It's still the same old story

American clothes will not make your heart beat faster. They are real. They sell. And that's the point. Marion Hume reports from the New York shows. Photographs: Peter Macdiarmid

"You look so glamorous, so ... jaded." Sandra Bernhard, master of ceremonies at Ghost's show, hit the nail on the head. Here we all were, the international fashion pack, post-Milan, post-Paris, after almost 200 shows this season and still not through the New York fashion week. Here we all were, gathered together for yet another show and feeling weary.

The Ghost collection, spearheaded by a Brit, Tanya Sarne, pepped us up a bit. Ms Bernhard's commentary was spicy and the models, doing their thing for the umpteenth time, were, miraculously, in high spirits. And the clothes? They were plush velvet and romantic, topped with dinky hats that no one will ever wear. We all applauded enthusiastically.

Elsewhere in New York, the applause was more muted. "Death by clothes," was the verdict of one fashion pundit after the Anne Klein show, which wasn't bad, you understand, just stultifyingly dreary - we'd seen it all before and we would see it all again before the New York shows were over. Whatever show we stood in line to get into, whatever we anticipated while skim-reading its tasteful programme, the clothes looked pretty much the same.

For New York was playing safe, as it always does. That is fine, because most women do not want to wear shocking, innovative, kooky clothes. Throughout New York fashion week, we saw coats, we saw to-the-knee skirts, we saw the dress and the jacket combined as the new uniform for work. We saw to-the-shin skinny boots, we saw wide belts, we saw steel buckled slim belts. We saw camel, we saw chocolate, we saw red and we saw black, black and more black. We saw what women want, which was all very nice, except we saw it again and again and again, with a different designer label attached.

Which is why Ghost, which won't sell anything like as much as Anne Klein or Calvin Klein or Donna Karan, was rather refreshing. It was not, in truth, startlingly original, following the romantic path currently trail- blazed by Briton-in-Paris John Galliano. But so what? The commercialisation of fashion trends is what the New York collections (no matter what nationality the designer) are about.

American clothes are clothes that sell. That is the point of them. The American designer labels are mighty because they appeal to a lot of people. The reason for this appeal is that they offer rather normal, rather practical clothes that never make the heart beat fast, yet do occasionally make urban Everywoman reach for her wallet - as long as she is wealthy, for these clothes do not come cheap.

Here are clothes for real life, which should be applauded - except they aren't applauded with any degree of passion by the fashion crowd, unless they think the designer might be watching. Real clothes make for boring shows and a polite pitter-patter of clapping. Think Jaeger shown to a disco beat, a score of times every day. Very nice too, but it's not going to make you swoon.

So American designers, and those who witness the New York fashion shows, are in a quandary. What is quite clear is that many women like practical, hard-working clothes that fit their lives rather than marvellous, audacious catwalk creations that demand one's life fit around them. But what is the big-top razzmatazz that has become New York Fashion Week? These are clothes that used to be shown in small touchy-feely venues, until the designers got too famous and the demand for tickets got so great as to make this impractical. These are clothes that have little to say in front of fashion audiences of 2,000 people, but will, nonetheless say "wear me" when hanging in one's wardrobe.

What New York, which concludes the season's six-week fashion circus, puts into focus is the international quandary as to how to show clothes and what clothes to show. In London, these can be too ugly to linger on; in Paris, at times, too fantastical to be worn except by supermodels (themselves a threatened breed); in New York, the criticism is that they are too ordinary against all the pizzazz that surrounds them.

That's not to say there were no "wannahaves" in New York. They were there a-plenty at Ralph Lauren's straightforwardly commercial collection. No Highland high jinks, no cowboys and indians, as he has offered in the past. This time round, Lauren, the king of the theme show, took sophisticated dressing as his chosen subject and majored in what to wear to work (a neat and sculpted muted tweed suit), what to wear for the weekend (a sumptuous, sweeping coat, a neat blazer, a snug polo neck and crisp polar- white cricket trousers) and what to wear out in the evening (only a full- on spangly sheath will do).

The strangest collection, to anyone not a long time resident on planet fashion, was Miu Miu, the second line from the highly influential house of Prada. In a show deemed "directional" by the in-crowd were early Sixties- style fitted jackets with three-quarter-length sleeves, pastel petticoats that appeared to be made from lining satin, and skinny coats that looked as if they had been cut from old bedspreads. Make-up was smudgy, straw blonde hair was kirby-gripped into backcombed "do's" and bare, mottled legs ended in boots worn to half mast up the calves. It all went to show that what fashion gurus might dub the last word in modern style can, to the uninitiated, look just like trashy dressing of poor young mums on housing estates.

Calvin Klein's skill is that he appears to be radical when he isn't. He hit the same notes as Miu Miu in a collection that shared its early- Sixties silhouette, but Klein's version was more Audrey Hepburn than Christine Keeler. Here was the tweed, the jackets sliced to the hip bone and the angular little coats. Yet the offering, which was devoid of colour or accessories, was so severe as to seem sophisticated. A word of warning: absolutely plain black evening sheaths looked great on Audrey, but are not to everybody's taste today, as the actress, Sarah Jessica Parker, discovered when a hail of post-Oscar criticism met her choice of Calvin Klein for the Academy Awards.

Elsewhere, severity was the keynote for daylight only; overblown evening frocks are now very much re-established in the after-dark dresscode. Ralph Lauren took things a little too far when he awarded one of his own frocks an Oscar (the model came out carrying one)- but his array of shimmering sequinned gowns was certainly dazzling. Ditto Isaac Mizrahi. His big ballgowns made their mark, ranging from slinky spangled sheaths, cruelly dubbed "slags' night out", to full-blown prom skirts.

But it is the daywear that will sell. It is the tweedy clothes, the camel clothes, the black clothes that women will buy and like to wear. It is the clothes that are so boring when they are paraded as something sensational that ultimately one will want. Ah, so glamorous and so jaded indeed.

football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

    Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss