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Fashion Week's bright idea

September 8, 2008 | 10:52 am


NEW YORK -- One of the upsides (and there are a few) of physically attending half a dozen or more fashion shows every day for days on end during New York Fashion Week rather than just reading about it on say, someone’s blog, is that you see not only the clothing trends but the trends in stagecraft and presentation. Last season, several shows here referenced the paparazzi by putting shutterbugs on the runway. This season a handful of fashion shows have already made it clear that the stage-dressing du jour is the humble fluorescent light bulb –- and not the tiny screw-in compact fluorescent kind either –- we’re talking old-school, light saber-sized tubes of industrial-strength ethereal unflattering light.


The first show of the week to go long on the fluorescence was Shipley & Halmos’ Friday afternoon runway show, set in a narrow brick warehouse space with wooden floors and low ceilings. Some clusters were rigged in parallel lines and others in sprays like hastily picked fluor-flowers. Anyone who has seen Dan Flavin’s untitled fluorescent light installation at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas, would be struck by the similarity. (After the show Halmos said that if he was inspired by Flavin it was purely unintentional, he’d originally wanted to mount the lights on ceiling but wasn’t able to).

Oddly, in a recent issue of WWD, two other labels showing this week –- Adam Adam Lippes and Proenza Schouler specifically -- name-checked the New York-based minimalist artist known for his fluorescent-tube art installations. (His last piece, a site-specific work in a Milan, Italy, church also has ties to the fashion community –- it was completed a year after his 1996 death with funding from Fondazione Prada.)

Rock & Republic’s slick Saturday night runway presentation (literally -- several models almost took a tumble on the high-gloss catwalk) also made use of fluorescent light bulbs, using them to line the edges of the runway and play off the inky black interior of the Bryant Park tent and white runway to underscore the line’s stark black and white color palette.


The next day, the Yohji Yamamoto/Adidas collaboration Y-3 unspooled in a former Barnes & Noble bookstore in the Flatiron district under the glow of nearly 200 double-bulb fluorescent lights dangling like icicles from the high ceilings. (We’re not exactly sure of the exact number -– we got distracted by perennial fashion show curiosity Vincent Gallo, who took up residence across the aisle from us. And how does this dude always manage to look like a high-class hobo when he’s been to more fashion shows than I have?)

Maybe it’s all the result of a recent Flavin retrospective I’m not aware of, but walking out of the Y-3 show, I couldn’t help but think that with the compact fluorescent screw-in type bulb the hot new thing these days, these yard-long tubes of ghastly glow are probably out of fashion with most of mainstream America.

Which makes them the perfect retro prop to shine a light on next spring’s looks.

-- Adam Tschorn

Top two photos from Shipley & Halmos Spring/Summer 2009 runway show, bottom photo from Y-3 Spring/Summer runway show, all three by Adam Tschorn during New York Fashion Week, September 2008.