In Fashion, Fame's Last Bastion

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

c.2014 New York Times News Service

NEW YORK — Free clothes, free clothes, step up celebrities, there are free clothes.

It was nearly 10 p.m. Tuesday and the Miu Miu party at the Diamond Horseshoe was chockablock with actresses, nearly all of them decked out in Miu Miu (or, alternatively, Prada, which owns Miu Miu).

The club, in case you haven’t heard of it, is the latest joint to open in the basement of a hotel — hotels being, in this plutocratic era, a rare place where drinks and dancing still occur.

To the left on a raised platform, in Prada, was Sarah Paulson, who stars on the TV show “American Horror Story.”

To the right, in Prada, was Oscar-nominated actress Anna Kendrick.

By the bar in the back, a 15-year-old actress named Peyton List held a Miu Miu purse as she happily discussed her Fashion Week high jinks with a reporter.

Mostly, it involved fittings, runway shows and receiving free clothes from brands like Nanette Lepore (which was due to give her some swag after its Wednesday show) and Natori (a lingerie and bedding company that already had).

“They gave me these robes; oh my gosh, they’re so soft,” List said. “And some lingerie. They even gave my mom something!”

At a nearby banquette, Hailee Steinfeld, 17, who appeared in “True Grit,” was decked out in Miu Miu and sitting with an older woman.

It was her second appearance of the week, the first being a Prabal Gurung show last weekend.

“I’m doing a movie here,” said Steinfeld, “so it’s — ”

“Very convenient,” interrupted the woman.

“Mom?” asked a reporter.

“Sister,” the woman said.

Clearly not.

Anyway, as Steinfeld went on to tell it, the main perk of coming to New York Fashion Week was running into friends, but that didn’t mean she was some sort of Fashion Week Cinderella, being asked to return her designer duds at the stroke of midnight.

Or tomorrow or the next day either.

“Probably not when Mrs. Prada is involved,” noted the interrupting woman, who was now flashing a hint of a smile.

A few minutes later, the lights went down and a very serious short film began.

It starred Riley Keough, a granddaughter of Elvis Presley, playing a woman whose car had broken down. Or she was in a car accident. Or was the daughter of a car accident victim.

The movie was apparently a meditation on dreams and grief, so the narrative was nonlinear, to say the least.

Early on it shows Keough staring pensively at an icy lake. Moments later, she knocks on the door of a very chic, modernist house. A woman answers and Keough describes the car breaking down. She needs to use the phone. The woman allows Keough to enter the house, which is filled with beautiful midcentury objets and bold, graphic, Prada-esque wallpaper.

Keough passes out, only to be awakened by a woman who turns out to be her mother.

Several dreamlike sequences follow and new characters emerge. All of them seem to be wearing Miu Miu. Throughout, a classical piano track plays, giving the film a kind of Jane Campion-by-way-of-a-perfume-commercial feel.

“It was cute,” fashion photographer Inez van Lamsweerde said when the film was over.

Well, what else was she going to say? This is what Fashion Week is about in 2014.

Take it or leave it.

Luxury conglomerates are ringing in record profits while actors’ salaries are dropping. The collapse of the record business continues apace.

Consequently, there is an abundance of underemployed talent looking to forge connections, whether it is starring in extended infomercials for luxury brands, appearing in print campaigns (“nearly all of the ones I’ve shot recently have actresses or musicians in them,” Van Lamsweerde said), or showing up at fashion parties and in the front row at the shows.

If Fashion Week is a safari, reporters and photographers are the underpaid tour guides, celebrities are the endangered animals and consumers are the tourists seeing a very idealized version of Africa.

Never mind that the free clothes, which are nice to get, don’t really have much of a shelf life after you are photographed in them, as Kendrick noted.

“There’s no point wearing something twice if I get in freaking trouble with Us Weekly,” she said.

So why did the talented young actress show up this week to be photographed and gawked at, poked and prodded and stuffed into a bunch of things she probably won’t ever wear again? Why did she — to use her own words — go “balls to the wall,” attending shows by Rebecca Minkoff, Jenny Packham, Tory Burch, Monique Lhuillier and Carolina Herrera?

“I’ve never really done Fashion Week full out,” Kendrick said. “I figured if nobody’s going to make a movie right now, I might as well just go full force. I’m basically going to go until I drop.”

Who can blame her?