tight clothes and high-heeled shoes - even from designers like Victoria Beckham, who are known for dresses that are practically like Spanx in the form of a dress. Everything's loosened up, and a bit more comfortable.

MONTAGNE: Which will be such a relief to so many of us.

NEEDLEMAN: Yes, exactly. When Coco Chanel pioneered the idea of sort of menswear and trousers in the '20s - I mean, it was sort of a reaction to during the war, women had to wear trousers more; but she really hastened the trend. But it wasn't about dress like a man all the time. But it was about a kind of freedom and flexibility in your daywear. And I think that is an enormous relief. And these are trends I'm quite looking forward to.

MONTAGNE: Is this, in any way, a reaction to fast fashion?

NEEDLEMAN: I think this could be a response to fast fashion. It's so quick now - the time between something is shown on the runway, and that it's knocked off and ends up at Zara or H&M at a much lower price. So I think if you're dealing with suiting, you're talking about quality men's suiting fabric, great cuts, quality craftsmanship. These things are much harder to knock off than something with a lot of frills and embellishment.

MONTAGNE: Well, another new twist this Fashion Week may have implications for who you're seeing on the runway. It's a labor law in the state of New York - a new one - that says models who are under 18 are considered child performers. And there have been, in the past, very young teenage models. Are you seeing any difference on the runways there?

NEEDLEMAN: It's hard to tell, truthfully.

MONTAGNE: Because the older models - the 19-year-olds look like they're 15.

NEEDLEMAN: The older models look fantastic. And you know, when you see a 24-year-old model, she looks great. So this is one of those laws that you can't believe wasn't passed a long time ago.

MONTAGNE: Deborah Needleman is the editor-in-chief of "T: The New York Times Style Magazine." Thanks very much for joining us.

NEEDLEMAN: Thanks for having me, Renee.

MONTAGNE: New York Fashion Week ends tomorrow.

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