Thursday, February 8, 2007

Narciso Rodriguez takes pity on the standing - gives the bird to Castro

Another day, another Rodriguez. But this one hopefully won't be showing prison-issue anklets - just minimalist chic. If Marc Jacobs thinks the world needs more beauty and less "backless bustiers blah blah blah", Narciso Rodriguez is on the same page.

I'm now standing inside his show venue, a Chelsea studio space, waiting for it to start. Let me tell you, it's a very nice place to be standing. And I'm not talking about the decor.

Getting into a fashion show for which you don't have a ticket is usually at the discretion of the respective PR firm, and involves waiting outside the venue until close to show start time. It's not quite The Day After Tomorrow here - yet - but that said, with what I read on one website was supposed to be -21C windchill factor today, it's not advisable for anyone to be outside for any extended period. And we're just a bunch of middle class wankers watching the next season's three, four, in some cases five figure outfits parade by. I frequently find myself wondering what happens to New York's homeless in weather like this. A friend said she heard a meteorologist on TV one day this week warning viewers not leave any skin uncovered - or risk frostbite. Rodriguez' PR team has kindly, nay sensibly, let the standing in.

A model walks out in a sculpted, longline black wool jacket over crisp white skinny pants, with a hint of a bootleg at the ankle - the same skinny bootleg that we saw at Marc Jacobs last night - and a sophisticated urban mood is set. A woman's voice on the soundtrack belts out the words, "the streets of Berlin". Five months ago Rodriguez was one of the early New York adopters of the sci-fi mood which reached a crescendo in Milan and Paris. No fibreglass body armour here, as in his spring show, but this new collection does have a hint of 1960s retro futurism, with its sculpted white jackets that nod to Courreges and Cardin.

There's also a shot of urban sport in the retro-look, chevron-appliqued wool parkas, for both men and women. It's a beautiful collection, in a sophisticated palette of black, white, cream, grey, popped with a strange petrol blue. The jackets are moulded and sculpted around the body, via detailed seamwork; the pants are skinny and more often than not, black and high-gloss, rendered through a wool/nylon amalgam. The coats are sublime - one black Princess line contoured wool coat reaches to the floor. Mayor Bloomberg should mandate for such coats - and Toni Maticevski's doona ballgowns - to be issued to all Gotham denizens in weather like this.

There is a tough chic to the eveningwear, with its exposed silver zippers, leather bodices and strands of silk cords which hang like seaweed off the bodices of a series of otherwise no-trick, floor-length silk columns in black or white - as if the ghosts of bigger ballgowns which survived a nuclear holocaust.

I manage to squeeze a couple of questions in backstage afterwards, including just what Rodriguez thinks about the possibility of Castro's revolucion coming to an end soon. Being Cuban-American, I figured he'd have an opinion.

The collection seems very urban, almost industrial. What was your inspiration?
The reality of the way we need to dress and how we need to live. I mean, fashion can be a fantasy, you know, and fun and frivolous and disposable. But I'm not very interested so much in that. I'm very serious about my work and the technique, the craft. But also how it functions in life, how to dress women, how I need to dress. I mean I need suits, I need pants that move, I need things that function.

Berlin seems to be popping up as a reference at these shows. Your soundtrack makes reference to it. What's the Berlin connection?
It's an inspiration. I think it's something that's exciting. Berlin is exciting, Berlin brings an edge, it's very urban. I live in New York, I travel around the world. I think the collection really reflects what I see. What I see for the future and the way that clothing should look.

What do you think about the very real possibility of Castro carking it some time in the not-too-distant future?

Oh I don't make political comments.

Yes but presumably you have an opinion on what it may mean for Cuba?
Yeah, I mean I think any dictator who goes away is a good thing, especially in Cuba.

Do you think someone will replace him and it will be a case of same-old, same-old, or is it high time for change in Cuba?
Hopefully it's time for not only fashion to change but all dictators to be abolished.

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