MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, we'll talk about how a master violin maker holds onto his art form in this struggling economy. Talk about that in just a few minutes.
But, first, to the art of fashion. This is Fashion Week in New York City and, since Thursday, top international designers and new talents have been showing off their spring 2013 collections. We wanted to find out which styles and trends are getting raves on the runway and which aren't, so we've called upon somebody who's in the middle of the fray. Isabel Wilkinson is editor of Fashion Beast. That's the fashion section of The Daily Beast. She's been going to the shows all weekend and she joins us now from our bureau in New York.
Isabel, thanks so much for taking a break and taking time to talk with us.
ISABEL WILKINSON: Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: Before we get to the runway collections, I did want to talk about fashion from the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. They both just wrapped up. First, Michelle Obama's dress got raves, was designed by the African-American designer, Tracy Reese, whose show was Sunday, as I understand it. I understand there's still a buzz about it. Why do you think the fashion folk are so excited about this dress?
WILKINSON: Well, I think it really underscores Michelle Obama's mission as first lady. First of all, it painted her as the picture of physical fitness. The dress was all about the arms. And then, second of all, you know, Tracy Reese is a young African-American designer from Detroit, a message that was not lost on everyone. Michelle is a huge champion of homegrown talent. She is producing the dress at an affordable cost for everyone, which I think is really another part of Michelle Obama's mission - is, you know, affordability and not just playing the luxury fashion card.
MARTIN: And, also, I think noteworthy that the dress was pink and sea green, which was sort of deathly avoided, the political associations with - associated with red and blue. Not so Ann Romney, whose dress at the RNC was also well received. That was a red silk by Oscar de la Renta, who's also showing at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week this week. And Oscar de la Renta, of course, is known for dressing, you know, first ladies and high profile society women, as we say.
What's your assessment of that and what's the fashion crowd saying about her ensemble?
WILKINSON: She also got rave reviews. I think she was pitch perfect at the Republican National Convention. She - her mission now is to look like a first lady and, you know, previously on the campaign, she dresses like a mom when she visits moms. She dresses like a businesswoman when she visits professionals. But, now, it's first lady time and she did a great job. The Oscar de la Renta dress was perfectly polished, but it did look a little bit like out of first lady cast - central casting. There was a strong Nancy Reagan element with the red and she coordinated her nail polish and lipstick to match.
MARTIN: I think it was pretty. But it is kind of a hot - but is a very kind of Reagan-ist color. You're right about that. How much did that dress cost, by the way?
WILKINSON: That was over $2,000.
MARTIN: I think it points to something, though, that we're talking about. I mean, the fact that celebrities, be they political celebrities or celebrities from Hollywood, seem to be very prominent in the fashion business right now, as opposed to kind of the super model that we used to talk so much about. And is that the case at Fashion Week so far, that you're seeing a lot of Hollywood figures and figures from other worlds, taking...
WILKINSON: Well, certainly. I think, though, that it's really about the Michelle Obama effect. You know, the past four years have changed the way political women are treated in the fashion world and Michelle Obama's really been proven to drive sales. So every single designer here wants to dress her and they're not even partisan.
Of the designers that I've spoken to this week, I've asked every single one of them if they'd be willing to dress Ann Romney, even though they might be Democrats themselves, and every single person said, yes. The reason why is because they know that, if these women wear their dresses in the limelight, the fashion community and fashion news is so frenetic that their designs are going to get so much more coverage, no matter who wears them.
MARTIN: I'm talking about New York Fashion Week with Isabel Wilkinson. She is editor of the fashion section of The Daily Beast and she's been going to the shows and following all the action there. So let's talk about some of the shows that you saw. Can you just tell us, who are some of the designers that you chose? I mean, it's got to be hard to figure out where to go. I mean, how many shows are there? Forty?
WILKINSON: There are so many, I can't even count. And it's really about just going to the shows that - there are, you know, kind of bigger designers or up and coming designers who are buzzed about. You know, collections that are pretty anticipated and so I've been to a handful of very, very different kinds of shows over the last four days.
MARTIN: Were there some trends that you spotted that were strong across the board?
WILKINSON: Well, one trend so far is just this idea of kind of propelling the fashion world into futurism, in a way. The Alexander Wang collection, which showed here on Saturday, featured these white and black completely modern silhouettes, absolutely no frills, so much skin. And, at the end of the collection, the white dresses came out on stage. The lights went out and everything was glow-in-the-dark. And the crowd oo-ed and ah-ed. You know, it may have just been a gimmick, but it was certainly exciting.
And, yesterday, at the Diane von Ferstenberg show, they debuted a collaboration with Google. Google Glass, which is the highly anticipated augmented reality glasses that Google is launching next year, actually came down the runway on several of the models. And Sergey Brin, Google's cofounder, was in the front row also wearing a pair and Diane von Furstenberg took her bow, also wearing a pair of the glasses. So that was very exciting. It was a complete merge of the fashion and technology worlds.
And they're going to edit the video footage from each of the glasses into a short documentary to highlight the different perspectives of a fashion show.
MARTIN: When you say augmented reality glasses, what do you mean by that? Does that mean that I'll be a size smaller if you are wearing them? I mean, that's kind of what interests me, but what's that mean?
WILKINSON: No. It's - so I think they're just frames and, on one side, there's sort of a - it looks like a little microchip of some sort and it's funny because there's a kind of dash of color on one side and, on the models, each color of the glasses corresponded to what they were wearing, so red glasses, red dress, blue and blue. It was fantastic.
And I think, inside the glasses, you see almost a computer screen on the inside of the lens. It will help you, according to Google, navigate the streets, call a friend. It's almost like having an iPhone on your face.
MARTIN: OK. Did you get to try one?
WILKINSON: I didn't, unfortunately, but...
MARTIN: Do you want one?
WILKINSON: I'm not sure about that. I think that they'd be definitely cool to test out. They said they're hitting the market next year and Sergey Brin told me there's no price point yet, but the first release is called the Explorer edition. They're going to be selling for $1,500, so I don't know if that's really going to be accessible for many people.
MARTIN: Well, speaking of accessible, did you see anything on the runway that you are pretty confident the rest of us mortals might actually be wearing? I mean, those people who still, you know, have the opportunity to shop because I think it's important to remember that a lot of people are still struggling and we don't - you know, shopping is not top of their agenda. But for people who are, you know - can add a few pieces to their wardrobes, is there anything that you think is - you're pretty sure most people are going to want?
WILKINSON: I think the DVF collection is always a real crowd favorite when it comes to working women. Her pieces are incredibly bright. She showed a lot of separates with her classic draping. The collection this year was inspired by a palazzo. It was this romantic idea of travel in Europe and - I don't know - I think there's an escapism element there. She always infuses her collection with a sense of adventure and romance, and I think that shoppers will, kind of, you know, respond to that.
MARTIN: And is there anything that's just so over already that you saw it and you just - it's just - no. You can just tell right now, it's going to be, no?
WILKINSON: I have to say, there have been a few harnesses on the runway.
WILKINSON: I can't see those catching on on the New York subways next year, but you know, it's - honestly, I think most designers are really thinking about women and thinking about how, you know, everyday women want to dress and, you know, there's been a lot of skin. The slits are high, the necks are low, but generally, things are pretty wearable.
MARTIN: And what about the men? Did the men - are the men just left out in this or do men get anything...
WILKINSON: There are really a few.
MARTIN: ...this Fashion Week?
WILKINSON: It's not men's collections right now, but, you know, there are a few designers that will show menswear. Michael Kors always has some men in his collection. There will probably be some men at Ralph Lauren, but - yeah - it's really all about the women and, you know, that makes it a lot more fun and a lot more colorful.
MARTIN: Sorry, guys. Isabel Wilkinson is the editor of Fashion Beast. That's the fashion section of The Daily Beast and she was kind enough to take a break from Fashion Week in New York to - or Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York, the shows there, to join us from our New York bureau.
Isabel Wilkinson, thank you so much for joining us.
WILKINSON: Thanks for having me.
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