Marc Jacobs was scheduled to close New York fashion week with a catwalk show, but he closed it with a party instead. So riotous was his 15-minute Technicolor circus of punk ballet and Mrs Maisel-esque tailoring that when the pop star Miley Cyrus made a cameo appearance, strutting in a black bra top while trailing a zebra-striped coat along the catwalk behind her, many in the audience didn’t even notice.
Park Avenue Armory, a cavernous cube of 55,000 sq ft, was bare and dim when the event began. The audience were directed to seats at a tight cluster of rackety metal cafe tables in the centre of the room, surrounded by empty darkness on all sides. The only light came from the tealight candles in jam jars on the tables, as if at a late night jazz speakeasy.
Suddenly a platinum blonde pixie in a black tunic and tights appeared, kicked and twirled savagely through the tables, and promptly disappeared: Karole Armitage, the 65-year-old avant-garde dancer and choreographer known as the “punk ballerina” when she rose to fame in the 1980s.
Then there was a chaos of floodlights, and groups of dancers swarmed across the room from all directions, leaping and vogueing. Another door opened, and a slow parade of pastel-clad supermodels began walking solemnly through the chaos, following a perfect line. The juxtaposition of the models’ well-dressed poise against the backdrop of noisy neon pandemonium was a little like watching a troupe of Irving Penn models traverse Tokyo’s Shibuya crossing, or New York’s Times Square, at rush hour.
Armitage, who has collaborated with Christian Lacroix and Jean Paul Gaultier in the past, has always choreographed with an eye for fashion. One of her dancers shadow-boxed through the show in buttercup yellow lingerie with long black gloves, another sprinted the length of the room in a duck egg blue pencil skirt and black spike heels.
The models, meanwhile, were perfectly turned out in mid-century finery. Gigi Hadid looked exquisite in a soft skirt suit in the creamy off-white of coconut flesh with elegant bracelet-length sleeves, her red beret matched to her lipstick and her kitten heels; her sister Bella wore a black sequin column gown, with white patent opera gloves reaching to her armpits, the jewels at her throat as giant-sized as her beehive. In their ice-cream-toned, ultra-feminine nostalgia the clothes were as familiar and comforting as the staging of the show was unsettling and bewildering. This was a masterclass in how to make wearable clothes into theatre.
In his youth, Jacobs spent restless decades battling drug addiction and bipolar disorder. At 56, he is sober, happily married – his husband, Charly Defrancesco, watched the show from a seat next to Nicki Minaj – and no longer a city dweller, having decamped to a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Rye, upstate New York. The designer called this collection a portrait of “a past New York I will forever love … mythical and chic with its beauty, promise, sparkle and grit”.
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