New York may have been buffeted by hurricanes, but fashion bravely soldiers into spring. It remains to be seen if the ever-fashionable ethos of 'Qu'ils mangent de la brioche' extends to sending models down the catwalk in bikinis and fluttery chiffon undernothings in horizontal rain and gale-force wind, but I wouldn't rule anything out.
New York, as always, kicks off the new season - a cool two hundred shows sardine-rammed into eight days: fashion boot-camp to begin spring/summer before the action moves to Europe. What to expect? that's a dangerous question to ask of fashion, even in New York where the big guns generally perform as expected.
Oscar de la Renta has been in business since 1965: staggering given that his shows are still hot tickets, his clothes heavily shot and, it appears, even more heavily shopped by Manhattan Matriarchs. A survey recently revealed that the average spend (my italics) in de la Renta's Madison Avenue flagship cleared $3,000. Pay-my-Rent-a seems to be more than just a handy pun.
The reason de la Renta's customers are willing to spend quite so freely is perhaps the measure of success for the vast majority of American designers: consistency. Ladies - and lets make no bones about it, its ladies when you're shopping at ODLR - buy de la Renta because he's never going to do sexpot, or sluttish, or God forbid fetish. He's equally never going to do costume, heavy themes or conceptual fashion. You may get an oversized hat, or a grass-green silk-faille frock splodged with life-size cerise chrysanthemums (two seasons on and I'm still not over that), but that's about as gimmicky as it goes.
It's the same with most New York designers. That's why they stay in business - and in so much business - for so long. New York labels are built for the long-haul. Even Marc Jacobs, master of the seasonal twist, is consistent. I'd argue he's consistent in his inconsistency, but a former member of Marc's staff once walked me through her thoughts on his season-by-season staples: slightly shrunken knits, peg-legged trousers and narrow-shouldered suiting. She'd worked on the shop-floor in his boutiques, so she knew her stuff.
All the same, I wouldn't like to second-guess what New York will be offering - which is something of a cop-out, I suppose, but designers can always shock and astound. Off the bat, this season the designers I'm most excited to see are new New York favourite Joseph Altuzarra, Marc Jacobs (of course) and Proenza Schouler, still seen as something of young upstarts but established a clean decade ago. Then again, next to the deified legacy of de la Renta, Jacobs, Karan et all, ten years really isn't a very long time in fashion. At least, in New York fashion.