Fashion Week, the news so far

By Bill Colvard -

At the risk of biting the hand that feeds me, I have to say the Mount Airy News is, as a general rule, woefully deficient in bringing fashion news to its readers. But it’s New York Fashion Week, and I feel the need to right that wrong.

It’s just too important a subject to ignore. Ladies, a couple of hundred people in New York are running from loft to loft and ballroom to vacant office space fighting tooth and nail to sit in the front row of spindly chairs in order to decide what you’re going to wear this fall. And I think you deserve to know about it. Your very future depends on it.

And I’ve got to tell you, your future is going to look a lot like your past. Your favorite hair accessory from middle school, or middle age, depending on where you are in the cycle of life, is back in a big way.

Models at Alexander Wang strutted out onto a catwalk set up in the old Condé Nast offices in Times Square sporting banana clips. That’s right. That clever relic from days gone by that made the half up/half down hairstyle accessible to all is back. If wunderkind Alexander Wang says it’s cool, rest assured, it’s cool.

Dig deep in those dresser drawers and find them. You know you didn’t throw them away. Every five or ten years when purging antiquated accessories, you’ll pick one up and say, ‘I really ought to toss this piece of crap. I’ll never be able to wear it again. But it’s just so useful.’ And then you throw it back in the drawer or use it to close potato chip bags, but you don’t throw it away. Admit it. And then dig it out, dust it off and put it on. Don’t wait for them to turn up in stores. Do it now.

Remember 1985 when Lacroix sent short skirts down the runway at Jean Patou and you just couldn’t bear that ankle-grazing prairie mess of a skirt you were wearing for one more minute, and you wouldn’t go out of the house until you’d rolled the waistband on that Laura Ingalls Wilder what-was-I-thinking horror show so many times it looked like you’d grown a calico muffin top overnight. Well, this is that moment. But for your hair.

Now Teen Vogue is calling them “claw clips,” but that’s because they’re children over there and have no clue. Yes, it’s true, “claw” is not an inaccurate description of the implement under discussion, but it is wrong. Sit your daughters/ granddaughters/great-granddaughters down and explain this to them. Those young whippersnappers need to learn some history.

And now is a good time to talk about history, as we are in the midst of a full-scale hair accessory renaissance. Because not only is the long-scorned banana clip now the very soul of dog whistle chic, stretchy comb headbands were sighted in public for the first time in decades on the catwalk at Prabal Gurung.

Unlike banana clips, which have an instantly recognizable name, these gizmos never really did. Part comb, part headband, totally painful to wear, you probably threw that sadistic hair restraint right into the garbage the first time it drew blood on your scalp. But they’re chic again, just so you know. And beauty is not easy. As a former Miss North Carolina once said, “If pretty was easy, everyone would do it.”

And while you’re assembling your collection of chic-again hair ornaments, take a moment to shed a tear over the retirement of Carolina Herrera. She just showed her last collection. Wes Gordon is taking over. I can’t tell you how to feel about that. I don’t know how I feel about that.

Lots of rich society ladies get it into their perfectly coiffed heads that making clothes is as easy as wearing them and go into the fashion biz. They rarely make it more than a season or two because making clothes is in fact harder than wearing them.

But Ms. Herrera chugged along for decades, always turning out clothes for ladies who wanted to make it clear they were ladies. In other words, she made ladylike clothes that were, by and large, not boring. Which is harder to do than one would think.

I never met her, but did work with a few seamstresses who were veterans of her sample room. Each and every one said she cried every day. The sight of an uneven hem could send her into spasms of tears. Which is why so many of her clothes were as close to perfection as it is possible to get. She poured her soul into them. Along with her tears.

When I asked one of those Herrera seamstresses if the tears were preferable to our then-present situation, working for a designer who could be thrown into fits of screaming and yelling by an uneven hem, she looked at me and shrugged. “It’s like cancer and heart disease,” she said in her thick Colombian accent. “Who’s to say which is worse?”

Who’s to say indeed? But she and I withstood the daily abuse and the daily tears as long as we could bear it. For without those of us toiling in the fashion trenches, then and now, you might never have gotten your banana clip back.

By Bill Colvard

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.