To say that no expense was spared would be correct if one considered only the impeccably appointed white tents, the 11 sparkling chandeliers hanging from a bower, the enormous urns spilling over with pink hydrangeas, the custom linens, the endless champagne and caviar—but on top of it all, Lauren plans to do an unspecified something special for the park, a personal thank-you for a lifetime of enjoyment.
The plaudits were unanimous, originating from everyone, including the mayor. “If you called central casting and said, ‘Find me a great New Yorker,’ they would send Ralph Lauren,” Bloomberg said.
If there was no such unanimity on Jacobs, the tenor of the conversation proved as personal regarding the clothes, which most critics (including this one) loved, but which Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune called a “freak’s costume party.” That comment, and a Women’s Wear Daily story that chronicled general pique at Jacobs’s two-hours-late start, prompted Jacobs to take on Menkes on the record while also slamming the schedule—the shows started the day after Labor Day to avoid running through Rosh Hashanah—and the whiners, and threatening to show in Paris. That in turn prompted von Furstenberg, as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, to go public with the declaration that Jacobs “really isn’t a prima donna,” and to beg him—her word—not to take his signature show on the road.
In what other discipline would volleys of seemingly superficial complaints—“He kept us waiting”—or such heartfelt entreaties—”Oh, please don’t go”—be front-page news? But in fact, they are major news, and the entire industry now eagerly awaits Jacobs’s resolution. Will he stay or will he go? Either way, casual fashion historians know where the real blame lies. Over the course of the jam-packed week, more than one said, “It’s all Helmut Lang’s fault.” (It was Lang who unilaterally changed the entire fashion schedule back in 1998. Then, the New York shows followed Paris, until, at the peak of his creative influence, Lang decided he didn’t like that timing and would show before Milan. All of New York soon followed suit.)
The spring season also delivered more news, starting with the fabulous effort by Narciso Rodriguez. Whether invigorated by the sale of half his firm to Liz Claiborne or merely finding himself in a feistier frame of mind, he dazzled with a lineup of sporty chic with an artsy slant that was powerful sans pretense. Seventh Avenue’s principal resident artiste, Vera Wang, retained her aura of wistful mystery, focusing on structure while scaling back her own penchant for decoration. In fact, throughout the week the contrast of pure minimalism versus decoration played out, exemplified by Francisco Costa’s gentle yet complete austerity at Calvin Klein and Carolina Herrera’s ornamentation inspired by Jeremiah Goodman’s book of interior watercolors, Jeremiah: A Romantic Vision.