Finding new and unusual ways to present collections is part of what makes the world’s Fashion Weeks extra exciting, as designers are showing collections in every way imaginable. Remember the Chanel grocery store from last year, in which models walked down the aisles of a constructed grocery store and went shopping while pushing around carts?! Louis Vuitton once had models riding around on a carousel! In other words, the bar has been lifted and lifted, repeatedly.
Opening Ceremony, the design team consisting of friends Carol Lim and Humberto Leon really thought outside the box for their Spring/Summer 2015 show at New York Fashion Week, currently in its second week.
On Sunday night, the Opening Ceremony runway presentation was in fact a full-blown show – a 30-minute satirical play, “100% Lost Cotton,” created by the designers and co-written by director Spike Jonze and actor Jonah Hill. The setting for the presentation/play? None other than the Metropolitan Opera House. Holy smokes.
“Cotton” starred actors Elle Fanning, Catherine Keener, John Cameron Mitchell of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” Dree Hemingway, Bobby Cannavale and Alia Shawkat from Arrested Development. The show had the stars singing, emoting, fighting and poking fun at the world of fashion. The play was a behind-the-scenes look (literally, as audience members sat on bleachers backstage facing the opera’s real seats) at a brand in the days leading up to a big runway show.
Sitting behind the stage and seeing one of New York’s great institutions from such a rare perspective elevated the entire evening’s proceedings. “Before I even knew what the story was, I just wanted it to take place at the Metropolitan Opera House,” Jonze said in an interview with Hill and Opening Ceremony’s Leon.
The plot circled around a 16-year old new model (Fanning) who comes to an Opening Ceremony casting and run-through. This is where the audience got to view the real models wearing the brand’s new collection, which served in a way as the theatrical costumes. Cool idea!
Fanning’s character befriends a middling model (Ms. Hemingway) and experiences the high-pitched shrieking and nutty behavior of fictionalized, vilified versions of the designers, Humberto (Mitchell) and Carol (Keener). Supermodel Karlie Kloss was featured briefly also.
Following the play, the audience was instructed to walk through the models, allowing throngs of people to crowd on the Met’s stage as the cast mingled and posed for pictures.
Mitchell told Entetainment Weekly that Jonze “hoodwinked” him into being in the play with his charm. “He can get anyone to do anything,” Mitchell said. “Because I haven’t acted on stage since the ’90s.”
For Fanning, young but experienced in the fashion world, this was her stage debut. “It’s incredible. It’s never been done before,” she told EW. “I’ve never done a play. It’s at the Met, and, like, no one knew it.” The actress is referring to how the invite listed the performance’s location as 109 Amsterdam Avenue, which turned out to be a loading dock behind the theater. Guests were ushered through the dock before finding their seats behind the opera’s curtain.
Reporters are mixed as to their feelings of the event, as some believe it was the coolest event of the week while others felt the show went for easy laughs and made fun of fashion in an uncool, not-nice way. New York Times reporter Vanessa Friedman stated “If you are going to mock fashion, and you are going to do it, as O.C. did, in front of an insider audience, you need to do it in a really thought-through, powerful way. You need to grapple with the industry as it is, not its clichés.” Friedman also felt the clothes took a back seat.
Entertainment Weekly writer Esther Zuckerman looked at the play from an entertainment reviewer’s perspective, writing, “Though the play at times struggled to be more than an insider-y advertorial sketch, Jonze and Hill’s effort featured attempts at dramatic tension and actual criticism of the fashion world’s image obsession.”
No matter what the personal opinion, it is clear that this event was one unlike any seen before at Fashion Week. Vogue’s Nick Remsen writes that the designers “exceeded their unconventional standards, straight up hurling that wrench in a go-for-broke spectacle that, this writer feels comfortable stating, was unlike anything the audience had ever seen” and that, “at the end of the day, though, this was a fashion show, irregular though it may have been.”
Many did feel that the clothes and the theme of innocent wove well together throughout the evening, drawing together the fashions and the play. The collection was one inspired by nostalgia, by Leon and Lim’s suburban teenage life in the very early 1990s. An announcement was even made before the performance prohibiting the use of phones or cameras, citing a New York City law, a surprising move for a fashion event nowadays and itself a throwback, nostalgic decision. The Humberto character rev elated during the play, “This whole collection is about the summer of ’91 when Carol and I used to go pool hopping,” recalling halcyon days when “it was just fun; there was no pressure.” The shape and curve of hems were reportedly inspired by primitive computer codes and the colors inspired by suburban pools and gardens.
(Photos courtesy of Instagram)